Trans Artistry: Jessica Nightmare on Cis Discomfort, Sacrifice, and Politics

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TransEthics: When did you start drawing comic strips?

Jessica Nightmare: I’ve been drawing comic strips since I can remember. When I was really young, I drew these detective stories. I was a huge fan of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Ninja Turtles so I liked drawing characters in trench coats, ha. But my stories made little sense seeing how I was 9 years old.

TE: When did you come up with the concept for Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls?

JN: Way back in 2011. Back then a lot of people were talking about the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope you find in a lot of media. I thought of myself of fitting the trope perfectly except. Except because I’m a trans woman, I feel like I am many people’s nightmare.

Trans folks make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, upset, and angry. And I experienced a lot of that. I lost a lot of friends and family. The workplace became a nightmare for me. When dating or making new friends I noticed people like me a lot at first, but got really weird and distant once they realized I was trans… especially when dating. People flirt with me often and just run the other way once they can tell or I tell them I’m trans. Although, at the same time there’s no shortage of folks who become more interested. (laughs)

I feel like trans folks are really great and often could be the partner of someone’s dreams, but I feel our existence creates some sort of existential nightmare for many.

TE: Why do you think being trans causes a lot of cis people discomfort?

JN: I feel like it really depends on the person. People in this society are taught a particular ideology about gender and sexuality. They have no clue about the rich history of gender that exists in this and other cultures. So when a cis person is confronted with our existence, they have to confront not only something that is taught to them since birth, but maybe even things in themselves that they’d rather not face. Some people really just want to believe there’s men and women – and men are supposed to be one way, women are supposed to be another – so they find excuses to scapegoat people who don’t conform to that.

TE: How do you respond to people who claim that people are transitioning because it’s some type of fun fad?

JN: Well it’s obvious to me that humans are just way more diverse when it comes to gender and people are finally able to express that it. Just because transgender people are cooler than cis people, doesn’t mean that we’re doing it just to be cool.

We live in a world that really rewards conformity, buy also people want to be cool. And conforming to the old boring and oppressive ways of doing things isn’t very cool, it never has been. Look at the alt-right or what anti-trans bigots have been doing. They’re trying to sell conformity as something cool and edgy that’s going against the grain. Many just eat it right up because they want to see themselves as cool and with it. But they’re really just boring assholes who don’t want really challenge anything.

TE: With all the anti-trans legislation being proposed of late, along with the feelings of isolation you described earlier, do you feel transition is really worth it?

JN: Yes, of course. Transitioning saved my life. The gender dysphoria was too intense. Even since transition I get it sometimes, but nothing like before. Not being able to be myself just left me filled with anger and resentment, self-loathing and envy. I was suicidal and struggled with addiction. After I finally started to deal with my gender issues, a lot of those problems just melted away. Although being an out and open trans woman brings its own problems. Problems like citizens and lawmakers trying to legislate you out of existence.

TE: Your comic is focused on dealing with being a trans woman in an uncaring and uninformed society. Would you consider it a political commentary?

JN: I feel like a lot of people do. Many call me an activist, but I really don’t feel like that’s what I am. Sure I’m angry about the way a lot of things are in our world, but who isn’t? My comics are just a reflection of my personal life and how I see things and what frustrates me. But the way society treats trans people is a huge political issue so even though I loathe politics, I can’t separate it from my cartoons.

TE: Is the increased visibility of trans people causing being trans to become a political issue, or is being political inherent to being trans? (…given that we must fight for our rights.)

JN: Definitely the latter. Trans folks have always had to fight for our right to exist. There’s been other times in recent history when trans people had increased visibility. But society gets bored and tired of us when we start pointing out the way we’re treated.

In the ’70s when Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground where a thing, cis people got to see and hear of more trans people. But it didn’t last long because of how much people hate us. I think we are seeing a lot of the same thing today. There is a lot of anti-trans backlash, even from a lot of the left.

TE: Will there be trans equality in your lifetime?

JN: I dunno. Lately I don’t have much faith in humanity. I feel like the little progress we’ve made has been mere inches. And those who are against us see our measly progress as this extreme overreach, a huge threat to society, a major danger to women and children, etc. I’m afraid that things will get worse before they get better. In some ways they are worse with these anti-trans bills and think pieces always popping up.

TE: One last question: Of all the comics you’ve drawn, which one is your personal favorite?

JN: Well my comic is really hit or miss. Sometimes I look back on a comic and go “bleh, what was I thinking!” But a comic that always makes me feel good is the one Jesska is walking though the park and get frightened by a bee that is buzzing too close. I love bees. lets-bee-friend-pannels

TE: That’s cute! Thank you for spending time with us today.

JN: No worries! Thank you.

follow Jessica on Twitter and check out her website.

Trans Education: Samantha Allen on Gender, Career, and Acceptance

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TransEthics: Being transgender and Trans Rights have been a huge media topic of late, along with the pushback of those who try to restrict gender to genitals and chromosomes. Having studied gender & sexuality, what response would you give to these people?

Samantha Allen: Great question! I still remember being completely surprised by the existence of intersex people when I took my first Women’s Studies class while an undergrad at Rutgers. At the time, I was still suppressing the idea that I might be transgender –in fact, I’m not even sure I know what that word meant– and my understanding of human sexual dimorphism hadn’t progressed beyond what I’d learned in an eighth grade biology class. Learning that biological sex is nowhere near as simple as XX and XY, that transgender people can take hormones to alter their secondary sex characteristics, and that the category of sex is itself culturally contingent in all sorts of ways – all that was brand new to me, and it opened my eyes. I understand now why The Matrix was made by two trans women: stepping outside the system of gender and seeing it for what it is feels a lot like waking up from a dream. Continue reading

Trans Vision: Cookie Cosmos on Changing Expectations, Advocacy Through Porn, and Coming Out

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TransEthics: Your Twitter bio says you’re an “ethical queer porn creator and performer” Exactly what does that mean to you?

