Who IS this guy?!

'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.

Feel free to contact me at niceguy9418@usa.com. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and Tumblr, and support my Patreon. Also, if you don't mind the stench, you can find my unofficial "fan club" over HERE. ;)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Interview with Jenn Dolari

How long have you been doing comics?

I've been drawing comics since about 1987 or so. Although, years before, I'd taken piano lessons and learned to read and write music. I noticed musical brackets kind of looked like faces in profile, and started drawing faces on them, much to the chagrin of my piano teacher. So I'd been drawing on and off since about 1982. But it wasn't until 1987 when I started really sitting down to draw comics.

The other night, during the live stream I recognized some of the techniques you used from my own (very limited) art training. Have you had any formal training, or are you entirely self-taught?

I'm not really a natural artist. I am a natural writer, I hope. I really began my comic work as a writer. Around 1987 I had a dream that began to blossom into a story I wanted to tell. I broke it down into about 15 parts and began writing it. Now, this is 1987. I was 13. I wasn't exactly the best wordsmith out there, and even I realized I wasn't telling the story very well. So I decided...why not draw it? I was already drawing the faces in brackets, why not try to draw this story?  Then you don't have to worry about writing description, but you just need to focus on dialogue.  
Problem is...I'd never drawn a comic before. Or drawn all the description I wasn't going to write.

In 1985, there was an anime series called Robotech airing on syndicated TV, and I adored it. I didn't get a VCR until just before the series ended, so, to relive the story, I bought the comic book adaptations. I used those as a starting point. At first, I just traced the art that corresponded to scenes in my story. Eventually, I learned to copy them without tracing. And eventually learned to draw reasonable facsimiles in a year or two.

Over the years I looked into various artstyles and forms to create these comics, and eventually started using the ball-and-rod forms of basic drawing. But I never had any real formal training, or classes. I just did what I did in order to do it.

Do you have any previous works out there?

I worked on that particular comic, now called The book of Xand, on and off from 1987 to 1992. Made a few pitches, tossed it around a few comic companies, none of which were interested. So while there's a lot of concept art and half-finished pages, there's really nothing that I can call done with that story. I'm hoping to do the Xand story after I finish either Closetspace or A Wish for Wings.

I’ll look forward to seeing that! What made you decide to do these two in particular?

You're probably gonna want to get a sandwich. Maybe a drink or two, before I start.

I've got my drink.


Around 1992, I'd joined a crossdressing support group called the "Boulton and Park Society." I was their one transgender member in a group of crossdressers, but there weren't any other support groups at the time in the San Antonio area.  At the time San Antonio was a very hostile town for anyone who wasn't straight, and Boulton and Park was the only group who offered to help, so I took it. I began drawing a comic in the group's newsletter called "A Different Perspective," and in the last few strips, two characters emerged who I liked very much. A tall thin brunette named Carrie and a shorter feisty redhead named Allyson.

You don’t say…

Around 1992, I realized The Book of Xand would never get made, and about the same time, a new storyline began bubbling up in my head. I took a liking to our two new heroines, and their story as
two crossdressing and/or transgendered characters began to form. I decided to make that my next story.

I was trying to get into any form of entertainment at this point, and shaped the series around a one season, twenty six episode television story, 'cause once the network or syndicate figured out what the heck I was writing, I doubt I'd get more than one season. After that failed spectacularly (in order to write an episode of TV, you must be a member of the Writer's Guild, and to become a member of the Writer's Guild, you need to write an episode of TV, and I couldn't play that circular logic game), I teamed up with a friend, Dove Sherman, to try and publish a twenty eight page comic.  Dove would draw, while I would write, since I didn't have much faith in my art as a professional artist. Many of Dove's redesigns show through in the comic to this day.  We'd planned to shop it around, but Dov felt he wasn't up to drawing 28 pages a month, and around this time I soured on the whole comics business.

Eventually I kind of threw up my hands and said "Well, it'll never be" and began a career in technical support. About 1997 or so, I began thinking about a webcomic, and how I could get around the quota limitations of the day (I didn't have much space, and each comic would have taken up valuable kilobytes), and it wasn't until 2000 that through Keenspace (now ComicGenesis) that unlimited space and bandwidth became available. I didn't, however, want to throw my two best properties out in case it failed.

In 2001, I lost my job and ended up moving back home to San Antonio. I decided to see what the old anime club was doing that I'd once belonged to in the late 90s, and caught a few episodes of shows they were playing. Specifically, "Omishi Magical Theater Risky Safety" (about an angel and demon in training) and "I'm Gonna Be An Angel!" (about another angel in training). When I got home, I was putzing around in the loft of my parent's house, where my mother was working on a cousin's quinceaƱera coming-out party. The theme? Angels. About a hundred statues were staring down at me all evening long.  That night, the threads of all those angels began to weave around my brain and make a new story about a girl who wanted to be an angel. I decided that would be the story I posted to Keenspace.

After a computer crash, and a six month hiatus while fixing it, I came back to Keenspace, this time bringing Closetspace as my comic. Shortly thereafter, I realized I could do both weekly and began telling both stories.

Before we get into the actual comics, I want to ask you about where you get you inspiration from and who or what some of your influences are.

