I’ve been rereading Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol recently, and OMG I just never get tired of it.
One of the main things I love, of course, is the lady in the picture above: Coagula, the world’s first transsexual lesbian superhero. But the whole comic is full of wonderful little trans themes and in-jokes: Cliff Steele talks about his issues fitting into society (or not) as a human brain in a robot body in terms of passing, there’s a storyline featuring forces terrified of change fighting genderqueer mystical beings whose preferred pronoun is “hir,” and the Doom Patrol’s headquarters are haunted by ghosts called “Sexually Remaindered Spirits” (or “SRS” for short).
Really, I wonder sometimes if the comic’s lack of commercial success and mixed (at best) critical reputation isn’t because it just wasn’t aimed at a cis audience. It’s really amazing that DC Comics (one of the “big two” comic publishers, for the non-comic-readers in the audience) was publishing something so fantastically trans almost 20 years ago.
(As an aside, Grant Morrison’s classic run on the comic — which has finally been reprinted in trade paperback form — also had lots of trans themes, though Morrison himself is cis as far as I know. His run included Rebis, a bigender superhero who many characters refer to with non-binary pronouns, and Danny The Street, a crossdressing stretch of road (all his gun shops are decked out in pink lace). Also, it’s one of the best comics ever written, which doesn’t hurt.)
But more than that, it wasn’t even the only trans-themed comic by a trans woman DC published at the time! Under the Milestone imprint they also published a miniseries called Deathwish written by the late Maddy Blaustein (best known as a voice actress for Pokemon) with art by the amazing JH Williams III (who actually made his debut on the comic), which starred a pair of non-op trans women. The comic itself was just a standard 90’s shoot-em-up grim-n-gritty action comic, mind you, but it’s still a fun read as a historical document — the characters grope to find language for their transition path, for instance, because the phrase “non-op” wasn’t really around yet.
There was a followup storyline in another (great) Milestone comic called Hardware which was actually quite bad, but did have a nice escapist fantasy moment at the end in which (SPOILER) a trans woman ends up pregnant.
Both of these comics were coming out around the time that I was entering the full swing of puberty and had begun to very clearly realize and (privately, to myself) name what I was, and they meant so incredibly much to me.
There was a recent article making the rounds about the importance of introducing children to the basic reality that transgender people exist, and I so agree. In a rural area where I would never in a million years have heard the voices of trans people otherwise, these comics told me that I was normal, that I wasn’t alone, that as a trans woman I could be powerful and strong, and that somewhere out there, there was a place where I was going to be able to grow up to be myself. And so I did.