Guest Post: I Am Not – Your Hipster Punchline

03May10

Guest post from Staticnonsense:

Why hello there! I am a being, having been born into existence. But since that is a very long way to address me, you can simply refer to me as Static Nonsense or SN. I like pandas, kitties, Pixy Sticks and Linux. On an actual serious note, I am a young adult with disabilities and of queer and trans* identity – but who cares about that?! Pandas and kitties are better. Indubitably. If you are at all interested in what else I have to say (short of pandas and kitties, regretably they have no spotlight at the moment), take a gander at my space over at I Am Not. In the meanwhile though, enjoy. Or rage. Feel free to take your pick.

~~~~~

Note: I am aware that this post is more than a month late. It had been originally started on March 29th, and since then I have not had the spoons to continue working on it. Like I mentioned on Twitter, I am aware that me choosing to post this despite it being so late could be seen as done in poor taste. But problematic behaviors and attitudes are still problematic even if time passes, especially if no adequate closure to the situation is achieved. Especially if that lack of closure is given through silencing techniques. I’m not going to let myself be silenced. Take that as you will.

I was reading a web comic the other day. I thought it was pretty neat, very kink-friendly seeing as it was about someone learning the ropes (pun not intended) of professional dominance and submission in a dungeon environment. But, unfortunately, everything has its problems.

Currently running is a short story arc about trans* people being denied employment at the artist’s work place. This in itself isn’t what’s problematic. What’s problematic is how this is being addressed.

First was the portrayal of the trans* person in the comic. The artist drew the character in a fashion that would purposefully give away them being trans*. Being portrayed as MTF, the most defining characteristics the artist included was stubble from where the character had to shave, and chest hair. So when the character asked the main character for an application, she was turned away immediately.

This is stereotyping to the extreme. First of all, being trans* is not necessarily “obvious”. Plenty pass (I dislike this term but know of no other. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!) as the gender they are presenting as in society, and you would have no idea. Likewise, there are plenty of cis people that have mixed secondary sexual characteristics such as facial and chest hair. Second, not all trans* people are MTF. There are FTMs and nonbinaries out there as well – what would have happened if they had tried to apply? If an FTM that didn’t “pass” to these people applied, would they be permitted to?

After this, we have how the trans* woman was turned away. Specifically, by insistence that she is not a “real” woman.

Yes, these specific words were used.

When called on this, the artist commented on how if she had used anything else, there wouldn’t have been any punch line. That she could have gone with “women born women”, but then it wouldn’t have been funny, no one would get it, it wouldn’t have the same ring to it, etc etc etc. Because clearly, her punch lines are more important than not giving in to social pressure. Because clearly, when put into comic form, the situations that happen to trans* people every day when trying to find employment to survive are funny.

That’s awfully hipster of you, dontcha think? Can you hear me laughing?

Then, moving away from the comic itself and instead the artist’s specific behavior, we have the use of the slur tranny in reference to trans* people. Not only that, but the defense of said usage of slur word when called upon it by multiple people in the comments of her strip. Including “the people I know refer to themselves that way!”, “I didn’t intend anything negative!”, “I’m not politically correct!” and “you can’t please everyone, so if you don’t like it don’t read it”.

All while ignoring the reasons why these defenses are a problem, reasons that were pointed out to her.

Now, before people point this out – problematic usage or portrayal can be forgiven. The direct problem is not necessarily in the usage itself, but the attitude behind the original usage and any further defense of it.

People, there is nothing wrong with owning up to mistakes. All you have to do is listen to the reasoning people are giving you for why your behaviors might be problematic, understanding them and apologizing. Put the ego down for a second, especially if the people calling you out are trying to do so in a polite and reasonable fashion.

Either way, this scenario could have been salvaged. All it would have taken was a moment of humble humility and respect. Scripts can be written months in advance, yes. But scripts can also be changed, unnecessary story arcs can be removed or even just an apology posted and quick edits to previous news posts. Hell, I would have appreciated any effort put into rectifying one’s mistakes.

