New Mutants #1, in addition to being a great issue in its own right, had a very important highlight: like other mutants, Rahne Sinclair is alive again. That brings us to an important point of discussion regarding her: She’s ours now.
By ‘ours’, of course, I mean that she belongs to trans people. You may remember Rahne’s death earlier this year—I wrote about it, others wrote about it, writer Matthew Rosenberg issued a lackluster apology in which he didn’t really take responsibility in any meaningful way. It was a whole thing.
But here’s the thing. She’s back, and she’s ours. I don’t mean that in a fandom way, I’m not saying “uwu, sHE’S OUR BABY!!!” I’m also not saying that she’s trans (although I’m sure there’s a contingent of trans men who find a lot of value in her werewolf metaphor, and I hope someone writes about that). I’m saying: Marvel, Matthew, you made a choice without considering the consequences. You put that fictional character through our trauma, you made us watch it happen. You made us sit up and relive the collective memory of that trauma once more on a fictional page–as of this writing, twenty-three trans people have been murdered this year in the United States. The LGBTQ+ panic defense is a valid court defense in forty-two states–only eight have banned it, and half of those were just this year.
I don’t want to re-litigate what it meant to see that scene play out in a comic book. It’s enough that it did, it’s enough that we had to sit through a cis man using our pain to sell comic books. I do want to talk about consequences. When I say that Rahne Sinclair belongs to the trans community, what I mean is that, for better or worse, you put our eyes on her. We will, forever and indelibly, associate her with one of the darkest crimes that is visited upon us. We will watch her character progress like a hawk, and we will have very, very strong opinions about that progress, because, even though she’s fictional, she has been made to share our trauma, to live our experience, and thus she deserves a place among us.
The mutant metaphor is not a perfect one. It never has been, because it cannot accurately or correctly speak to the lived experiences of oppressed communities, because it cannot speak to our vulnerabilities, and because it almost never manages to correctly address the subject of intersectionality (a shining example of one time it did so is Kate, nee Kitty, Pryde, and her rejection of Alex Summer’s infamous m-word speech, claiming both her mutant nature and her Jewishness). The mutant metaphor certainly cannot speak to the experiences of trans communities, in part because only one trans creator has ever been allowed to even write a mutant. There are still no canonically trans mutants on the team. There is reference to a mutant that uses neutral pronouns in New Mutants, but no explicit statement on how that mutant identifies—there are nonbinary individuals who prefer neutral pronouns, and the same is true for binary people. Additionally, not all nonbinary individuals identify as trans. Jessie Drake, the lone canonical trans mutant from Marvel Comics Presents #151, has still not made an appearance in Dawn of X.
In letting a cishet white man appropriate the mode of our oppression without giving us a proper seat at the table, Marvel has made the trans community pay attention. We have closed ranks around a character who is not one of us, but might as well be at this point—she’s now an inescapable part of the conversation about us. Because we have no such seat, we must shout outside the windows, where we will invariably be decried as a mob, as angry, as irrational, for daring to stand up for our right to basic dignity.
It’s fine; we’re familiar with that role, we’re familiar with the concept of being our own loudest advocates. I’m glad that Jonathan Hickman has introduced the concept of resurrection to the X-Men, and I’m glad that he has promised a new age of optimism, but those things are not enough to make me feel safe; while he appears to be thoughtful and careful about his direction for the franchise, he is still a cis man, and he will not be at the helm forever. Eventually, he’ll move on, and things will change, but one thing won’t: Rahne will still be ours. Treat her well, please.