As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Robotech, but even before then, I was hooked on Battle of the Planets in the 70s, and Star Blazers in the early 80s, so anime was a big inspiration. Robotech in particular (and Dune in a smaller way) really put a love of over arcing multi-generational stories in me (The Book of Xand takes place from 3113BC to 3797AD, spans three planets and even an alternate universe!). A more comic-related influence was the company putting out the Robotech comics, Comico. While Comico had a few ongoing comics, most of them were self-contained stories with a specific beginning-middle and end. Mage: The Hero Discovered, about a man who is granted superpowers but refuses to take on the responsibilities of said powers, was a wonderfully put together fifteen issue comic. I never liked superhero comics, because they never ended, and here was one that did. From that point on, I made sure all my stories ended (even the Xand one!)

A Wish for Wings uses a lot of angelic and demonic imagery but seems to stay well clear of established religions. Can you tell me a bit about the theology of this world? What mythos did you seek inspiration from? (Aside from the Renaissance version of Abrahamic Angels, I mean.) 

Most of the theology of A Wish for Wings has been mostly hinted at, but in my head there's a specific theology and organizations, of it. In doing so, I've gone out of my way not to use any established religion to create the theology of the story, and instead, inspire it. In fact, my attitude has been "All religions are right...but only parts of them" in creating the theology. I'll go more into them in the comics as we near the end - but as they're not spoilerific, I'll share them here.

The most major influence is one of the tenets of Mormonism: when someone reaches a kind of enlightenment, they are allowed to become the god of a new world. Deyus Pitha, the Creator we see and is mentioned occasionally, is the one who was put in charge of the Earth.

There's also a little bit of Milton in there: Deyus, and six people he chose, came to the backwater planet earth to help these evolving apes turn into civilized humans. But there was a problem. While he himself was perfect, his handpicked helpers were not. One became jealous and wanted to take his powers for his own. He wasn't so much defeated, as a cease-fire was created.

A tiny bit of Islam: The angels went into hiding to keep humans unaware of their abilities and from attempting some kind of coup-de-etat themselves. They began to cover themselves from head to toe in cloaks that hide them from the world. Their outfits resemble hijab and niqab garmets used by Muslim women.

There's a smattering of the Jewish heirarchy of angels as well: As humans were the one directly affected by this coup-de-etat, Deyus decided to add humans to the angel's ranks, although as foot soldiers. Instead, he and the original angels, along with a select few humans, would be in charge of these new human angels. Deyus, realizing he had five other helpers who could also attempt to seize his powers, left, leaving....

...well, that would be spoiling, wouldn't it?

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way (meaning badly) but in watching how the Angels and the Shadows interact with mortal humans, I’m reminded of some of the Jack Chick tracts I’ve come across over the years. Any influence there? I primarily mean artistically, but theologically or mythologically as well.

Not really. While I actually admire the artstyle in Jack Chick tracts, I'm rather disappointed in the message they deliver. I'm sure, though, he's pulling off some of the same influences I am to make A Wish for Wings.

What role does religion play in your own life?

Very little. I was raised not just Roman Catholic, but Mexican Roman Catholic with all the added extra bits of ceremonies and religions. I burned out quickly. I was an atheist for a while there, and a rather mean and nasty one. The kind who tells kids there's no Santa Claus and their mom is the Tooth Fairy. 
Wicca really worked for me (and if fact, some of the magic work Andrea does in her training are
based on Wiccan magic work).

In the end, I just decided to live by The Golden Rule as delivered by two of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century: "Be excellent to each other."

Did any of the more homophobic or transphobic aspects of it play a part in driving you away from the Church?

Not really.  As I mentioned, it was more burnout than a break in theology.  Which may be the reason I'm a bit more tolerant towards people of faith than many of my friends.  I didn't have one thing that said “Nope, no more religion.”  It was more like “Cant' I have a break?  Please?  There's just too much of this stuff.”

OK… The colors...

I get that (at a very basic level) Blue is Angelic- and Red is Shadow-based magic (Jedi/Sith Light-saber influence?) that Purple magic is more powerful and reserved for Royalty (though whatever that means to Angels has not yet been fully revealed) and Yellow is also more powerful (more than Purple?) and means something else, as yet unknown, but something dangerous. (Green Lantern influence?) Without giving me any spoilers, (and I do mean ANY spoilers!) do I have that much basically right, or did I miss something that’s actually IN the comic so far? Was there some kind of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock thing going on here that I missed?

Imagine magic as a color wheel. Red at the top, Orange at 2PM, Yellow at 4PM, Green at 6PM, Blue at 8PM, and Purple at 10PM. The farther away the color is from each other, the more powerful/hurtful it is. Each person has a color that comes naturally to them. Human Michael's (whose name may end up getting some Soviet revisionism since I didn't expect to have two characters named Michael in one story) natural color was Green. Andrea's is Yellow. Iskander, who was once royalty on earth, coincidentally was purple, the color of royalty.

