Cartoon: “Sex Is Real” Is A Euphemism

This cartoon was drawn by my frequent collaborator Nadine Scholtes.

The video blogger Natalie Wynn, also known as “Contrapoints,” years ago made an observation that’s stuck with me.

“Sex is real” is a euphemism designed to present… transphobia as a simple statement of fact.

And it’s true. Pretty much every time I hear someone claiming that they’d been fired or “cancelled” just for saying “sex is real,” it turns out that they said a lot more than that.

For example, the British choreographer Rosie Kay, who wrote in The Standard that “I was cancelled at my own dinner table.” Even worse, she was “forced to resign” because she had experienced “discrimination based on my belief that sex is real.”

So was that the entire complaint – Kay just said “sex is real”? Unsurprisingly, no.

Here’s what was actually in the complaint: Rosie Kay invited a number of dancers, including some trans and nonbinary dancers, to a work party at her home, where she told the dancers – effectively her employees – that transwomen “only want access to female toilets to commit sexual assault.” She demanded that employees “confirm you have a penis, and you have a vagina?” She told workers that “if you believe that you are non-binary then you are insane.”

In other words, she pretty much wrote this cartoon for me.


This cartoon has four panels.


A man in a blue turtleneck, wearing a name tag, sits behind a desk marked “customer service,” hand on forehead, looking like he’s very annoyed. Also behind the customer service desk, a woman who looks like a manager – silver hair, blouse and jacket – is leaning over his shoulder and haranguing him. I’m going to name the woman “Manager.”

MANAGER: Can you just confirm that you’ve got a vagina? Just say it! Say “I have lady bits.” Say it!


We’re now in a warehouse or back storage area, with many large boxes on industrial shelving. She is talking, with a condescending attitude, to a worker wearing a hardhat and yellow vest, who is carrying a couple of boxes stacked. The employee looks like they really, really wish they were anywhere else.

MANAGER: “Non-Binary?” Ha! No such thing! Thinking you’re non-binary means you’re insane!


We’re in what looks like a backroom employee break area – water cooler, cheap folding chair at a table. The manager stands between a tall woman and the women’s room door, deliberately blocking the way. The woman being blocked has a restrained anger expression and her arms folded.

MANAGER: So-called “transwomen” only want access to women’s bathrooms to commit rape!


Manager is standing gently crying, holding a handkerchief to one eye (no tears are actually visible). A hand comes in from out-of-panel, holding a professional-looking microphone – i.e., the manager is being interviewed for a news show. A logo in the lower right corner says “4,” so presumably this is on channel 4.

REPORTER: So you were fired for saying “sex is real”?

MANAGER: That’s what happened.


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonists’ expression for meaningless but fun details in comics.

In panel 1, there are a series of fliers, all with the same picture of a startled-looking cat, taped to the wall. The first one says “Lost Cat!” The second says “Never mind! Found it!” And the third says “Cat for sale!”

In panel 2, a poster taped to a shelving unit says “FORKLIFT IN USE” in large red letters, and in smaller letters below that, says “If crushed remember to clock out!”

In panel 3, a poster taped to the wall has a lot of little pink hearts and the lettering “The company loves you!”

And in panel 4,  a chyron scroll (that little scrolling text with allegedly breaking news at the bottom of news broadcasts) says “Chyron writers vote to unioni…,” and then on a second line in smaller lettering, “Networks announce new “AI Chyron” project will soon take…”

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

3 Responses to Cartoon: “Sex Is Real” Is A Euphemism

  1. 1
    bcb says:

    Thanks for this!

    My headcanon is that the person who claims to be fired for “saying sex is real” wasn’t even fired: they just got mildly criticized.

    I’m surprised the networks waited for a union before replacing the chyron workers with procedural generation. Maybe the editors of wikis should unionize?

  2. 2
    Jacqueline Squid Onassis says:

    …she told the dancers – effectively her employees – that transwomen “only want access to female toilets to commit sexual assault.”

    “Female toilets”!!! The idea of rooms having gender is just wonderful. Also, saying that instead of “women’s toilets is a dead giveaway. I mean, sure, usually using “female” in place of “woman” is a tell for misogyny but transphobia is, most of the time, misogyny, too.

  3. 3
    Duncan says:

    Jacqueline: I’ve seen statements by transfolk who said they knew from early childhood that they were being made to the the “wrong” bathroom. Alas, it isn’t only bigots who think that bathrooms have a sex.

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