Open Thread and Link Farm, I Always Feel Like Clown Eggs Are Watching Me edition

  1. Butch lesbian opens up about ‘increasing harassment’ she faces when she uses public toilets
    “This hostility towards butch lesbians is believed to be borne out of people challenging the rights of transgender people to use single-sex toilets.”
  2. There was never a time when pink was just for boys and blue just for girls.
    Historically, either color was fine for either sex.
  3. Twitter NSFW Ban Possible Over SESTA-FOSTA Lawsuit
    “The lawsuit utilizes SESTA-FOSTA’s Section 230 exceptions and could theoretically force Twitter to purge sex workers and adult content creators, adult industry experts warn.”
  4. Q-Nuts: “It’s the Great Storm, Charlie Brown” | Boing Boing
    Brilliant Q-Anon/Peanuts mashup.
  5. 5 ways cursing can be good for you – CNN
    Fuck yeah.
  6. The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On. – Mother Jones
    “No one has benefited more from minority rule—and done more to ensure it—than Mitch McConnell. For six years, he presided over a Senate majority representing fewer people than the minority party, the longest such stretch in US history…”
  7. Life Inside a Pre-Release Center: Like Prison, But More Work
    “Months can pass where the inmate is working but has no money left from her check because it’s all going to pay for fees and expenses. Some inmates complain that their financial statements are hopelessly opaque or even flat-out wrong. ‘I don’t even know what they charge you for half the time. For breathing!’ Norman quipped.”
  8. I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Canceled – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
  9. The Democratic Party Has a Fatal Misunderstanding of the QAnon Phenomenon | The New Republic
    “Democrats should try campaigning on the truth: The Republican Party is controlled by intelligent, college-educated, and affluent elites who concoct dangerous nonsense to paper over a bigoted, plutocratic agenda and to justify attacks on the democratic process. That agenda and those attacks are supported by millions of reasonably intelligent voters…”
  10. Oregon Bill Would Enable People to Vote from Prison – The Appeal
    “The proposed bill would restore the voting rights of people incarcerated over felony convictions in Oregon—a population of at least 13,000 as of the 2020 election that is roughly 9 percent Black in a state whose Black population is just 2.5 percent.”
  11. Abigail Nussbaum — What color Big Bird is depends on where you live.
  12. The Federal Deficit is No Reason to Fear Biden’s Climate Plan – Bloomberg
  13. After Trump Failed to Overturn the 2020 Election, Republicans Are Trying to Steal the Next One – Mother Jones
    This is the sort of thing that terrifies me and makes me thing the GOP is going to win a permanent minority ruling party.
  14. There’s No Such Thing as Cancel Culture | by L.D. Burnett | Jan, 2021 | Arc Digital
    Although I think she could have used very nearly the same arguments to argue that cancel culture is everywhere and unavoidable.
  15. The Debate Link: The Antisemitic Quote That Wasn’t in California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum
    “What does one do when one’s favored ogre appears to have turned over a new leaf? The answer, if a widely cited Tablet Magazine article by Emily Benedek published earlier this week is any indicator, is simply to lie about it.”
  16. Letter To President-Elect Biden on Central America Policy – The Americas Program
    “In a spirit of constructive criticism, we would like to underscore what we consider to be problematic aspects of past and current U.S. policy towards the governments and peoples of Central America. Drawing from our own observations and experiences, as well as those of our Central American partners, we also wish to offer our recommendations as to how we believe U.S. policy toward the region can be improved.”
  17. When Broadway Shows Resume, Should ‘The Book of Mormon’ Be One of Them? — OnStage Blog
    Just because it’s a comedy doesn’t mean it isn’t racist: “Yes, the show is satirical but its satire is directed at the Mormon Church while the stereotypical depictions of the Ugandan characters are just stereotypical depictions.”
  18. Does Dieting Work?
    I added my third (and final) letter to my exchange with Helen Pluckrose.
  19. Searching for Shelley Duvall: The Reclusive Icon on Fleeing Hollywood and the Scars of Making ‘The Shining’ | Hollywood Reporter
    Previous sources had given me the impression that Duvall, and actor I’ve always liked, is now miserable and completely incoherent; I’m glad that’s not (entirely) true.
  20. This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful – POLITICO
    “The long, sordid history of New York’s Penn Station shows how progressives have made it too hard for the government to do big things.”
  21. The fascinating reason why clowns paint their faces on eggs – BBC Future
    “The earliest egg registry dates to 1946, when Stan Bult – a chemist by trade, though not a clown himself – began painting the faces of prominent circus clowns on eggs as a hobby.”

Posted in Link farms | 48 Comments  

Cartoon: It’s Always The Sick Person’s Fault

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Today’s cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.

The conservative ideology of individualism and everyone gets what they deserve falls especially flat on its face when we look at health care – and, having fallen flat on its face, may require a trip to the E.R., where it will be faced with completely uncontrollable bills and fees that it will not have been able to anticipate let alone comparison shop.