Cookie Cosmos: To me, Ethical Porn has always meant treating performers well. In my case I work with other trans people, so I try to make content the performers want to make, make sure they are comfortable doing it and that they take home a fair cut. It also means taking down content that the performer is no longer happy being marketed. I’ve cut scenes short in the past because a performer is experiencing dysphoria, and if you are working with other trans people I think that’s the least you can do.

TE: Do you think it’s important that trans porn be made by trans people? Continue reading

Trans Fearlessness: Jelena Vermilion on Bullies, Mental Health, and Relationships

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TransEthics: When you first came out as transgender, how did your friends and family react?

Jelena Vermilion: When I first came out as Trans, my folks and family were decently accepting. They all had their own biases and preconceptions about trans people, so obviously it wasn’t perfect. I can say they’ve tried to learn and understand those things. I also think that given who I was growing up, they sort of expected something like it, given my nature.

I was a pretty interesting kid… I played with dolls, read books, built things, destroyed things, did puzzles, watched Sailor Moon, etc… Without giving too much credence to the binary, I was deemed pretty “feminine” growing up by mainstream cis standards. I was very sensitive. I cried a lot growing up, and I always seemed to get picked on. I imagine my parents thought I would be gay before they thought I would be a girl. Continue reading

Trans Networking: Lisa Marie Maginnis on Homelessness, Survival Sex Work, and Technology

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TransEthics: Tell us a little about Hypatia Software.

Lisa Maginnis: The main goal of the Hypatia Software Organization is to provide assistance to experiencers of transmisogyny in need, as well as make talented and professional software engineers out of those who are interested in the mentorship program. Hypatia Software Organization is a mentorship and benefits program run for trans people, by trans people. Because of this we prioritize empathy and understanding for our members. We are very anti-carrot and stick, mentorship is never a requirement to have access to benefits. To be a member, you simply must experience transmisogyny. That said, anyone is welcome to volunteer with us!  Continue reading

Trans Satanic: Sadie Satanas on Religion, Kink, and Polyamorous Marriage

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TransEthics: I understand that you’re married. How long have you and your wife been together, and when in your relationship did you come out as transgender to her?

Sadie Satanas: My spouse and I were married on June 6th 2006 (6/6/6), but we’ve been together for 15 years. We are poly, but committed. I came out to her about 4 years ago after we moved from the Bible belt of Oklahoma to the Bay Area.

TE: How did that initially affect your relationship? Continue reading

Trans Differential: Halley Wynn on Trans Bodies, ‘Deadly Babes’, and Ethics in Sex Work

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TransEthics: Your Twitter profile says you are a “muscle t-girl”… would you care to expand on what that means to you?

Halley Wynn: Well, there are two separate but inclusive fields of thought I have on that: The personal and the political. I like fitness, weight lifting, different movement arts and working out in general. Participating in these activities generally gives you increased muscle tone and increased mass depending on the type and volume of activity, because of this I identify as muscly.

Now for my political opinions, I feel like femme people but especially trans femme folks are incentivized to avoid muscle mass or lots of tone. Being that it is supposedly a masculine trait, and therefore being “overly” fit is akin to outing yourself according to some.  So I am a trans femme fitness enthusiast: Muscle T-girl. Continue reading

Trans Survival: Rani Baker on Dealing with Trolls, Transition, & Trump Era Fear

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TransEthics: Your band, Destroyed for Comfort, has a very unique sound. To those who have yet to experience it, how would you describe it?

Rani Baker: The music I perform is typically very sample-heavy, intentionally retro, low-fi, and abrasive, with heavily distorted vocals. The sound (especially live) has frequently been compared to Skinny Puppy, Alec Empire and Crystal Castles, but doesn’t really sound exclusively like any of those acts. Occasionally more melodic and/or experimentally structured work is composed, but I tend to take the stompier, more anthemic tracks live.

TE: How did you come up with your band’s name? Continue reading

Trans Reporting: Katelyn Burns on Writing, Politics, and Moving Forward

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TransEthics: What inspired you to get into writing for various media establishments?

Katelyn Burns: I never really set out to be a writer or even an activist really. I’ve always been fairly political and my interest in trans politics and theory extend back even into my teenage years. I always did a good job covering my tracks, so all of my reading was done in secret when I was still in the closet. One day, after I had decided to transition but before I had started hormones or come out to many people, I was really struggling with my own body. I’d lost 110 pounds already but still had a lot of internal baggage to work through. My therapist suggested writing about it as a therapeutic method. Continue reading

Trans Mission: Kate Adair on HB2, and Changing Media & Society

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TransEthics: Tell us what you do for the BBC.

Kate Adair: What I do is work on a platform called BBC The Social. It’s an online space giving a platform to new and emerging content creators. It’s about letting people make what we are passionate about. In my case I started with a couple of a Trans 101 videos and have recently moved on to doing a weekly thing called queer bites where I get to discuss a topic of the week… usually I take it from something that I have seen in the news or something big from the world of LGBTQI+ society, but I do admit I’m bias a little towards the trans content. I’m a trans person who leads on creating what I make, script, film and edit my own stuff and the BBC listens to my views and allow me to make what I feel is relevant and important. They tend not to change or alter what I say and —at least with the social— are happy to listen to my lead on whats needing to be said and put out there.  Continue reading