This is part one of Austen's series on Transgender media: comics, movies, etc. Stay tuned for updates every Monday!
I've wanted to do a series about transgender webcomics for a long while. Much of my decision to transition was born in reading these webcomics; without them I'd have never researched transition, thought about transition, or realized that transition could make me happy. I say, what better way to pay those artists back for their hard work than to bump their work on a blog?
I couldn't go through a list of "must-read" transgender comics without mentioning the one that got me started. Enter "Closetspace." This is the comic that tipped my scales from "I can survive being a boy" to "I need to transition." Literally. A friend of mine sent me this panel when I was really struggling with the decision to transition, and the words just echoed.
I mean, sure, I had thought about what being a girl could be like, but at the time I had dismissed the concept as a fallacy. I was never going to be a girl, so why bother? But as I kept reading and reading, seeing how the character felt about herself in the past and in the near future, I was right there with her, recognizing the same signposts, the same feelings, the same need that she presented.
Closetspace is "the story of a boy who thought he could be a woman so well, he moved in with one," as per the tagline on Google. Carrie leaves home after coming out to her parents and ends up with Allison, a woman living in an expansive Victorian house. The comic follows Carrie's journey to acceptance, along with all the bumps and bruises that arise out of trying to learn in months what genetic women have had years to discover.
The comic does an excellent job at exploring a taxonomy of transwomen in the world. It seems that Carrie is always being played against different kinds of women, gender-variant people, and male figures. She begins her female life under the care of a drag queen, expands to find caring women willing to help her fit into female society, discovers power forgiveness in her mother, anger and remorse in her father, spiteful women who insist trans-women can never be women... all fair and expected reactions to a trans-person's journey.
In particular, artist Jenn Dolari asked me to post her commentary on Allison's story:
Allison's storyline is one I don't think gets told enough. While many trans comic characters go through their transitions, and in the end come out happier, there are a more than a few cases in the real world where it doesn't work out. Allison is that case in comic form. Her story's based on a real person I know who had her transition, and regretted it, and how it's haunted her as a woman. Transition is serious business, and if you're not a transsexual before you transition, you may be one afterwards. PLEASE SEEK HELP if you feel you must transition. You may think it's the absolute right thing for you, but you can't be objective about it. A good therapist can help you on your way if it's right for you. I'm batshit insane and got my surgery papers. If I can do it, you can. Just remember, there is a downside to this. Don't be on it.
Note: The Allison story arc actually begins here -- I put a representative panel into the quote for show.
Stories like these are the reason I think these transgender comics are so important. Its easy to find heartfelt memoirs from folks who came out on the other side in one piece, or dramas about one man / woman's fight for acceptance. We know the stakes, we know the societal pressures, and we know the psychological necessity to transition. These comics help people consider every aspect of transition - good and bad - through the eyes of someone going through the process. Its not a past memory, or a bunch of empirical information about what transition can do. These stories show people in the process of rediscovery in a way that most TV dramas, books, and movies often don't touch. Thankfully, since we're talking about comic book worlds, things almost always turn out for the best.
Have a comic to recommend? Leave a comment and I'll get to it as soon as I can.
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