Writing this was an interesting technical challenge to me – how much can I fit in each panel while still leaving Becky a reasonable amount of space for the drawings? It’s actually trickier than you might think – everything has to be pared down. I eventually made it all fit by using two bridging panels – one for the doctor and the insurance dude, and one for the insurance dude and the boss – which saved space by including the end of one encounter and the beginning of another in the same panel.

But panel six kept being too cluttered, until I thought of having Bob’s boss break the pattern by phoning his appearance in rather than walking into the panel.  And writing that down makes it seem incredibly obvious, and honestly it is obvious, but it still took me weeks.

Becky did the drawings pretty much the way I would have – no surprise, we’ve worked a lot together. I know that Becky gets what I’m going for, and we’ve found a nice zone to work in where our styles overlap.

Becky asked what I thought for the background color, and I suggested a checkboard pattern. But making the panel where Bob gets fired a red panel, indicating the final catastrophic collapse of Bob’s house of cards, was entirely Becky’s idea. I was so delighted when I saw it! Surprises like that are a major joy of collaboration.

You may recall that this isn’t the first strip I’ve done with a central character named “Bob.” I’m not trying to pick on all the Bobs out there – not even Bob my conservative-ish friend I went to Oberlin with (who commented here a lot once upon a time). It’s just that when fitting lots of words into small panels, it’s helpful to use a name with only three letters in it. (I’ve used “Sue” for the same reason.)

Come to think of it, maybe I should start doing cartoons about guys named “Al.”


This cartoon has nine panels, all the same size, arranged in a three by three grid. The panels show figures on a blank colored background, mostly alternating between light blue and cream. Every panel features “Bob,” a white man in a blue polo shirt and tan pants. Bob has a mustache and beard, and wears glasses.


Bob addresses the reader directly, calmly, spreading his palms to make a point.

BOB: Whenever someone whines that they can’t afford medical care, they don’t deserve help. Because when I look, it’s always their own fault!


Bob continues speaking, but turns to the side to greet Dr. Jones, a woman wearing a white lab coat over blue scrubs, carrying a clipboard, and wearing a stethoscope around her neck, because Becky and I really, really wanted it to be really, really obvious that this character is a doctor. Cartooning!

BOB: Maybe they’re fat. Or they smoke. Maybe they didn’t save enough. Or maybe they—

BOB: Oh, hello, Dr. Jones.


In a closer shot, the doctor speaks seriously to Bob while pointing at something on her clipboard. Bob’s eyes have gone wide.

DR JONES: Bad news, Bob — you’ve got a serious condition that will require months of expensive treatment.


As the doctor walks out of the right edge of the panel, Bob nervously watching her, a gray-haired man in a suit and tie enters from the left.

DOCTOR: You should have gotten tested sooner. Or had better genes. Bye!

SUIT: Hi, Bob! I’m from your insurance company.


A close shot shows the man in the suit leaning close to Bob and pointing at something on a piece of paper. Bob still looks in shock.

SUIT: Good news! We found a loophole in your policy! Wo we only have to pay $20,000 of your expected $700,000 medical bill!


Bob leans towards the departing guy in the suit, yelling big with both his arms upraised. A sound effect pointing towards a rectangular lump in Bob’s pocket – “brring! brring!” – indicates Bob’s cell phone is ringing.


SUIT: Next time, read the 12th page of small print more carefully.


Here we see Bob, looking very lost and frightened in a close-up, holding his cell phone up to an ear as he listens. His boss’ voice comes from the cell phone. Reflecting Bob’s mood, this panel is colored completely in shades of red.

BOSS: Bob, it’s your boss. You’ve used all your sick leave and you still can’t work. We’re letting you go.

BOSS: It’s your own fault for not working while sick.


There’s no dialog in this panel. Bob, biting his nails and seeming very nervous, looks towards the readers out of the corner of his eye, as if just remembering that the readers are there.


Bob, having calmed down, returns to addressing the reader directly, with a somewhat smug expression.

BOB: Well, of course I’m virtuous and deserve help. But other sick people have only themselves to blame!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Health Care and Related Issues | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: The Bullshit Tragedy

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Kevin Moore and I created this cartoon back in November. I started to post it in public yesterday, but on rereading, realized that in the two months since the cartoon had become outdated. So, with Kevin’s approval, I rewrote some of the dialog.


Although I’ve changed some dialog, the core of this cartoon hasn’t changed at all. What I wrote about this cartoon two months ago still applies:

There’s not much to say about the issue behind this cartoon. A great many Republicans have simply become unmoored from reality (which is how Donald Trump was elected). And they’re ready to take down the world with them – even at the cost of spreading a terrible disease that will hurt them just as much as it hurts us.

