VODKA O’CLOCK 1504
AMBER LOVE 26-JAN-2015 It was an honor to stay connected with writer/entertainer CHARLES BATTERSBY after I recorded one of his comic convention panels about transgender themes. Charles identifies as transgender and spends time switching being presenting as a man and presenting as a woman. He also maintains a single nomenclature Charles Battersby without feminizing it for anyone else’s sake. However, when it comes to pronouns, the proper thing to do is use ones that match the his presentation at that moment; if unsure stick with neutral “they/them/their.” Everyone has an individual preference, so just ask rather than make it awkward.
You can revisit Charles and the other panelists from the NY Special Edition comic con panel called Secret Identities: Transgender Themes in Comics. He updates his content adding to his research with each year that he is able to present this panel and is able to specifically address if it’s about comics or gaming.
Download on iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.
Charles is part of a gaming discussion group, Press XY, that is one of few transgender in gaming groups in existence. (http://pressxy.com/) They do a lot of panels at PAX conventions. Many conventions are getting on board with adopting anti-harassment policies and actually posting them so they are easily found. It’s not about sucking the fun out of the shows; it’s about all attendees feeling safe.
“I’ll call it an amusing story; other people might be enraged by this: I did have someone ask if they could take a picture of me using a urinal in my skirt when I was in a men’s room because he thought it would be a funny little picture to put on Instagram or something.” ~CB
Charles was the focus of the Infamous Catwoman Incident of 1993. He shared his story about crossplaying as Catwoman while interning and was asked to leave by employees of DC Comics. Mind you, this was many years ago. We can only hope the current staffing at DC would never consider doing this. It was a time when Catwoman had been overly fetishized and DC was trying to clean up the character’s image.
“I don’t think it’s a company-wide mentality there. They just had a couple of jerks working there.” ~CB
TOYS & GENDERING
Toys don’t have gender. That’s another part of our conversation. I noticed STAR WARS blogger @AmyGeek tweeted over the weekend that SW (owned by Disney) is marketing to boys ages 5-12 despite SW being notoriously gender-balanced in fanbase (though not in original representation of the source material before the extended universe).
Charles will cosplay characters from movies, comics, and video games. He’s a well-rounded nerd. He doesn’t always stick with crossplay though. He has been able to find trans characters that he likes enough to cosplay like Poison from Final Fight.
“People should be happy when they see someone likes things they like.” ~CB
TRANSPHOBIA IN COMICS
BATGIRL’S villain character Dagger Type came across offensively to fans. The creators were accused of being transphobic and having Batgirl herself, who previously had a trans roommate, suddenly transphobic. The creative team – Brendon Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr – took the time to listen to people first then issued an apology which did not include “we’re sorry, but” or “we’re sorry you were offended.” Their apology may not have erased the hurt, but fans were placated by it. Following that, some fans felt that the apology was being treated as more newsworthy than the issue of transphobia appearing in the first place.
“It ended up having a lot of very negative stereotypes. If you read the full storyline, you’ll see that Dagger Type is depicted as a very incompetent villain reprehensible character in almost all forms. So, having the character be sort of transgender or unspecified gender identity is only part of the problem; it’s that the character was depicted with such negative characteristics – it being stupid and vain – and then there’s general worth of the story itself.” ~CB
Charles defends the whole creative team. He firmly credits them with doing well with the series and being well-intentioned despite this glaring mistake. Dagger Type’s story doesn’t even come to an end because of Batgirl. His incompetence does him in and his plan falls apart. Charles speculated if the follow up issue, BATGIRL #38, could have be rewritten following this backlash; I don’t know if that would be possible to do that much work overnight on a monthly comic. If anyone knows, please share the details.
Batgirl 37. We made mistakes. We're deeply sorry. We will do better. pic.twitter.com/RUk2y2jNlI
— Brenden Fletcher (@brendenfletcher) December 13, 2014
An important dialog for me was asking Charles about if and how Dagger Type differed from the Joker dressing up as a nurse in a dress.
“And regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea, it’s something the Joker would do because he’s crazy and he knows he can get away with it even if the plan just falls apart around him.” ~CB
“Within the confines of that movie, it’s never specified that he’s transgender.” ~CB
And, we talked about what would make the transphobic villains different than Angelina Jolie’s character in SALT where she went in disguise as a man for a scene.
“I think the male to female crossdressing character is such an established negative trope especially with Norman Bates and with Buffalo Bill being such very large iconic cultural references that when a transgender character is at all reminiscent of those characters, it’s very offensive; and so, I don’t know if there is an equally great iconic cultural moment of a woman disguising herself as a man and being a reprehensible serial killer. ”
Charles writes a lot of gender-, age-, or race- neutral characters along with some transgender or gender-nonspecific. The Astonishing Adventures of All-American Girl and the Scarlet Skunk set in 1948 where the public is intolerant of crossdressing and the character is always perceiving him as evil. He’d jump at the chance to write a MADAME FATAL series for DC Comics.
While Charles and I did spend a lot of focus on BATGIRL #37 which came out in December 2014, it’s never too late to discuss the subject of transgender inclusivity in comics since there are currently no major trans characters in DC, Marvel or Image. Although the collection of Jim Kelly and Adrian Sibar’s BANG! TANGO will be released by Image in February (originally published by Vertigo in 2009). I’ve found Image Comics’ TREES by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard have a couple well-crafted trans characters – one M-F, one F-M and several decades apart in ages. Charles and I discussed whether shapeshifters are trans or not.
If you’re interested in learning about women who dressed as men to break into fields like writing, there’s a comic book, NO GIRLS ALLOWED: TALES OF DARING WOMEN DRESSED AS MEN FOR LOVE, FREEDOM AND ADVENTURE by Susan Hughes and Willow Dawson.