Saturday, December 18, 2021

31 Days Of CCS, #18: Leeah Swift

Leeah Swift's comics have a searing quality owing to her willingness to churn through a lot of issues in public, especially with regard to mental health. As a result, I braced myself for the stories in her collection Tit Bits, given the plethora of content warnings at the beginning and an apologia at the end. However, the collection felt quite restrained and reserved, leaving much to the imagination in its examination of various kinds of tensions. Which is not to say that they weren't interesting or emotionally resonant, just not as heavy as Swift implied.

"A Talk" was my favorite of the three stories. It depicts an outdoors adventure with two trans women, Violet and Jane, who have diametrically opposed ideas as to what it means to live as a trans person. Of course, the ridiculous adventure, including tiptoeing over a suspension bridge, going over rough ground, and up rope ladders, was all a funny visual metaphor for the rough ground they were experiencing as friends. Jane couldn't stop framing every idea and personal interaction as a political one, and Violet was tired of jargon and politics and just wanted to be a woman. Moreover, she didn't want to be talked down to just because she didn't want to engage politically. In the afterword, Swift said she didn't want to make specific, grand statements about being trans; while that may be true, she still touched on something that really landed here. 

"A Joke" is about a deeply depressed and anxious woman named Luna, and the story is about not just the awkwardness of social interactions and social anxiety in general, but about how sometimes the possibility of communication seems impossible. This plays out in the form of a joke that Luna tells after she's late for work yet again, and it also points to the ways in which boundaries play out in situations like this. Swift's distorted, grotesque, and funny cartooning is the star here, especially as Luna's face twists into grimaces and forced smiles. 

"A Show" is the simplest of the three stories, but also the most emotionally powerful in its way. It's about a trans woman named Alexa who simply wants to get a bite to eat before she walks home from work and her fear in being pursued by an overbearing asshole. It speaks to both the possibility of sexual violence that women face in situations like this, and how this is often even more dangerous for trans women. In the story, she makes it home safely (thanks in part to a bit of magical realism and a lamp post that helps hide her) and texts someone who cares about her. That last page, a splash page where she's safely in bed, is an expression of not just relief but connection. Swift's storytelling is an absolute delight, and its singular stylistic quality will actually work for any number of stories. 

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