This cartoon is trying to get at the feeling of hopelessness I have about communicating with the extreme right wing (but can we really call them “extreme” once they elect one of their own President? They are now arguably the core of the Republican party.) Without any mutually-acknowledged reality, what possible base of communication is there?

This cartoon (in both versions) is also about how the extreme right wing – not just random people at the base, but also many of their elected leaders – are in effect conducting biological warfare on the rest of us.

Rather than joining the fight against Coronavirus, they help it by treating indifference to science and to human life as a political virtue. They are making a point of doing nothing to avoid spreading disease, and that’s killing all of us, not just themselves.

How do you communicate or compromise with people who who randomly kill any number of Americans while patting themselves on the back for being patriots?

(Here’s some supporting links; I could easily post many more).


This cartoon has four panels.


A man wearing a red baseball-style hat is in the foreground, yelling with brown spittle flying out of his mask. He’s yelling at two “Black Lives Matters” protesters, one holding a bullhorn and the other a BLM sign. The two protesters are wearing face masks; he is not.

MAGA DUDE: What about blue lives? All lives matter! You’re the real racists! If you can protest, why can’t we invade the capital? Double standards!

BLM DUDE: What? No!


The MAGA dude’s mouth has turned into a spout, shooting out foul brown liquid like a firehose, soaking the bullhorn protester (who has raised her arms to block it) while the other protester tries to shield himself with his protest sign.

MAGA DUDE: It was a stolen election! Everyone knows Trump won in a landslide! Real Americans won’t stand for this!

BLM WOMAN: Aaaah! Stop it!


As the MAGA dude continues yelling, the degusting, thick brown liquid is pouring out of is mouth in a torrent that is flooding the landscape. He seems able to stand in it fine; the two BLM protesters, however, are struggling to keep their heads above the surface, and are in danger of drowning.

MAGA DUDE: The violence was antifa in disguise! Trump was backstabbed by critical race theory wokes! Masks are totalitarian illiberal losers sad fake news…

BLM WOMAN: Help me!

BLM DUDE: Arrgh!


We’re looking at a smart phone being held by someone’s hand. On the smartphone, we can see a female newscaster with very carefully styled hair talking with a disturbed expression. A graphic in a box next to her head says “Holy Crap”.  Another graphic, at the bottom of the screen, says “ZNY News.” There are two horizontal scrolling chyrons at the bottom of the screen; the first says “…udy shows nobody reads chryon te…” and the second says “…ZNY news is your only real friend you…”

NEWSCASTER: Tragedy struct today as the public square was literally drowned in bullshit.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Patriarchy is Everywhere

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This is one of the few cartoons that I just straight-up swiped from somebody else.

Well, sort of.

Almost two years ago, feminist writer Anne Thériault posted this tweet:

I love when women are having the I Won’t Take My Husband’s Name Because I Already Have My Own Name conversation & a dude pops in with “but you’ve already taken a MAN’S last name from your dad” and like how clever of you to notice that, yes, the patriarchy is literally everywhere.

I laughed at the tweet and, on an impulse, wrote her asking if I could swipe that for a cartoon. She kindly wrote back “yes,” and I sat down to lay it out and… Couldn’t figure out how it worked as a cartoon. So much of what makes it funny in Anne’s tweet is her sweetly snarky narration, and how does that translate into one of my cartoons, nearly all of which are dialog-based and have no narration?

So into the “I don’t know how to make this cartoon work” folder it went. And nearly two years later I thought of doing it with the characters in earnest; the feminist character earnestly having a realization (or at least, pretending to be earnest), and the anti-feminist character earnestly regretting pushing her into that realization?

That’s very different from Anne’s original tweet, but (at least for my tastes) it makes the cartoon funny. So here we are. I hope Anne likes it when she sees it!

This was fun to draw. I had fun with the characters, and the tiny screens, and figuring out how few colors I could use and still get the look I wanted.

The most fun part, though, was completely gratuitous.

I decided early on to give the feminist character an unnatural hair color, because it would enhance character recognition between the tiny character on the phone screen in panel one, and the character in panel 3, drawn much larger and at a different angle. (The striped orange sleeves on the male character serve the same purpose.)

Somewhere along the line, I thought “well, if she has pink hair, she’d probably have tattoos as well.” And then when I actually sat down to draw it, I had so much fun drawing tattoos that I took way longer than I should have and ended up covering her entire left arm. Her tattoo shows some made-up characters, Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas (Jacks’ partner Sally is on the other arm), and NoFace from Spirited Away (which is one of my favorite movies).



This cartoon has three panels.


A hand is holding out a smartphone; on the smartphone, we can see a split-screen showing two people, apparently having a Zoom or Skype call. One of the people is a slightly chubby woman with dyed pink hair; the other is a man wearing a striped shirt and glasses; he has a beard and mustache, and is either naturally bald or (more likely, since he’s doesn’t look very old) has shaved his head.

