Through the Vitriol

a trans perspective of the gender non-conforming representation seen in animation and film

To be transgender is to feel, at some level, a disharmony between the gender you were assigned at birth and your innate gender identity. Trans comes from the Latin meaning ‘across’, so one’s gender identity is across from the one assigned at birth. Logically it’s opposite Latin term ‘cis’ means ‘within’, so the term cisgender is now commonly used to denote anyone who is not transgender and therefore feels that their gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth. The word ‘trans’ alone is also an umbrella term for all gender non-conforming identities such as transfeminine, non-binary, agender, genderfluid and so on. I want to acknowledge that much of this language is new and not common knowledge; the necessity to define ‘trans’ demonstrates this. This language may also become outdated in the future just as some of the terms previously used within trans communities have and I accept that as part of the cycle of challenging the systems in place. I would also like to acknowledge my position as the author, that I am a white middle-class transfeminine non-binary person and although this grants me first-hand experience of living whilst transgender I also benefit from the privileges of being white and middle class in a system built to keep these classes dominant. My practice as an illustrator and animator revolve around queer and trans identities and I have a passion for shows that represent these issues as they fill me with joy and reassurance that I cannot always give myself. In order to avoid delving into reportage I shall from hereon use evidence in the form of studies, articles, and diaries to further illustrate and consolidate trans experiences alongside evaluations of fictional animated characters to explore how they facilitate new understandings of gender identity.

Authors Note:

I made this book because I was getting increasingly frustrated by transgender depictions in film – or lack thereof – and felt I had no place or people to share it with. I searched for material around the subject with the tools I had: the internet & a library. First, I found a lot of heavy academic writing that was insightful but not personal (and unsurprisingly not very accessible), then I found online blogs who dropped in humanising anecdotes alongside their analysis but still floated around singularly. Thirdly I sought out and met transgender groups – something that brought so much more joy than I could imagine – but is yet to get into the long form discussion of film that I was itching to engage with.

All of these brought me a wealth of information, the biggest part of which is the realisation that there is still so much I have yet to see/hear/read/learn. Yet I didn’t feel satiated. It was too fragmented, and given the opportunity of a final year project at university I decided to try and consolidate the lot into… something?

Overwhelmed by options I returned to my favourite piece of trans literature ever: Fucking Trans Women Issue #0 by Mira Bellwether (she/her).

A zine that encourages readers to DIY publications and share their own knowledge to add to the historically persecuted literature of transgender and gender diverse people. So I did. There is so much more I wish to say but restraints of this world and this corporeal body require temporary endings, so here is the first edition of my experience with Transgender Cinema.