Super Late Bloomer

Julia Kaye
Andrews McMeel Publishing
$14.99
160 pages

My Early Days In Transition – An Up And Out Collection

Super Late Bloomer is a new a collection of strips from cartoonist Julia Kaye. In Kaye’s forward she recounts the pain of her then ongoing denial of her gender identity and how the discovery of trans people sharing their stories on a site provided a spark of hope. Several years passed before finding the courage and strength to begin transitioning, a change that became possible by making the often dreaded decision by many adults to move back home. While living at home provided a safety net and means for Kaye to transition, Kaye also realized she was lacking any trans friends on whom she could rely for support, and being an artist, cartooning seemed like a natural substitute.

Admitting an unfamiliarity with the work of a writer or artist has the potential of being dicey. So it is with some hesitation that I say Kaye was new to me. What I found between the covers were vignettes told in a very personable and relatable style. Relying on a simple three panel layout, with a few exceptions, Kaye conveys with great economy of word and line the issues with which she dealt in her daily experiences. With an unflinching eye Kaye reveals a range of emotions from doubt and frustration to joy, satisfaction and acceptance she felt throughout these first several months. Being self critical is second nature for many people so to learn if she had been hard on herself would not come as a surprise. In any case, Kaye took a gentle and resilient approach affirming the implicit message that tomorrow is a new day.

Being a cis gay man precludes me from having an understanding of a trans person’s reality on an experiential level. Much of what I know comes from reading comments of trans friends and acquaintances on social media and trying to imagine myself in their situations. Being clocked at a grocery store as a friend has been or as Kaye mentioned in a strip feared might happen at a certain once frequented cafe isn’t usually a concern in my life. The unease I occasionally have with sharing public rest rooms with straight men does not approach the palpable level of concern that public facilities and the vitriolic verbiage over their access causes trans folk. Body dysphoria is an experience unique to trans folk and it’s a topic that Kaye tackles head on a number of times here. The scope of the ways it manifested for Kaye was eye opening. Before picking up this book I was unaware of the “am I trans enough” question that Kaye related asking herself in the foreword. Kaye realized the anwser was yes just as it is of course for all trans folk.

Kaye’s “less is more” art style works quite well here. Excessive line work and interior color would provide a distraction from the messages while the front cover’s pale blue underscores Kaye’s peaceful daydreaming. Panels drawn in free hand suggest the fuzzy edges life tends to have.

It turns out Kaye’s decision to use cartooning as a support mechanism was a very good one. Reading Kaye’s story was a pleasure. Trans folk don’t ask trouble, pain, and contempt that bigoted and ignorant people want to heap on them. Transitioning takes courage and fortitude and I hope Kaye’s story in Super Late Bloomer might provide hope and encouragement to anyone questioning their gender identity or in the early satages of transitioning. It should also be of interest to cis people wanting a better understanding of a trans experience or in support of trans friends and family members. Just remember there isn’t a single, monolithic trans experience!

Look for Super Late Bloomer at your favorite local comic shop or bookstore or from Amazon if you wish.

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