On the screen, we can see the man is reaching one arm out, towards the camera; presumably, he’s the person holding up the smartphone.

WOMAN: I mean, why would I take my husband’s name? I’ve already got my own name!

MAN: Ha! Feminists are so stupid!


A shot of the man inside a nice-looking home – there’s an arched doorway behind him, and through the doorway we can see part of a tidy kitchen – as he talk/laughs at the phone he’s holding up. The woman’s voice is coming from the phone.

WOMAN: Excuse me?

MAN: Newsflash, sweetie: “Your” name came from your father, and he’s a man!


A shot of the woman, inside her home. Behind her is a window, and through the window we can see a hillside with a couple of trees. On a table next to her is an open laptop, with the man on the screen, and a coffee mug. She has slapped a palm to the side of her forehead, as if having a revelation, and is looking up instead of looking at the screen. On the screen, we can see his face looking a little bit panicked as he tries to walk it back.

WOMAN: I see your point! The patriarchy is literally everywhere! You’re right! I have to get more radical!

MAN: Er… No, that’s not what I…

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 18 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Canned Milk Edition

  1. Debt and Deficits, Yet Again – Center for Economic and Policy Research
    “The deficit hawks will be screaming that the Biden package will over-stimulate the economy, leading to rising interest rates and inflation. There is some truth to these claims, but we have to think clearly about what is at issue.”
  2. Black US doctor dies of Covid alleging racist hospital care – BBC News
    “”He made me feel like I was a drug addict,” Dr Moore said in a Facebook video. “And he knew I was a physician. I don’t take narcotics. I was hurting.””
  3. Jimmy Dore and the Left’s Naïve Cynics Have Turned on AOC
    The headline is about AOC, but I’m linking it for its discussion of the (non)viability of an immediate vote on Medicare For All. “If politics is a tool for minimizing needless suffering — rather than a theater for performing one’s personal convictions — then a tactic is only as morally sound as it is likely to succeed.”
  4. The anti-porn religious lobby just destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of pornographers | Salon.comThe headline is a bit misleading – the article itself has virtually no emphasis on the “religious” lobby in particular, and honestly part of what makes the anti-porn lobby so difficult to address is that it’s in effect a coalition of religious conservatives and anti-sex-work leftists. But despite that misleading headline, the article is very good.
  5. The top priority in America right now is getting vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. And we’re just not doing it.
  6. “I’ve had a long time to think about what I did when I was 13. That was how old I was when I ceased to be a daughter, sister, niece, student, and friend and became instead a murderer, super predator, killer, felon, criminal, and inmate.”
  7. Rejected Tintin cover design sets record for comic book art with €3.2m auction price | The Art Newspaper
    That’s $3,868,864 in U.S. dollars. “Like all markets, it’s a question of supply and demand and there is practically no supply.”
  8. Why immigration doesn’t reduce wages – Noahpinion
    “In this post, I’m going to explain why immigration doesn’t lower wages for native-born people (except possibly a little bit, in a few special circumstances). But before I do that, there’s one thing you really have to understand: No one is going to be persuaded by this post. There are two reasons for this.”
  9. Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing — ProPublica
    A great deal of this story is set in Westport, CT, where I was raised from fifth to twelfth grades. In some ways the story gives a false impression – the majority of Westport homeowners don’t live in mansions or on beachfront – but it’s nearly entirely on target.
  10. Mimi Choi – Google Image Search
    Choi is fantastic. I love this sort of illusion-based face painting, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do it better.
  11. Why $15 minimum wage is pretty safe – Noahpinion
    The best evidence indicates that raising the minimum wage to $15 won’t cause a significant amount of unemployment. I found the graph at the top of the post, showing how economists’ opinions on this have changed over time, to be very striking, and as someone who has been saying this for decades I admit it has made me a little bit smug(ger).
  12. The 1994 Crime Law Hogs The Legal Reform Spotlight. But A Lesser-Known Law Deserves More Attention. – The Appeal
    “…Reformers should focus on the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which restricts the ability of incarcerated people to protest their conditions of confinement.”
  13. A twitter thread from UK trans podcast “What The Trans” giving a history “on how absurd the UK is on transgender issues and how the UK got so transphobic.” (And an alternate non-Twitter version).
  14. In Poland, Protests Over Abortion Ban Could Revolutionize Politics – The New York Times (And an alternate link.)
    “Hundreds of thousands of women, teenagers and their male allies have been turning out every few days on the streets of cities and small towns across the country for weeks, braving tear gas, court orders, harsh police tactics and surging Covid infections.”
  15. A thorough (and thus lengthy) rebuttal of Kathleen Stock’s anti-trans arguments.
    “”If you really think I’m an ‘anti-trans’ activist you really had better spell out why, and with evidence,” she said on Twitter yesterday. I will do that here.”
  16. Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize (from Home For The Holidays) – YouTube
    Dancing and playing the violin while suspended from the ceiling by your hair may be a stunt, but it’s one I really enjoyed watching. I looked at it and thought “I guess that isn’t as painful as I’d imagine it to be,” but then I watched her vlog about learning to hang from her hair, and oh my god it’s so much more painful than I imagine. (CW for weeping due to pain.) I know some violinists sneer at Stirling’s violin abilities, but I think they’re missing the point – she’s not one of the best violinists, or one of the best dancers, or one of the best video makers, but she might be the greatest dancing violinist videomaker.
  17. I’m really enjoying Marvel’s new TV show WandaVision. Although I wonder what the show’s like for viewers too young to be familiar with 1950s and 60s sit-coms.
  18. Countdown to Biden’s inauguration. 2 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes, 47 seconds as I type this.

