Diets Don’t Work Therefore You Must Diet

This cartoon, drawn by Becky Hawkins, is a straightforward adaptation of a Michael Hobbes tweet (with Michael’s kind permission).

Michael, for those who don’t know, is a popular podcaster, whose three podcasts (past and present) are You’re Wrong About (a history podcast), If Books Could Kill (about “The airport bestsellers that captured our hearts and ruined our minds”), and Maintenance Phase, a really fun fat acceptance podcast that focuses on debunking anti-fat nonsense. He also writes a great Twitter feed that drives a certain brand of centrist absolutely batshit.

I pretty much imagined panel two as just the doctor talking at the reader. Becky, understandably, thought that would be a bit boring to draw and so decided to do a collage instead. The guiding principle of this collage isn’t “what possible causes of weight gain do Barry and Becky think are the most important” so much as it is “what possible causes of weight gain can Barry and Becky even think of a visual icon for.”

For instance, I personally have doubts about if “food deserts” actually have any connection to weight gain (although they’re still bad for other reasons). But a lot of credentialed experts think there might be something there, so it’s in character for our doctor character to say that, and most importantly, we were able to think of a visual gag for it

I also had fun thinking about what makes a caricature of Freud read as Freud. So away went a sofa and a notepad, and in came a cigar and a triangle beard.

The pamphlet in panel three is 100% Becky, but I really enjoy it.

My favorite art in this cartoon is probably panel four, just because that domestic scene Becky drew is so wholesome and cute. I suspect it’s inspired by Becky’s own life; I know that Becky and her extremely cute partner Naomi really love cooking together.

Becky writes:

This is the first cartoon I’ve drawn entirely in Clip Studio Paint! It’s a big step for me. I don’t like learning new computer programs, but this one has too many comics-specific time-saving art-improving features for me to continue sleeping on it. How much do I dislike learning new computer programs? I once tried a free 90-day Clip Studio Paint trial, couldn’t figure out how to log into the program, and let the entire 90 days run out without opening the dang thing. I finally took an 8-week Zoom class where local cartoonist Jonathan Hill talked a bunch of students through all the basic features of Clip Studio Paint verrry slowly. It was exactly what I needed. I’m excited for one of my ongoing comics gigs to be all-digital!

Barry offered this script to me because he knows I’m a fan of Michael Hobbes. I actually did fanart when he was on You’re Wrong About:


This cartoon has six panels.

Panel 1

A doctor (surgical scrubs, white lab coat, standing in a standard doctor’s examination room and holding a manila folder filled with papers) talks directly to us. He is neatly groomed and very likable and trustworthy looking, with a very friendly expression.

DOCTOR: The way public health experts think about weight is changing! Here’s some things we now all accept:


Although the doctor’s monologue continues, we don’t see him in this panel; instead we see a collage. There’s a desert with a road sign saying “Next Food 1200 Miles”; a DNA helix; a prescription pill bottle with “side effects may include weight gain” on the label; Sigmund Freud, reading a notepad and holding a cigar; and a cupcake.

DOCTOR: People are fat for a wide variety of reasons.


The doctor is holding a pamphlet out to us (which due to foreshortening takes up most of the panel). The pamphlet cover says “BMI: How do YOU compare to a small group of white male Europeans 200 years ago?”

DOCTOR: BMI is an imperfect measure of health.


A couple of happy-looking fat people are cooking; in the foreground, a woman chops onions, while in the background we can see a man flipping the stir-fry in a frying pan like a pancake. In the background, we can see the Doctor on a tablet screen on a shelf.

DOCTOR: Health markers like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol can be improved without weight loss.


A close-up of the tablet, with the Doctor talking on the screen, now with a concerned expression.

DOCTOR: The vast majority of diets fail because people regain weight. Losing and regaining over and over can harm your health.

DOCTOR: And most importantly…


In a contrast to how calm the Doctor has been up to now, he’s now screaming in panic and waving his hands like Kermit the Frog.


Diets Don’t Work Therefore You Must Diet | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Self-Made Billionaire

This feels like a very old-fashioned lefty cartoon to me; it’s super-didactic, reliant on labels, has no real punchline, and it’s less about telling a joke then it is about trying to illustrate a basic principal of lefty economics. Other than the drawing style, it could be a pro-union cartoon from the 1920s. Not my usual approach, and honestly I wouldn’t want to do cartoons this didactic all the time, but an occasional trip outside my usual ballpark can be nice.

The principle being illustrated, of course is that there’s no such thing as a self-made rich person. Rich people may work hard (some of them work incredibly hard, others hardly work at all), but their  work wouldn’t be nearly as profitable – or might be entirely impossible – without the systems and infrastructure around them.

This is even more true when we’re talking about the ultra rich. Even if Elon Musk is smart, well-connected to reality and a hard worker (and if he is any of that is debatable), it would be impossible for him to have been productive enough to earn (“earn” as in “deserve”) 244 billion dollars, which is his net worth as I write this. (Or it’s what Google thinks his net worth is, at least.)