Somewhere along the lines, the angels chose Blue as their color of choice. This way they could work together in a fight without damaging each other. The events of "The Impure Heart," where a teammate who was using another color than blue, killed another angel who was blue, are what made blue mandatory for all angels, and outlawed all other colors. After this, all angels were trained to use blue, usually at the cost of losing their natural colors. Andrea is trying to keep her yellow magic,
however - because it was the color human Michael taught her to use. She keeps it to remember him by. Red is used by the shadows because...well...that would be telling, wouldn't it....

Obviously Wish for Wings does not have the LGBTrans-focused story and cast that Closetspace does (and we’ll get to that) but it looks like you were still giving a nod to it with Khaneni/Nen’a. Was his (xis? her?) status of Gallus meant to >be like a 3rd Gender / Bi-Spirt kind of being, akin to the Hijra in the Hindu religion?

There have always been gender questioning humans, likely for as long as humans have been around. Many cultures had specific duties for these people, or classes, or regulations. Many were hurtful, or attempts to cure their condition. But others allowed them to live their lives as best they could in their
adopted roles. In Khaneni's case, he wanted to be a woman, or in the tribe's terminology, a Mother. Given his incompetence as hunter, and Han'a's talent for it, he was, essentially, allowed to switch places with her, taking her place as a mother and his place as a hunter. 
As for those pronouns, I tend to go by name in describing her.  Khaneni was “his” name.  Nen'a is “her” name.

I do plan to one day tell the story of how the Tribe was lost in its own story, called The Long Road Home. In it, there will be an extended version of The Lesson of Patience, that goes into Nen'a's status as a gallus in more detail. While she's considered a mother, she can't bear children, so is still expected
to father one to fulfill her child-debt (and does). Since she doesn't menstruate, one of her duties is to tend to women who are bleeding. She even has to temporarily lose her status as a Gallus to cover for a time when then hunting teams are shorthanded.

She's also made a medicine woman, as we see in later episodes of A Wish forWings. Not because she is excellent at it...but because the older medicine woman believes that she will not be killed by other, less tolerant, members of the tribe if she provides a service they cannot do without.

So what about Han’a? Was she the same, or more just a victim of the tribe’s circumstances? (I read her more as gender non-conformant or pre-feminist (basically a tomboy) rather that truly trans.)

Han'a is a very special case. The tribe doesn't allow women to hunt. Their services are to maintain the tribe's home, gather plants and vegetables and tend to the children. It was with that mindset that Han'a was raised. She only becomes a huntress when the tribe suddenly becomes so shorthanded, they need to train the female children to help.  She's drafted into service, but as it turns out, shes good at scouting and, while not making many (or really any) kills, she becomes a trusted member
of the team. When the emergency is over, it's her talent that allows Kahneni to take her place as Nen'a. And for Han'a to remain hunting.

The thing is...she really wants to be a mother. That's how she was raised from Day 1. She only hunts because the tribe needs her to, then asks her to. When she gets her first killmark, it's the final commitment to that way of life for her.  She's made her decision to remain a hunter, but in her heart, she still wants to be a mother. 
When she loses the ability to use her arm, she immediately goes back into the Mother role, but makes sure to teach her daughter, even behind the tribe's back, how to hunt. She now sees it as a life skill.

Again, in The Long Road Home, I'll extend things a bit, to show how she fits in with the tribe in her new role as huntress and how protective they are of her. When she becomes part of a hunting team, they look after her as much as she looks after them. There's a scene where a tribe member attempts to rape her. She fights him off, and when her hunting team mates find out, essentially beat him to a bloody pulp. When Nen'a is called to bring him back to help, and finds out he tried to rape her wife...let's just say Hippocrates is a few thousand years away.

There's also the fact that, no matter if she's a huntress or not, she's still a female. Like Nen'a was required to father a child, Han'a still bleeds monthly, and cannot hunt (there are rituals that are followed for menstruating women). Her team basically treats it as if they have a sick member of the hunting team and sit that week out...but really, they just enjoy the time slacking off.

So far we’ve seen ancient tribes (14,000 years ago?), ancient Rome (200 AD) and roughly the present day. Are there going to be more time periods used to reveal the storyline and introduce more characters?

The tribe is 14,000 years ago, yes. 12,000BC. Sadly, I sometimes get the two confused in the narrative occasionally, though. At this point, I've pretty much laid out all the backstory I'm going to and we'll be moving forward. If there's another time jump, it may be to an even earlier time than 14,000 years ago during the original coup-de-etat of Morningstar against Deyus. Although I may save that for The Long Road Home. No specific time period on that, other than "The very beginnings of civilization."

The villain so far, (though I assume not the BIG Bad,) Perrimore... Was he inspired by any real-life person or fictional character? (Or his nefarious plot inspired by real-like events? (9/11, Unibomber, OK City?)

Arthur Perrimore isn't really the big baddie of the series, as we'll soon see. He's more of catalyst, for reasons that will soon come clear in the story (Notice he has zero connection to the story until the bombs go off?). Arthur is one very, very, VERY unbalanced human, who had enough strength of will to pull of a 9/11 style attack on all his enemies. He is the Unabomber, David Koresh, and Jack the Ripper
all mixed up. He had a point to his madness, such as Jack the Ripper, brought about by a religion conviction of his own making, like David Koresh, and the genius of Ted Kaczynski. He was a man who had a grudge, wanted to act on the grudge, and the intelligence to make it happen.

