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Subset of a subset
Narrowly-focused anthology delivers big but intimate stories
When a graphic novel comes out with an introduction by Alison Bechdel, undoubtedly the most prominent dyke to watch out for in the comics world, one should take note. Bechdel does not bandy words about, or give her imprimatur lightly. There is a gravitas to her lightest, most off-hand comment.
In other words, Bechdel is--to steal a phrase from John Mortimer, who in turn stole it from H. Rider Haggard--She Who Must Be Obeyed. And when she says to read a book, one obeys. Or else.
The book in question is Transposes by Dylan Edwards, out now from Northwest Press, those fine purveyors of LGBT graphic storytelling. The milieu in this book is the lives of seven queer-identified transmen. Edwards has undertaken the daunting task of separating and delineating, gender and sexual orientation, and illustrates these men’s non-fictional life stories in a series of vignettes.
“You might be tempted to think that ‘queer-identified female-to-male transperson’ is such a narrowly defined subset of a subset (of a subset!) that surely their stories can’t be all that varied,” a little Dylan Edwards tells us in the introduction. “And yet, varied they are. From genderqueers to staunchly male-identified gay guys, to transmen who date other transmen. From vanilla to kinky, monogamous to poly, each person’s story is a unique take on the QFTM identity.”
Then he gets attacked by monkeys. It’s a graphic novel, after all, so things don’t have to appear as they would in real life.
Cal hooks up with a guy from the Trannyfags email list on a trip to New York. Unfortunately for Cal, he didn’t bring his equipment with him, so he hits up the Wall o’ Wangs at Gloria’s Hole and discovers the joys of being a big, strapping top man. His entire story is recounted to a friend over coffee.
Henry, on the other hand, takes the reader on a tour of the Museum of Natural Henry, serving as docent while strolling through his obsessive-compulsive anal retentiveness before informing the reader, “Transition as a state of being, rather than a temporary phase, seems to be working for me.”
Adam was a dyke before being a guy, and his girlfriend encouraged him to bring up the gender issues in therapy. Their parting was amicable, but tearful.
“I am very, very proud of you for doing what is so obviously the right thing for you,” his girlfriend says. “But I’m a lesbian. I need to be with a woman, that’s not going to happen with you.”
Blake gets a sexually transmitted infection from fisting a trick. Honestly, while that pretty much describes his story succinctly, Edwards does such a magnificent job writing and illustrating it, this description is about a thousand miles away from doing it justice.
Avery’s day out with his gay uncle when he was a child made him concerned with treating everyone fairly, and his job as a history professor shows him that his students are at least as progressive as he is.
Finally, Aaron and James’ story is shown from both sides, weaving back and forth. Theirs is a happy ending, still together after all these years. Although, since all of these men were able to tell Dylan Edwards their stories, they were all happy endings.
Simply put, this is probably some of the best work put out in the graphic novel universe about transgender issues. It is easy to see how someone would read this book, then come back and re-read it six months or a year later. It’s warm, it’s fun, it’s . . . caring. And there’s not enough of that in the world today.
It’s also available in print or e-book editions.
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