At least Musk didn’t inherit a fortune, like Donald Trump did. And yet, Trump has repeatedly painted himself as a self-made man (give or take a million dollars):

“It has not been easy for me,” Trump, as a presidential candidate, said at a town hall in New Hampshire in October 2015. “I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great.”

According to the Times’ reporting, Fred Trump loaned his son at least $140 million in today’s dollars. Most of it was never repaid.

Man, I feel like spent forever drawing (very very simplistic) dollar bills. I really need to learn how to make specialty brushes that do things like piles of dollar bills.

But the most challenging thing was definitely that “publicly funded infrastructure” panel. I really tried to think of an alterative to illustrating “infrastructure” other than cars on a bridge, but nothing came to mind, and eventually I had to give up and draw this. As I’ve mentioned to y’all perhaps too often, I struggle drawing cars. But this one came out okay. I think drawing the cars so tiny may have helped; it’s harder to freak out over getting any details right when the drawings are this small.


This cartoon has six panels. There’s an enormous main panel, the size of the whole cartoon, and then there are five small “inset” panels floating at different angles on top of the main panel.


The main panel shows a smiling, self-satisfied looking white man, wearing casual-but-nice clothes – a long sleeved short shirt tucked into brown pants, with a light blue suit jacket worn on top. He’s holding the lapels of his jacket as he speaks. The last three words of his dialog are printed in much larger lettering, acting as the title of the comic strip.

He is standing thigh-deep in an enormous pile of green dollar bills (presumably of high denominations, although my drawing isn’t detailed enough to show that). Each of the small panels has dollars pouring out of the panel and falling to join the big money pile at the bottom of the cartoon.



CAPTION: Government Subsidies

A very traditionally-drawn Uncle Sam, grinning, is holding a bucket upside down, and money is pouring out of the bucket.


CAPTION: Inherited Wealth

A baby in a onesie is napping blissfully on a big pile of brown bags with a “$” printed on each bag.


CAPTION: Tax Loopholes

A sort of organic-looking hole tunnels into an abstract surface. Money is shooting out of the hole and falling out of the panel, towards the big money pile.

I originally tried drawing this panel as a more literal loophole, made of thread, but somehow that seemed to illustrate the concept less well than a totally abstract approach.


CAPTION: Publicly Funded Infrastructure

A highway overpass is passing over a lower highway overpass. Cars and trucks are driving on both levels of overpasses, including a large truck with its rear doors open; money is flowing out of the rear doors towards the big money pile.


This is the final inset panel of the cartoon.

CAPTION: Exploited Workers.

Two workers – one wearing a blue vest over a white shirt, and an orange cap, the other wearing a polo shirt and carrying a large cardboard box, look irritated. Money is flying out of their pockets to join the big money pile.

Self-Made Billionaire | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: So Where Are You From?

This cartoon is by Nadine Scholtes and I.


This, or something very like this, is an annoying experience a lot of Asian-Americans seem to have. In a TV interview, Grace Kao, a sociology professor at Yale, explained:

The first question is, you know, where are you from? And for someone like me, I’m chinese-american. Of course the expectation is I say China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or something, but if I say San Francisco, you know, the next question will be, no, really, where are you really from?

And so I — you know, I have to somehow get to Asia because the person asking me the question will not be satisfied until I get to Asia. The other question that will come up is where did you learn to speak English so well?

Now these things seem like they’re minor and just sort of from a place of curiosity, but what they point to is someone like me could never really actually be American, I must be from somewhere else and that I have to sort of help the person who was asking me these questions place me. That sort of establishes us as foreign.


Nadine did her usual terrific job with expressions. And I really like that dress pattern she drew (that’s cartoonistese for, “I’m planning to swipe that dress pattern she drew”).

I’m also amused by the drawing of me Nadine did for the kicker gag, because Nadine (who lives in Luxembourg) has never met me, and I’m not sure that she’s ever seen a photo of me – I suspect she got her (accurate!) impression of what I look like from the kicker panels me and Becky have drawn me in over the years. Having me holding a drink with a slice of lime on the edge was entirely Nadine’s idea.

(Well, accurate except that my beard is much grayer now. As Ruth in The Pirates Of Penzance said, “it gradually got so.”)



This cartoon has four panels. Each of the panels shows the same two youngish (20s or maybe 30s) women chatting at an outdoor party (there are lights strung in the air, and people milling about in the background). Both women are holding drinks. The sky is dark blue with stars faintly showing, indicating early evening.

The first woman is white. She’s wearing a red blouse, glasses, and has fashionably-cut straight hair, a bit long than shoulder length, with bangs. She’s holding a martini glass. Let’s call her “Glasses.”

The second woman looks like she has south Asian heritage. Her hair, also straight and fashionably cut, is parted on one side and ends an inch above her shoulders. She’s wearing a purple dress with a pattern of off-white flecks, and is carrying a brown saddlebag style purse over one shoulder. She’s drinking something out of a plain glass. Let’s call her “Dress.”


Both women smile as they chat.

