Cartoon: Intellectual Excuses for Misgendering


Important note: If you want to just say “nice job!” or talk about the drawing or Matt Walsh or “Agents of Shield” or “Unbelievable” or whatever, you can comment in this thread.

But if you want to argue with the point of the cartoon – if you want to argue that misgendering is ever okay – then that’s not allowed in this thread. And really, consider not making the argument at all. But if you must, take it to the mint garden.


Help me make more cartoons like this one by supporting my Patreon! A $1 or $2 pledge really helps.


The dude here is based on the very popular right-wing columnist Matt Walsh – but also on dozens of others I’ve seen, trying to make being cruel to trans people sound like a high  virtue instead of just them being mean.

It’s not something I have a lot of patience for anymore, and this strip reflects that.


This strip, and also the previous strip (“Ten Reasons We Won’t Abolish I.C.E.”) were drawn to the first two seasons of the TV show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Somehow light adventure TV shows are just right for drawing to – they’re simple enough to follow while only paying half attention, likable without being so absorbing I get diverted from drawing, have season-long plots, and there’s lots and lots of episodes to listen to. (Prior to “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” I drew to all the seasons of “Supergirl.” Oddly, both shows are to a great extent about immigration issues – do we fear immigrants or welcome them?).

What’s not good to draw to is truly great, stellar TV. I recently watched all of the Netflix series “Unbelievable,” and it was one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen – certainly the best detective show I’ve ever seen – and I doubt I would have gotten a line drawn during it if I’d tried. If you’re in the market for a feminist detective show based on true events, I highly recommend it. (Content warning: The villain of the series is a serial rapist).


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, plus a tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip. Each of the four panels shows a man and a woman walking through a hilly park; she is walking away from him, looking annoyed, and he’s following, lecturing pretentiously.

He is wearing a yellow dress shirt, collar open, and has a beard and rectangular glasses. She is wearing a dim orange dress, with a thick belt and a headband.

PANEL 1

He’s talking and holding up one forefinger in a “I’m making an important point” way.

MAN: I will NOT use your “preferred pronouns.” The reality is, you’re a man. That means “he” and “him.”

PANEL 2

The “camera” has zoomed in to a closer shot of the man (we really only see the back of the woman’s head in this panel). The man is now speechifying, one palm on his chest and the other hand raised a bit, and looking solemn and pretentious.

MAN: Anything else is a LIE. And you can lie to yourself all you want, but you cannot force ME to lie on your behalf. I’m morally and ethically obligated to tell the truth, regardless of how that makes you feel.

PANEL 3

The “camera” has zoomed out to a more distant shot of them walking through the park. She’s still in front, not turning back to look at the man. There are a few trees in the background, and a wooden picnic table in the foreground.

MAN: It’s not my goal to hurt you. But I have principles. I value truth. You understand what I’m saying?

WOMAN: I do.

PANEL 4

She walks forward, still not turning; behind her, the man has stopped walking, and looks a bit startled.

WOMAN: You’re saying you’re a gigantic asshole.

KICKER PANEL

The bearded man from the first four panels is talking cheerfully to Barry (the cartoonist); Barry is facepalming.

MAN: What impresses me most about myself is how SUPER rational I am!

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

14 Responses to Cartoon: Intellectual Excuses for Misgendering

  1. 1
    Chris Zable says:

    You have a typo in the image description, first panel; man actually has a beard, not a bear 8^)

    A great strip, and thanks for the link to the mint garden; I hadn’t known about it.

  2. 2
    nobody.really says:

    I dig Panel 2–“Though it fall upon me to be the bearer of bad tidings, I cannot but speak less than the truth–yea, though the heavens fall….” I remember LOVING Amp’s sock puppet cartoon simply for the characters’ expressions; now Amp nails funny expressions all the time.

    That said, somehow the rest of this cartoon isn’t grabbing me. It lacks subtlety, so seems preachy. “You’re saying you’re an asshole” works at a level that “You’re saying you’re a gigantic asshole” doesn’t.

    Likewise, the woman’s annoyance undercuts the humor. I think a deadpan expression would be funnier–though, in a static (non-animated) cartoon, maybe deadpan would not translate as well. (In contrast, deadpan is the bread and butter of The Simpsons.)

    I often think of Amp’s work translated to the stage/screen. (I had already cast Mirka in my mind, but the actors have now outgrown their roles….) Here, I imagine the dialogue between the guy, pontificating, and the woman, preoccupied with … something; grocery shopping, maybe?–that keeps her from making eye contact. He prattles on grandly, while she’s doing practical, tangible things. And when called upon to respond, she does so matter-of-factly, with no affect, as if his grand philosophies do not warrant her full attention because she had grasped and discounted his message after the first ten words.

    One person’s two cents.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Here, I imagine the dialogue between the guy, pontificating, and the woman, preoccupied with … something; grocery shopping, maybe?–that keeps her from making eye contact. He prattles on grandly, while she’s doing practical, tangible things. And when called upon to respond, she does so matter-of-factly, with no affect, as if his grand philosophies do not warrant her full attention because she had grasped and discounted his message after the first ten words.

    Yes, I agree, that would have made the cartoon better. Oh well.

  4. 4
    Grace Annam says:

    Ampersand:

    Yes, I agree, that would have made the cartoon better. Oh well.

    I disagree.

