Tag Archives: airboy

Review: Airboy #4

Airboy04_CoverAirboy is a strange beast. It’s a comic about the creators writing the comic you’re reading, in what is, at times, some truly inspired comic book writing. The use of colour in the comic is also fantastic, and the series was on the verge of being one of the most recommended comics at Graphic Policy, until about midway through the second issue.

To say that Airboy had a bit of controversy behind it would be an understatement. You can read more about that here, with James Robinson‘s seemingly heartfelt response here.  Elana summed up the events surrounding the second issue of Airboy better than I could a few months ago with her article here

I’m not going to bring it all up again, except to say that Robinson’s apology read as heartfelt and sincere to me. He appeared as a man who was genuinely sorry for his portrayal of transgender women in the second issue, and admitted that in his depiction of himself in the worse possible light he inadvertently caused harm to others.

I decided to read the remainder of the series, because the above offensive portrayal aside, the first two issues were an amazingly crafted piece of meta fiction, and I was interested in seeing how Robinson would close out the series.

With James Robinson’s reputation of being the guy who brings Golden Age heroes into the modern times, Airboy has shone a light on the writers creative process with James Robinson writing both himself and artist Greg Hinkle into the comic in some utterly unflattering depictions of both men. Robinson’s self destructive behaviour depicted in the comic may not be entirely autobiographical, but it is reflective of a darker time in the writers life before he sobered up, and even as the series has progressed you get a sense of the man’s open confession that this period of his life wasn’t exactly a highlight.

The final two issues of Airboy, focus less on the debauched night the two fictionalized versions of Robinson and Hinkle, and more on their sheer cowardice concerning their new found participation in the Second World War. The fourth issue has a very self deprecating sense of humour to it that, at times, is wonderfully dry. 

Greg Hinkle’s art work throughout the series has been brilliant, capturing the expressions of the fictional versions of himself and Robinson spectacularly well. I also really enjoyed the use of colour to highlight the difference between the real world and the world of Airboy. Utilizing a grey scale colour scheme for the real world elements of the comic for much of the series, seeing the fictional world  of Airboy in vibrant colours is fantastic.

Airboy is a comic about James Robinson hitting rock bottom, both professionally and personally, just as much as it is about the character of Airboy himself. If you’re not reading the series because of the contents of issue #2, I’m not going to try and dissuade you from your decision. What I will say, however, is don’t judge Robinson’s future work on an acknowledged mistake.

Writer: James Robinson Artist: Greg Hinkle
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Good question

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Robinson Apologized for Airboy Issue 2 Because We United and Took Action

“If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”. – Frederick Douglass*

Airboy02_CoverActivism gets results. Graphic Policy and The Rainbow Hub were criticized by people in the comics community when we took action against the extremely transphobic second issue of Airboy. But because we raised hell we made progress. That’s the lesson people should be taking away from this.

On June 30th Graphic Policy and The Rainbow Hub‘s Emma Houxbois published stories calling attention to the rampant transphobia in the second issue of the Airboy comic. I’d lavished praise over the comic’s first issue. We knew the context the story took place in and it was the story itself that was transphobic, not just words that characters said while “behaving badly”. Our sites’ explained how the comic’s narrative repeats the dangerous myth that trans women are out there trying to “trick” men into sex with them. We explained that this myth endangers trans people and in a world in which “trans panic” still gets used as an excuse to murder trans people we need to react as strongly as possible when it is repeated.

And we heard crickets in response.

On July 2nd I emailed GLAAD, the most powerful media watchdog for LGBTQ people. We know that when GLAAD speaks out they can’t be ignored and the comics world knows it too– since GLAAD’s known for giving awards to comics that have positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. GLAAD sprung into action. They issued a statement. And between their clout and the outcry we organized, we forced the comics community to pay attention to the problems in the comic.

And then James Robinson apologized. Robinson heard what we said, and he listened and explained that he now realizes that he “fucked-up” (his words) . I’m not trans but his apology seemed earnest and thoughtful to me. Some trans people were not impressed but others have responded favorably to his apology.

Only July 6, artist Greg Hinkle went so far as to THANK people who spoke up on Twitter and offer to continue the conversation at Comic-Con.

