My essay, “Comics as Trans Literature,” has been published in the collection, The Routledge Handbook of Trans Literature (Routledge, 2024).

Read the abstract below.

Cover of The Routledge Handbook of Trans Literature (2024)

Cover of The Routledge Handbook of Trans Literature (2024)

Comics as Trans Literature

While conventional wisdom holds that trans cartoonists haven’t been a major presence in queer comics until the twenty-first century, that’s only part of the story. In truth, trans cartoonists have always existed, but they were more often producing comics in local, trans-specific publications than in larger LGBTQ inclusive spaces. There are reasons of politics and self-preservation that helps explain why many trans creators may have not wanted to venture into well-known spaces of queer comics production, including because of the transphobia that was often present in the larger community. Among lesbian feminists, the very public outing and ousting of trans woman—and later foundational trans theorist—Sandy Stone from her job at Olivia Records because of Janice Raymond’s attack of her in her transphobic tome, The Transsexual Empire (1979) loomed large and tainted the chance for affinity among queer groups in the 1980s.

This chapter begins where many scholars end when searching out early trans cartoonists: with Gay Comix (1980-1998). Out of the 100+ cartoonists who contributed to this long-running series, there were only two known trans creators: David Kottler and Diana Green. While Kottler’s life and work outside of his contribution have been forgotten, Green remains an active cartoonist, whose early comics were supported not only by Gay Comix but by a range of local grassroots publications, including trans-specific publications like TransSisters. Based on research in physical and digital LGBTQ archives, this chapter examines how the larger grassroots landscape supported trans cartoonists whose names are unknown in the wider community. These individuals published in trans-specific periodicals like Cross-Talk and self-published comics like Dragnett and Homozone 5 alongside the zine revolution in the 1990s. This chapter does not aim to give a comprehensive history, but to instead trace how and where forgotten trans cartoonists flourished in earlier periods.