    I agree, just barely, that “gigantic” is probably gilding the lily.

    But for me, a deadpan reaction would make it less true-to-life. Yes, there are trans people who can and do react that way, outwardly. But, and perhaps I’m reading into his post, it seems to me that Nobody may be suggesting that the trans person doesn’t care, or is able to be sufficiently detached about it that she can’t be bothered, like the old joke where someone says, “I’d love to go do a thing with you, but, sadly, just then I’m going to be watching paint dry.”

    And that doesn’t work for me, because it doesn’t embody the “so, this is my life, yet again” feeling I have so often experienced when yet another sententious dipshit tells me that I’m a man and they have to live their truth that I’m a man, because they have integrity… with its implication that I don’t have integrity, that the act of coming out as trans and trying to go about living your life is not one lifelong, difficult act of integrity, for which you pay real prices, routinely, for the rest of your life.

    Except as safety and keeping my job requires, I don’t have time for deadpan and carefree. I have been yanked onto this path far too many times. The very instant someone says, “I will not use your ‘preferred pronouns’”, I’m beyond angry, and with very good reason stemming from lived experience which people like this jerk have viciously forced upon me. I think Amp’s cartoon accurately reflects this reality for many, many trans people.

    Grace

    (Edited to fix formatting tags)

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Grace! I’m really glad you think this cartoon speaks to your experience, and your comment makes me think better of the way I approached it.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    By the way, the specific asshole this cartoon caricatures – Matt Walsh, a right-wing columnist – retweeted me a day or two ago, calling me an idiot. Not about this cartoon, but about a different issue, about a custody fight in which the mom is affirming their seven-year-old trans daughter’s gender (i.e., calling her Luna, calling her a girl, allowing her to choose what to wear), while the father is in denial (forcing her to wear boys’ clothes, for example). Ever since Walsh retweeted me, my twitter mentions have been flooded with transphobes, the worst of whom are calling me a pedophile or saying I’m gonna burn in hell, etc.. It’s been an interesting couple of days there.

    Here’s the thread Walsh retweeted, if anyone’s curious.

  7. 7
    Mandolin says:

    That said, somehow the rest of this cartoon isn’t grabbing me. It lacks subtlety, so seems preachy. “You’re saying you’re an asshole” works at a level that “You’re saying you’re a gigantic asshole” doesn’t.

    Likewise, the woman’s annoyance undercuts the humor. I think a deadpan expression would be funnier–though, in a static (non-animated) cartoon, maybe deadpan would not translate as well. (In contrast, deadpan is the bread and butter of The Simpsons.)

    I agree with this. It doesn’t have to be a deadpan per se, but I think the last line could be funnier by referencing the obnoxious person’s argument in order to prove its absurdity. By his logic, he’s saying not only that he is an asshole but that she has no choice but to call him an asshole.

    While I hear the point that an actual trans person would be pissed and happily say that last line — and ah, should I love to be there if it happened — as a humor piece, I feel like wittiness beyond realism is part of the point.

    The Douglas Adams thing — where he says he is, I think, a humorist and not a wit. A wit can say a devastating thing in the heat of the moment. Douglas Adams had to go home and think about it first, and *then* he’d have the perfect insult.

    We are not always witty, but I have faith that Barry can Douglas Adams.

    Also, I’m not everyone, and this cartoon obviously is working on levels for people, and please ignore my grandiose monologuing unless it is interesting.

    I like the belt; you’ve been upping your fashion game lately, sir.

    (Also I have no specific suggestions for a punchline. :P)

  8. 8
    J. Squid says:

    I really like how the angles of the ground make everything feel tiny and constricted. Like maybe it’s happening on the Planet of the Little Princes (tm, me!).

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    I like the belt; you’ve been upping your fashion game lately, sir.

    Thanks! Becky said something similar. I’m consciously working on that, so it’s nice to hear.

    For me, part of the point of this strip was to say it’s okay not to engage their argument; it’s okay not to put effort into responding; it’s okay to just cut through all that and say “fuck you, asshole” sometimes.

    But yes, in other strips I do at least attempt to do the Douglas Adams thing.

  10. 10
    Chris says:

    Agents of SHIELD and at least the last season of Supergirl are much, much better about having 22-episode serialized arcs without ever seeming like they’re stalling or repeating the same material over and over than most modern superhero shows. It goes to show that the pacing problems affecting the Netflix Marvel shows aren’t because of the number of episodes, but because of bad writing.

    Also, great cartoon.

  11. 11
    nobody.really says:

    For what it’s worth, the conservative religious site First Things just posted a story about the celebrated conservative economist (and Christian) Deirdre McCloskey–and refers to McCloskey as “he” throughout.

  12. 13
    J. Squid says:

    Schmitz evokes exactly the same reaction from me as from the woman in the final panel of this comic. Although, because I’m me and talk like me, the words are, “What a fucking colossal asshole!”

    I now feel confident that the words in the final panel are the correct words for the story.

  13. 14
    Mandolin says:

    Hm. To me the comic reads as if she’s engaging the conversation about what people are called. It reads to me like she’s saying “if we have to call people by what we think is their essence, and ignore their requests, then you may find yourself on the receiving end, my darling.”

    I think I’d like this punchline more in response to a different intellectualizing “talk to me” argument, just because you might be able to foreclose other readings.

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