States of Independence
Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity

The Original Plumbing manifesto

Guest editor Amos Mac takes us on a whirlwind trip through the history of America's freshest magazine for trans dudes

OP7-cover
Original Plumbing #7 Courtesy of Amos Mac

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. This week, we take on the State of Sex, which tackles an all-encompassing look at sexuality, gender and all the flavours of the American rainbow.

Original Plumbing is one of the freshest magazines for the trans community, with an unapologetically honest (and pretty fucking sexy) perspective on queer issues. Amos Mac, the co-founder and editor of the quarterly magazine, takes us into the OP world with his manifesto for print and columnists Arisce Wanzer and Diana Tourjee talk love, sex and politics.

A year before launching Original Plumbing, I was an artist who felt disconnected from any kind of trans or queer community as well as from the art world. I didn’t know a lot of trans guys, so I decided to create a photo series of trans men living in the Bay Area and planned to publish choice photos into a small photo zine with interviews of the guys along side. While photographing Bay Area rapper and music producer Rocco Kayiatos (AKA Katastrophe) we spoke in detail about the photo zine project. From there, our relationship quickly snowballed from casual acquaintances to best friends and co-collaborators. It was through both of our visions that Original Plumbing blossomed from a zine to a quarterly print magazine and online community with nationally produced events and an ever-expanding apparel line. 

Original Plumbing started out as one thing: a magazine. A quarterly, theme-based, art-inspired photo-heavy trans zine with interviews and essays dedicated to documenting the culture and communities of transgender men. We originally created OP to fill a gap in print media, where trans male representation was lacking. As trans men, we didn’t see ourselves represented on magazine racks or news stands, so we carved out a space in print for the trans male community to speak for and about themselves. It was our intent to take the focus of the trans narrative away from Trans 101 topics of surgeries and hormones, transferring it to the greater experience of our lives. Literally started out of our bedrooms in San Francisco in September of 2009, OP has been published and expanded upon collaboratively between myself and Rocco ever since. Now it's published out of Brooklyn, with a West Coast homebase stationed in Los Angeles.   

OP9-cover
Original Plumbing #9 Courtesy of Amos Mac

The magazine was named after a Craigslist post I saw in 2008 written by a trans man who was looking for casual sex. He stated that he had "original plumbing below". The statement stuck with me – it was memorable and cheeky, and the perfect title for our publication because of the world’s constant obsession with the genitalia of transgender people. We're often defined by whether or not we have specific body parts, and the title is a response to that. (And for the record, it is not a requirement for one to have "original plumbing" to be featured in, or to write for Original Plumbing!) Between my photo aesthetic – inspired by the likes of Teen Beat and vintage undercover gay magazines such as Physique Pictorial – and Rocco’s genuine connect-ness to the trans community from years of touring the country and meeting people in small towns and big cities, we found a perfect balance and have yet to run out of ideas or themes for future issues. 

People still ask me why the hell I would want to start a print publication in the age of the internet while big name magazines and newspapers were going broke and dying off left and right. The answer is, because I wanted it to be a print magazine. I never imagined it to be anything else. I wanted something people could hold onto, something you could hide in your drawers, pack away in old boxes, rip pages out of and tack them onto their bedroom walls (or lockers), or set on fire if you felt the urge. I’ve always been a collector of print magazines and ephemera, and felt that if it’s in print it must be more important, longer lasting and more relevant... And aesthetically pleasing. But that’s just my tree-killing opinion. 

“Through Original Plumbing I have owned my personal trans experience. I fought my own isolation and witnessed the same from people around me”

After publishing for a year or so, we realized that since there are only so many pages per issue to print on we had to expand our website and publish exclusive content to reflect the growing online community. OP Online grew exponentially over the years and became its own entity. After years of growth and interest we expanded the online content to reflect the trans community at large. Original Plumbing online is now comprised of writers from around the world that are trans* male, trans* female, genderqueer, non-binary trans* and their allies. The print magazine remains a “trans male quarterly” and is exclusively print content with no crossover content online... Except for leaked photos on certain Tumblrs.

The belief behind Original Plumbing is that there is no single way to sum up what it means to be a trans* person because we each have different beliefs, life experiences, and relationships to our own bodies. We all speak for ourselves and never for the "trans community" as a whole. Our sexualities, identities and belief systems can be as diverse as non-trans people. Since Rocco and I started OP, I’ve felt less alone and like the world’s gotten a whole lot smaller. Through Original Plumbing I have owned my personal trans experience. I fought my own isolation and witnessed the same from people around me, both online and off.  I’ve looked beyond myself, honored those who came before me who paved the way, respected those who cannot or choose to not live visibly, and those who don’t have a choice. It’s been five years since we launched the first issue. Sometimes I wonder if Original Plumbing will be around in five more years, and if conversations like this will be irrelevant. Perhaps by then, it will no longer be seen as a brave act when a trans person lives their life unapologetically. Perhaps by then, this conversation will be over. 

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