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…

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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 | Comments Off  

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 | Comments Off  

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 | Comments Off  

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 | Comments Off  

Cartoon: Elves United!

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Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it! And to those of you that don’t celebrate it but do enjoy saying “merry Christmas!”

I love doing pro-union cartoons, and I’m proud that my cartoons have appeared in various union newsletters over the years.

It’s not a subject I see often enough in political cartoons. And not only are unions essential in and of themselves, they’re also a powerful force for progressive politics – or they can be.

The idea for this cartoon is pretty basic: Elves at the North Pole try to form a union, and management (Santa) tries to stop them using anti-union arguments and techniques corporations use in the real world. It’s an easy-to-understand premise that can support a lot of gags.

The nice thing about a cartoon like this one is that doing a gag per panel gives me several bites at the funny apple. Joke in one panel doesn’t strike you as funny? Well, then, go try the next one. And the one after that. Surely at least one of these will amuse you!

This one took a while to draw, primarily because there are 20 different figures (or partial figures) visible in the cartoon, and they all had to fit in smaller-than-usual panels with quite a lot of dialog. (And then Frank Young had to color all those figures. Sorry, Frank!)

Santa was very easy to draw. Rudolph took more effort, but it was totally worth it. I don’t know why, but that’s the panel in this cartoon that makes me laugh.


This cartoon has six panels. Each panel has a large caption at the top, in a big friendly font that’s colored black, red, and green.


CAPTION: How Bosses Try To Beat The Union

The panel shows seven angry-looking elves who are either demonstrating or on strike. Behind them is a large banner that says “Elves United Cannot Be Defeated.” One elf holds up a sign which says “No Justice No Toys!,” and another holds up a sign which says “Santa Unfair!”


CAPTION: Playing the Family Card

This panel shows Santa, with a big smile and arms stretched out like he’s about to hug someone, talking to a skeptical-looking elf with crossed arms. Santa is wearing the traditional Santa red pants and black boots, and suspenders and a white tee shirt.

SANTA: I’ve always thought of us as family, not as boss and workers.

ELF: What’s my name?

SANTA: um… Elfie? Elfo?


CAPTION: Predicting Catastrophe

In the background, we see Santa standing at a lectern, making a speech and looking stern. In the foreground, one elf cheerfully whispers to the elf next to them.

SANTA: If the elves form a union, that will be the end of Christmas forever!

ELF: Don’t worry. Hannukah would hire us in a second!


CAPTION: Divide and Conquer

Santa, grinning big, is talking to Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, raising a finger to make a point. Rudolph, looking a little angry, talks back.

SANTA: Get the elves back to work, and you’ll lead the sleigh every year, fog or no fog!

RUDOLPH: No deal, Santa! Rudolph ain’t playing your reindeer games!


CAPTION: Manufacturing Dissent

Santa is sitting on the floor, wearing the full Santa outfit, plus a fake long nose and fake pointy ears, in a pathetically bad attempt to disguise himself as an elf. He’s talking to two elves, one of whom is slapping their forehead in a “I don’t believe this” gesture, while the other is grinning (almost laughing) and talking to Santa.

SANTA: Speaking as an ordinary elf, I don’t trust these unionizers! No sir!

ELF: Seriously?


CAPTION: But Eventually…

In the background, we see two children, looking happy, next to a Christmas Tree. They have packages on the floor around them, and one of the kids is holding an open box, and looking at a slip of paper he presumably just pulled out of the box.

In the foreground, Santa, wearing the full traditional Santa outfit and with a big bag slung over one shoulder, is walking away from the kids, but he turns his head back and speaks, looking grumpy.

CHILD 1: It says “Proudly manufactured by union elves.”

CHILD 2: Cool!

SANTA: Ah, shuddup!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Union Issues | Comments Off  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Plague Doctors Edition