GLASSES: So where are you from?

DRESS: New York.


Glasses, still smiling and maybe laughing a little, waves one hand in a dismissive manner. Dress is looking away, in a “can I get out of this conversation politely” sort of way.

GLASSES: No, where are you really from?

DRESS: Brooklyn. Look, just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I’m not from America.


An awkward moment. Both women take a sip from their drinks; Glasses looks away a bit, muttering.

GLASSES (small): Oh, right. Sorry…


Smiling big again, Glasses rallies and asks Dress another question. Dress facepalms.

GLASSES: So where’d you learn to speak English so well?


Barry the cartoonist, looking awkward and holding a drink with a slice of lime on the edge of the glass, is being talked at by Glasses, who has an aggrieved expression.

GLASSES: Why is she offended? It was a compliment.


So Where Are You From? | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 2 Comments  

Cartoon: Shoving It Down Our Throats

Welcome to new collaborator R. E. Ryan

R. E. Ryan is a history and comics enthusiast from Portland, Oregon who makes both fiction and nonfiction comics. (Oddly, although he and I live in the same city, we’ve never met outside of email. For all I know he’s my next door neighbor.)

I’m very happy with how this comic looks; if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see more from R.E. sometime. (He says he’s willing, if and when his schedule opens up…)


It’s a common trope, on the right, to complain that “trans activists are shoving their gender ideology down everyone’s throats!” (That the phrase is ugly and implies violence is presumably part of the appeal). And then if you talk to them further it turns out that they’re complaining about something entirely inoffensive, like someone having preferred pronouns or wearing a t-shirt or a trans actor doing a promotion for Bud Light. In effect, many of them are claiming that trans people are “forcing” their ideology onto them merely by existing.

The irony is that many of those transphobes (#NotAllTransphobes) are evangelical Christians – surely the most aggressive group in America for attempting to force their ideology onto other people. 

I’ll be an atheist until God appears before me and pries my atheism out of my cold dead metaphor. But I’m not offended by proselytizing Christians doing any of the things shown in this cartoon (except the fliers do create a lot of litter). But the gall of any ideology that acts like that complaining about other people pushing beliefs is impressive.

I’ve often asked transphobes angry at incredibly inoffensive things – a city hall rewriting a form to be inclusive, an all-gender bathroom being made available, a trans actor having a small part in the Barbie movie – “how does this hurt you?” Generally they fumble around for a bit because, really, they’ve got nothing. 

(It’s legally unimportant, but still telling, that in 303 Creative LLC v Elenis, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a website designer could refuse to design a website for a same-sex wedding, no same-sex couple had asked. They had to make up a conflict since no real one had happened.) 

They say “trans activists are shoving their ideology down my throat” because they’re desperate to think of themselves as victims, when by any reasonable accounting they’re the aggressors.



This cartoon has four panels. The storyline focuses on two women; one with curly brown hair falling down her back, rectangular glasses, and a purple t-shirt which says “Jesus Saves” in large letters. I’ll call her “Curly.” The other woman has straight brown hair, cross-shaped earrings, and is wearing an orange t-shirt which also says “Jesus Saves.” I’ll call her “Straight.”


Straight and Curly are in a parking lot. Curly is cheerfully putting a yellow flier under a car’s windshield wiper, while Straight is holding a small pile of yellow fliers in her hands. We can read the top of a flier over Straight’s shoulder; it has a large heading which says “Jesus is the Answer.” 

STRAIGHT: We’re gonna need more fliers!


On a city sidewalk, a man wearing a hoodie walks stiffly past Curly and Straight, purposely not engaging with them. Straight is wearing a signboard, decorated with flames painted coming up from the bottom, which says “Only JESUS can save you from the Lake of Fire.” She’s holding a flier towards the man walking away from her. Curly is talking to Straight, looking excited and happy, and holding up her smartphone with the screen facing Straight.

STRAIGHT: Excuse me, have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart?

CURLY: Hey, look what just went up!


A close-up of the smartphone screen (we can also see a bit of Curly’s hand holding it). The screen shows a photo of a large billboard, with a central image of Jesus with a halo, and the words “JESUS is coming soon! Are YOU ready?”

STRAIGHT: Wow! Our new billboard looks AMAZING!


Curly and Straight (straight is still wearing her signboard) are standing on the sidewalk, watching a pedestrian walk by. Curly leans to the side to whisper something to Straight.

The pedestrian has pink/purple hair shaved on one side, and is wearing a t-shirt that says “Trans Pride” over an image of a heart in trans flag colors.

CURLY: You know what I hate about trans people? The way they shove their ideology down everybody’s throats!


Shoving It Down Our Throats | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 7 Comments  

Cartoon: Eventually You Gotta Inhale

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In 2020, Helen Pluckrose and I had an online debate over if dieting works. During this debate, I said “Not a single weight-loss model – including long term approaches – has ever been shown to work in a peer-reviewed controlled clinical study.” Helen responded:

It simply isn’t possible that people ate fewer calories than they burned and got fat or that got slim and then ate the same number of calories that they burned and got fat. Fat needs to be built or maintained with calories.