Meanwhile, what about all those defenders of Airboy #2? They continue to promote bigotry. Robinson acknowledged the problems with his comic. He wants to do better. When the artists who created the comic are saying that they now see the problem in what they made, their defenders should probably take a minute and use their hearts and their heads to listen. More importantly, they need to stop and listen to transwomen like Emma Houxbois who’s written powerfully about the problems in this comic and in comics at large.

In the end, the defenders of Airboy want to marginalize comics as an medium because they want to perpetuate a comics industry that excludes people who aren’t like them. They are bringing comics down. Also, to all of the “serious comics journalists” who were willing to acknowledge that there  “may be problems with Airboy 2″ but criticized Graphic Policy and Emma for demanding the book be pulled? Guess what. We got results. If we had played it quiet and POLITE we wouldn’t have brought the attention we brought to the problem.

Remember, we started out by just writing reviews that explained the comic’s transphobia and no one was talking. As soon as we demanded the book be pulled the conversation exploded. This chart Brett made illustrates the silence around Airboy until we made our demands. GLAAD has made it very clear: activism is key to creating change. They said:

“GLAAD is very grateful that the Rainbow Hub and Graphic Policy brought ‘Airboy’ #2 to our attention, and used their social media reach to spark an online discussion about the transphobia in the issue. GLAAD was happy to use our platform to boost their signal, and then to work with James Robinson to distribute his response.” – Nick Adams, Director of Programs for Transgender Media at GLAAD.

If you value politeness over creating change then you don’t really care about making change.  

As Katie Schenkel aka ‏@JustPlainTweets tweeted “People who care more about the idea and purity of ART than about marginalized people’s humanity being chipped away bum me the hell out.”

And From @sarahnmoon: ” If your gentleness is tone-policing and silencing anger, it’s not truly gentle because it doesn’t care about what others are hurt by”

Oh, and what of Image comics – who had their twitter icon wrapped in the rainbow flag while publishing a transphobic comic? Image is still silent. But they took down the flag….

To everyone who tried to change the conversation into a debate over censorship, I recommend Brett’s blog post that explains the difference between our demands and actual censorship (which we oppose). Meanwhile, you can buy two Image Comics that are trans positive right away: The Wicked + The Divine and the new Arclight. You should also buy Sophie Campbell and Kelly Thompson’s hilarious, youth-friendly and suspenseful Jem and the Holograms which has a trans character and is by a trans artist.

But using your comics buying dollars to support positive portrayals of trans people isn’t enough. We can’t just leave it at that. Not when comics are repeating dangerous tropes that their audience can’t even identify as a problem. Not when people are making money off of transphobia.

So yes, we took action. 

And no we don’t apologize. 

* Note on that Frederick Douglas quote: I’m not comparing what we’re doing to the scale of Frederick Douglas’s work. I use his quote to illustrate the point we are making and to show the theory behind activism.

For more on this story and comics media activism listen to our podcast from July 6th.

Banning vs. Censorship vs. Pulling, There’s a Big Difference

CensorshipWhile many agreed with our statement that Image ComicsAirboy #2 written by James Robinson contained material that was transphobic, some also did not support our call to pull the comic from shelves (virtual or physical). They decried censorship, hid behind free speech and artistic expression, and some trotted out the 1st Amendment. In doing so, they played into the hands of individuals defending the status-quo, and conflating the concepts of banning, censorship, and pulling an item. These are three concepts that are all very different.

When it comes to banning or censorship, banning is the easiest of the two to debunk as an argument. The act of banning is usually an act determined by a law, official decree, or some official. Last I checked we at no time addressed the situation to government officials, asked for governmental interference, or a law to be passed, so in that essence it’s absolutely not the correct term at all to be used.

There’s also the other definitions of the term such as prohibiting an action or forbidding the use of something, or refusal of allowing someone to go somewhere, do something, or participate in something. Can’t say we called for any of that either. The comic was already out in the public, and at no time did we say folks should never have access to the comic.

So, to everyone that used the word “ban,” you are factually incorrect in your hyperbolic statement(s).

Censorship is a more interesting one to discuss and debate. The ACLU defines censorship this way:

…the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

I think we can all agree on the above definition. Immediately we can get rid of the part of this being “censorship by the government.” As much as I’d like to run for office, I am not the government, so no matter what, hiding behind this as unconstitutional is again factually incorrect. Anyone claiming so shows a lack of understanding about the 1st Amendment and what it actually protects.

Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACThe 1st Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We’re not the government, case closed on that part of the debate.

Censoring is actual deletion or prevention of an idea or feeling. We never asked for the deletion of the comic at all. But we asked for was something much broader, and actually a form of free speech. That gets us to our actual “ask,” for Image Comics to pull the comic.

Pulling is a completely different thing. It is asking the petitioned to engage in speech themselves through a specific action. Like a sit in, chaining yourself to an item, the act of pulling an item is actual speech through action. We most recently saw this as Bree Newsome acted through civil disobedience to pull the Confederate flag down from a pole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol. Our ask wasn’t to that level, or the other examples I gave, but such actions are similar in nature. So for those denouncing our ask, I guess you can call them hypocritical on the subject.

People need to remember that free speech does not equal freedom from criticism, nor does it mean freedom from consequences. Free speech does not guarantee one a platform to engage in that speech. The platform in this case is digital shelf space, physical shelf space, and promotional plans. We critiqued the work for over 36 hours without response. We engaged in free speech spinning out of that criticism. When it was clear we were being ignored, we asked others to engage in free speech through action. That action, for a publisher to exercise their own free speech in whether to support a comic or not. But not giving the comic a platform, Image would themselves be expressing free speech.

This act would also not prevent the comic from being able to be obtained elsewhere. The creators would be free to sell the comic themselves, submit it to other platforms, and use the many other distribution methods they have access to. This is not a case of a comic never being able to be obtained again. Stores would still be able to make their own decisions as to what to do with it. Digital platforms too would be able to make their own decisions as well.

I think Laura Sneddon says it best in her take on the situation:

A comic that is sexist, misogynist and transphobic has every right to exist. But it does not have every right to be bought or supported. And when a publisher produces such comics my opinion of them is severely lowered. And of the creators too. And any shop that carries the title knowing the contents therein? Yup, you as well.

The thing about free speech is that everyone is free to utilise it. Go ahead and publish your own comic full of whatever you want! But if that comic contributes to harmful ideas that have real life counterparts and results they help bolster, you are also completely free to receive the criticism coming your way. And if you’re a publisher putting out such content? Don’t be surprised if people start to question the other titles they buy from you.

I also want to remind folks we were the site that rallied creators, other blogs, and some publishers against internet censorship during the SOPA/PIPA fight in 2012. This was an actual fight against government censorship, and the power of corporations to censor what they don’t like. Many sites and creators who are wrapping themselves in the 1st Amendment and free speech were silent then. Some others said they supported that action, but couldn’t speak publicly as their publisher didn’t. Some also repeated similar statements in private emails showing support over this.

We as a society live under a social contract as to norms and behaviors. Every single day we self censor as individuals, holding back what we might think, or wording things in a particular way as to not hurt, offend, or worse, those around us. WE ALL CENSOR OURSELVES. In our thought. In our actions. The idea of free speech is a myth we tell ourselves to make us feel good about society. In our bringing up this topic, we asked Mr. Robinson to think about and reflect on that social contract, and how the material he produced fit into that puzzle. The troubling scene in particular, and discussions and actions within by characters, brought no special value to the art. There are many other scenarios that would have gotten the same points across and done so without treading into dangerous myths and tropes that are used in the real world to justify violence against transgender individuals. And no, I’m not saying Robinson advocated for such violence. The social contract I’ve mentioned has a primary goal being the desire of protection of those around us. That protection does come with the surrendering of some personal liberties, and results in the self censorship we all do. Every action we partake in has some of that sacrifice.

As far as the specific ask, and those who felt it went too far. I hope one day I get to negotiate against you in some way, because going in with your specific goal/want is exactly what you shouldn’t do. You need to leave room for negotiation. “Pulling” was the extreme ask to leave wiggle room for that exact negotiation. I’ve never gone into a negotiation with exactly what I’ve wanted, I’ve always asked for more to leave room to get what I really want. I think that was lost on a lot of folks. It’s also not exactly something you can say publicly.

Overall, for those focused on the ideas of banning, and censorship, you’re falling for the talking points of those against progressiveness, openess, and a welcoming attitude within the comics community. You’re being distracted from discussing the material itself and engaging in debate on THEIR terms, not OURS.

