Dear Queer Diary: Scrapbooking Is Not Just For Straight People

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

Quit it. I can see you there, rolling your eyes and taking a swig from your personal flask of too cool for school juice. Three-dollar pieces of paper, cutesy stickers, and snapshots from Ricky’s third birthday party? Scrapbooking is so stay-at-home mom-circa-2008.

Well, stop right there, my skeptical scrapbook-hater! Because contrary to popular belief, scrapbooking can be just as hip and as queer as that kale smoothie you had for breakfast this morning.

This particular hip scrapbook is technically a "smashbook." (Via Debra Cooper)

This particular hip scrapbook is technically a “smashbook.” (Via Debra Cooper)

Now we know that queer people can have beautiful weddings, adorable children, and freakishly picturesque suburban lives. But the good news is that, even if you don’t have a spouse, a minivan, or a labradoodle, you still have everything that you need to make an amazing scrapbook.

It should be obvious after the last five billion installments of this column that I love to write in my journal. However, I also really really really like to make things — delicious cakes, book-page themed crafts, and even throw pillows.

I recently made this without a sewing machine and felt more like Laura Ingalls Wilder than I ever could have imagined was possible.

I recently made this without a sewing machine and felt more like Laura Ingalls Wilder than I ever could have imagined was possible.

Just one of the many reasons scrapbooking is so fantastic is because it is the perfect union of journaling and thing-making: you are documenting your life and writing down your thoughts and feelings, just like you do in your dearest queerest diary — you’re just doing it with the fun addition of photos, receipts, magazine clippings, old buttons, and whatever else you have lying around your apartment/dorm room/real live mortgage-bearing house.

You need more convincing as to the greatness of the scrapbook? Read this Lamda Literary interview with Ellen Gruber Garvey, who has written on scrapbooks in history, and talks about them revealing “secret histories” whose contents constitute a covert reflection of queer identities. In addition, please note that, according to a somewhat questionable Urban Dictionary entry, “scrapbooking” is an alternative term for scissoring. So there’s that.

Anne Sexton was scrapbooking before it was cool. (Via Poetry Foundation)

Anne Sexton was scrapbooking before it was cool. (Via Poetry Foundation)

It may be true that when you search Pinterest for “lesbian scrapbooking,” not a lot comes up, but I consider it to be my sacred duty to change that. Zine culture is all about cutting and pasting (right?) and way back in the early days of Autostraddle, Laneia was crafting collaged mix CD sleeves I would be proud to include in my scrapbook.

“But capitalism!” you exclaim, still holding desperately to the last vestiges of your scrapbook-related prejudice. Do I truly want to give my hard-earned dollar bills to ginormous Utah-based craft conglomerates that actively promote “family” values? No, I suppose you might not.

The good news is that although there are a lot of scrapbook-related products out there in the world—and yes, I could spend hours in the aisles of Michaels admiring printed papers and washi tape — those three-dimensional stickers and special star-shaped brads are not necessary for a successful scrapbooking experience. The best parts of a scrapbook are the things you already have—the note she slipped you across the library table, the receipt from your first date, or your best friend’s new business card. Scrapbooking thrives on the artifacts of your life that would otherwise get tossed in an envelope or a drawer or the recycling bin.

For those who are too lazy to cut out their own paper, there is Project Life. (Via Caiti)

For those who are too lazy to cut out their own paper, there is Project Life. (Via Caiti)

When I was in high school, I spent hours crafting layouts in 18 x 24 inch portfolio books that I filled with clippings from my school newspaper, programs from the winter musical, and notes passed in A.P. U.S. History class. Although the binders now dwell in my parents’ house, about 2,000 miles away, when I last went home, I paged through them with my girlfriend, giving her a multimedia tour of the halls of my high school psyche.

Speaking of girlfriends, for the last two Valentine’s Days, I have made mine a scrapbook to document the last twelve months of our romantic board-game-playing and road-tripping, using old receipts, printed-out Instagram photos, and a bizarre collection of craft supplies that I keep in a plastic tub full of manila envelopes. I love making the scrapbook because it allows me to relive our bookstore dates (sigh!), compile wacky lists (“Teas We Drank That We Loved”) and get glue all over my coffee table (it is still sticky).

Romantic girlfriend scrapbook 2.0.

Romantic girlfriend scrapbook 2.0.

If I have failed to convince you that “scrapbooker” is a title to be proud of, my dear queer diarists, you can always call yourself something else instead! I am an artistic documenter of queer narratives—a glue-stick genius—a fearless journaling, photo-taking, memory-collecting machine! What are you?


Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings! Header by Rory Midhani

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. I’ve kept my sketchbooks and journals for years, but whenever I’ve tried to look back at them or read anything out of my journal I just get really bad second-hand embarrassment. Like I know I should be pleased to see any signs of my maturity, since it’s usually pretty hard to otherwise witness, but I think I just really don’t like myself enough to enjoy looking at my life lol.

  2. This reminds me that I need to make another scrapbook! My first scrapbook (covering my last couple of years at school, all of university and a little while afterwards) is nowhere near as pretty/decorative/artsy as the ones I see on the Internet, but I love flicking through it. I ran out of space in that one and decided I would need a new one for my time teaching abroad, so I’ve been accumulating stuff to put in a book but still don’t have a book to stick it in. Must get round to it!

  3. ALL MY JOURNALS ARE ALSO SCRAPBOOKS so this post really speaks to me. Sometimes I think it’s sort of a shame that I put so much artistry into books that by definition are private and for my eyes only, but one day when I am famous and they sell my journals to the lesbian herstory archives it’ll really pay off I bet.

    I also love making books for other people — I’ve made maybe 5-6 books for friends and exes where I take a regular blank sketchbook and make scrapbooky/collagey type pages for my favorite poems and stories that remind me of them or have a meaning for both of us, alternating with pages that are just about us with nobody’s words but our own. Then I leave a bunch of blank space at the end for them to add their own poems and feelings and words as life goes on. It’s the best.

    • I’ve made a couple of scrap book/photo album/journal for friends/family. Mostly at major life events like baby shower, 80th birthday, new home. So much fun, but I suck at doing them for myself, and all my journal/sketchbooks which are often overly personal have to be handed in for marking at uni. Argh. See my soul tutors! See it!

  4. Ok like 5 years ago the missus got me a gorgeous brown paper A3 scrapbook and drew. Stunningly cute illustration of us in the front so I could put all the “crap” I hoard from our trips,(movie tickets, train tickets, pamphlets from museums,tube maps etc) somewhere other than a shoebox in some sort of semblance of order. I have yet to attempt this but I am now further inspired! I’ll get right on that… at the end of this semester.

  5. Guilty of being a scrapbooker, definitely, have been for about 15 years, and my kids also are. But this goes with my love of diy, decoration, sewing and anything crafty in general. We even have a whole room and waaaaay too much materials dedicated to crafts, scrapbooking in particular. I’m not even ashamed. 🙂

  6. i did a scrapbook once for a trip and it was the best thing ever. as a visual person, it really helped me retain memories and experiences. I’ve never done a personal scrapbook, but I am very inspired by this post to create a lesbian scrapbook 😀

  7. Speaking of girlfriends, for the last two Valentine’s Days, I have made mine a scrapbook to document the last twelve months of our romantic board-game-playing and road-tripping…

    thAT IS SO ADORABLE I MAY OR MAY NOT BE DEAD FROM IT RIGHT NOW

    also i just really like looking at things like this. so much to look at! so well put together! eeeeeeee

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