To which I replied:

Of course if someone eats little enough, they will lose weight. And if they keep eating little enough forever – which may require eating even less than when the diet began, as their body attempts to regain the weight – they can keep the weight off.

In this extremely superficial sense, it’s true that all fat people can diet their way to no longer being fat.

But that’s sidestepping the real question: Can a typical human voluntarily reduce food intake enough to cause a large loss of weight, not just for a few months or years, but for a lifetime? Not just in theory, but in practice? Study after study has shown that the overwhelming majority of us cannot.

Helen’s argument is one I’ve seen made at least a hundred times – albeit almost always far less politely said. (“So you’re saying the fat acceptance movement are idiots who don’t believe in the first law of thermodynamics” is a more typical way they put it.)

But rudely or politely put, it’s the same miscommunication – when fat acceptance folks say “diets don’t work,” we mean that our brains won’t allow us to diet forever, but they think we’re talking about physics.

When I encounter the same argument over and over, I often wish I just had something I could paste in that explains it, rather than having to explain it over and over. I’m hoping this cartoon will be useful, for me and for other fat acceptance folks, in exactly that way.

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The challenge and the fun in drawing this was, as you’d expect, the sequence of expressions from panel four through panel eight, showing the character’s increasingly desperate attempt to hold her breathe. It’s so nice being a cartooney cartoonist; I think it would be harder for someone with a realistic drawing style to pull off.

The challenge in writing this strip was fitting it all in! I edited again and again, trying to cut the words down while maintaining clarity and – hopefully – not draining the dialog of all personality and life. I still ended up having to do panels with as many as 30 words, which is both not many words at all and more words than I’d prefer to use.  (To give you a sense of how not-long 30 words is, the sentence “I still ended up having to do panels with as many as 30 words, which is both not many words at all and more words than I’d prefer to use” is 30 words long).

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This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a three by three grid. The cartoon has two characters. The first character is a fat woman with a pixie haircut and glasses, wearing a polka dot shirt and a skirt. Let’s call her “DOT.”

(I don’t know if I’ve EVER seen anyone in real life wear a polka-dot shirt, but Bill Watterson sometimes drew adult characters in polka-dot shirts, and as longtime readers know it’s my firm opinion that if Watterson did it then it by definition is good cartooning).

The second character is a thin character with curly hair, wearing a button-up shirt with large black buttons. Let’s call her CURLY.


Dot has her hands raised – open hands facing inward, a tiny bit above elbow height, which is so much the go-to for cartoonists trying to show a character explaining something that the cartoonist Joe Matt once drew this pose with a caption arrow pointing towards the hands saying  “Good ol’ explaining hands.” Curly is cheerful and smiling, and holding one hand out with palm down in a dismissive gesture.

DOT: DIETS DON’T WORK! Studies show that for nearly everyone the weight comes back.

CURLY: Nonsense! Eat less and you’ll lose weight! That’s physics!


Dot continues explaining, now using a pointing finger, while Curly eagerly leans forward, hands clasping each other, and her eyes replaced with dollar signs.

DOT: While I reply, could you hold your breath? I’ll pay you $1000 if you do it till you faint!

CURLY: $1000? Okay!


Dot continues explaining; Curly is holding her breath and looking confident.

DOT: Physics says you can do it… if you don’t breathe in, oxygen can’t get to your system, and you’ll pass out.


A close-up of Curly, still smiling, with her cheeks puffed out, but her eyes are widening. Dot speaks from off-panel for this and the following three panels.

DOT: But this is about biology, not physics. Right now, your brain is sending chemical signals to your body saying “inhale!”


Curly is still smiling, but she’s obviously straining a bit to keep holding her breath.

DOT: The same thing happens when you diet. The brain thinks you’re starving and sends out signals saying “you’re hungry! EAT!” It’ll send those signals for years if it has to.


Curly isn’t smiling and doesn’t look confident. She’s still holding her breath, but has balled her hands into fists and is trembling.

DOT: The brain also releases hormones to make your body hold onto more fat. we evolved that way to get through famines.


Curly has her hands on her cheeks now, and is trembling a lot more, and her eyes are huge and almost popping out.

DOT: And a tiny fraction of people lose weight forever! But for most people, no matter how much willpower they’ve got, eventually…


In the foreground, Dot looks – let’s face it – a bit smug as she smiles. The panel is mainly taken up by Curly, who has opened her mouth hugely and is gasping. A huge sound effect, drawn so that the letters are converging towards Curly’s open mouth, says “GASP.”


Dot is back to explaining hands, but with one forefinger pointed up. Curly has turned her back on Dot, arms folded, and has a sour grapes expression.

DOT: THAT’S biology! See my point?

CURLY: Screw THIS! I’m getting a lung bypass!

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Eventually You Gotta Inhale | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | 17 Comments  

MORE Things To Stop Telling Autistic People

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Almost a year ago, I posted the cartoon “Things To Stop Saying To Autistic People,” drawn by Becky. Becky and I were both pleased with how it came up, and there is, alas, tons of material there. So, have a sequel!