But, when it really comes down to it, it’s also not factually correct at all.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
 

-Frederic Douglass

Suydam and Airboy Summed up in One Graph

This past week saw two controversies in the comic community. The first was raised here and concerned the portrayal of transgender individuals in Airboy #2. The second (which we didn’t cover) involved artist Arthur Suydam taking over four tables at Montreal Comic Con.

When it comes to degrading an entire group of people versus a creator being a dick, can you guess which received more coverage and chatter this week? If you picked tables, that’d be right.

Below is data from Topsy showing the mentions of “airboy,” “suydam,” and “#tablegate” on Twitter. As you can see, at its peak “suydam” was mentioned 50% percent more than the peak of of “airboy.” When it comes to blog post coverage, that too was more prevalent with sites having posts covering Suydam up within 24 hours of the news breaking, while the Airboy problem was more in the 48-60 hour period.

Over the past week, “airboy” has more Tweets, but going by current numbers over the next few days “suydam” will have overtaken it.

topsy_suydam

Keep in mind, those Tweets for Airboy also included defenders and those reviewing the comic. According to Topsy the term “Suydam” has a sentiment score of 19 over the past 3 days. “Airboy” has a score of 51. In other words, people are more negative in their Tweets about the table situation.

The Outhousers’ Jude Terror made the stats even more depressing with one Tweet:

Can anyone with a straight face say that our priorities as a community and industry aren’t out of whack?

Diversity In Comics: We’ve Come A Long Way, But We’re Not There Yet

THOR 001_coverThe comic book industry has been making great strides when it comes to introducing more cultural, and ethnic, diversity in the last decade. Superheroes are no longer just straight white men with the odd woman around, but depending on who you talk to about diversity in comics, you could easily  be mistaken for thinking that there really isn’t any. There is diversity, but not as much as perhaps there should be.

Beginning with Luke Cage, the Black Panther, and Shang Chi in the 60’s and 70’s, Marvel Comics did begin to slowly introduce ethnically diverse characters to their roster, but in a medium traditionally dominated by straight white superheroes, diversification had been a comparatively slow process. Not because publishers were against diversifying their lines (although that may have been a part of it for some) but because the publishers wanted to make money, and because the existing popular characters they had were primarily white, and it was those that were selling the comics. In roads have been made over the years, however, with the previously mentioned characters, and also characters such as Marvel’s Northstar, who famously came out in a 1992 story, finally married his long term boyfriend a few years ago; and the hugely popular Kamala Khan, the current Ms Marvel, is a Muslim American teenager.

Stan Lee has been quoted as saying in an interview with Newsarama about the casting of a white Peter Parker as the latest on screen Spider-Man;

I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to,” he also added “it has nothing to do with being anti-gay, or anti-black, or anti-Latino, or anything like that. Latino characters should stay Latino. The Black Panther should certainly not be Swiss. I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself.

While he certainly has a point, it can be difficult to launch a new superhero into the public consciousness, but by casting a person of colour into a previously white character it can be an immediate show of support.

The same is also true for replacing existing characters in story for various reasons; most recently Steve Rogers retired as Captain America and so The Falcon stepped up to the plate. Thor Odinson became unworthy of his hammer, and then gave his name (Thor) over to the woman who was worthy. Likewise for reinventing existing characters; when DC rebooted their universe with the New 52, the Green Lantern Alan Scott was a gay man.

Progress is being made, but we’re not quite there yet.

Just in the last month there have been some controversies; during a recent Batgirl story objections were raised over the portrayal of a male character impersonating the lead character (however in the collected edition, the creators revised their original script).

More recently, Image Comics has long been championing diversity and inclusion for all with many of the comics they publish. Up until, that is, Airboy #2 came out this week. Whether it was the creators’ intent to show the cultural differences between the modern day and the Golden Age (from which Airboy both literally and figuratively comes from), and how far we’ve come as a society from the 1940’s in accepting transgender individuals, (or not – I may be giving too much credit here to a misguided depiction of support for the LGBTQ community) the message that many have received loud and clear from Airboy #2 isn’t one of support and acceptance, and as such, it isn’t resonating very well – if at all.

As an industry this is obviously not the message we want to give.

