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Dear Image Comics: Depicting Violence Against Trans People Isn’t “Edgy,” It’s Exactly the “Divisiveness” You’re Worried About

 

hysteria

It’s Pride Month. You know, the month in which the LGBTQIA community celebrates not only pride, but survival as we commemorate the Stonewall riots of June 1969? The riots that were started, in part, by trans women of color? Yeah, those. Image’s latest “edgy” comic would’ve been offensive at any time, but it is especially offensive being released this month. **CW: discussion of violence against a trans character**

Last week, Image Comics released The Divided States of Hysteria, a political comic by writer/artist Howard Chaykin. According to The Daily Dot, the comic “takes place in a near-future setting where the president was recently assassinated, and issue #1 opens with plenty of sex, terrorism, police brutality, and overall cynicism.”

So already, you know that you’re in for some disturbing stuff.

What’s infuriating is that, rather than actually being “edgy” by telling his story in a unique, provocative way that didn’t rely on the same old stereotypes that are continually used, Chaykin introduces the ultimate stereotype: a transgender sex worker being violently attacked when the three men who hire her discover she has a penis.

Chaykin may have thought that he was creating something “empowering” when, after the incident occurs, the character (who is only ever referred to by her dead name. Ugh.) reaches for a gun and murders them. However, she then “gets arrested in bed with their naked corpses, and the scene concludes with a mugshot of her beaten face.”

While I’m a cis, queer woman, I immediately understand how painful and exhausting something like this is. It’s something comics has been doing to all women since always. It’s like all those female character origin stories that just have to begin with a rape, because that’s the only thing of any consequence that happens to women. The only thing that could ever inspire them to take action or be heroes.

Yeah, except this is the trans woman version of that, which is much worse considering that trans women are almost twice as likely as cis women to experience sexual violence.

Comics creator Magdalene Visaggio, writer of Kim & Kim, gave a pretty clear explanation on Twitter of why shit like this needs to stop:

Her tweets continue, ending with, “Nobody ever fucking thinks who they’re hurting. Who cares about a bunch of whiny tr—–s anyway.”

Indeed. It’s that “nobody ever fucking thinks who they’re hurting” thing that gets me, too. Because of course free speech. Of course. But is this how Chaykin would fight to use his free speech? To do something that so clearly hurts an already marginalized group by providing yet another image of a trans person being fetishized and victimized?

Re: the timing of the issue. Originally it was supposed to come out in the winter and got pushed to now, so that’s been trotted out as a reason why people shouldn’t be so upset. It’s not as if they purposely put this out during Pride Month! That’s the thing. They didn’t do it purposely, they did it carelessly. So, not only did the editors at Image let this transphobic and transmisogynistic scene go, but they also didn’t care enough to pay attention to what June is for the LGBTQIA community. It was something that they think so little of that it didn’t even occur to them. That’s the problem!

Oh wait. No, it did occur to them. It occurred to them just enough for them to plan on giving it a Pride Variant cover so they could capitalize on Pride, but not enough that they though about how it would actually affect those who celebrate Pride.

Meanwhile, Image remains unapologetic. Last week, the publisher posted an essay by Chaykin on The Divided States of Hysteria, where he plays the tired game of blaming “identity politics” for our current state of affairs:

“So instead of ‘Trigger warnings,’ ‘Cultural appropriation,’ ‘Safe spaces,’ and ‘Social Justice Warriors,’ maybe we on the left should have put aside all this balkanizing nonsense and been fucking Americans for fuck’s sake, instead of allowing this nihilistic shithead to mainstream and legitimize the racist, sexist, bigoted and flat-out moronic sensibilities that have always been there, but were held in check by a common understanding that one doesn’t get away with that shit in the United States of America. Well, now one does–and while you were pissing and moaning about hyphenates, they got to own the USA.”

Now, I understand blaming liberals who didn’t vote, and I, too, have very strong feelings about liberals who cast ‘protest votes’ in important districts/states. However, I am so tired of blame being placed on caring too much about marginalized people. Chaykin claims to be opposed to the legitimization of “racist, sexist, bigoted, and flat-out moronic sensibilities,” and yet also stands opposed to those who spend their time fighting against that, because they’re “too divisive.”

Image doubled down on defense of this title yesterday, when it posted a statement bragging about how the controversy created so much demand that they’ve already gone to a second printing. In talking about why they love the title, Image wrote: “[I]t’s intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress—discourse, understanding, cooperation—are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant.”

One more time for the people who don’t seem to understand this very simple fact. Hate crimes (and their careless, ill-informed depiction), racism, and bigotry are not mere political “differences of opinion,” and people need to stop lumping “caring about marginalized people” and “disagreeing on what to do about the economy, or gun control, or infrastructure” into the same fucking category.

Caring about the rights of fellow humans, and standing up when people are being marginalized and hurt is not the thing that causes divisiveness, it’s the product of divisiveness. It is a response to divisiveness. It’s what happens when divisiveness backs victimized communities into a corner. Those communities fight back.

And yes, those that would continue to perpetuate their victimization and marginalization are enemy combatants. Hate to break the news, but there you are.

(image: Image Comics)

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