Cartoon: Gender Affirmation Isn’t Just For Trans People

Note: This one got revised a lot after I first posted it. If you’re curious, you can see the first version here.

It’s unusual for me to do a single-panel cartoon, and when I first wrote this cartoon it was four panels long. But the more I worked on it, the more it seemed like I was just having extra panels for the sake of having extra panels. It got simpler and simpler with each revision, until I wound up with this.

I played a bit with adding a background, if only to have a place to stick in some chicken fat. But with all the captions, a background just made this cartoon hard to read. I thought I’d have to do without any chicken fat at all, but then I remembered that tattoos exist. :-)

Literally this minute, as I’m preparing to post this on “Alas,” I realized I didn’t include “makeup” in the cartoon. And I’ve just posted it on seven other sites. Aaaargh!

Trans people are constantly attacked both for altering their bodies and for following gender norms – two things that many or most cis people also do. There’s a constant double-standard for trans people, in which things that are routine and accepted when cis people do them – like wearing a skirt, or makeup, or cosmetic surgery – are reason for condemnation when trans people do them.


This single-panel cartoon shows two people, standing and talking directly to the viewer. There is a blonde woman with glasses and a nice layered haircut swept to one side; she’s wearing a blue jacket over a black blouse and a yellow skirt with tiny red dots, and wedge sandals. And there’s a redheaded man, rather muscular, with a red mustache, a striped izod shirt, and jeans. He’s holding a book and his arms are tattooed.

The two of them are surrounded by about twenty little captions with arrows pointing to specific details.

WOMAN: Why can’t trans people just accept their bodies as they are?

MAN: “Gender affirmation” is woke crap! Normal people don’t do that!


Used to be brunette


Not her original nose



Plucked brows

Boob job


Pieced ears

Spironolactone (reduces hair)


Shaved legs



Hair Transplant Surgery

Finasteride (pointed at hair)

Carefully tended stubble

Not his original chin

“Old Spice deodorant for men”

Gynecomastia surgery (male breast reduction)

Keys for giant truck with never used cargo bed

Testosterone injections

(Pointing at the book he’s carrying): “Super Testosterone” by Andrew Tate.

Calf Implants


“Chicken fat” is a long-dormant cartoonists’ term for unnecessary but hopefully amusing details in a cartoon.

In this case, we just have the man’s tattoos. They include a tattoo of a steaming mug of coffee; the mug has “unimportant details” printed on it. There’s also a happy striped snake, a hot dog, and Bender from the TV show Futurama.

On his other arm are tattoos of a teddy pig (like a teddy bear, but a pig) and Barry the cartoonist, both smiling and waving hi.

Why Can’t Trans People Accept Their Bodies As They Are? | Patreon

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

13 Responses to Cartoon: Gender Affirmation Isn’t Just For Trans People

  1. 1
    bcb says:

    I love this one! I especially loved how you used examples of the specific “gender affirming” treatments that politicians want to ban for trans people but not cis people.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Thank you! :#) I’m really glad you like it.

  3. 3
    dragon_snap says:

    I’m really intrigued by my reaction to this comic, which is that I wouldn’t think twice about a lot of those modifications/choices — specifically the surgical ones — if a trans person did them, but I’m (apparently) much less comfortable about a cis person pursuing them.

    I’m sure that reaction is a deeply informed by my own circumstances/perspective as a cisgender, gender-non-conforming woman, wherein I have chosen not to do a lot of the ‘expected’ gender stuff, including not wearing a bra most of the time, which interestingly isn’t one of the gendered-appearance-choices explicitly listed in the cartoon.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking piece, Barry :)

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    That’s a really interesting reaction! Thanks.

    I didn’t think of including bras. Now that you’ve suggested it… I’m still not sure. It seems to me to be something that would require some explanation, and a cartoon like this doesn’t leave room for explanation. More than one bra-wearing friend of mine has told me that they need bras because it physically hurts to do things like run or use a staircase if they don’t have support, and for that reason they react badly to “burn your bra” style messages, because they feel that ignores their lived reality.

    (Which is then confused even further by the fact that bra-burning was largely a myth anyway.)

  5. 5
    Adrian says:

    It’s not as simple as “wearing a bra” = expressing femininity, or physically conforming to feminine social standards. (ETA: I like how the changes shown in the cartoon are clearly aimed at emphasizing one gender or the other. High heels are feminine. Chin stubble is masculine. A couple of the modifications look like race rather than gender…is that deliberate?)

