Talking to Sabrina Symington, author of First Year Out – the first graphic novel to explore transition for trans women

Sabrina Symington is an illustrator, graphic novelist and blogger from Vancouver, working to normalise transgender issues. First Year Out is based on her own personal experiences and those of her friends. The graphic novel follows Lily, a trans woman, as she navigates the ups and downs of transition. From laser hair removal to dating and gender reassignment surgery, the comic tackles difficult issues with honesty and intimacy. We talked to Sabrina about her reasons for creating First Year Out. 

What made you decide to explore the process of transition in graphic novel form?

I initially started drawing autobiographical webcomics as a way of working through the rollercoaster of emotions I had in the early days of my transition. But as I progressed in my transition, I realized how much misinformation there is out there about trans people. Since I believe in the power of narrative to change people’s views on controversial subjects, I felt what was needed was a humanizing trans story – most importantly one written by a transgender author, as opposed to a cis author translating their view of trans experiences through their own lens. I wanted to not only present accurate information about trans people’s lives and experiences, but also to present trans people as real people, rather than the stereotypes that we are usually portrayed as. One thing I will say is that I changed and grew immensely over the course of writing First Year Out. Transition is an ongoing process. It doesn’t “end” when you get a surgery. It goes much deeper than that and can last a lifetime. And while much of the story reflects my views and experiences during my own first year out as a trans woman, if I were to write “Second Year Out”, the story and Lily’s character would be *very* different. For I, too, am a completely different woman now.

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Anti Bullying Week: What role can teachers play in building a better school community? – Pete Wallis

anti bullyingWhen writing the text for What are you staring at?, a graphic novel about restorative justice in a school setting, I couldn’t resist taking a side-swipe at the antiquated system of school detentions, as a repost to the endlessly repeated rhetoric calling for ‘discipline’ to be brought back into the nation’s schools. By pointing out that more often than not, slapping a detention on a young person for wrong-doing is actively counterproductive, I hope to illustrate how ineffective a punitive system is for resolving behavioural issues or engendering self-discipline within a school community. In one of Joseph Wilkins’ most evocative images, our protagonist, Jake, is seen sitting alone in a large classroom. He is serving a detention for punching Ryan, a pupil in the year below, and we see him simmering with anger and resentment at the injustice of it all. At this point in the book, no one has taken the trouble to tease out the story behind his violent behaviour, and because the punishment hurts (as it is designed to) he is minded to take revenge on the very person he harmed in the first place – namely the innocent Ryan – for being the ongoing cause of his pain. Precious little scope there for reflection, understanding, resolution or healing. Continue reading