It’s funny how the first panel of this cartoon is almost a continuation of the last panel of the previous cartoon. That wasn’t on purpose, but I like it.

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Becky’s comments:

This was a fun “draw 8 different assholes” challenge. I kept the first “things not to say to autistic people” cartoon open so that I wouldn’t accidentally repeat a character design or pose. I aimed for a variety of ages and races, but now that I look at it, everyone’s pretty gender normie in this one. As usual, I scrolled on social media a bit for inspiration. The “You must be high-functioning” woman was based on someone in a workout video ad. I snuck a Melissa Schemmenti sitting in the subway background looking at her phone.

I especially enjoyed cramming the subway panel with all the potential sensory nightmares (crowds, chili dog, crying baby, SOMEONE’S SHOES ATTACHED TO THEIR PACKPACK RIGHT AT EYE LEVEL, EWW). Not to be the person who always has to mention they’ve lived in New York, but…

Incidentally, I think the grossest thing I saw on the subway was a weekend-night drunk DIY ear piercing. I’ll never look at a subway handrail the same way again.

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This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a three-by-three grid. Each panel shows a different person speaking to the reader.

The exception is the central panel, which has the words “MORE THINGS TO STOP TELLING AUTISTIC PEOPLE” written in large, friendly lettering.


A woman wearing a blue shirt and librarian glasses, with her hair in a bun, is leaning down to talk to us (i.e., we’re in a child’s perspective). We can see from the background that this is a classroom for small children.

WOMAN: If you’d just act normal you wouldn’t GET bullied.


A man with freckles speaks to us with a dubious expression on his face and his arms folded.

MAN: You’re ALLOWED to drive?


An older woman, wide-eyed with white hair pushed high on her head by a wrap, speaks to us, a concerned expression on her face.

WOMAN: You must be VERY high functioning.


A cheerful woman wearing a button-up sweater open over a shirt shrugs.

WOMAN: Isn’t EVERYONE a little autistic?


This is the central panel; there’s nothing in it but the title of the strip, “More Things To Stop Telling Autistic People,” in large letters.


This panel shows the inside of a crowded subway car. There’s a lot of people; there’s a screaming baby, there’s a hot dog with scent lines coming off it, there’s a grumpy child with a spiked turtle shell backpack, and mainly there’s just a ton of people packed shoulder-to-shoulder. A bald man with a hip little chin beard holds on to a ceiling strap with one hand as he speaks to us, smiling.

MAN: Just don’t LET it bother you.


An older woman, with white hair flowing down onto her shoulders, puts a finger on her chin as she speaks cheerily to us. In the background, we can see a dreamcatcher hanging on the wall, near a poster of a wolf howling in front of a full moon, and a big candle shaped like a headless Venus of Willendorf statue, with the wick coming out of the neck. (Becky: “Inspired by a candle I saw at People’s Food Co-op.”)

WOMAN: I bet YOU were vaccinated as a child, right?


An older man, bald and wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt, grins at us.

MAN: You’re autistic? COOL! Quick, what’s 241 times 672.5?


A man speaks with great intensity, his face looming so close in the panel that the bottom and top of his head are out of panel. He has wide, staring eyes.

MAN: I can’t trust anyone who won’t look me in the EYES.

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More Things To Stop Telling Autistic People | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Disability Issues, Disabled Rights & Issues | 2 Comments  

Cartoon: Gender Affirming Care Is Evil Except When It’s Not

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Welcome back to still-new-but-slightly-less-new-now collaborator Nadine Scholtes. I’m happy to say we’ll be seeing more of Nadine’s work here.

Lettering panel one was a challenge because there was no place I could put three balloons that wouldn’t cover up some background detail I really liked. “I can’t put it there, I like that hole in the tree trunk… but I can’t cover up that park bench… but…”

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Justin T. Brown, in an autobiographical essay with the very descriptive title “When I started growing breasts as a teen boy, I got gender-affirming care without stigma,” writes:

When I confided in my conservative dad about what was happening, I was about 15. He saw how much this was holding me back, and we immediately went to a plastic surgeon for a consultation. A quick procedure and a few weeks of wearing an ace bandage later, I was flat-chested and finally had a body that looked like mine….

It was straightforward: I’m a dude, I was born a dude, I want to be a dude, and having breasts didn’t align with that for me. They needed to go for me to live a fuller life. 

Here’s what I know for sure, had I been trans and seeking the same surgery, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have been as easy as it was for me — 20 years ago in rural Maine or today.

Vic Parsons, a writer and trans man, writes about the same double-standard:

When I wanted to try taking testosterone, I first had to go to my GP for a referral that meant I then spent several years on an NHS gender clinic waiting list. Finally I had two hours-long appointments, one with a social worker and one with a clinical psychologist, discussing everything from my childhood to my sex life to my mental health. I received the precious diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which permits me to obtain gender-affirming hormones and surgery. Then, finally, I was prescribed testosterone gel.