  1. The Constitution Drafting Project – National Constitution Center
    “The National Constitution Center’s Constitution Drafting project brings together three teams of leading constitutional scholars—team libertarian, team progressive, and team conservative—to draft and present their ideal constitutions.” Interestingly, the progressive and conservative constitutions both got rid of lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices.
  2. Vaccine allocation, age, and race – Noahpinion
    If we value Black and white lives equally, then on average Black people will get the vaccine sooner.
  3. (1) LORN – ANVIL [Official Music Video] – YouTube
    Odd little science fiction three-minute animated video. A bit heavy metal like (i.e., for no particular reason the main character is a woman with large boobs in a skintight outfit), but fascinating and lovely visuals, all in black and white line drawings. ETA: Content warning for suicide.
  4. I wrote a Twitter thread on censorship in America today – not meaning “Kirkus didn’t review my book,” but meaning “government agents pounding on the door at 6:30am.” (Alternative link.)
  5. Visa and Mastercard are Trying to Dictate What You Can Watch on Pornhub | Electronic Frontier Foundation
    “The truth is, navigating speech policies in a way that won’t shut down huge swaths of legitimate and worthy speech is hard. And it’s wrong that Visa and Mastercard have the power to—however clumsily—police speech online.”
  6. Dorf on Law: Justice Alito’s Sense of Grievance Distorts His Views of Free Speech
    “Justice Alito is, not to put too fine a point on it, acting like a snowflake. Being called a bigot might be hurtful, but it is not censorship. It is counter-speech.”
  7. Why Are These Sea Urchins Sporting Cowboy and Viking Hats? There’s Science to Their Hot Looks
  8. Report Finds Bail Reform in Chicago Reduced Pretrial Incarceration Without Hurting Public Safety – The Appeal
  9. Digging Into the Messy History of “Latinx” Helped Me Embrace My Complex Identity – Mother Jones
  10. Free Speech Activists Are Trying to Get Me Fired Because They Didn’t Like a Joke I Made – The Stage Mirror
  11. A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China | Architectural Digest
    The photos are jaw-dropping.
  12. I left a long response in the comments to Shadi Hamid’s plea for Democrats to act in a bipartisan manner. Basically, I think we need to order from the options that are actually on the menu in front of us, not the options we WISH were on the menu.
  13. The dreamlike fungi that thrive in nature’s damp cornersGorgeous photos of mushrooms from the Netherlands.
  14. No-kill, lab-grown meat to go on sale for first time | Meat industry | The Guardian
    The “chicken bites”, produced by the US company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.”
  15. Should the government pay Americans to get COVID vaccine? | Miami Herald
    Yes, we should.
  16. Fat Lady Attempts to Get Health Care: An Oral History – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
    This is a harsh satire about how shitty doctors treat fat women… so please be cautious about clicking through.
  17. Freeze Peach Revisited
    “Free speech is your right to speak free of government interference. This is democratic bedrock. This is also your right to run a blog that nobody reads, print a book that nobody buys, and hold a protest that nobody cares about. Freeze peach is your ability to speak and be heard — for your testimony to be credited, your expertise accepted, for your opinions and preferences to matter in public discussion.”
  18. The photos in this post are by Kuma Kum.

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Cartoon: You Look Great!

Another collaboration with the wonderful Becky Hawkins!

If you like these cartoons, please support them on Patreon! A small pledge makes a big difference.

I’ve read many fat people’s accounts of losing weight due to illness and having their friends be seemingly thrilled by the weight loss. I’ve had a vague intention of doing a cartoon about it someday. But what actually galvanized me to write this cartoon was a tweet from “Uninhibited Seagull“:

OMG this. I was very ill through last Winter. I lost about 50 lbs through being too sick to be active and at times even too sick to eat. Returning to my workplace after going through that, most reactions appreciated my weight loss more than my health.

Becky said she’d be eager to draw it, and I was glad. This is a perfect cartoon for Becky to draw, because it involves so many specific environments that have to be instantly  understood  by readers, and Becky is fabulous at drawing environments. (She told me she was particularly pleased with the dull and depressing hospital hallway in panel 3.)



This cartoon has four panels, plus a small additional “kicker” panel underneath the cartoon.


We see a woman seated in a doctor’s office, facing the doctor’s desk. The woman has cat’s-eye glasses and purple hair, and is quite fat. She’s holding her hands in front of her mouth, looking afraid. We’ll call her GLASSES.

On the other side of the desk, the doctor is seated, talking to Glasses. She’s displaying a plastic model showing the anatomy of the head and neck.

DOCTOR: Your cancer is treatable. But it’s going to be a  hard road.


A caption at the top of the panel says ONE MONTH LATER.

Glasses is lying in a hospital bed, which has it’s head side partly raised. She’s lying on her side, facing away from her visitor, looking limp, her eyes mostly shut.

In the other side of the bed, a visitor, a balding middle-aged man wearing a green tee shirt, is holding a spoon in one hand and a container (jello, maybe?) in the other. He looks very worried.

VISITOR: Please eat something…

GLASSES: I… I don’t think I can.


A caption at the top of the panel says THREE MONTHS LATER.

Glasses, wearing a hospital gown and slippers, is walking in a dreary hospital corridor. She’s using a walker, and with one hand she’s holding a cell phone by her face, talking to someone. She looks cheerful. She’s much thinner than she was in panel 1, with bags under her eyes and her cheekbones standing out.

GLASSES: I’m not completely out of the woods yet. But they say I can go home.