Regardless of the intentions behind that scene in Airboy #2, this kind of portrayal of transgender individuals not only harms the progress the industry has made in the past, and continues to make, but it can also potentially harm real life individuals.  Admirably, the writer of the comic recognized the outcry and responded.

Comics have come a long way when it comes to inclusion and acceptance for all, but we, as an industry and as a community, still have a long we to go. We need to ensure that comics are inclusive to everybody, and when they’re not then we should follow the examples that the very comics we love have shown us so many times, and speak out in favour of those who are being treated unfairly.

It was Stan Lee who said “with great power, there must also come great responsibility,” and we’ve all got the power to speak up when we see something that isn’t right.

Also published on Ramblings Of A Comics Fan.

Graphic Policy Radio Discusses Activism in a Comic World

GP Radio pic MondayGraphic Policy Radio returns this Monday! This is the show that mixes comics and politics, and this episode we lift the curtain to show off the scenes behind political activism. The show airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

This past week controversy struck the comic industry (again) over the transphobic nature in part of the comic series Airboy. Graphic Policy, along with The Rainbow Hub, spearheaded the movement to decry the comic, and pull support of the comic by Image Comics, timed to coincide with Image Expo. You can read more about the issue here, and the action here.

But why did we go this route?

We talk about the issue, and dive into political activism including why this particular “ask” was made, and the timing of it all.

But, that’s not all!

We’re also going to talk about comics we recommend, that you should be checking out!

So, learn a bit about political activism and organizing as we apply it to the comic industry this Monday at 10pm ET.

James Robinson Responds to and Apologizes About Airboy #2

Writer James Robinson has issued a statement through GLAAD regarding the controversial content of Airboy #2 published by Image Comics.

You can read the full statement below.

I thought long and hard before writing this response, with the time it’s taken me to do so I fear having been misinterpreted as indifference on my part to the ire this sequence has caused for some.  Often public figures just issue a quick apology, a snippet of contrition, in the hope that the light of scorn will then shine away from them.  But those apologies often feel inauthentic or meaningless, and I didn’t want to do that.

It was with much regret that I learned how I had angered and offended members of the transgender community with a sequence I wrote in the second issue of the Airboy mini-series I am currently doing.  As anyone who has read the first issue will know, this series is a semi-autobiographical piece of meta-fiction that shows me at a self-destructive and unhappy time in my life before I sobered up and entered a better place in both my work and the world as a whole.  To illustrate this, I portray myself and my artist Greg Hinkle as two blithe idiots pin-balling through a succession of stupid and self-destructive actions, doing and saying stupid and thoughtless things.  I intentionally portray myself in the worst light possible and as the worst kind of person.

Stepping outside of myself and the work, I can see how, while my intention when writing the scene was never to defame or harm the trans community, I did indeed fuck up and for that I sincerely apologize.

In my intention to create an ugly version of me and my world, I have inadvertently hurt and demeaned a community that the real non-fictionalized version of myself truly respects and admires.

It’s a sad and terrible fact that the transgender community is one that is often misunderstood and mocked.  And that honestly, truly, breaks my heart.  It is a beautiful community full of shining souls, which in a different work on a different day I would proudly show in all its variety and wonder.  Honestly, that is the truth.  Anyone who actually knows me, knows my feelings on such matters, and anyone who doesn’t will just have to take my word for it.

And yet here I am, in my eagerness to create a scenario that mocks my own moral worthlessness, I do no better than the worst kind of person, blindly marking the transgender community with the same sullying brush I chose to paint myself — instead of giving it the dignity and respect it deserves and is so very often denied.

This is a work of deliberately ugly satirical fiction.  One part of me believes a creator has the right to tell the story he feels the need to tell.  There’s a part of me that feels that it’s acceptable for a work of fiction to hurt or offend.  That at the very least the work elicits feelings.

Then there’s the other part of me — the major part, I might add — that is truly saddened that the transgender community, comprising men and women who carry the burden of an ever-hostile society, should have me adding to their load.

There is minor solace — very minor — in the fact that I note the discourse I’m seeing on-line about this, is at least allowing an exchange of views that I think is open, healthy and ultimately a good thing. I hope comic book fans and creators will think more critically about the way trans characters are portrayed.