…As a cis man, my GP could order a blood test and, if my testosterone levels were low, send me to a specialist (after a wait of weeks, rather than years) who could prescribe me testosterone gel. Note: no several years spent waiting, and no need to obtain a clinical diagnosis to prove myself.

In both cases, testosterone gel is being used as a gender-affirming treatment. But the way the same medication is prescribed is hugely different.

We see this double standard play out in the popular debate over and over. Puberty delaying drugs, aka GnRH agonists, have been prescribed to cis children with precocious puberty for decades without controversy; no medicine is entirely risk-free, but GnRH agonists are low-risk and can greatly improve the course of a child’s life by delaying puberty. But once it became known GnRH agonists were being prescribed to trans kids, famous writers and elected politicians are equating them with Nazi experimentation. It’s appalling. Cis kids and adults should have the same access to medicine that trans kids and adults do – and the decision should be one made by the patient with their parents and doctors, not right-wing jackasses on Fox.

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This cartoon has four panels. Each of them shows the same two characters walking through a park. The character on the left has a gender-ambiguous look, with short hair on the sides and a big puff on top, glasses, jeans, and a purple plaid flannel shirt open over a blue t-shirt. We’ll call them “Flannel.”

The character on the right is a guy, has short, neat hair, and is wearing a thick zip-up hoodie over a white t-shirt. We’ll call him “Hoodie.”


The two are walking along a paved footpath through a park, Hoodie in front. Both of them are calm.

HOODIE: So-called “gender affirming care” is an atrocity!

FLANNEL: So a cis girl with PCOS shouldn’t get medicine to reduce facial hair?

HOODIE: I don’t mean that.


A closer shot from the front; the two are still walking along without facing each other (Hoodie’s back is to Flannel), and still calm.

FLANNEL: Are you against breast reduction surgery for cis boys with gynecomastia?



The same scene as they walk on.

FLANNEL: Cis women getting laser hair removal? Cis men taking testosterone? Boob jobs for cis teens? Rogaine and Viagra for cis men?

HOODIE: All those are fine.


Hoodie suddenly turns around, leaning forward, angry and yelling; Flannel, surprised, leans back.

FLANNEL: How about when a trans person–


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Gender Affirming Care: Evil Except When It’s Not | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Sex & Gender, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: 5 Things Congress Says When It Plans To Cut Social Security | Patreon

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Drawing five random characters (or semi-random, in this case, since they all had to be plausibly the sort of person who could be in Congress and seeking to cut Social Security) is always fun.

In this case, to make them different looking and also for my own entertainment. I used different base shapes for their skulls; panel two guy has a tube-shaped skull, panel three a sphere, panel four a triangle, panel five an oval, and panel six a rectangle. If I don’t think about it I tend to default to giving all characters a spherical head, but it’s nice to switch it up.

The challenge here was drawing the Capitol Building in the background of panel seven. I could have done a more impressive-looking drawing, with less effort, by tracing a photo, but I was determined to draw the building freehand.

I have to confess, the results aren’t my best drawing ever, but I’m pretty confident that it’s recognizably the Capitol Building, or at least recognizably “some big government building,” which is all that’s required for the storytelling to work.

(I do think my ability to draw buildings without relying on tracing has been improving, but it’s a slow process).

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One thing that isn’t in this cartoon, but maybe I’ll do a future cartoon about it, because it really pisses me off:

Politicians can only get away with code phrases for “we want to cut Social Security” – such as “raise the retirement age” – only when news media allows it. And the media shouldn’t allow it, ever, from politicians of either party. These code phrases should be translated to “cutting Social Security,” not five or ten paragraphs deep in the story, but in the headline.

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This cartoon has seven panels. The first six panels are a two-by-three grid taking up the left half of the cartoon; the seventh panel takes up the entire right half of the cartoon.


This panel is empty except for the title of the cartoon, printed in large, friendly looking letters. 



A red haired man wearing a brown suit, and a dark tie with red dots, is speaking directly to the reader, looking a little anxious.

MAN: Cuts? NEVER! We only want to… er… “raise the retirement age.”


A smiling man, wearing a suit with a red striped tie, worries his hands in front of his chin as he talks to the reader. 

MAN: We’ll just take billions out of Social Security funds to play the stock market! What could POSSIBLY go wrong?


A man with a salesman’s grin, wearing a cream-colored jacket over a light blue shirt and red tie, holds his lapels as he talks to the reader.

MAN: Social Security should “sunset” every five years unless Congress re-passes it. (Sunsets can’t be bad! They’re so pretty!)


A well-dressed woman wearing a red jacket over a v-neck gray blouse is looking a bit up into the air as she searches for the right word. Her expression is uncertain.

WOMAN: Overhaul! Wait that sounds bad… Reform! No… um…


An older man, but still quite strong looking, has white hair parted on one side and is wearing a white button down shirt with a black necktie. He has a stern expression as he speaks to the reader.

MAN: Our debt limit plan won’t cut Social Security! It’ll just force Social Security cuts. That’s totally different!


