Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thirty Days of CCS, Day 4: Penina Gal and Melanie Gillman

Non Binary, by Melanie Gillman. This comic is a sort of conceptual companion piece to Joey Alison Sayers' classic Just So You Know. That comic was about her transition into becoming a trans woman, and both amusingly and heart-renderingly got across the highs and lows of the experience. With a striking fold-out cover and a eye-catching use of purple and orange, Gillman tells their tale of coming out as non-binary; that is, identifying as neither male nor female. Gillman, in a series of four-panel strips, talks about the fears and self-critiques that go along with being non-binary, but they also share how ultimately freeing it is. From the first image of being on a first date and suddenly blurting out a stream of gender-related anxiety ("There wasn't a 2nd date") to negotiating with their phone after texting their old friend about using "they" pronouns instead of "she" from now on, Gillman expertly laces humor into the terror of being judged, being shunned, of feeling guilty for asking others to change how they addressed them. Being open to some but being closeted at work is discussed, as is the constant doubt and self-judgments that spring from seeing comments from assholes on the internet. Gillman's rejection of binary, linear graphing to describe gender is also a fascinating corrective, as they note that it's just not that simple. The comic itself is as much a corrective as it is a series of autobio confessions, because Gillman notes that there just isn't that much information out there about non-binary genders and how they relate to issues like feminism, being queer, and misogyny. The expressive and simple rendering style is given shape by the soft shades, adding an additional layer of intimacy and warmth for the reader.

Limp Wrist, by Scout Wolfcave & Penina Gal. Written by Wolfcave, she recounts her childhood before she transitioned into becoming a trans woman. It's a harrowing, brutal story, one where young Scout (here cleverly anthropomorphised by Gal into being an actual young wolf) is told in no uncertain terms by every authority figure in her life that if she didn't conform to the standard behaviors expected of men, they'd be abused, yelled at, disowned or (eventually) abandoned. The latter is precisely what happened to her, at the age of thirteen. Gal illustrates each painful anecdote using an open-page style, emphasizing isolation and darkness with a scratchy use of colored pencils throughout. The use of black is especially threatening here, but even on pages without it, Gal creates scenarios where image is poetically integrated with prose in order to convey the emotional impact of each incident. Wolfcave's prose is extremely matter of fact, leaving it up to Gal to bring out the anger, sadness and terror that Wolfcave continues to feel. The last pages depict Wolfcave as she is now, as an adult trans woman, but one who still feels the echoes of past abuse and is angry because she feels that she's still not been able to reclaim all of her lost feminimity. This collaboration is bracing and powerful.

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