Sophie Labelle, a transgender cartoonist and the author of the webcomic Assigned Male Comics spoke at CU Boulder on Wednesday night. The event was sponsored by Out Boulder County, Boulder and Longmont’s primary resource for LGBTQ education, advocacy and resources.
Labelle is a French-Canadian cartoon artist from Québec. In addition to Assigned Male Comics, she’s written several books. These include the children’s book My Dad Thinks I’m a Boy?!, the comic book Nail Polish and The Genderrific Colouring Book.
Labelle began creating comics in elementary school, when she joined her older brother’s “comic club” and drew pictures of his fifth-grade teachers. She developed a relationship with her school’s principal after being kept inside during recess due to bullying. It was then that her principal encouraged her to draw her own characters, which she says put her on the path to creating Assigned Male Comics.
After coming out as transgender, there was “no way I could draw a cis and straight character,” Labelle said.
Labelle discussed the alienation of trans people that often occurs in the media. She focused on the way the media tends to portray being trans as a constantly intense and terrifying ordeal. The essence of being trans for Labelle, she said, is “pointing at trucks with ‘trans’ on them and laughing.”
“See how they gather hormones for the winter,” Labelle said, imitating a television commentator.
Transgender people in media, Labelle added, are presented as a tool to educate cisgender people. Labelle expressed a need for trans media created for trans audiences.
“I chose not to have cis people as my target audience,” Labelle said.
She included that transgender representation would entail characters whose trans identities are not the whole of their personalities.
Through her comics, Labelle wants to communicate to cisgender people that their repetitive and often invasive questions about trans people are “horrible.” Labelle started comics, in part, as a way to vent and “give us [trans people] a break” through humor.
“I had to find a way to laugh about these issues,” Labelle said.
In response to a question about leaving her life as an activist to dedicate all of her time to comics, Labelle said that for trans people, “getting up in the morning is activism.”
“[Saying] ‘I’m proud to be trans’ is very intense for a lot of people,” she said.
Labelle finds great importance in teaching children about gender fluidity, pointing out that all transgender people were once children. She has written two children’s books about transgender identity, titled My Dad Thinks I’m a Boy?! and A Girl Like Any Other.
She ended the night by telling stories of young kids confidently coming out as trans to their peers after discovering her work.
Labelle hopes her comics “[bring] light in tunnels that are often very dark.”
Contact CU Independent Writer Anna Haynes at email@example.com.