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Shameless Magazine

May 6, 2012

My first interview for this project came from the lovely and inspiring Sheila Sampath. Inspiring for the intricacy and nuance of her thought but also having for the work ethic required to direct a magazine, run a small-business, play in the band Betty Burke and gods know what all else. I’m guessing sleep knitting.

We met at the office of her business, The Public. It is an “activist design studio,” so basically the jackpot for any artsy-types looking to make a difference while also earning a living. I could go on and on about this alone, since different models of social entrepreneurship/syndicalism really excite me, but luckily there’s another example more pertinent to this zine. The magazine that Sheila runs is called Shameless, and it is a rare example these days of a completely independent, political magazine with no foundation or governmental funding and no paid staff. Working for free (not to mention paying to work for free: “We don’t have money for childcare [during meetings or while working], we don’t have money for TTC tokens, we don’t have money for food.” Volunteer labor is expensive not just in labor hours but just to participate as well), is not an ideal situation, Sheila points out. While the lower overhead has allowed them their uncompromising voice as a radically-left magazine for trans youth and young women, donations and subscriptions would help make sure that more people and a more diverse group of people could be involved in the process (not just obsessive masochists/big-big hearted activists).

The best way i can describe Shameless is a an amalgam of your sassy big sister, that party time neighbor and the radical history teacher you maybe never had. Being a big advocate of self-representation and leadership development, I was initially unnerved by their all-adult staff, until i came to realize the real beauty of this mentorship. This was not a magazine claiming to speak for young people or as them but rather to them. All i had growing up were Ranger Rick and Zillions. If either of those magazines had featured brilliant, gay men talking about safe sex, anti-racism or riot grrrl, my childhood could have been much different. Not that Shameless is an exclusively queer publication, but every page is filled with love and kindness and thoughtful explanations of the systems that control and shape our worlds. I hope that anyone with kids, regardless of their gender, considers getting them a subscription.

My favorite article from the newest Labour issue is written by a former child sex worker. As always, it is refreshing to hear someone with experience in the industry instead of an academic expert talking about sex work, but the voices of youth are so rarely part of this discussion. Phoenix, the author, explains a bit about sex work activism and the movement for “decriminalization” of sex work, versus different models of outlawing or “legalizing” sex work. She then goes on to talk about how youth in particular are targeted and hurt by the existing legal system and the very non-profits that are supposedly there to help them. It comes with a couple of super helpful lists about “Things that could help a youth sex worker stay safe” and ways to be an ally to youth sex workers. For any young person who does trade sex for money or whatever else, there is an invitation to work on an upcoming resource zine that is by and for youth sex workers. You’re invited to email lipsmackin@maggiestoronto.ca to participate.

Ways to get involved:
advisory board – This is a body that helps generate content and provide guidance to the magazine. There is a currently active community advisory board for people that work closely with youth as well as an in-development youth advisory board.
writing – Anybody is welcome to pitch a story idea to the magazine. They’re specifically looking for correspondents from other parts of the country to talk about what’s going on in their neighborhoods and towns. All ideas get a response, and those writers selected for the magazine or blog will be supported by one of the staff editors. This is a better offer than you’ll find almost anywhere else!
illustrating – They are always on the lookout for some stylish contributor interested in sharing their design talents with the magazine. As with the writing submissions, all emails will be reviewed and carefully considered. Even if you don’t have something finished you might like to contribute, write to them and see if they have a need for anything in particular.
anything else? – You have an idea? You inspired by the magazine, something you read in it, some shiver up your spine that makes you feel like fighting? Drop the magazine a line and let them hear about it. Sheila has guaranteed that all emails receive a response and that any ideas for participating are welcome. Host a Shameless-themed party, a read-aloud club or a writing group to encourage yourself and friends. PS: if you do any of these things, please let me know cuz i’ll put it in the calendar!
Email sheila@shamelessmag.com to get in touch

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