This panel has a large caption at the top, in the same font as panel one, which says:


The red-haired man from panel two is back, talking directly to the reader and making a chopping motion with one hand. His expression is stern. Behind him we can see the U.S. Capitol Building (although the Statue of Freedom on top of the building has been replaced by a statue of Woodstock from Peanuts).

MAN: We plan to cut Social Security.

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5 Things Congress Says When It Plans To Cut Social Security | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: The Time Before Gender Ideology

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This cartoon is drawn by my so-frequent-we-call-each-other-comics-spouses collaborator Becky Hawkins, who writes:

This cartoon combines two of my favorite things: period settings and making fun of gender norms!

I had a blast (and took a trip down memory lane) looking for details that would place the reader in each location and time. I remembered a second-grade classmate’s WWF shirt, a Lisa Frank poster, and raiding my mom’s closet for dress-up items. I also remembered that if you’re a kid and don’t know that a slip is underclothing, it looks like a fancy lacy dress.

Here’s a combination of Barry’s script, my commentary, and our gChat conversations:

Panel 1: Colors for 1-3 are in sepia, like century-old photos (unless you don’t like that idea), but fashions and cultural stuff are from the 60s-80s.

I did not like that idea. As the clothing styles of my childhood and teen years swing back into fashion and my eyeballs are confronted with colors that I swear I haven’t seen in decades, I’ve become aware of how strongly colors can evoke a time period. I wanted to lean into that.

Barry’s script didn’t specify that the kids were dressing up in adult clothes, but that’s the activity that came to mind. These could be grandma’s clothes or mom’s pre-motherhood clothes that she doesn’t want to get rid of. Either way, they feel fancy and exotic to the kids. I tried to go hard on 1960s carpeting and wallpaper, and more 1940s with the pillbox hat, gloves, belted dress, and handbag.

From Barry’s script:

Panel 2: A girl being confronted by two other girls. Might be a playground or a park. One of them has a “pac-woman” lunchbox or shirt.

Could also be a sleepover in one of the girls’ bedrooms. (Bringing posters and PJ patterns into play to help date it.)

Surprising but true fact: I was never a little girl! So I’m especially open to suggested rewrites in this panel.

IM exchange between Becky and Barry:

Becky: The sleepover panel in your latest script gets my former girlchild seal of approval 🙃

Barry: Good! I mean, not good in the sense that it sucks that this is a real thing. But you know, good that the script works. :-p

Becky: I still remember some girl I barely know making a big deal that I filled in “Brad Renfro” on a questionnaire in 7th grade 🤷🏻‍♀️😆

Barry: LOL! Panels 1 and 3 are so autobiographical for me!

From Barry’s script:

Panel 3: Roger is a fat boy (age 10 or so) who was just sitting on the ground reading and is now being confronted/surrounded by two or three bully boys. Lunchboxes or tee shirt themes or action figures could include A Team, Knight Rider, smurfs, Bionic Man, E.T. the Fonz, Pac Man or Pac Woman. (In any of panels 1-3, not just this panel). Or any other ideas you have for dating the scenes in panels 1-3.

Barry, thank you for giving me so many ideas that I completely ignored.

Panel 4: Middle-aged crabby man talking to a couple of gender-ambiguous-dressed teens. This panel is in full color, not sepia. One or two of the characters are carrying smartphones.

Setting: Could be a public street. Or a family-Thanksgiving like setting. I’m open to ideas.

I find it funny that the last panel, scripted as the “full color” one, ended up being the least colorful. I didn’t feel like cramming a public street or a Thanksgiving dinner into the panel, so I tried drawing the people in a generic fast food restaurant. I thought about switching it to a mac store, but asked Barry for a suggestion. He suggested a mac store. Done! I think the spare white background provides a good contrast with the other panels.

I hear a lot of complaints that “androgynous fashion” is used to mean “boxy beige and gray clothes for skinny white people.” Also, when you search that term:

The floral romper, bright boots, and pride shirt in panel 4 are in keeping with the clothes I see in Portland and on my corner of the internet these days.

Barry and I had this IM exchange because of the name of the shared Photoshop file:

Barry: I just got a dropbox notice which said “Becky Hawkins changed gender ideology.” 😆

Becky: ROFL… I feel so powerful all of a sudden.

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This cartoon has four panels, each showing a different scene.


Three children are playing on the carpeted floor; behind them we can see a wooden dresser, one drawer left open, and wallpaper with a pattern of hearts. There’s a jewelry box open on the floor with them, and they are wearing dresses (and in one case, a slip) over their ordinary clothing, opera gloves, a hat with a veil attached, etc.. Judging by hair length, they are two girls and one boy.

OFF-PANEL ADULT VOICE: Bobby, take that OFF! Dresses are for GIRLS!