I consider myself an ally to the LGBT community and I promise to work harder in the future to ensure that any trans stories or characters in my work are portrayed in an thoughtful and accepting way.

I know this response won’t satisfy everyone, but it comes from the heart.  I love all people.  I wanted this statement to convey my complete feelings on the matter.

The above does seem sincere, and hopefully this is a learning lesson for all.

Take Action: Image, Pull Airboy #2 from Shelves

Writer James Robinson has responded to the controversy and issued an apology.

take actionImage Comics‘ CEO Eric Stephenson himself highlighted the need for diversity in his 2014 Image Expo keynote chastising the industry for treating “gender equality and cultural issues as though they’re little more than gimmicks to increase sales.” Now’s the time to see if Image believes in the words their CEO stated. Airboy #2 finds writer James Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle’s comic versions of themsevles at a bar with Airboy, who has noticed the women around them, and taking a liking. What Airboy does not realize is that these women are transgender, though Robinson and Hinkle are well aware. As if dreamt up by a frat boy trying to be edgy and funny, the next scene involves Airboy in one stall and Hinkle in the other both receiving oral sex. Airboy explodes in anger over the fact that the woman he hooked up with was a “lady with a penis” after he was asked to reciprocate oral sex. A debate ensues about the “men” they hooked-up with, Airboy storming off complaining about the “degenerate” world. Without rehashing the numerous problems surrounding this issue, you can read Emma Houxboi’s take over at The Rainbow Hub and our own take here. This sums it up:

There’s no voice, no agency, no humanity to any of the trans women in this comic. Just an open mouth to fuck or a penis to gawk at.

Image, Robinson, and Hinkle’s Airboy #2 is transphobic and in an industry striving for inclusion and diversity the comic should not be afforded physical or digital shelf space. TAKE ACTION: We are currently running a campaign to have individuals post to Twitter with the hashtag #ImageExpo during today’s event run by the publisher which runs from 1pm ET/10am PT through the day to show support. Below is some suggested text.

One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. It’s legal in every state, except California, to use “trans panic” as a defense after assaulting or murdering a transgender individual. There’s no reason to perpetuate myths about transwomen that endanger their lives. This is not a call for censorship. James Robinson and Greg Hinkle have a right to create whatever they’d like, and we have as much of a right to show our disdain for that. Speech doesn’t mean protection from consequences. Image has the right to exercise their speech and pull the comic, and actually show they believe in the words and beliefs they claim they uphold. After you are done Tweeting, please help spread the word.

Airboy Crashes and Burns with Transphobic Second Issue

Writer James Robinson has responded to the controversy and issued an apology.

Airboy02_CoverAirboy flew high and then crashed in just two issues. The series by James Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle is a meta take on reviving a golden age hero comic. Instead of just rebooting the character Airboy, Robinson and Hinkle have injected themselves into the story discussing their plan to revive the character and then meeting a “real” version of the character. Except these versions of Robinson and Hinkle are drug fueled ids bad mouthing other publishers and having no issues ingesting whatever drug they find, and having sex with whomever will let them.

The second issue finds Robinson and Hinkle at a bar with Airboy, who has noticed the women around them, and taking a liking. What Airboy does not realize is that these women are transgender, though Robinson and Hinkle are well aware. As if dreamt up by a frat boy trying to be edgy and funny, the next scene involves Airboy in one stall and Hinkle in the other both receiving oral sex. Airboy explodes in anger over the fact that the woman he hooked up with was a “lady with a penis” after he was asked to reciprocate oral sex. A debate ensues about the “men” they hooked-up with, Airboy storming off complaining about the “degenerate” world.

For those that might not understand what all of this is, there’s biological sex (think chromosomes and what the doctor announced upon your birth), gender (whether you identify as a man, a woman, both or neither) and orientation (who you’re attracted to). In this case while the women in the comic likely defined themselves as women, some of them have outwardly male looking genitalia (it’s drawn on panel).

The first issue is the reference to, and debate as if, these individuals are men. They are not. They identify as women, they are women. No ifs. No ands. No buts. Sex, gender, and orientation are three different things. So, to call them men is to belittle them, and deny them who they are. It is offensive. A women is not defined by what’s between her legs.

