Coming to us via UK zine and minicomics micropublisher Black Lodge Press, Andrew Lips’s Transgender Step Parent is described as “a series of funny/serious comics on being a trans co-parent, including the total *joy* of gendered toilets, being misgendered, and the frustration of gender as a social construct!”
This opening issue comprises 20 or so pages of single page cartoons and multi-panel comic strips detailing the daily lives of Lips (also known as Mama), partner Lynne and stepdaughter Emma. Each individual entry represents an isolated moment in their lives but together they build into an overarching narrative examining the mirror image themes of acceptance and intolerance.
From the opening pages and the first main short, ‘Gender Trouble’ (below left), the scene is quickly set for the examination of the developing relationship between Mama and Emma. Indeed, as the title would obviously suggest, that connection is at the heart of the book as Emma slowly moves from the confusion of that strip in its early pages to a depth of understanding that puts some of the adult cast to shame as the issue progresses.
It’s both a very funny minicomic and a very touching one. Emma asking Mama why she is sitting down on the toilet (“Can’t a gal pee in peace without being visited by the gender police!?”) can be counterpointed just a few pages later by a moment of heartrending narrow-mindedness that threatens the tenderness of their bond. It’s indicative of the two interweaving thematic strands that make up the comic. While the visuals are basic in construction they do have a likeable accessibility, with a noticeable ability throughout to acutely communicate the characters’ emotional states and draw on the audience’s empathy.
While the moments of humour in Transgender Step Parent are, indeed, beautifully observed there’s an underlying poignancy that is undeniable. Lips’s fear of losing Emma, for example, or the social pressures surrounding their family unit from those who can’t understand, or simply refuse to accept the realities. This is also a sterling example of the ability of comics as a form to immerse the reader in the personal experiences of its protagonists – to pull them into their existences and live their lives for the duration of the reading experience.
You can order copies of Transgender Step Parent #1 here priced £3.00.
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