I love how you do a lot of your exterior backgrounds, in both W4W and Closetspace. Are these mostly photographs that you’ve taken?

While webcomic artists tend to draw their own backgrounds, I'm a much slower artist than most webcomic artists I know. So I go with filtered pictures for my backgrounds instead of drawing them. There are a few drawn backgrounds, when I've had time to draw them. With very few exceptions, the pictures are all pictures I've taken. The shores of the Black Sea in Roman times are actually Salish Beach in Canada. Andrea's remote childhood home is actually an old mansion in San Marcos, TX. Carrie and Andrea's house is the J T Jones house in Decatur, Alabama. 

Are these places that you frequent, around your home town then?

Many of the pictures come from around the Texas Hill Country, which I consider my home. Some are from my years in Seattle and Pennsylvania, but most are local to the Hill Country. And since I had relatives in the airline industry, I got to fly free a lot around the country. That's where all the above cloud pics come from!  I actually have a library of several thousand pictures I've taken since the 90s that I use for sources.

I wonder what the owners would think about them being featured in a TG comic!

When I first walked by the J T Jones house in Decatur, AL, in 1997, I took a pic of it because it was just a beautiful house. When I needed a Big Victorian Gingerbread house for Allison to live in, I grabbed that pic and scanned it in to use. But it was the ONLY picture I had! And I used the heck out of it. Eventually, I found some fans who lived in the area, and asked them to take pics of the house for me. One of them asked me what he should say if the owners came out and asked what I was doing. All I could say was "show them the comic!"

Given that it's a famous house in Decatur, and is often shown on tour, I don't think they'd mind, especially as I've moved it out of Decatur into Central Texas. If they asked me to remove it, I likely would. I have other pics of Victorian houses I can use. But theirs is gorgeous.

This story is a bit different from many other TG Webcomics in the extent that it doesn’t shy away from showing a lot of the darker, downsides of living as trans, in your chosen gender. A lot of the story so far has centered around mental illness (anxiety, depression, paranoia, panic attacks,) the fear of being
clocked, violence, rejection of family, hate, and even the idea that some people regret their transitioning – which you mentioned the other night caused some people to consider Closetspace to be a bit “gatekeepery.” Aside from that last one, which I’ll come back to, how much of this is drawn from your own experience and are any of the characters in Closetspace based on or inspired by real people?

Very little of Closetspace is based on my own experiences. A few have been informed by my experiences, but nothing in the comic is specific to my life. The closest would be the restaurant scene with everyone staring at Carrie. In Carrie's case, the waiter kind of gets suspicious because the both of them order steak and beer. And the cooks and staff start leering at her. In my case, I went somewhere where the staff already knew I was trans (my friend and her husband were
management there).

Sadly, my attempt to fit in was ruined by the cooking staff leering and catcalling from the back.  Being the 1990s, and the cooks had to be appeased or they'd walk out, I never went back.  Things would likely be different now, thanks to advances in acceptance – but it wasn't a lot of fun at the time.

While Carrie is not specifically based on anyone person, Allison is a different story. For most of the development of Closetspace, Allison's story was one of someone who crossdressed wondering if surgery was the right thing to do. There are people out there who crossdress but have no want to have surgery – and Allison didn't know if she did or not. In that version of the storyline, eventually, she decided against surgery, but otherwise lived as a woman.

About the year 1999, I came out to a friend as trans. This is someone I'd known a long time, and I considered (and still consider) a good friend, and knew he would be understanding. What I didn't expect was he would come out as trans as well. He, now she, proceeded to transition along with me, but much faster. She got her hormones around the same time I did, but managed to push through to her surgery incredibly quickly. And within a year or two, had her surgery and was out on the other side.

And in the end, and to this day, she regrets what she's done. While she's accepted her new life as a woman and moved on, it's not her preferred gender. And, as we are good friends, she told me a lot of her regrets and how her life has changed. 
I've always accepted a bit of responsibility for her change. She had to pull the trigger, as it were, but I showed her how to load the gun. And so, I asked her if I could use her story as Allison's. To get the word out there that This Could Be a Bad Idea. She said yes, and I changed Allison's story from a crossdresser trying to figure out if surgery was for her, to someone who'd gotten the surgery and regretted it.

I've gotten some flak for it, mainly because people are saying I'm too pro-gatekeepery about transition, which is that you need a third party to move on in your transition. That's not exactly what I'm aiming for.  It's more of a "You really REALLY need to think long and hard about this" because it's such a huge change that what you expect and what you get can be very different things. You don't need a therapist to approve your transition. But you really should turn to someone you trust - a father, a brother, a god, maybe even a therapist - and ask "Is this really what I need? Is this something I really have to do?" Because if you're not transgendered before the surgery, you will be after.

I’m curious… You (along with Evelyn Poor) did one of the better known cross-over’s with Venus Envy, after it went on hiatus. (I do still consider an update every 18 months to be “on hiatus” LOL.) You did an excellent job mimicking Erin Lindsey’s art style.  