    Wearing a padded bra? Sure, definitely. A woman with large breasts wearing some styles of sports bra? That can be a step AWAY from feminine social standards. And of course being relatively slender and flat-chested means the same style of dress is perceived differently.

    If I see someone wearing, for instance, birkenstocks, broomstick skirt, unshaved legs, no bra, long graying braid down her back…it looks to me like she’s performing femininity. Not according to the latest fashion, but definitely femme. If she shows up at the farmers market the next week in jeans, a sports bra, and a boxy crew-neck t-shirt? It may not look like she’s performing femininity, at least not to my eye.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    A lot of good points. I’d be interested in seeing a cartoon look at bras – but I’m not the person to write it.

    What modifications do you see as being about race? That wasn’t intentional on my part, but of course some of the ways people express gender are racialized.

    One problem with this cartoon is a lot of the ways people gender themselves – especially, perhaps, the ways men gender themselves – are too complex to be explainable in this format. I say “especially men” because one big way men perform gender is by avoiding the feminine – but I’m not sure that people would get it if some of this man’s captions were things like “not wearing a skirt.”

  7. 7
    Jacqueline Squid Onassis says:

    It’s not as simple as “wearing a bra” = expressing femininity, or physically conforming to feminine social standards.

    In my case it is, per my spouse. She gets very upset if my nipple is detectable and so I’ll often wear a bra to ease her mind. I also wear a sports bra while exercising but that’s more of a comfort thing for me.

  8. 8
    Dianne says:

    I’m not sure that people would get it if some of this man’s captions were things like “not wearing a skirt.”

    Put him in a kilt with a caption saying, “It’s a kilt, a KILT, manly warrior clothing of the Scot, not at all a skirt”?

  9. 9
    Adrian says:

    Ampersand (6)
    What modifications do you see as being about race?

    What did the woman you drew look like before the modifications? Was she biracial, with dark hair and a flat nose? When I was young, I knew people who said they’d get plastic surgery to “fix” their “Jewish noses” if they won the lottery. When people said Michael Jackson had that kind of surgery, they weren’t saying he did something feminine. They said he was betraying his people and trying to look white.

    Jacqueline (7)
    I didn’t mean to say that nobody ever wears a bra in order to look more feminine. I just mean that when some people wear them to look more feminine and some wear them to look LESS feminine, you really can’t include them on a list like this.
    (Some of my bras take baby steps towards being binders, and I wear them with that intent. I do not believe I am alone in this. I mean, I am alone inside this bra. Not alone in sometimes performing femininity and sometimes not.)

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    Adrian, thanks – I see your point now. I don’t think things like getting a “new nose” are necessarily racial, but you’re right, they often are racial as well as gendered.

    I remember hearing other Jews, when I was a teen, discuss the nuances of the “correct” amount of nose modification for a young Jewish woman to get – not so much that it looks like you’re denying Judaism, but enough to be considerably closer to the straight-nosed “ideal.”

  11. 11
    Jacqueline Squid Onassis says:

    When I was a teen, almost everyone at my synagogue got nose jobs. My parents were after me for years to get one, too, but I had no desire. They kept pushing, though, and just before my 17th birthday, I thought,”If I get a nose job, they’ll get off my ass about everything else.” And so I did. I turned out to be right and they eased up on me.

    Of course, I’ve had to have reconstructive rhinoplasty twice in the last 3 years because of that first nose job, 40 years ago.

  12. 12
    dragon_snap says:

    the thing for me about bras is how the expectation of them being worn is attached to so many ideas about ~professionalism~

  13. 13
    Adrian says:

    Dragon_snap, yes! A while back, I read about somebody being mocked for asking about the context before saying what a woman was. But sometimes it’s in contrast to little girl, sometimes it’s in contrast to unladylike slut, sometimes it’s in contrast to uncivilized animal, sometimes it’s in contrast to improperly mannish behavior.

    Some of “professional” includes “ladylike.” Though it ALSO includes “improperly mannish,” and it used to include even more of it. (Some of you may recall the 1992 election, when there was some media fuss about Barbara Bush was more of a proper woman than Hillary Clinton who dressed and behaved like a professional lawyer.)

    And of course “letting yourself go” means departing from the standards of both professional and ladylike standards. Though usually in the direction of slut or animal, not in the direction of masculine.

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