“TRANSforming” a Good Model and a Good Pun

The first thing that came to mind when reading this article was my experience with queer representation and inclusion in library spaces. I’m a big user of public libraries, in middle school and high school I spent most afternoons at branches of the Seattle Public Library. Walking up to the teen section and seeing a display of LGBTQ+ books had a big impact on me. Being able to checkout and read books about queer people helped me realize my queer identity and eventually come out. The majority of the books available were about gay men which is a bit disappointing, looking back, but at least there was some representation. Libraries including queer material can make users feel actively included. This summer when I was working in Juneau, AK, I went to the public library there, and much to my surprise there was a display of LGBTQ+ books out for Pride month. Not only did I get to read a really good anthology of queer short stories by Alaskan authors, but I also felt included in the library space. While these are just a few examples of libraries promoting queer books, there is still a long way to go for libraries acquiring and promoting queer content, and trans content in particular.

In “TRANSforming Spaces” Hatfield argues that trans webcomics and the online communities that surround them can be used as a model for trans involvement and representation in libraries. Using Rain and Mahou Shonen FIGHT! as examples Hatfield explains how complex trans identities can be represented in comics. The article also focuses of the fandom communities that surround these comics and how people are able to comment and even participate in the comics by deciding how the plot will progress. This brings together trans readers and allies to form supportive communities based on common interests. Hatfield emphasizes participation as a great strength of webcomics that should transfer to archive spaces.

I agree with Hatfield’s conclusions about the power expanding the model of these trans webcomics to other spaces, but I think that it could go a step further. The elements that Hatfield emphasizes are not just good values and behaviors for library spaces – but are actually just things that make positive and trans-inclusive community spaces and institutions in general. Hatfield mentions the importance of emotional investment, which, I would argue, it’s a goal we should work for across different spaces. Similarly, convergent culture, where content flows across a variety of media is an important tool in community building. Whether it is a Facebook group or a Snapchat filter, or an entire website, these other forms of media can serve to enhance and support existing communities. Being able to participate and have a voice is essential to forming a community. We need to think about how we can actively include trans voices in all spaces, from queer organizations, to businesses, to academic institution. I realize that this is calling for larger change than what the article is referring to, but I think that we need larger change, even if it just starts in smaller places like library and archive collections.

Yet again my reader response is a kinda all over the place and not focused on relating this text to our webcomics in particular, sorry!

Here‘s a “Oh Hey, It’s Alyssa” comic I particularly enjoyed. Though, let’s be real, I freaking loved all of them …I may or may not have procrastinated from doing other work by reading them all.

6 thoughts on ““TRANSforming” a Good Model and a Good Pun

  1. casperca

    I think it’s cool how you could relate this to your experience and have that perspective while reading this. I also really appreciated that you mentioned how Hatfield’s idea could go even further to extent to all public institutions. It’s important to feel safe everywhere.

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  2. langfocr

    I agree that while the world of web comics is great, it’s important to spread outside of them as well. Another reason for this, in addition to the ones you listed, is that web comics cannot financially support their creators. It must put a strain on artists to publish these comics on a set schedule, at the same time that they are financially supporting themselves. Some have sponsors, I believe, but there must be many who do not. Another benefit of LGBTQ dialogue and community finding a voice in various established institutions is that, if the queer internet comic came to be a widely accepted and respected medium, more artists could find a way to do their creative work as a job.

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  3. waldaumt

    Thank you for sharing, Willa! I’m so glad you were able to find solace in queer literature. I have always been drawn to visuals. As someone that has a dedication to creating diverse visual media, I was thinking about the power of representation in words versus images. Images aren’t always enough to convey the inner turmoil that is reconciling your identity. Visibility is not an act of social justice in of itself. It requires a commitment to the voices and stories, as Hatfield points out.

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  4. hunter

    I like how you talk about “Being able to participate and have a voice is essential to forming a community.” This concept speaks to the need for representation that Hatfield argues and shows how voices and experiences are our most powerful tools for change. Thank you for sharing your story- I loved reading about your own personal experience with public spaces and representation.

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  5. drinkwca

    It’s really cool that you mentioned the power that a display in a library can have on you! I have not before thought about the importance of highlighting lesser known novels and genres but you make it clear that these can have a major impact on the community. I definitely thought about how Penrose has been really good about highlighting different identities through book displays and clearly these can have a great impact!

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