Posted in Link farms | 42 Comments  

An Anti-Trans Argument that’s Identical to an Anti-Choice Argument (and why it’s wrong)

Anti-choicers and anti-trans folks make the same argument: having an abortion/taking puberty blockers is too complex a decision for a teen, they say. We can’t let them choose when the stakes are so high, they say. The implication is that we can avoid these high stakes by not allowing abortion / puberty blockers.

But the “no treatment” option anti-choicers demand doesn’t maintain the status quo for a pregnant teen. Letting nature take its course – forcing a teen to go through childbirth – is likely to radically change a teen’s life in ways that can never be reversed.

The “let’s do nothing and wait” option doesn’t maintain the status quo for trans teens, either. In both cases, banning treatment forces the teens to go through permanent changes that may do them great harm.

Banning a treatment – whether it’s puberty blockers or abortion – isn’t putting off deciding until later. It’s the government making the decision right now, without regard for what’s best for the teen.

For teens who may be trans, there is a “putting off deciding” option – and that option is puberty blockers.

And they’re not easy to get! There are already so many barriers to treatment! It can take YEARS between diagnosis and beginning to receive puberty blockers.

If a young teen is pregnant, forcing them to give birth would be horrible and traumatic. And forcing an abortion on them would be horrible and traumatic. It’s a decision that HAS to be made by the teen. In consultation with parents and doctors, sure. But in the end, neither childbirth nor abortion can be justly forced on anyone.

If a young person has gender dysphoria, I hope they get good counsel from parents, from doctors, from loved ones, and from trusted adults who have gone through the same thing. But in the end, it would be unjust and traumatizing to either force them to take puberty blockers, or to force them to go through the wrong sex’s puberty. Like the choice between abortion and childbirth, this decision HAS to be made by the person themselves.

Will some people look back, years later, and think they made the wrong decision?

Yes. It may be rare, but it inevitably happens sometimes.

Just like there are people who got abortions young and grew up and regretted it. That’s sad, but we shouldn’t therefore ban abortion.

If “someday, some small number of patients will regret this treatment” was a reason to ban a treatment, there’d be very little medicine left.

Actually, a bunch of their arguments are the same.

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 10 Comments  

Cartoon: Now That Trump’s Leaving…

Please support these cartoons on my Patreon! Lots of low-level donations from lots of readers is how I make my living, and I think that’s so cool.

Happy new year!

Despite how pessimistic this cartoon is, I believe 2021 will be better than 2020. I’m looking forward to a new and much better President – which will happen in 1 week, 1 day, 9 hours, 43 minutes and 56 seconds from when I type this sentence. (I’ve been keeping a tab with a countdown clock open.) A covid vaccine is on the horizon, and if the horizon isn’t exactly close, at least I feel reassured that it exists.

But too many democrats – including, perhaps, Joe Biden – seem to think that the rot, and in particular the attack on democracy, in the Republican party comes from Donald Trump. But this reverses cause and effect. Trump’s ascendency is a result of the GOP’s long-festering hatred of democracy, from Bush v Gore to gutting the Voting Rights Act to any number of voter suppression laws to gerrymandering.

Trump is the Republican party with the mask removed. And even if the mask comes back on, the GOP’s war on democracy will continue.

I’m sorry this is so depressing. I honestly do think things are going to get a lot better in 2021, and I hope we all feel a lot of joy in… 1 week, 1 day, 9 hours, 32 minutes, and 4 seconds. I sure will.

It’s fun to do a single-panel cartoon now and then, because I can lavish more attention on the drawing than usual. And, of course, drawing monster faces is always fun.

I think this is only the fifth or sixth time I’ve ever drawn Trump. And, honestly, I don’t think I did the best job of it. But to be honest – and if I can’t be honest with my patrons, then who can I be honest with? – well, my cat, I can say anything to my cat – But my point is, I’m so pleased that I’ll never become really fluent at drawing that horrible man. It’s possible that I will never ever draw him again.

Another fun thing about single-panel cartoons? It takes so little time to write the transcript!


This cartoon has a single panel.

The panel shows a blighted and ugly landscape. It’s a hillside, bleak and barren, with ugly green storm clouds against a dark red sky.

