Show Your #TransComicsLove

Angela: Queen of Hel #6, written by Marguerite Bennett, art by Kim Jacinto, colors by Israel Silva, lettering and production by Clayton Cowles

Many comics fans are aware of the harassment that Marvel editor Heather Antos received on Twitter, which resulted in the #MakeMineMilkshake campaign of support. They may be less aware of #TransComicsLove and the circumstances that prompted that hashtag.

The trolls who attacked Heather Antos lashed out at many other women, as well as people of color and LGBTQ people in the comics industry, including creators, journalists, fans, and others. When things were starting to look like they might settle down a bit, the trolls discovered this tweet from colorist Tamra Bonvillain, responding to Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel misgendering Kotaku writer Heather Alexandra.

Bonvillain is a trans woman herself, and her question is a valid one that touches on a less-publicized sentiment in the comics community: where is the outpouring of support and outrage like #MakeMineMilkshake when marginalized people are attacked? Making a personal attack on someone and inciting harassment against them for writing an unfavorable review should be something the comics community would speak out against, but it rarely happens when the victim is trans, queer, PoC, etc.

Unfortunately, the trolls took this as provocation, possibly due in part to Heather Antos’s reply in support of Bonvillain:

They began throwing harassment at Bonvillain, as well as other well-known trans creators, including Magdalene Visaggio and Sophie Campbell.

Their harassment included accusations of “ruining comics” in general and/or pushing a nefarious “trans agenda” of some sort. Even if diversity were “ruining” comics, a quick glance at the state of the industry and the titles being published shows that diversity is still rare compared to the toxic status quo these trolls seem to favor. Cis, het, white men still comprise by far the largest demographic both in terms of representation on the page and creators and executives making money in the industry.

Anita Coulter, seeing the lack of support from the milkshake crowd for Bonvillain, Visaggio, and Campbell, began a new hashtag.

Trans fans flocked to the hashtag, taking pictures of themselves holding comics by trans creators. Given the dysphoria that often accompanies being transgender, those pictures represent a significant emotional effort. Nonetheless, the larger comics community failed to remark upon the trend.

Some members of the community, including Bonvillain herself, recognized that the support offered by this hashtag was repeating the pattern of #MakeMineMilkshake by focusing on a small number of white trans women who occupied a more privileged position than many other trans people in comics. This prompted Bonvillain to start this thread:

The currently Kickstarter-ing anthology We’re Still Here deserves special mention here as well — it features work from 50+ trans creators, including many of those listed above. Similar ventures in various prose genres have been very successful in many regards.

Regarding these events, Bonvillain said, “I feel that most of the support I’ve received has been in regards to [the trolls’] attempts to insult or annoy me, when that’s the least upsetting thing about this to me. The harassment started because I asked people not to stand for their peers demeaning trans people, and I feel like that message was lost along the way. I am glad to see people throw support behind me, and the women editors at Marvel previously, but I would also like for people in our industry to listen to us before things get to this point. Stop allowing an atmosphere of disrespect towards your more vulnerable peers to exist.”

Comic writer, trans man and noted X-Men X-Pert Jay Edidin echoed these sentiments, telling WWAC, “There are a lot of people in comics I love, but ultimately I don’t trust my industry–or the people who hold significant institutional power in it–to have my back in any significant way, and it’s going to take more than a hashtag to change that.”

While we can’t put a stop to harassment in comics any time soon, nor stop it from disproportionately affecting marginalized people, we can listen more to those marginalized people about their experiences of harassment and offer them at least a fraction of the support we give others. Messages of support like #MakeMineMilkshake and #TransComicsLove are great, especially when a conscious effort is made to include as many struggling people as possible. Even more meaningful is monetary support, like backing crowdfunding campaigns and Patreons, donating to charities that help marginalized people, and buying the comics made by marginalized creators. So get to know some more of those names up there! Show your love!

Annie Blitzen

Annie Blitzen

Columnist. Trans mom. Got married in a Captain Marvel dress to a lady in a Wonder Woman dress.