A statement about our location

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we’ve been deliberating where to host KC Zine Con #5. As many of you may, or may not, know this year’s Zine Con location has been up in the air due to a hate speech event that was allowed to occur on the UMKC campus this past April. The event resulted in physical violence against trans people in many forms during and after. Many members of our community were directly affected by these events and were traumatized by the University’s inadequate response. Additionally, the University has stated that they are unable to ban hate speech on their campus due to “free speech” policies, which has left many within our community unsafe.

Sadly, the KC community at large is still unaware of what occurred on campus.  Fortunately, our zine community does not fall into that category. We are so grateful for the folks who brought this event and the unsafe conditions to our attention. It’s been so cool the way our community has responded to our requests for feedback and conversation. Deciding where we’ll have this year’s conference hasn’t been easy, and we’re so grateful for those who helped inform our decision-making process.

We have spent the past few months talking to community members, investigating the University’s actions, and searching for a new venue. As outlined in a document by a group of trans community members, students, and activists, the University’s handling of the hate speech event on April 11 was questionable. Though we have met with administrators in attempts to clear up concerns, some things remain unclear.  It remains unclear if the University appropriately executed its own preferred name policy when releasing press statements. It remains unclear if the University appropriately handled perceived threats to student safety on campus in light of the hate speech event. It also remains unclear if the University’s charges and suspension of a student were ethical and morally justified. So far, UMKC’s response has been to form committees that would have stricter screening of what events will be allowed on campus and better training for the faculty sponsors of student groups. Another approach they are taking is to provide “resiliency” tools and support for students. While we acknowledge that the University’s work is better than none at all, we feel it falls short and skirts accountability.  

UMKC’s allowance of the Hate Speech event on April 11 is sadly not surprising considering the law and political climate. Based on the precedent of how hate speech / free speech cases are decided in court, and due to pressure from the state of Missouri, UMKC could not legally deny the speaker of April 11. In addition, they may have lost federal research and grant funds had they done so. However, we know there is a risk of leaving hate speech unchecked on college campuses. Just as with sexual harassment in the workplace, calls for tolerance and free speech are inadequate responses to hate speech. Targets of violent communication can become more vulnerable to harassment in general. Hate speech helps create a culture of hostility wherein violence is normalized and condoned.

We cannot in good faith hold up values of equity, care, and inclusion while condoning a culture of hostility towards any marginalized group. We cannot equate dialogue, reasonable debate, and free speech with harassment and intimidation. Our judicial system and universities can’t stand up to harassment if college administrators must allow hate speech and harassment under the guise of free speech.

Upon many hours of discussing and reflecting, we have concluded that while universities are symbols of access to knowledge, community, and resources, we feel that their inherent bureaucracy and state-funding directly conflict with the ethos of zines. Part of why zines are so empowering is that they have no one to “answer” to. Subverting mainstream channels around publishing and “doing it yourself” is how zines and zine culture came to be. Creating alternatives that help build a DIY community are how we create room for our individual and collective uncapitalized voices. If our judicial system is unwilling to criminalize hate speech and protect our most marginalized groups, then we must do better as a community to protect each other. At the end of the day, everyone is harmed when a certain minority group is harassed and treated as insignificant. We are all responsible for keeping our neighbors out of harm’s way. Additionally, according to data from last year’s tabler survey, we learned that the majority of our zinesters identify as queer. Thus, a radical, queer event like ours no longer seems to fit alongside, or within, a giant like UMKC.

We regret that, due to the logistics of planning an event the scale of ours, we do not have the resources at this time to move KC Zine Con #5 to a different venue. The festival will continue this year, as planned, on August 31st at Pierson Auditorium. We acknowledge that some may not feel safe attending this year, and we are deeply sorry to anyone who cannot participate at UMKC.  Please come to our Open Mic the evening before, and all the other events we host around town throughout the year to connect with other zinesters! The zine community needs all of us. Zine Con exists because of you—everything we do, we do for the community.