How difficult was that?  (Or did she draw it?  Because it’s a really good facsimile otherwise!) Do you know Erin? What was her response that story arc?

Still got that drink and/or sandwich?  You might want to get those ready again.

I'm good. LOL

In 2004, I was invited to Trinoc-coN in Durham, NC, along side Kittyhawk of Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki and Erin Lindsey's Venus Envy.  Mind blown.  We talked a bit before the con, and she asked if I'd like to share half a table with her, and we did.  We got along excellently, and over the course of the convention, we developed a real chemistry in our panels.  A real transgender Laurel and Hardy kind of chemistry.  We shared convention space again in 2006 and kept in touch afterwards.

In 2008, I moved to Seattle, where Erin lives, and she offered to help me adjust to life in the Pacific Northwest.  After about a year, we developed a bit of an art studio in one room of her house, where we worked most every day doing comics and art.  Seeing as how we were working with each other all the time, the question came up – what about a fun little crossover?

We worked out the specifics together.  Carrie would go and live in Zoe's world as Zoe for a little while, and, on the flip side, Zoe would live as Carrie for a little while.  It was originally meant to be a full fledged crossover involving both comics.  For Closetspace, I would draw Carrie, and she would draw everything else.  For Venus Envy, she would draw Zoe and I would draw everything else.  But considering how differently we worked (I was pushing out a comic every week, she was pushing out three a week), we decided we'd do all our own work with each comic.

Each episode of the crossover I did involving Venus Envy characters was approved by her, to make sure the characters were acting and looking like their characters. Her only two complaints through the whole series was I made Ritchie look too old, and Lisa and Larson were too friendly (something I remark on the last time we see them).  She also had direct input on what Zoe was doing during the crossover, and her fleeing to Mexico and showing up in a bee outfit was 100% Erin.

Around this time, Erin's real life workload began eating into the Venus Envy time, and eventually it went on hiatus.  And a very long term hiatus.  When I realized there might not be anymore Venus Envy, I decided on my own, that I would make this a sort of epilogue to the series.  So that readers of Venus Envy would have some kind of “Everything Is Alright” closure.  In fact, Carrie specifically says to Zoe the one time they meet “It's alright.  Everything is going to be alright.”

I did specifically try to mimic her artstyle.  Working in the studio toghether, I got to see how she made her comics, and mimicked it as best I could.  I tend to draw with paper and pencil, and do cel shaded coloring.  She actually does it all digitally, and paints the colors on like markers.  I learned a lot from that, but also learned, I really like my way better.

Something I didn't expect, though, was how long it would take to tell the story.  My time in Seattle was fraught with setbacks and failures.  Between losing jobs, losing apartments, losing a fiancee, losing yet another house, becoming diabetic, damaged eyesight and everything else, my little three month crossover became a three YEAR crossover.  A running joke between us was that I was drawing more Venus Envy than she was over those three years.

Who knows, if she picks up Venus Envy we may see what the heck Zoe was doing in that bee outfit.

Something tells me we’re not getting that answer any time soon! LOL. So getting back to your own experiences… You mentioned that very little informs Closetspace directly.  Now, if I remember correctly, you said you started transitioning in the late-90’s?

I knew I was transgendered, or at least that something was very, very, very wrong with my puberty in fifth grade in 1985, when the girls went one way, and I went the wrong way. I began crossdressing soon afterwards, and once I moved out in the mid-90s, I lived at home as a woman, and everywhere else as a man. It wasn't until 1997 that I went fulltime (except for a brief stint in 1999, when I was required to go through my probationary period at work as a male). Hormones came in 2000, Been pretty happy since then!

How did friends and family react? What has been the hardest part for you?

My friends were on board with my transition right away. With one exception, no one gave me any guff about my transition, and it was an open secret by my senior year. One person basically went with it for the most part, but I found out later she felt I was a pervert, and only went along with it because she didn't want to lose someone who was otherwise a good friend. We no longer talk.

My immediate family was different. After the shock of coming out had faded, my father was okay with it, although somewhat embarrassed. While he was happy that I was finally happy, it took him a very long time to be comfortable with the idea. My mother and I, however, butted heads quite a bit in the first couple of years. To the point that I felt I needed to leave not just home, but the state in order
to continue with my transition. After I made it, I moved back, and they were shocked, thinking that I'd "gone through that phase already." Only in the last few years has she finally come around, and she has finally accepted me as her daughter… Most of the time.

The hardest part, however, was coming out to the extended family. I come from a deeply traditional and religious Mexican Roman Catholic family. Machismo, which is a term describing the need to be a Manly Man in our culture, is a terrible, terrible thing if you’re gay. When I was about nine, a relative who shall remain nameless attacked me for not being "Mexican enough." If I was going to be beat up for not being Mexican enough, knowing the Machismo culture I felt I was surrounded by, I realized I was in deep, deep shit. So, I essentially estranged myself from them. I went away. For almost twenty years I went away and had no contact with my gigantic extended family. 

Knowing what I do of the culture, I can only imagine how hard that must have been, even still.