A caption at the top of the panel says THE NEXT DAY.

Glasses, dressed in a blue blouse and white pants, is on the front yard of a nice-looking adobe bungalow house with a tiled roof, approaching the front door. We can see that this house is one of a row of similar houses on this block. Other than the clothes, she looks a lot like she did in panel three, and is again using a walker.

A friend is standing in the doorway, greeting her cheerfully. Glasses’ mouth is open, but she’s not speaking; she doesn’t know what to say.

FRIEND: Wow, you lost so much weight! You look great!


The same friend is talking to Glasses; glasses still looks surprised.

FRIEND: Man, I wish I could get cancer!

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

Open Thread and Link Farm, Oh Fishy Fishy Fishy Fish Edition

  1. Treasury Secretary Warren? Progressives Line Up to Press Their Agenda on Biden – The New York Times. And an alternate link.
    “But as they adjust to the possible new reality of divided government, many progressive groups and leaders are focusing their attention on Mr. Biden’s executive branch appointments with intense urgency, viewing these positions as gatekeepers, in effect, for vast numbers of policy.”
  2. Why Trump and Republicans Are Undermining Democracy
  3. My Son is No Sex Offender – Persuasion
    “But like hundreds of thousands, he is unjustly trapped on the registry.”
  4. Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate sues Netflix for giving Sherlock Holmes too many feelings – The Passive Voice
    Their theory is that, although the Sherlock character is public domain, Doyle didn’t develop Sherlock’s emotions until the later stories, which are not yet in the public domain; therefore a Sherlock with emotions is a violation of their copyright. (Although, needless to say, they have created nothing.)
  5. The real reason we have an Electoral College: to protect slave states – Vox
  6. The Only Time The Oscars Ended Early
    Turns out that ending early is a mistake. But also a great story.
  7. Is Plastic Recycling A Lie? 
  8. The Curse of Monster Island: an experiment in unmoderated free speech – The Skeptic
    The horrible people you attract might be even more horrible than you’re imagining.
  9. People’s Savings Are Down To $0 Because Of The Pandemic
    “Even people who built rainy day funds over years are watching their savings run down to zero, with no relief from the government in sight.”
  10. A short essay about Xander from Buffy, the episode “The Zeppo,” and trans masculinity.
    “The Zeppo” is one of my favorite episodes, and I’ve seen it many times, so I love reading some thoughts on it that I haven’t even considered. (Probably because I’m cis.)
  11. How to address police “testilying.”
    Police routinely lie and never face consequences. And it’s unclear how to change that.
  12. All U.S. Residents Deserve to Vote, Not Just Citizens
    Including immigrants, documented or not.
  13. Was Nazi Germany Everyone’s Fault? – Pacific Standard
    I’ve heard many arguments that the Nazis were widely supported by ordinary Germans, so reading a counter-argument is interesting.
  14. 5 Ways Weight Stigma Harms Fat People’s Health | The Mighty
  15. The magical thinking of guys who love logic | The Outline
    ” Calling your opinions and feelings ‘rational,’ as opposed to the ‘irrational’ opinions and feelings of others, is a shortcut to boosting your self-esteem. And it’s certainly not as though this tendency is unique to reactionaries; I think we’re all prone to this sometimes.”
  16. When YouTube Red-Pills the Love of Your Life
    This article is referenced in the above article, but the reference isn’t totally accurate. I wonder how common these relationships are. That some redpilled guys have produced “guides” to converting girlfriends and wives to redpill ideology is disturbing.
  17. G.O.P.-Appointed Judges Threaten Democracy, Liberals Seeking Court Expansion Say – The New York Times. And an alternate link.
    “Republican appointees interpreted the law in a way that impeded ballot access 80 percent of the time, versus 37 percent for Democratic ones. The numbers were even more stark when limited to judges appointed by President Trump, who has had tremendous success at rapidly reshaping the judiciary. Of 60 rulings in election-related cases, 85 percent were “anti-democracy” according to the analysis.”
  18. ‘We’re like athletes’: the secret lives of giant-vegetable growers | Vegetables | The Guardian
    I think, but I’m not sure, that I have Mandolin to thank for this link.
  19. A bunch of people over the years have asked why on earth Democrats oppose Voter ID. Here’s a succinct explanation (including references) on Twitter, and in case the Twitter copy doesn’t persist, here’s another copy.
  20. Donald Trump Didn’t Really Win 52% of White Women in 2016 | Time
    “…the percentage of white women who voted for Trump was actually 47%, compared to 45% for Clinton. That’s still a plurality… But it’s essentially a tie, which makes for a very different story than a 9-point margin for Trump.”
  21. What happened to that ‘blue wave’? – The Washington Post. And an alternative link.
    ” Republican presidents going back to Eisenhower have systematically invested in their party’s organizational capacities at the national, state and local levels: funding local party-building initiatives, assiduously recruiting activists, volunteers, and candidates, teaching campaign techniques, and launching fundraising systems. Democratic presidents, in contrast, have repeatedly emphasized enacting policies over party-building.”
  22. Why the First Monument of Real Women in Central Park Matters—and Why It’s Controversial | Smithsonian Magazine
    The process of making the statue – which depicts Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fourteen feet high – was interesting. Originally it was just Anthony and Stanton depicted; after objections to the whiteness, Truth was added in, and after further objections, Truth was made to be active rather than just listening. I favor all that, but some (not all) of the objections remaining – like that the three of them probably never literally planned together atthe same table – seem silly to me.
  23. I adore this AP photo of the sculptor working on the statue.
  24. Here’s a double-page fight scene from issue three of the current “Black Widow” comic. Art by Elena Casagrande, colors by Jordie Bellaire. And here’s a twitter thread where I discuss why I like this spread so much. (The reproduction of the art in the twitter thread is low-res and some important details are lost, which is why I included a separate link to the art).

