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Courtesy of HÄN

HÄN is the sexy new archive binding London’s queer community together

A collaboration between Anastasiia Fedorova, Ella Boucht, and Anya Gorkana, HÄN is an amorphous platform bridging the personal and political histories of queer creativity

Today – and particularly on the internet – queerness is often the least interesting aspect of someone’s identity. Online, it has become increasingly common for someone to showcase their work (music, photography, but mostly DeviantArt) with some kind of LGBTQ+ prefix attached, as if these markers somehow make whatever they’re promoting inherently noble or worthwhile. It’s easy to connect this to the ways in which the language of queerness has been parlayed into marketing, but it’s also symptomatic of those who are divided between assimilating into mainstream culture, and those who really want to own their difference. “It would be interesting to see what life would be like in a world where your queerness had nothing to do with who you are as an individual,” says designer Ella Boucht. “Personally, I love to be different and have found such a beautiful family in exploring and owning my queerness and transness.” 

“Being outspokenly queer is not something everyone has the possibility to do, depending on the laws you’re surrounded by, your family, your work environment, or even your internal beliefs,” they continue, having just released a collection bearing the words “daddy is a dyke’ in block lettering. It’s something Anya Gorkova knows well, having grown up in Russia where there are no anti-discrimation measures in place to protect queer people. “I always had feelings for all genders, but I couldnt admit to myself that I could be queer,” they say, reccounting the moment they first told someone of how they felt in Tsvetnoy Market in Moscow. Together with writer and curator Anastasiia Fedorova, Gorkova and Boucht have launched HÄN, a new publication which positions itself as an archive for dyke, lesbian, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. In its current iteration, HÄN will “bring new awareness to iconic queer works of film, photography, and literature, to show that these people are still around and share what it was like creating back in the day.” 

The idea is to “create possibilities for queer elders and young ones to meet in person, connect, and share stories,” as Boucht explains, which will eventually manifest in IRL workshops and roundtables. Across the pages of its first issue, the trio journey through photography, art, fiction, and journalism, looking at gender anarchy, leather, community, sex, and resistance. “We sourced our contributors from personal encounters on London’s queer scene, from parties, events, talks, through friends – but also through social media and our interest and love for their work and what they were achieving in the world.” Collaborators include drag king Prinx Silver, writer Iarlaith Ni Fheorais, sex worker Black Venus, and artist Ebun Sodipo, all of whom “explore the idea of fluidity and feeling happy and powerful in your body” – a point encapsulated by an aqueous back cover. “At the same time, we realise that the publication is only the first step and we want the project to be a space we can give other people to curate and input their ideas and conversations.”

Publishing is, even on an independent level, a saturated marketplace, but HÄN makes a timely addition nonetheless. “LGBTQ+ people live in a time which is incredible in terms of representation and freedom and what is available to us, but at the same time, we’re feeling a huge cultural pushback from conservative powers,” Fedorova adds. “It’s so important to know our history not just as facts and figures but on a personal level – to connect with queer and trans elders and learn about their stories – because we are the same, fighting the same battles.” It’s an amorphous project, which exists not only to entertain and educate – batting against the groundswell of anti-trans rhetoric in the British media and the roll-back of queer rights in the USA – but also to fill a personal void for its founders. “We grew up with barely any queer history or queer elders to turn to,” Boucht says. “And then, after moving to London, everything from libraries, archives, parties, toilet scribbles, and random discussions in random smoking areas really opened our eyes.”

In an introductory essay to HÄN, Fedorova claims that “archives are sexy”, referencing the work of American author Andy Campbell, who believed in “embodied forms of archiving” – AKA dance, touch, street protests, sex parties. “It’s how we know that the act of kissing in a queer bar is history,” Fedorova says. “The memory of that kiss is history, too. The very fact it happened and altered our bodies forever is history, even without documentation.” It’s quite an alluring take, which Gorkova, who was responsible for the magazine’s visual direction, has managed to mirror with stark and spontaneous photography. “It’s got a modern look, which is important, because in archiving the contemporary you have to keep in mind that it will look quite different in time. Our aim was to portray people as they are, and as they'd like to be” she concludes – a statement which slices into the very MO of HÄN. 

You can find the debut edition of HÄN on sale here.