There is a huge, monstrous head sticking out of an lifeless hillside. The head has bumps and a dozen or so horns, irregularly shaped and in one case broken off. It has a tiny nose and tiny, glaring eyes. It’s mostly green and yellow, but on one cheek a flap of skin has come off, showing some red underneath. The huge mouth is open like a garage, and we can see huge and irregular pointy teeth and a bulbous tongue covered with warts.

A sign sticking out of the ground, just in front of the head, says “G.O.P.”

A trail of slime leads out of the open mouth, to the lower left corner of the cartoon, where a sluglike creature with Donald Trump’s face is crawling away. Trumpslug is wearing a shirt collar and a long red necktie.

Nearby, a couple of ordinary-looking people, a man and a woman, are happily watching Trumpslug depart. They are facing away from the awful gigantic head looming over them and don’t appear to have noticed it.

MAN: He’s leaving!

WOMAN: Democracy is safe from the monster!

P.S.: 1 week, 1 day, 9 hours, 21 minutes, 27 seconds!

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 2 Comments  

Cartoon: What Kind Of People Sexualize Children?

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This strip was drawn by my frequent collaborator Becky Hawkins.  As usual, Becky excels at communicating setting after setting in small panels; I think the store interior in panel 3 is particularly nice. I also love the way she ages Lucy and Lucy’s dad from panel to panel.

“They’re coming after your children!” was, for decades, an argument made by the right against lesbian, gay and bi rights. (And other groups! Becky and I lampooned this back in 2017). And although some conservative diehards are still making that argument, by and large they’ve switched to claiming that rights for transgender people are endangering children.

This argument comes in a lot of forms. The one this cartoon is about – the idea that recognizing that some children are transgender is sexualizing those children – is one that I’ve mostly heard from random angry transphobes on Twitter, but this false connection is also made in more respectable sources, like the Heritage Foundation.

The cartoon is also about the ways that adults project their own ideas about gender roles onto children. (Very heteronormative ideas, I would add.) This sort of projection is not exclusively right-wing: Virtually all people look at young boys and girls and see whatever they believe about sex roles reflected back at them.

So the answer to the dad’s question in the last panel? Ordinary people do. And they do it all the time.

(The most extreme and creepy examples of it – child beauty pageants and purity balls – do seem to be right-wing.) (#Notallrightwingers do this, thankfully.)

When I was doing research for this cartoon, I found some of the photos from child pageants so disturbing that I decided to switch the scene of panel 3 from “Lucy” actually in a pageant to Lucy’s dad shopping for the dress, just so I could have the dress be on a mannequin rather than on a girl.


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


Two toddlers, one a blonde girl dressed in pink, and the other a boy in blue, are playing in a sandbox in a park. They aren’t paying any attention to each other. The girl is just sort of making a pile of sand; the boy is experimentally biting on the handle of the little plastic shovel (and seems to be enjoying it). In the background, two adults are watching the kids and talking to each other, a red-headed man (who I’ll call “Dad”) and a blonde woman.

DAD: Look at Lucy, flirting and making eyes at him!

WOMAN: Look at him, showing off for her!


We seem to be outside a school building or daycare; the building is made of red bricks, and we can see paper cut-out hearts taped to the large windows. In front of the building, near a hopscotch game chalked onto the pavement, is Lucy (two or three years older, but we can recognize her by the similar shade of pink and the blonde hair) and another boy. The boy is yanking on Lucy’s pony tail, and Lucy looks annoyed. In the foreground, two adults – including the redheaded dad from panel 1 – are watching, looking amused. (The other adult is a woman, but not the same woman as the woman in panel 1).

DAD: I think Lucy has a boyfriend!

WOMAN: It’ll be so cute if they marry each other someday!


We are in a shop with fancy, bright-colored dresses and costume jewelry and stuff. The redheaded man, now maybe a bit fuller around the waist, is chatting to a shopgirl while gesturing towards a burgundy outfit on a mannequin. The outfit is very fancy, and has two pieces, a band shirt and a short skirt, leaving the mannequin’s waist bare. Lucy, now looking a few years older, is looking up at the outfit expressionlessly.

MAN: I just couldn’t wait to get Lucy on the pageant circuit! Lucy, let’s try this one on you!


Some years later, Lucy – now looking like a young teen – and her dad (now quite a bit chubbier, and his hairline is beginning to recede) are sitting at home, dad in a comfortable looking armchair, while Lucy sits at a table in the background doing homework. Lucy is looking up at her dad, and a “!” has appeared next to her head. Dad is speaking and gesturing angrily at something on his smartphone.

DAD: Just look at this! Diagnosing children as “trans”… Prescribing “puberty blockers”… What kind of people sexualize children?


Barry the cartoonist is speaking to the redheaded dad. The redheaded dad – apparently older, as his hairline has receded further – is turning away from Barry the cartoonist.

