Groundbreaking trans comic anthology captures rapturous moments of joy and gender euphoria
A new comic book anthology by trans writers and artists details beautiful moments of gender euphoria.
When I Was Me: Moments of Gender Euphoria is a collection of one-page autobiographical comics about the joyful moments of being trans, featuring heartfelt stories from a range of trans creators.
In one panel, an artist describes the euphoria they feel when fencing, as it’s “impossible” to tell their gender in the “bulky” and “concealing” armour they wear. When they wear it, they feel “free of expectations”, “unburdened” and “unjudged” by others.
Another comic detailed how one artist felt like her life was “in black and white” – much like the monochromatic initial panels in the piece – because she didn’t know what being transgender was, thanks to a lack of representation. After doing her research, her life – like her comic – burst into a riot of colours; now, she wants to “bring that colour” to the lives of other trans people.
The book is the first comic anthology from queer Edinburgh-based indie publisher Quindrie Press. Eve Greenwood, one of the founders of Quindrie Press and an editor on the anthology alongside Alex Assan, told PinkNews that the project was much more emotionally-charged than they expected at first.
Greenwood recalled how Quindrie had “so many great pitches coming through” when they were looking for contributors. He thought many of the original submissions were “sweet” and “nice”.
But when once the actual sketches for the submissions poured in, they were taken aback by how emotional they felt.
“Once the actual sketches started coming through, people were able to express these moments in more than just a couple of sentences,” Greenwood said. “They were drawing them, and I was tearing up several times.”
Greenwood said collating the book has been “therapeutic and beneficial” to the team, a “blossoming of all these lovely moments”.
“A lot of the contributors have messaged me as well to be like: ‘This has been such a great experience’, and it’s been such a celebration of the trans community,” Greenwood told PinkNews.
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They said the welcoming response not only from contributors but also from readers had been especially heartwarming given the torrent of transphobia in the UK.
Greenwood said it had been “amazing” to be able to “step back from all the s**t” and “absolute trash” that’s been directed towards the trans community and to remember the “actual trans community is so full of love”.
“There are people behind all these stories, and when you say the trans community, you’re not just saying this blind army, it’s this group of people,” Greenwood shared. “We all share very similar experiences, and we all have this sort of shared connection even though we’re from so many different backgrounds.”
He continued: “It’s been a great reminder of just how meaningless a lot of the outside views the trans community is because, at the end of the day, they’re just people.
“We’re just people living our lives and having amazing experiences and beautiful experiences that we couldn’t have had if we weren’t trans.”
‘No one else could judge me’
CAP Ward, a comic artist and illustrator, was invited to create the cover art for When I Was Me. They told PinkNews it was their first time working on the cover for a book, and it was like a “record scratch” when they got the email inviting them to design the cover.
“I sat there looking at the email and went to talk to my roommate about it – he’s like my sounding board for a lot of things,” Ward said. “And he was sitting there like: ‘You got this. Let’s do it.’”
It was a big deal for them to design the cover because “people judge the cover”. Ward said they received helpful feedback from Greenwood, who pushed them to go for “expressive things” and the “weird imagery” that they like such as “floating leaves” and bright colours.
Discussing their anthology entry, Ward described it as a “bit closer to a memoir than real-life truth”. The comic takes place during a hike in the woods, inspired by a time they were outdoors where “no one else could judge me or impress social roles on me”.
“It was just me and my body,” Ward recalled. “I was out hiking in the woods, and there was no one around besides a bunch of animals – and they’re just kind of vibing and doing their thing.”
Ward told PinkNews that the anthology itself was “super important” because it’s “such an array of experiences” from within the trans community.
“It’s honestly just amazing,” Ward said. “So many walks of life and different ways of discovering gender and becoming comfortable with yourself and expressing it as well.”
‘Sometimes it feels like trans identities are a discovery only younger people go through’
Cat Laird, a freelance comic artist and illustrator, told PinkNews they often find their gender a “difficult topic” to talk about when they’re “the focus of conversation”.
They find it “easier to talk about through comics or written word”, especially as they’ve “never formally come out to the world”, just a “select few people”.
“Being 30, sometimes it feels like trans identities are a discovery only younger people go through, but it’s not like that,” Laird said.
“Yes, I’ve always known somewhere that I wasn’t a girl, but I’ve only started committing to myself in the last few years. I wanted to share a little bit about myself in the anthology so that others around my age or older would maybe see something of themselves in me, and build a little confidence to be themselves too.”
Laird’s piece was inspired by a poem they were “randomly presented with going home from work one evening” called “Your Life” by Andrea Gibson. They said the poem “changed absolutely everything for me” as it was “said with such love for oneself that it completely flipped my perspective on myself”.
“Being agender became less of a burden I felt squashed by, in terms of having to tell people and confront it, and it became something that I admitted finally that I wanted to embrace instead of pushing away,” Laird explained.
Their piece captured the sensation of “blooming [they] felt inside my chest” at that moment and will now never forget.
Laird hopes others who are “confused by the concept of being trans” can see these joyful moments expressed in the anthology and realise they can still support and love trans people even if they “never fully understand” the experiences of those within the community.
‘It doesn’t matter what other people think of me because the people I truly care about ‘get’ me’
Jade Sarson told PinkNews that they weren’t initially going to submit a comic for When I Was Me as submissions opened at a time when they were “super low” and feeling “major dysphoria and imposter syndrome”.
“I thought, ‘No one wants to hear from me, a gender goblin. I don’t know s**t about being trans. I’m not trans enough’,” he explained. “But then the wonderful editors reached out, and I realised that was all nonsense and getting to express a uniquely euphoric experience among so many of my coolest peers would be so good for me.”
They told PinkNews that their comic explored something “equally thrilling and embarrassing” to them – intimacy. Sarson explained that “sex and coming out have much the same vibe” to them.
“To enjoy the experience, you have to be honest and allow yourself to be very vulnerable, be seen, be known,” Sarson said. “And that’s so hard.”
While he doesn’t “want to be perceived”, Sarson does want to be understood – and having good sex is a “big part of that”. He said the piece was a “whole new level of scary to make”, because he had to be “truly honest”.
“I also had to draw myself having an orgasm, which was a first,” Sarson added.
For Sarson, it often feels like the “content you make as a trans person is there to prove [that it’s] OK to be trans”.
At times, they said, it feels like “some sort of placation” or like saying “see, we’re not bad”. But he’s not “here for that”.
Instead, he’s proud of the fact that the anthology didn’t shy away from the open and honest moments of the joys of being trans.
“I think this anthology is special because it was expressly about the joy of being trans, and just revelling in that, nothing else,” Sarson said. “It doesn’t matter what other people think of me because the people I truly care about ‘get’ me, but most importantly, I get me – so I can go on and enjoy my life.”