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The Fence: A new place of power for bisexual women

An interview with Cheryl Dobinson
from Toronto, Canada

by Elke Zobl
July 2004


Mission statement of The Fence:

Calling bisexuals 'fencesitters' has been a way of marginalizing us, of placing us outside gay/lesbian and straight cultures by saying that we haven't made a decision about our sexuality. "The Fence" is going to be all about bisexual women reclaiming this position and speaking from our unique viewpoints that traverse straight and gay/lesbian cultures, but also allow us to have spaces of our own. "The Fence" can be a positive and powerful place, and this zine is for the women who have decided to stay there!!


The first issue came out in September 2002 and contains artwork by Mia Jennings, “A Salute to Vibrators” by Kathleen Kuhn, an account of two bi gals attending a pro-choice rally during Catholic World Youth Days by Sara Copley, loads of poetry, Cheryl's own piece on “A Journey to Bisexuality”, an article about having a husband and finding a wife by Dana Shaw, and many other interesting odds and ends.


Issue #2 features articles such as "Who's Afraid of Bisexuality?" by Nikki Schlaishunt and "The Irrelevance of Gender" by Kythryne Aisling; a chat about being bi on the Twin Oaks commune with Valerie, Val and Mary; a bisexual resource list; artwork by Mia Jennings; photos by Rainbow; and much much more!




Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?

I am 31, originally from rural Alberta and now residing in Toronto.

What do you do besides your zine?

Here is my handy dandy bio:
Cheryl Dobinson is a bisexual writer, researcher and advocate. She holds an MA in Sociology from York University where her studies focused on women's sexuality and queer youth. Her work has been published in The Journal of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Identity, The Journal of Homosexuality, Herizons and Fireweed. She recently completed a project on bisexual health and wellness in Ontario for the Ontario Public Health Association and was co-convenor of the first ever Bi Health Summit, held August 2003 in San Diego. Cheryl is also the creator and editor of thebi women's zine "The Fence." In October 2003 she began co-facilitating "Fluid" - a new group for bisexual, bi-curious, pansexual, genderqueer, questioning and other queer youth who don't fit neatly into categories, through Toronto's Supporting Our Youth community development initiative.
Her other current projects include co-ordinating a peer-based high school anti-homophobia initiative, assisting with research on emotional well-being in queer mothers, and co-editing a book titled "Voices Across the Third Wave: Feminist Anti-Oppression Perspectives." Cheryl is very active in Toronto's bisexual community and likes writing/speaking/educating about bi and queer issues whenever she gets a chance. Her day job is at York University, co-ordinating the Association for Research on Mothering.

For how long have you been running your zine now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?

Since fall 2002. I am the only editor.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

I had been thinking about it for awhile, and then one evening I read at a bi themed women's night in a local reading series - I was so impressed with the work people read that I decided that night that I would put together a bi women's zine.

For the name, "The Fence" is actually the first name I thought of for a bi zine or magazine. After I brainstormed tons of other names I kept coming back to this one.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them?

I can't really remember my first exposure to zines. Probably in the late 90s in Toronto from other queer girls.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?

More awareness about bi women and bi issues, a place for bi women to have their voices heard, and a place to create a sort of paper community for bi women - as is reducing isolation for the women who read it, even if they don't know any other bi people.

What topics do you discuss most often in your zine?

Bisexuality! More specifically - myths and stereotypes about bi people, sex, being bi in the queer world, polyamory, coming out as bi... and anything else about living life as a bi woman.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?

I love when the zine is done and in my hands and I am ready to start distributing it. It feels so good to have created something and then send it out into the world. Layout is the most challenging thing for me - just the hard work of actually physically putting the zine together. I procrastinate this endlessly....

What are some of the zines you read and admire?

Beating around the bush
Persephone's passion
Mohawk Pussy
Double Double

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?

Just do it!! It is something that anyone can do. All you need is access to a copier, and some scissors and tape. Plus something to put in the zine of course.


Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?

I do feel part of a grrrl zine community in Toronto. I know a lot of the other local zine girls and we are at many of the same events, on the same lists, submit work to each other's zines and support each other in projects. I started to meet these gals as soon as my first issue was out, and have felt increasingly part of the larger grrrl zine community since then.

I am very interested in international grrrl and genderqueer zines. Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community or network in Canada? Are there others and who are some of the most active participants? Do you think that there is a separate grrrl zine community/network from the larger zine community?

Well, I don't know much about the scene in Canada as a whole. I really only know the Toronto scene. There are a number of active queer girl zinesters who produce great work and support each other's work. Here there is definitely a grrrl zine community that exists within the larger zine community.


Issue #2

Do you consider grrrl and genderqueer zines as an important part of a social movement? Do you think grrrl, lady, queer and transfolk zines, resource sites, and projects can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?

I definitely think that these sorts of things can have an effect on larger social change. They can educate people and raise awareness, which leads to action; and they also provide grassroots opportunities for people's voices to be heard that wouldn't normally have a place in mainstream media.

Which role does play the Internet for you?

Not a huge role - I have a little website, and I also surf when I want to find something. But I'm not an internet addict.

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?

Yes. The most pressing issues I deal with on a daily basis are women's sexual and reproductive freedom, and violence against women.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not?

I think of myself as part of the Third Wave. I think that feminism (esp. third wave) is now becoming more interconnected with other social movements and realizing the importance of taking a broad anti-oppression perspective. To me, Third Wave means being broadly anti-oppressive, being sex-positive, being open to diverse forms of expression (ie, zines) and being able to be fun and feminist at the same time (when this makes sense).

What would a utopian grrrl-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an "ideal" world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?

Wow, these are big questions! I guess some of the main things that I can think of would be that people would be free to express their gender and sexuality in whatever ways felt right to them, and that all of these ways would be valued equally. I'd like to see more education about diverse gender and sexual options, so that people can make these kinds of choices. I'd like to see changes in our ideas of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, so that even for people who feel they fit these categories there would be a lot more room for self-expression than there is now. Specific policies would include things like sex education in schools that includes all options in respectful ways. I also want to see the end of violence, against women and everyone else too.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?

I'd like to to more educational work around bisexuality and run a coming out group for bi people. I want to keep publishing "The Fence" and increase the distribution so that more people find it. I wish I could make this sort of work into a full-time occupation (which paid the bills)!

Thank you for the interview, Cheryl!




“The Fence” is available in 4 stores in Toronto (Good for Her, Toronto Women’s Bookstore, This Ain’t the Rosedale Library and Another Story) and is also carried by Drown Soda Zine Distro (

Broken Pencil magazine named “The Fence” in their February 2003 issue the zine of the month:

How to order “The Fence” -
One year subscriptions are available for $5.00, postage included. Back issues of volumes #1, #2 and #3 are available for $2 each, plus $1 for shipping. You can order online at or email Cheryl for details on sending a cheque."


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