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Airboy #2’s Transmisogynistic Tropes and Their Dangerous Impact on Trans Women

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 1.17.18 AM[Trigger Warning for transmisogyny and brief discussion of suicide.]

Airboy is a comic published by Image, it’s a story written by James Robinson and the art is by Greg Hinkle. Robinson and Hinkle are also the semi-autobiographical protagonists in the comic along with Airboy, a heroic Rocketeer-like figure with superpowers. The story is irrelevant to me at this point, I’ve described why the issue is offensive to multiple people within the comics industry and had reactions ranging from “So?” to sarcasm questioning my intelligence, I‘ve also had “That’s awful!” so at least some of the explaining was worthwhile. I don’t care if you think the story is well written, if it’s highly offensive then it’s without redeeming features.

Airboy issue 2 has just come out and it’s really transphobic. It has multiple instances where the protagonists use the T-slur, this is the same as using the N-slur, and Image Comics somehow thought this was OK to publish? The story doesn’t stop there, the abuse gets much worse. The protagonists are on a bender, getting wasted on drink and drugs with self loathing thrown into the mix. I could write that in a million ways, all of them not abusing anyone but the protagonists that I want to show abusing themselves. Instead this comic decided instead to punch down.

The trans women in the club don’t speak, they function as sexual objects of the protagonists who are disgusted with themselves for finding the trans women attractive. In one scene we’re shown two of the three male protagonists getting oral sex in the club bathroom. Afterwards the comic shows us that the protagonists don’t feel good about having sex with trans women. This is playing into the idea that trans women are sluts, prostitutes, drunks and drug users, tropes that are inherently dangerous to trans women. It also clearly says that trans women are attractive, but that cisgender guys need to be wasted to have sex with them. It doesn’t stop there though, it gets worse.

Airboy has one last major punch for trans women, the trans panic trope. One of the three characters, Airboy himself, starts yelling at the other protagonists. He’s angry and disgusted that the woman he’d just been with had a penis, he’d not been told that he was with a trans woman. This is using one of the most dangerous tropes possible for trans women, one that has let men murder trans women and walk away perfectly free. This isn’t an exaggeration. The only state the trans panic defence has been barred from is California. This comic is perpetuating the trans panic trope and that’s vile.

Defending this comic as cool or a great story is an act of willful blindness, the constant abuse that trans people receive from media and from society is killing us. With a 41% suicide rate this is the literal truth. I’m sick of being a punching bag, of having to explain why things are bad all the time, of trotting out that suicide statistic. And I’m utterly sick of cisgender guys saying ‘Oh this isn’t bad, I don’t see what the fuss is about.’ You can go to Twitter now and see leading comic creators saying exactly that. This lack of empathy and an attitude of ‘I’m alright so you should be’ is wrong. It’s really sad to see it coming from comic professionals.

We need transphobic abuse out of comics, if the current creators and publishers don’t see how abusing a minority is a problem then they should get out of comics.

[Editors Note: James Robinson has commented on Airboy #2 via twitter; you can find that and more info on Airboy #2 here.]

(image via Greg Hinkle on Twitter)

Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related… probably.

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