BARRY: Trans children’s healthcare isn’t about “sex.” It’s about identity, comfort, and—

DAD: Can’t talk — Lucy and I need to practice our purity ball dance.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 5 Comments  

Cartoon: A Trans Man Walks Into The City Clerk’s Office…

This cartoon is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins.

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Some cartoons come about because I hear a friend complain about something I’d never thought about, and then I see another person online complaining about the same thing, and then another. It’s a sign of privilege, of course; I don’t notice these things because I don’t have to. But once it’s pointed out to me it turns out it’s all over the place.

And then I think, “is there a cartoon in this”?

In this case, what I hadn’t known about was the heavy and often unnecessary bureaucracy involved in being trans. For trans people who need or want to update official papers and records, the paperwork and hurdles are daunting, and often pointless. And it’s not just the government; some of my friends have found they have to slog through bureaucracy again and again, with their bank, with their school (or their children’s school), with their mortgage company, and on and on. It can feel endless, and endlessly frustrating.

I first wrote this cartoon years ago, but I couldn’t solve the problem of the first panel.

The first panel, you see, needs to explain the situation to readers who (like me) were unaware of the issue. My first draft had the protagonist say something like “I need to change my sex” to the city clerk (I’ve lost the exact wording), but a trans friend I showed the cartoon to said that was an incredibly unlikely way for a trans character to put it, and suggested “switch my gender marker” as a more realistic alternative.

The problem with that, however, is that most cis readers won’t know what “switch my gender marker” means. (I didn’t know until my friend told me). I tried putting in a caption to explain the terminology, but that seemed clumsy, and anyway a lot of readers would skim or skip the caption, unless it was at the top of the panel. But putting it at the top would mean putting the explanation before the dialog it’s explaining, and that seemed odd.

So, without a first panel I was happy with, it went into the “unfinished cartoon” file and stayed there a few years. Every once in a while I’d take it out and fiddle with it, but I didn’t feel I’d solved the problem.

Then I showed it to Becky, and she was interested in drawing it. After Becky and I kicked around some ideas for fixing the first panel (with a lot of help from Becky’s very awesome girlfriend Naomi – hi Naomi!), I thought of using the clerk’s dialog to get the necessary exposition across in panel one, hence “Oh, so you’re trans.” With that line, I finally felt that cis readers would be able to understand the cartoon (or at least understand it enough), no caption necessary.

Admittedly, it’s a clumsy and tactless thing for the clerk to say – but cis people often are clumsy and tactless, so I could live with that. (Some readers may disagree, of course.)

In any case, it’s the best I could do. Cartoon writing is often like this; it’s a series of little puzzles that have to be solved. “How can I do X in just one panel and less than 20 words?” Probably there’s a better solution than the one I used, that I just wasn’t clever enough to come up with.

(Why no more than 20 words? Because somewhere around 20-30 words, readers start to skim. That’s fine for panels 2 and 3 of this cartoon – as long as the readers get a sense of the complexity and extent of the bureaucracy, it won’t hurt the cartoon if they skim the details – but if people skim panel 1, they might not get the cartoon at all).

Look at the architecture in panel 1! It just screams “city clerk’s window in town hall building.” That’s one of the things I love about collaborating with Becky – her ability to get across specific environments so well. I also love the perspective of that line of people waiting for help.


There are four panels, plus an additional small “kicker” panel under the cartoon.


Inside a mustard-yellow government building – an old one with arched ceilings – people wait on line to talk to a woman in one of those windows embedded in an internal wall, for government workers to talk to people without being in the same room as them.

What are those windows called? I have no idea.

Next to the window, a sign on the wall says “Office of the City Clerk.”

On the public side of the window, a young man wearing a blue shirt, and carrying a brown document bag slung over a shoulder, is talking to a blonde woman on the other side of the window. The woman has short hair with spiky bangs, pink cats eye glasses, and is wearing a purple shirt with sleeves that end about halfway down her forearm. We’ll call him “BLUE” and her “CLERK.”

BLUE: Hi! I need to change my name and switch my gender marker to “M.”

CLERK: Oh, so you’re trans? Okay!


A closer shot of the two of them. She’s handing a document to him as she talks cheerfully. His back is to us, so we can’t see his face.

CLERK: First, you’ll need to pay to have your name change announced in a newspaper. You’ll need an appointment for a court hearing… That can take months. Meanwhile, hire a notary to watch someone you know sign this affidavit.


The “camera” has moved to a position from which we can see both characters’ faces. She is handing him a HUGE stack of papers. His eyes are wide and he looks shocked as he eyes the stack.

CLERK: When you go to court, bring money for court fees and a letter from your therapist. And that’s just for your driver’s license. There’s lots more for your social security and birth certificate. Here are some of the forms you’ll need.

CLERK: Next!