The next issue is as if the men were being “tricked” by men posing as women. First, transwomen are not guys, they are women, so even defining it as tricking is problematic. But, what is the obligation of one individual to inform the other? There are ethical questions about that and one that this sort of thinking sets a different standard for different types of individuals. Is it standard of hetero individuals to disclose every detail of their sex/gender/orientation before engaging in sexual acts? We know that’s not the case. I think Skepchick does an excellent job at addressing these issues, much better than I as a cis male could:

But this one goes a lot deeper, a lot nastier, a lot more demeaning, and a lot more dangerous.

Dangerous in that a great many trans women have lost their lives to sexual partners who felt they were “tricked”.

The concept of “deception” is a tricky one, and it can be very complicated to unpack the various ethical dimensions of disclosure and where a trans person’s responsibility lies in terms of informing her partner. That’s far too big a subject to tackle here, but Zinnia Jones provides a fantastic explanation in this YouTube video. I’d just like to say that I really don’t think it’s our responsibility to give you the opportunity to inflict your bigotry and hang-ups on us; it’s your responsibility to ask (if it’s that big a deal to you). And if a woman was attractive to you one moment and a repulsive, lying whore the next, when all that has changed is that you now know a largely irrelevant detail of her history, the problem is with your perceptions, not her body.

The problematic implications of us being “traps” are a bit too numerous to name them all. A few that come to mind are the basic assumption that we’re “really” men, believing that our decisions all revolve around you and we’re doing this for your sake, not our own (kind of like the earlier example about how men may interpret how a woman dresses), the issues of conflating gender expression with sexual motivations, the concept that femaleness and femininity are artifice and fake, etc.

But I guess the one that I’d most like to unpack is how, like the thoroughly debunked theory of “autogynophilia”, it looks at trans women’s sexuality and motives through a lens of male sexuality and motives. A hypothetical cis male sits on his couch and is absent-mindedly flipping through a porn magazine. He comes across an ad for “shemale” porn. He wonders, “why would anyone ever do that? Why would a man want to become a woman? That’s crazy!” (yeah, let’s put aside the implicit misogyny there… we can talk about that some other time) and rather than think about it in terms of why a woman would want a female body and not a male one, he thinks about it in terms of why a man would want a female body. The conclusions he draws, based upon the assumption that a man is fundamentally a sexual agent and a woman is fundamentally a sexual object, are that the “shemale” is doing it to get laid, to attract men to him with his new hot, curvy, sexual-object of a body. Either that or, as in “autogynophilia”, doing it to have himself as his very own personal sex object.

Never mind what happens to a trans woman’s libido during HRT. Never mind that for very many trans women, that period of time, exactly when the libido starts diminishing, happens to be when commitment often deepens, and any remaining doubts and questions are resolved. Forget that. It MUST be about sex. Because that’s all the female body is good for: sex.

Right?

But here’s an easier way to sum it up. There’s no conspiracy among transwomen to “trick straight men” because, guess what guys? It’s not all about us. Transwomen want dignity and to be treated and accepted as the women as they are. Not to be a sexual object in a joke or fetish.

The issue’s humor relies on stereotypes. While I thought the first issue toed the line, sticking to jokes about the creators themselves, this issue now turns the jokes towards individuals who already face a difficult road when it comes to acceptance. This report by GLAAD lays out many issues transgender people face such as employment, housing, and education discrimination. Protections that are sometimes afforded to gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals are not extended to those who identify as transgender. As reported by Vocativ “41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.” compared to “4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.” The Office for Victims of Crime has more sobering facts like “One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.”

While the creators of Airboy might have thought this was a simple joke, the reality is no joke. There are other ways they could have found to shock their character about the modern world. There is no reason to repeat dangerous myths to do it.

Our friend (and frequent guest on our radio show) Emma has a fantastic take over on The Rainbow Hub with these two poignant comments.

There’s no voice, no agency, no humanity to any of the trans women in this comic. Just an open mouth to fuck or a penis to gawk at.

It’s legal in every state, except California, to murder a trans woman for being surprised by her genitals by citing “trans panic” as a defence in court. Yet, somehow, Robinson and Hinkle think that this is something to laugh about and Image Comics thinks it’s worthy of printing. I deserve better. We all deserve better. It’s a shame that Image Comics, with all of their rainbow-colored boasting, fails to agree that we deserve this basic level of decency and dignity.

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