Needless to say, I will not be recommending this comic to people in the future, especially to other trans* folk. Mistakes happen and can be forgiven. But silencing techniques and the defense of one’s actions further feeds the cycle of systematic oppression that is all too familiar. And when someone is specifically trying to point out to you that your actions are feeding into this systematic oppression? The irony isn’t funny or cool. It really only further proves the point being made, even if you yourself can’t see it.



13 Responses to “Guest Post: I Am Not – Your Hipster Punchline”

  1. … wow, holy fuck.

    I read the rest of the story arc.

    Which leads into the trans woman being physically assaulted by a cis woman. HOORAY FOR TRANS BASHING VIOLENCE.

    (The next comic after that shows that hey, it’s okay, the “tranny” wanted it all along! Because there’s nothing that trans women like more than BEING ASSAULTED, way to send a good, positive, pro-trans message there, stupid fucking cis artist.)

  2. Yeah, I wasn’t terribly impressed with that part either. The verbal abuse of the main character and her coworkers is bad… but the abuse of the trans woman is okay? Even without the ending the irony is astounding.

    Of course, I could just be “oversensitive” about it all, ya?

  3. 3 nome

    About another term for “passing,” I’ve seen “blending” or “passed as” also thrown around but my ABSOLUTE favorite is to simply say “read correctly.” It doesn’t imply that the trans person is trying to do anything other than be seen as they wish to be.

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I had this column pointed out to me when it came out and was equally enraged.

  4. 4 Sas

    When I read about this situation last month, it was my first exposure to this webcomic and that was just about as awful a first impression as one can get. I was most appalled that she was able to say that she didn’t intend it to be hateful and hurtful, while she intentionally drew a trans woman like that. I’m sure all of her reported friends who let her say ‘tranny’ would just LOVE to be drawn that way.

    If hipster douchery was a proton, she’d be the Large Hadron Collider. :P

  5. “Blending” is a term I could grow fond of using. Unfortunately “read correctly” can exclude nonbinary and genderqueer folk because of the binarism of society, but that’s less a problem with the term itself and more a problem with people’s perception of gender as a whole. Especially for those who are not actively trying to present as anything in particular at the time.

    All in all though, thank you for the input – it’s definitely something to think about :)

  6. I agree, it’s not a very good first impression. For me it was just a closing deal. Despite having greatly liked the comic, her attitude to polite criticism (though I will acknowledge that some of it was not so polite, which was highly unfortunate and didn’t help matters) was a serious problem that I cannot forgive. To make matters worse, I have a feeling that nothing’s changed. Her ableism displayed in later comics doesn’t comfort this feeling at all.

  7. 7 nome

    Mhm, I am genderqueer and face this problem a lot. The answer is just that I won’t get read correctly. For myself, I use “pass” because that’s how I feel. I am passing for something I am not, either a man or a woman. Different people find different coping mechanisms. I shy from “blend” for myself because that is never my goal. But I think it breaks down differently depending on the person.

  8. What a shitty comic.

    What a shitty gaggle of enabling commenters she has.

  9. The comments were the worst. It’s difficult to stay as respectable as I possibly can when I’m getting silenced from all directions, though I tried my best. I hope I succeeded. Eventually I had to pull out because the stress was just too much – but hey, that’s what a post is for, ya?

  10. 10 bellim

    Not everyone was polite (seems like it would be ridiculously difficult to be so) but you gave a perfect, rational explanation of the problem and gently invited her to make amends, but she still didn’t listen! People make really sad choices based on who they view as normal/human.

    Also, this: (from the comments)

    “You are the reason I as a queer cis woman can’t have nice things. Thanks a lot, assholes. Thanks for making my life harder and making every trans person I ever meet think I’m going to be an ignorant transphobic piece of shit. ”

    Sure, I definitely screw up as a cis ally, and I’m still dealing with my cissexism. But I am angry to be represented by the unrepentant transphobes of the world, and that just gives me another reason to try to teach them.

    RP: Thanks for the post! I appreciate any content at your site.

  11. 11 Aumentou

    For me the worst bit was not the comic itself – because that could be simple ignorance – but the “defence” in the comments. That was just horrible.

  12. Along nome’s line of “read correctly, ” I’m a big fan of “perceived as their presented gender.” It makes clear that the issue isn’t with the individual’s presentation (which I think “passing” implies) but that it’s with how others perceive and/or them. In any event, thanks for the post!

  13. I agree – but that is how you can see a person’s real colors. Which is unfortunate but informative and sometimes necessary. I don’t like it, but sometimes listening to a person defend themselves and their mistakes is the best way to learn about them.


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