Above-The-Waist
posted Mar.28.17 at 10:00 pm

So, before I say anything else (because otherwise I'll forget), here's the old strip!

This strip needs an asterisk, and congratulations! You're looking at the footnote.

I had an e-mail exchange with someone who read this strip (the old one) and was hurt that I'd used (and kept) the term "chicks with dicks" in this strip. Instead of translating what I wrote in response, I'm just going to copy-paste it here, because it's long, and I think it deserves to be explained. 

A lot of shit's changed since 2008, and in case you're behind the times, "chicks with dicks" (and "tranny" and "shemales," for that matter) is a derogatory term that I only recently learned is pretty cruel to use. If you're cocking your head and making a confused sound, please read on! I'll explain it the best I can.

This strip was created in 2008, before trans issues had blipped on my LGBTQ+ radar (although admittedly this is still new and mysterious ground to me, which is why I've never written a trans character before). I'm re-running the old black-and-white strips now in color, which has given me the opportunity to talk about some of the outdated and controversial language or topics in the strip.
 
I've committed myself not to white-wash the history of these old strips, because I feel it's important for people to see just how quickly a movement can develop, and because I think it's also insightful to discover that even an author who strives to be empathetic and inclusive in her work could have used language just under a decade ago that she might not now. 
 
The term "chicks with dicks" is one that - like "shemales" - is used in the porn industry and is still a commonly-used term, like crude slang. From what I understand, the biggest problem with this is that (especially in the past) it can be a person's first exposure to non-binary gender configuration, in which case someone might associate ALL trans people with this eroticized terminology. Like if someone saw a "slutty MILFs" section on a porn site, and then associated the word "slut" to all moms... the obvious difference being that EVERYONE knows at least one mom outside of the pornographic realm (I'd hope!); not all people have seen a trans person outside their pornographic explorations.
 
Considering the speaker in strip #537, this term - written in quotation marks, which is why I included them - is telling of what Hazel's experience has been. It's a reasonable guess that Hazel has never personally known a trans person, and that her entire experience with non-binary gender composition has been limited to what she's seen at Clarice's porn store or online. So when she was searching for a quick term to describe "person with male genitalia and female gender presentation," she reaches for the only term she's familiar with.
 
I think reason this strip feels uncomfortable to read has less to do with the words that Hazel is using, and more to do with the indifference that Jamie shows toward them. We consider Jamie to be at least moderately in-tune with the LGBT world, while it also goes without saying that Hazel has never been the character you want to model yourself after if you're trying to be inclusive or sensitive in any way.
 
Which is why I'm glad to have the opportunity to include commentary on them now. 
 
If you have any additional insight to add to this, I'd be grateful to hear it! Honestly, this would have been one of those strips where I'd just simply write something like "Ugh, please don't use that term." below the strip, but because you contacted me about it, and I felt you deserved a thorough response... well, I put a lot more thought into the "why" than I otherwise would have. So, thank you. :) 
 
 
(See? E-maling us sometimes helps!)
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