Some twenty years later, I poked a few cousins about my transition, and the event went well. I then came out to pretty much everyone, and the news spread like wildfire. The hardest part was the incredibly terrible misjudging I'd done with the family. No one, but no one, questioned my transition. They all went with it, many congratulated me with it, and they welcomed me back with open arms. I'd
misjudged them completely for twenty years, based on one cousin's bad attitude. And I feel terrible about that. It's been about three years since I came out to the family, and I still feel terrible about the estrangement to this day.

At the time things were very different time form how things are today: Gay marriage still seemed a distant dream, and now that's basically a settled issue, and trans-rights are coming the forefront. So while it's certainly different, do you think it's any easier to come out as Trans (or LGB for that matter)
today than when you did?

I do believe it is much easier to come out now than when I did. Now a days, being trans, while not widely accepted, is something that's become part of our culture. More and more, I hear stories of people coming out, and being accepted in families. Jobs even have policies in place for someone transitioning. When I came out, very little of this existed.

In fact, the first support group I joined advocated that if we saw another one of its members in public that we don't actually greet them.  You'd get unwanted attention.  In some towns at the time, such as Houston, I believe, it was actually against the law and could result in prosecution. Things still aren't perfect, but we've made amazing amounts of progress in just 20-some years.

I wonder if you would retell the story you did the other night about the time you first went to the doctor for hormones?

By the time I'd found someone to prescribe hormones, I'd been living as a woman for three years, and had over five years of therapy. This doctor actually didn't require any paperwork for writing prescriptions (although I had all I needed). His one caveat was that he would become my general doctor, and I needed one anyway, so I agreed. We had an appointment or two setting up blood tests and physical tests and whatnot to gauge my general health. We set up an appointment for, what I thought, would be the prescription that would change my life.

I sat down, he sat down, and we had a talk about what was about to happen. The first words out of his mouth were "Are you sure you really want to do this?" I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me about everything that would change and the effects estrogen would have on me. Very in-depth. "You'll grow breasts. And these breasts will not come off without surgery. It will change your body hair, your
body smell, all of your salts. Your urine will even smell different. It's going to affect your mind, and thinking. Some folks have said it's changed their sexual orientation." Once he finished, he told me "I really want you to think about this, seriously. Come back next week with your answer."

I was crushed. I was all hyped up and ready to go. But, he was right. No matter what he said, right then and there, I would have said "Yes, absolutely." If he'd told me to go rob a bank before signing that prescription, I'd have done it. I did think about it, all week long. Weighing everything against
everything else. And it was sobering. Once I took this step, there really wasn't any way back. 
Did I want to commit to this?

I returned to him and he asked me "Well, what did you decide?" I said "Yes. Yes, I want the hormones." He gave me this great big grin, and signed it over to me. I filled it out that evening. That night, before, bed, I looked at the pills I was about to take. There was still one more chance to back out. I took it, and never looked back.

Does Allison represent a person that should have given it more thought then?

Kinda sorta. Allison should have given it more thought, yes. But in the end, her problems ran deeper than she understood, and she fixated on a solution that didn't address the core problems...and in fact, became a problem of its own. She should have thought about it more, yes, but she didn't really
understand what her problem was to begin with.

>Is this the kind of thing that counselors and therapists (whether gatekeepers or not) can truly help someone figure out? Or does this have to come entirely from within one’s self? I always figured if there was one advantage of [the DSM, Gatekeepers, etc…] it would be to help people make sure they were going down the right path FOR THEMSELVES.

In the end, it's your decision - whether it's a triumph or a mistake. While I don't think therapists and counselors should be giving permission to transition I highly recommend this kind of therapy.  Not so much to ask for permission, but to gain your own insights into the why and how of what you're doing. If you're doing your transition for the wrong reasons, I don't believe a therapist should be able to say
"No, you can't have the surgery." A therapist should be able to show you why it's not a good idea so you can say to yourself "This is not a good idea." On the other hand, if you do it anyways, and it's a bad idea, you can't say "My therapist made me do this."

This also has the awesome side effect of transitioning and saying "Hey, my transition was the right thing to do, and I decided it myself!" and taking all the credit no matter what your therapist says, good or bad.

OK… And this is totally a cisgendered person’s ignorance here.. Is Allison NOT really trans then? Or is she trans- but would have preferred to remain non-op, sans HRT? (Or is he tarns and was she just not prepared for the totallity of the change?) (Or should I stop guessing and just let you answer the
question? LOL)

I first came up with the idea for Closetspace in the early 90s, as a kind of way to help me understand what, at the time, I thought was the female-transgender spectrum. We had Carrie, who, like me, was transgendered. She wanted to be a woman, live as a woman, have the surgery, and move on with life as a woman. The prototype of Heidi was someone who crossdressed for sexual release, a fetishist. Victoria was a drag queen. Not part of the transgender spectrum as we know it now, but as the story grew, she became pretty integral to the plot. Becky was our control group – a woman born woman who wants to stay a woman. 

Allison, however, was just a cross-dresser with no real want for surgery, but to live as a woman anyways. In the original plot, Allison's problem was she didn't know if she wanted the surgery or not, and was thinking about it and how it would affect her life. In the current plot - she made the decision and it was the wrong one. She didn't expect she'd be giving up so much of her identity as she ended up giving, and in the end it made her someone she didn't want to be, which we will go more into as her plot progresses. If she wasn't transgendered before her surgery, she is now.

