Are transgender people cropping up in comics more lately, or what?

There’s a definite empathy gap in our society still. People who pat themselves on the back for supporting gay marriage are still incredulous and dismissive of transgender people and their concerns. I like seeing some more representation, especially Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black.

I haven’t thought about this exhaustively or taken a survey, but I just realized tonight that two new Image series — Trees and Shutter — have prominent trans characters.

The sudden increase in representation in comics FEELS a little like a fashion trend, like when American ladies went mad for King Tut accessories after his tomb was discovered in 1922.

Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca’s Alain (Shutter) even looks a little like King Tut:


Keatinge just lets Alain be transgender without harping on it awkwardly, though.

Warren Ellis, on the other hand, veered into after-school special territory last week in Trees #4:


(Art by Jason Howard)

Ellis introduced this character a couple issues earlier as an exotic, alluring, nearly naked chick with a dick — making this panel’s over-earnestness seem even more tinny.

It feels like LGBT characters in general are cropping up everywhere like mushrooms, across all the comics publishers. Some of this might just be making up for lost time. Some of it feels overtly strategic, like someone was just checking off a list of what the young tumblr crowd likes to see. Diversity! 

I’m just not sure about the underlying motives. I don’t know if these ostensibly well-intentioned representations of trans women are a step in the right direction, a harmless trend, a series of sometimes-clumsy public service announcements — OR — a new form of the tragic mulatta, an odd spin on orientalism.

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