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Friday, 21 November 2008

Writing letters

Dear Mr. Tony Cochran,

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day in which transgender victims of hate crimes in the previous year are memorialized. Alas, last year had no shortage of names. The killers don't often face justice. When they do, they often argue that the "deceit" of the victim as a motivation for their crime. In other words, they say that transgender people deserve to be hated and murdered for who they are.

The comic you ran yesterday almost perfectly illustrates the thought process of hate and bigotry. The comic would have been transphobic on any day of the year, but your timing was exceptionally insulting. Probably, more kids yesterday saw your comic than heard about the memorial services. But the ideas it participated in promoting will grantee that they'll have many more chances in future years.

Sincerely,
Les

The comment form is at http://www.creators.com/write/comics/agnes.html. Background information is at a previous post. If your newspaper runs Agnes, I encourage you to write a letter to the editor.

I'm really tired of the cultural background noise of anti-trans hatred. Normally, I just ignore it, but this timing was crap, and I think it's worth speaking up.


Edit

The author of the comic left a comment on my previous post:

I assure you, until just now, I had absolutely no idea there was such a thing as Transgender Remembrance Day. My wall calendar only lists days like Easter, Christmas, Flag Day, etc. All my strips are written 6 months in advance. I apologize for the coincidence, and only for that.Agnes is just upset that a young boy was trying to sneak into her girl group. That's all. No inuendo. No mean spirited transgender hate.

The comic has somebody who is passing as a girl. When s/he's outted, the main character of the strip calls him/her a "deceitful little creep." What's the difference between trying to pass and trying to "sneak in?"

2 comments:

eigenadam said...

I agree that this cartoon is parallel (if not identical) to intolerance of transgender people. I am not trans myself, so please don't be insulted by this (I know, Calpernia Adams says this is a horrible way to preface a question).

Couldn't one interpret this cartoon as conveying to the public part of the experience of being discriminated against for being trans? The other girls' opinion of Marty completely changes when they no longer believe s/he's a girl. The fact that s/he is able to keep secrets is first seen as a good thing, and then seen as evidence of deceit.

Obviously, from the comments, the author of the cartoon did not intend any transgender undertones. Had he known the timing might have been insensitive; however it might also be seen as a tribute to the struggles of transgendered people.

C Hutchins said...

That's an interesting interpretation, but I disagree with it for a few reasons. This character is a one-off. The characters who form the core of the strip are the ones talking. S/he will never appear again, and so their rejection is never questioned or contradicted. Furthermore, if we are to place ourselves with the rejected character, she should get a speaking part, rather than sarcastic comments made by others about her "keeping secrets." Finally, the author states that it's not his intent.

Because the idea of "deception" is so ingrained in our society, any effort to contradict this understanding must do so explicitly. Otherwise, it just adds to the dominant discourse.

Something the author does and is unwilling to apologize for.