How common is that amongst transgendered people?

I know more than a few who regret their surgeries. But I know many, many, MANY more who are quite happy in their transitions and live the lives they've chosen happily.

Do you have any regrets yourself?

Not at all. My only real regret is I've never been able to afford my own surgery.

Now, the other night, you castigated me a bit (rightly so) for stereotyping all of Texas as the RW caricature that it’s often thought of in Liberal politics as. Obviously, as YOU live in Texas, they can’t ALL be that way! But despite strong public efforts to “Keep Austin weird,” I still submit that Texas hardly qualifies as a bastion of enlightenment: No Gay Marriage, no LGBT Anti-Discrimination laws outside of Austin and San Antonio. And, as you said the other night, a strong propensity to vote Republican almost completely regardless of how they feel about they feel about the issues and the candidates. And don’t get me started on how badly their fucking up the rest of the nation’s school textbooks!

So, first off, what the hell made you want to move back to Texas?! LOL ;)

I was born and raised in San Antonio. I share a deep love for the Hill Country and the amazing history behind it colonization. This has been, and always will be, my home. And no matter where I have moved, I always find myself wanting to go back, to be home. It's where my heart is.  Be it ever so fucked up, there's no place like home.

I can certainly understand that. Second of all... OK, I get that it’s one thing to bash it yourself and another thing for an outsider to, so if a Liberal like me were to go there, what would surprise the most about the gun-toting Lone-Star State?

What nearly everyone I bring to Texas notices: We're friendly. We're amazingly, genuinely friendly. That man walking down the street in his cowboy boots and ten gallon hat that voted Republican in the last general election may have a gun hidden under his duster...but if you smile at him, he will smile back at you.

I recently took a friend through the entire Hill Country, from Austin all the way to Rocksprings and San Antonio all the way to Lake Buchanan. I showed her the ghost towns, the big cities, but mostly the people. And to our credit, we showed her exactly the good-natured, tolerant, friendly people we can be.
Well, with one exception. But high school kids are jerks all around the country.

Yes, yes they are! So, if I can wallow in stereotype just a moment longer, do you own a gun?

I own a Wii Zapper, but never use it cause it's too clunky.  Plus, I only have one game that uses it.

LOL. *spits  out drink* Okaaay… *shakes head* That’s funny. But, in all seriousness, have you ever thought about it? Maybe due to fear of anti-LBGT violence?

While I wouldn't call myself pro-gun, I'm not anti-gun. I'm pro-gun education.

I see a lot of people who post things after every tragedy that say "If I had a gun, that tragedy would never have happened." No, it likely would have been worse, as now you have two instruments capable of killing everyone in the room, and everyone in between in a crossfire. My father taught me at a very young age how to hunt with a rifle, and the education he gave me on it should be given to every single person who wants to own a gun. While I will get one if I feel I need one, I don't have a gun - for EXACTLY what my father taught me: Guns are not toys. They are tools. And a tool for killing. When you point a gun at someone, you can kill that person and anyone else in the range of that bullet, no matter what your aim is. And that's not something you want on your head, justified or not. I will get one if I ever feel I cannot defend myself without out one.  But I've never felt I needed a gun to protect myself.

Now you mentioned being a Left-Wing Liberal in Texas, but having been in Seattle, the people there took you for a… Conservative Democrat? Right-Wing Liberal? I’m curious about some of the issues that would have separated you so much from the pot smokers your Liberal brethren up in Washington?

The joke is: "In Texas, I'm a left-wing liberal. In Seattle, a left-leaning conservative. In Canada, I'm a fascist." The moral of the story is that all politics are local. 

…As one of my favorites, Tip O’Niell, was always fond of saying.

I tend to have a bit of a thing about personal responsibility, though, which gets me pegged as a conservative outside Texas.  When I drive, I wear my seat belt. I don't believe seat belt laws should be mandatory. I used to like to bike ride, but I stopped when helmet laws became mandatory.  I love bike riding, but don't like things enclosing my head (I hate all hats and helmets). As it's the law, I simply stopped biking, although I feel it should be on my head if I don't wear one and have an accident. No pun intended.

Still, I take it that you don’t tend to vote Republican, yes?

I don't vote by party. I will always vote for choice over voting for restrictions, so my vote usually skews leftist. But I find straight ticket voting left-or-right to be an uneducated vote. I vote for who I find offers the most choice. I voted for Barack Obama (I would rather have had Hillary Clinton, but there you are), I'll vote for Wendy Davis come November. In the next election, I'll vote for the one who offers the most choice.