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Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank were playing on easy mode back in 1966

Guest post by Brendan Wright

I just found another scintillating read– the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditures 2019. There’s some very interesting take-aways. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that think I understand why many well-meaning baby boomers think (wrongly) that young people could afford homes if we just cut back on luxuries a little bit. It’s become a bit of a trope that your boomer relatives think that you could own a home if you just cut back on the avocado toast and Lulu Lemon pants. Aunt Linda probably thinks that way because she and Uncle Frank made similar sacrifices, and it landed them in a nice split-level ranch!

Food expenses– both dining and at home– take up 15.46% of contemporary household income. Let’s call it 15.5% to make things easy. Apparel and Services take up about 2% of household income. Healthcare takes up yet another 6% of our income. The median price of a new home in 2019 was $320,700, according to— Approximately 3.9 times the annual household income reported by the Bureau of Labor statistics.

I busted out another thriller– “A Century of Family Budgets in the United States”, also by those raconteurs at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Table 4, “Historical Shares of Family Consumption” shows some interesting data for 1966– when Aunt Linda and Uncle and Uncle Frank were bright-eyed young things hoping to buy their first home. It lacks certain categories that the contemporary budgets have– like personal care. It appears to be a suggested budget, rather than what people were doing in the wild, but it’s based on actual income and expense data available to the BLS at the time. The BLS thinks that Uncle Frank and and Linda were spending 29.2% of their income on food, 10.3% on Clothing, and 6.4% on Healthcare. More importantly, the average household income in 1966 was $7400 (per and the average cost of a home was $14,200 ( That’s only 1.9 times average household income in their day.

If Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank were saving for 10% down on a home, they’d only have to save an amount equivalent to 19% of their annual income. If they managed to temporarily reduce the household food and clothing budgets by half– let’s say by thrift shopping, sewing their own, and eating less expensive foods– then they could free up 19.75% of their annual budget. In about a year of thrift, they could be walking into the bank and asking for a mortgage in one of America’s new suburban developments.

If a millennial wants to buy an average house right now with 10% down, they’re looking at saving about 39% of their annual income. (I didn’t factor closing costs into this, since I couldn’t find historical average closing cost estimates– but they aren’t cheap.) A frugal millennial who manages to spend half of the normal amount on food and the apparel/services category can expect to save up 8.75% of their annual income over the course of the year. In other words– they’re having to save about 4.5 times as long as Uncle Frank and Aunt Linda did. Emergencies can easily wipe out down payment savings before a would-be home buyer can use them to stabilize their housing situation. If your landlord decides to suddenly jack up your rent– common in many major cities these days– you might have to dip into those funds to pay for a deposit and moving van. Four and a half years is a much longer time to have to go without an incident.

I focused on food and clothing expenses because they’re usually the easiest for people to control. Costs decreasing in those areas mean that there’s less wiggle-room in millennial budgets. The big expenses tend to be harder to control– like housing or healthcare. Nobody asks their ambulance driver which hospital has the best prices on emergency appendectomies– they just care about getting to a place that can save their life. Housing is the big one for many young people, and there just aren’t a lot of good options in many areas. Many millennials dream of minimalist options like van life, but there are barriers– financial, social, legal, and otherwise– to get into tiny homes, van living, houseboats and many other off-beat alternatives. They’re not impossible, but they also aren’t easy and still have considerable costs.

Bottom line: Aunt Linda and Uncle Frank were playing on easy mode back in 1966.

Posted in Economics and the like | Comments Off