We have plans to explore other venues for the future, and we are putting together a fundraising plan in order to secure a new venue for KCZC #6. UMKC is our third venue in five years, but as Zine Con grows and changes, our venue requirements do too!

A benefit of staying at Pierson this year is it means our venue costs are low and we have the opportunity to use this capital to contribute donations to local trans-affirming organizations. We also want to be able to pay those who have done so much emotional and community labor to inform us in our decision-making process. We know it’s difficult for people to relive traumatic events, and we are so grateful to those who brought their concerns to our attention.

We are hoping that in this final year at UMKC we can act as a trans-affirming space on campus. Trans, non-binary, and queer people deserve to feel safe and welcome on campus. By remaining on campus this year, we are able to create a safer space for the trans and queer community, even if just for one day. Remaining on campus this year helps us make our stance more visible: we will not tolerate hate and harm under the guise of free speech. At the end of the day, everyone is harmed when a certain minority group is treated as less than. We are all responsible for keeping our neighbors out of harm’s way.  We are also working on scheduling training for ourselves and the volunteers to best implement our Safer Spaces Policy. We feel these measures strengthen our ability to provide a safer space on UMKC campus. However, we understand if people still will not be able to attend this year’s festival. We are hoping to use KCZC #5 as an opportunity to come together and voice our concerns, and to send a message to administrators that more work still needs to be done. We will have a petition the day of to gather signatures to express our stance as an organization, and we would also love any other ideas you have around using our event to elevate our LGBTQIA+ solidarity. We are looking for folks who might be interested in leading direct actions and trainings to help educate our zine community on advocacy and accountability. In the meantime, please consider getting involved by educating yourself about the events of April 11 and signing the petition set forth by trans community members.

We also remain committed to our partnership with the UMKC LaBudde Library and GLAMA (Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America). Stuart Hinds and his team have been passionate and kind advocates for KCZC ever since our first fest 5 years ago. LaBudde has a wonderful zine collection and truly understands the importance of zines. We appreciate all the work they have done for us, and are forever grateful that, for three of our five iterations, they have afforded us a free venue at Pierson Auditorium. While money is obviously not the driving force behind zines and our events that celebrate them, the fact that we have had access to a free venue has resulted in our ability to compensate the people who host workshops, our ability to host free workshops in various public spaces throughout the year, and it is why we were able to implement a sliding scale table fee this year. Other benefits of hosting KCZC at UMKC have been the ability to give tours of the Special Collections Archive on campus, the building is ADA-compliant, there’s lots of free parking, it is easy to access using public transportation, and the facilities are large enough to comfortably accommodate our 100+ tablers (as well as workshops). We will continue to work with LaBudde in the future and know that without their support, KCZC would not have grown to what it is now.

An independent publishing fest, of course, embraces freedom of speech and expression, and we want everyone who enters KCZC to feel safe to be exactly who they are without fear of violence. That is why we take the stance that hate speech is not free speech. KCZC prides itself on being an inclusive and accessible event to all people, while maintaining a firm Safer Spaces policy that does not allow hate speech and intolerance in any form.

We affirm that zines are representative of what free speech truly is.

We believe in the power of zines to give a voice to the underrepresented, to change the world, to speak truth to power.

We affirm that hate speech is not, and never will be, free speech and that hate speech has no place in the zine community.

We commit to keeping KC Zine Con a safer space, free from violence and harassment.

The fest is coming up quick and there is still so much work left to be done! We are unveiling our poster over the next few days, and need your help in spreading the word.

We welcome your ideas on how we can make this year’s Zine Con visible in terms of being a trans positive and affirming event. Please contact us at kczinecon@gmail.com if you have ideas for speakers, panels, workshops, or actions that you would like to see happen or help create. We are also, as always, looking for volunteers to help the day-of—drop us a line if you’d like to help out. We rely on the community support and your funding to exist. If you have a lead for a future venue that would be willing to cut us a deal, please let us know. If you would like to sponsor or support us, please let us know.

We appreciate your support to continue to make this happen in a way that affirms and supports our community members of all identities.