Ah, the doctrine of choice. I can certainly get down with that. ;)

Ok, the other night, you mentioned that you didn’t believe there was a “right way” to be trans, relative to surgeries, hormones, presentation, stealth vs. out, etc… And this seems to be the running theme amongst the (admittedly very few) trans folk I’ve spoken to: Both Christian Beranek and Christine Smith said about the same thing and Evelyn Poor parodies the idea of having to be a “reel womyn” brilliantly over in Trans-Girl Diaries. So… from my very limited perspective, it appears to be a pretty mainstream viewpoint. (With my whopping sample size of FOUR!) But… Where then does the pressure to conform to all of this come from? How does a person get from rejecting the societally ingrained idea that gender has to equal sex, to the idea of FORCING their ideas of Gender Conformity onto everyone who rejects society’s dogma? Is the trans community really this divided about what it means (or TAKES) to be “truly” trans, or are we just hearing from an extremely vocal and perhaps disproportionately represented minority? What’s your take on this?

I find that we're on the edge of a massive paradigm shift in how we view gender. Just a few years ago, we didn't separate sex-assignment and gender. Now, we do. Imagine a rock tossed into a pool. Drops in, and ripples form and spread to the edges of a lake. Now...in the center of those ripples, where the rock went in. That's us. Those are the folks who realize that sex, gender, presentation are all separate things, and that, in general, you should just be comfy in the skin you're in. The majority of society is outside that ripple. They saw the rock go into the lake, they see the ripple coming towards them, but it hasn't hit them yet, so it's not really important yet - or, worse, they see the ripple as an impending threat.

Young trans-folk, born outside the ripple, are born into that paradigm of "Girls are X and Boys are Y." So society tells them, "Well, if you want to be a woman, you're going to have to be the woman society wants you to be" and the conformity, basically peer pressure, starts getting pushed on people. So you have society, and even some trans-folks saying "You're not woman enough, go back to the drawing board" because the ripple hasn't hit their part of the country, or their mindsets.  They don't realize yet that it's okay to "Just Be Yourself" versus "Be the stereotypical woman."

And sometimes, it's hard to un-grain yourself from something so ingrained. To be honest, when I think of a "Cis - Assigned Female At birth" my brain translates that as "Genetic Girl" which was the term used back in the 80s. Also, heavily frowned upon.

Do you think that someone who passes should have an obligation to be “out,” either for the benefit of their SO, or for the trans-movement as a whole?

I don't feel they have an obligation to out themselves. If I could pass well enough to go stealth, I would. But I can't, so, if the world is going to see me as a man-in-a-dress, I'm going to be the man-in-a-dress that teaches them what a transperson really is. I would love it if stealth folk would out themselves and help us, since the public image of us is not very flattering...but if they don't want to, and can live the life they always wanted, I wouldn't endanger that for them.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the Human Rights Campaign from the Trans community, that they’ve been consistently thrown under the bus for the sake of the LGB part of the movement. Do you think this is a fair assessment? What’s your take on this?

I think it's a very, very fair assessment. The HRC has repeatedly shown they hold us in a very low regard when it comes to human rights, and have used us as a bargaining chip ("Hey, will you push this legislation if we at least remove the trannies?") in order to get their victories. Chad Griffin of the HRC has recently apologized for this behavior. His apology is noted, but I'll accept the HRC's apology when I see real action.

Do you think LGBT is even an appropriate grouping, given that gender and sexuality, while related, are not the same thing? Or is the group defined by having common enemies than it is by common goals?

I feel we belong in there specifically because of our gender issues. Consider: A man who loves a male bodied person is considered gay. A woman who loves a female bodied person is considered a lesbian. What about a woman, born male, who loves a female bodied person. Or vice versa? Is that gay? Is it straight? Both? None? It’s something to be considered alongside the LGB in the spectrum.

If there was one thing you wanted cisgender people to know or understand about transgendered people, what would that be?

We just want to live the lives we want to live. Trust me - if you let us do that, society will not collapse, god will not send hurricanes or earthquakes in our names, and bathrooms stalls wont' be a place of terror for anyone. In fact, I think we'll be happier over all because everyone will be out of everyone else's business. And if you're not okay with that, if you feel society is better off without us, that's okay, too - because, in the end, our acceptance is going to happen with or without you on board.

OK, the classic hypothetical: If, back at the beginning of it all, Morpheus offered you two pills, one would completely “cure” your dysphoria, effectively making you a cisgendered male, the other would make you into the woman that you’d have been were it not for that “one tiny chromosome” (as Carrie so aptly put it that time on the beach) which pill would you take? (Or would take neither?)

So, you want me to take the blue pill or the pink pill, eh? If I had my druthers, and could take a pill that would make me either a happy male, or happy female, I gotta go with the pink pill. I am who I am today because I'm a woman. And I'd like the carpet to match the drapes.

How do you explain to people that being Trans (or Gay for that matter) is not a CHOICE?

My "choice" led me to be estranged from my family for twenty years, spend a couple of days living in a storm drain, given me more brushes with the law than I'd like, had me screamed out of bathrooms, had me fired from jobs. If I could choose, I'd choose not to have any of that to happen. But in choosing to deny my inner peace in exchange for outer peace, I deny who I am. As another great philosopher once said:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

I certainly can’t argue with that! Jenn, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. Jen Dolari is the creator of Closetspace and A Wish for Wings, which can be found on dolari.net. If you’d like to support these comics, you can find her Patreon account at: patreon.com/dolari. She also live streams many of the comics, so follow her on Facebook if you’re interested in seeing that.

No comments:

Post a Comment