Blue has left, and now a young woman with long brown hair is standing at the window, showing the Clerk a piece of paper. The clerk is smiling and making a thumbs up gesture.

WOMAN: Hi! I’m a bride, and I need to change my name. Here’s my marriage license.

CLERK: Done! Have a nice day.


Barry the cartoonist is talking to the clerk.

BARRY: Is this the state rewarding people for being gender normative?

CLERK: I can tell you for a fee.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 7 Comments  

Cancel Culture, Mimi, Jimmy, and Cowards At The University of Tennessee

This story is dispiriting and ugly. (Alternate link).

When she was in the ninth grade, Mimi (who is white) sent a friend a three-second video in which Mimi used the N-word.

Ms. Groves had originally sent the video, in which she looked into the camera and said, “I can drive,” followed by the slur, to a friend on Snapchat in 2016, when she was a freshman and had just gotten her learner’s permit. It later circulated among some students at Heritage High School, which she and Mr. Galligan attended, but did not cause much of a stir.

I don’t think we can understand this story without knowing what the environment was like at Heritage High. Mimi’s use of the n-word was not unusual there – even teachers allegedly used racial slurs. And it was harmful. Some students of color felt “despair” in that environment.

In interviews, current and former students of color described an environment rife with racial insensitivity, including casual uses of slurs.

A report commissioned last year by the school district documented a pattern of school leaders ignoring the widespread use of racial slurs by both students and teachers, fostering a “growing sense of despair” among students of color, some of whom faced disproportionate disciplinary measures compared with white students.

“It is shocking the extent to which students report the use of the N-word as the prevailing concern,” the report said. School system employees also had a “low level of racial consciousness and racial literacy,” while a lack of repercussions for hurtful language forced students into a “hostile learning environment,” it said.

Mimi’s classmate Jimmy (who is Black) saved a copy of the video for yearshad a copy of the video, and released it after Mimi (who is very serious about cheerleading) was admitted to the University of Tennessee, which has one of the best cheerleading programs in the country. After social media backlash – although it’s not clear to me how much, the example linked by the Times is to an account with all of 30 followers – the University of Tennessee threatened Mimi with having her admission revoked, unless Mimi withdrew her application, which Mimi did.

A few points.

1) I’ve always said our society should forgive bad things done by young people (with exceptions for some extraordinary circumstances, none of which apply here). It was wrong for Mimi to use the n-word in the ninth grade, but that was years ago, in an environment where even some grown-ups used racial slurs; it’s not surprising she didn’t know better back then. She wasn’t using it to attack anyone, and at least one Black friend of hers has said Mimi apologized to her for using the word (before the scandal broke out). Mimi shouldn’t be punished for her ninth grade screw-up now, either by social media or by the University of Tennessee.

2) Forgiving young people, and not wanting them tarried with bad acts forever, isn’t just for Mimi. Jimmy deserves that, too. But you’d never know that from reading Mimi’s defenders. Jimmy is currently being reviled by name by what we would call a “social media mob” if the mobbers were on the left.

Rod Dreher, in The American Conservative, wrote:

This Times story will follow Jimmy Galligan everywhere too. If that kid applied for a job at my firm, I would never hire him. If he were my co-worker, I would stay away from him, lest I offend him and get the Little- Anthony-from-The-Twilight-Zone treatment. He has shown the kind of person he is: a hateful progressive who takes pleasure in causing others unnecessary pain and suffering for the sake of virtue. He wants to terrorize others. Everybody who goes to college with him now, and who crosses his path, should consider themselves forewarned.

In the very next paragraph Dreher, with no apparent awareness of his hypocrisy, writes “But it is a monstrous society that doesn’t offer a way for people to turn from their sins and failings.” I agree, Rod – and you’re being an eager contributor to that monstrous society.

Dreher isn’t alone in wishing the worse for this teenager. People on twitter – some with few followers, some with thousands – have been reviling Jimmy, gloating over his (they hope) future unemployability, and calling for revenge.

3) Both Mimi and Jimmy’s acts seem like products of the toxic racial atmosphere at Heritage High. Mimi, hearing the N-word used casually all around her, used the N-word casually. And Jimmy, growing up in that poisonous environment, tried to find a way to make people pay attention, to have at least one white person feel regret. (Or that’s my guess, obviously I can’t know either of their minds for sure.)

4) The University of Tennessee should be ashamed of themselves. They should have ignored the entire story and let it blow over, instead of making the story, and both these young people, national news by kicking Mimi out. More than anyone else, the cowards at the University of Tennessee should be held responsible for this entire mess.

5) Almost no one outside of Tennessee would have heard of this story if the Times hadn’t decided to cover it. If, years from now, this story still turns up on the front page when people search Mimi or Jimmy’s names, that’s the fault of the Times.

6) After writing the above, I saw that Mansa Kieta on twitter has a very good take on this.

Posted in Media criticism, norms of discourse, Racism, Society & Culture | 45 Comments