A girl’s bedroom; posters on the wall, a bed with a pink blanket matching the pink phone and lamp on the nightstand, snacks and backpacks lying on the floor. Three girls are on the floor, lying on bedrolls, dressed in sleep clothing (we can see Ariel from The Little Mermaid on the back on one’s shirt, and a rearing unicorn on another‘s). A fourth girl is lying on the bed. The girl on the bed is speaking to one of the girls on a bedroll; the girl on bed is cheerful, the girl on the bedroll looks nervous.

GIRL ON BED: Which boy do you like? Keep in mind that your answer WILL be dissected by us and you’ll be ostracized if we don’t like it.


A schoolyard or sports field; green mown grass, bleachers in the background. Three boys, standing, are surrounding and making fun of a fourth boy, who is sitting cross-legged on the ground and holding a book protectively. Two of the bully boys are grinning; a fourth is yelling loudly.

1st BULLY: Roger is weak and bad at sports and he reads a lot.

YELLING BULLY: UNACCEPTABLE! Let’s hit him and tell everyone he’s gay!


We’re in an Apple Store, or something similar; white walls, widely-spaced counters displaying tablets, phones and laptops. A middle-aged man, scowling, with close-cropped hair and a dark tee shirt, is glowering at a couple of younger people. The two younger people are a bit gender-ambiguous in their dress. One is wearing a newspaper boy style cap with a rainbow-striped crop top shirt, suspenders, and big clunky purple shoes; they’re giving the middle-aged man the finger. The other has long hair, a van dyke beard, and is wearing a green floral jumper.

SCOWLING MAN: There was never any “gender ideology” when I was a kid!

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In The Time Before Gender Ideology Existed | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: The GOP’s Dream Speech

This cartoon was drawn by frequent collaborator Kevin Moore.

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From a 2022 article in the Pennsylvania News-Standard:

“Critical race theory goes against everything Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, [which is] to not judge others by the color of their skin,” Kevin McCarthy, Republican minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, tweeted in July. 

McCarthy’s point – a ludicrous one to attribute to MLK – was that he thinks “Critical Race Theory” is bad. To make his case, he alluded to MLK’s August 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial. More specifically, he was referring to a single sentence of that speech – the only sentence of that speech, or indeed of MLK’s entire career as an orator and writer, that any Republican seems to be familiar with.

According to McCarthy, this is “everything Martin Luther King Jr. taught us.” Which is far from true; it’s just everything that McCarthy wishes to hear.

The same article also quotes Chuck Dickerson, an NAACP member:

“A lot of people tend to focus just on the King who spoke about his dream at the March on Washington in ‘63,” Dickerson said. “They don’t know or don’t like to focus on the King who was speaking out against American imperialism and U.S. involvement in Vietnam by the time he was assassinated in ‘68.”

This is one of several cartoons I’ve done on the subject of how the GOP misuses MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech while ignoring – or actively erasing – everything else MLK ever said and did. I don’t know why this gets under my skin, but it does, and that’s why I return to it every few years.

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I’m writing this from Ithaca, New York, where I’m visiting with family. Last night we were treated to a truly spectacular thunderstorm, with deep thooms and bright flashes that we almost never get to see in Portland, Oregon. 

Nothing makes me feel more cozy than watching a big storm while safely indoors. I was raised mostly in the Northeastern US, and although I love living in Portland, I do miss cool storms.  

That’s not relevant to the cartoon, it’s just what’s on my mind as I write this. :-)

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This cartoon has four panels, plus a tiny fifth “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon.


Dr Martin Luther King Jr, dressed in a gray 1960s suit with a black tie, stands behind a podium, with an array of microphones positioned to catch his words. Behind him we can see a crowd of Black supporters listening. MLK is holding up a finger to emphasize his point.

Behind him, a white MAGA dude, wearing a polo shirt with a big green stripe, green shorts, and a red MAGA cap, is emerging out of some sort of sci-fi portal hanging in the air. The MAGA dude is holding out a hand in a “STOP!” gesture and has an urgent, wide-eyed expression.

MLK: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by—

MAGA: STOP! Dr. King, we gotta talk!


Dr King looks a bit annoyed at the interruption, but remains courteous, speaking softly to the MAGA dude. The MAGA dude, not seeming to notice King’s annoyance, grins hugely and puts a hand on King’s shoulder.

MLK: Er… Excuse me, my friend. I’m giving a speech right now.

MAGA: I know! The 21st century GOP sent me back in a Time Machine to tell you to stop.


MLK, taken aback, turns to face the MAGA dude. The MAGA dude, still grinning hugely, explains.

MLK: Pardon me?

MAGA: The “character not skin” bit? SUPER DUPER! But you said so many things that aren’t good for us! Like reparations, and socialism, and anti-war. Be a pal and quit?


MLK is amused, clearly holding back a laugh. The MAGA dude is now the one taken aback.

MLK: So you think I’ll be silent because a white man from the future says my words are inconvenient for him?

MAGA: Uh… Yeah. Why, is that a problem?


MLK: You don’t know the first thing about me, do you?

MAGA: Nope! And I’d like to keep it that way!

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The GOP’s Dream Speech | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Race, racism and related issues, Racism | 4 Comments