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Saturday Sketchbook: Stripes and Blades

Saturday Sketchbook: Stripes and Blades published on 18 Comments on Saturday Sketchbook: Stripes and Blades

For Transgender Day of Visibility, a portrait of the main visibly-canon-trans cast members.

Left to right: vampire hunter Delphinum, magic knight Juniper, tiny engineer Mata, non-magic guard Alruna, goth teen Vine, and vampire lord Imri. We had to put Del and Imri on opposite ends of the group – it’s the only reason they haven’t already gone at each other’s throats.

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you know, its just occured to me that this cast is a little AFAB heavy, huh?

Vine looks like he wants to be Imri when he grows up…

cute color details, btw!

What’s AFAB?

Originally, “female-assigned at birth” (or, less frequently, male-assigned) referred to intersex people who were subjected to sex-reassignment surgery as newborns. Not out of any medical necessity, just out of a fixation on the idea that they had to look “normal.”

More recently, it’s gotten popular to use a similar term to refer to anyone who got an F written on their birth certificate. Personally I think that’s a sketchy move, borrowing terms for a specific intersex experience and applying them to something that isn’t comparable, and I don’t use them for my own non-intersex characters. But they’re used pretty widely in the rest of the world at this point.

I think it’s sketchy move to borrow plural pronoun and apply to singular as gender-not-specified version, but I guess that battle is already lost. The way terms are chosen near sensitive topics is very suboptimal … but there is worse variant: NOT choose one and pretend the term is not necessary.

Singular “they” doesn’t involve anyone appropriating or minimizing the traumatic experiences of a group they don’t belong to. Whatever complaints you have with it, it’s not in the same category.

(Also, singular “they” has been in use for centuries, and “borrowing a plural pronoun and applying it to the singular” is exactly what happened in English to the word “you”. Just in case anyone reading this wasn’t clear.)

I was actually unaware of the “originally used to describe intersex” bit of etymology.

I had to look up the spelling of ‘Etymology’… then I looked at the etymology of Cisgender, because it had never occured to me to look it up.

Cis- is a latin root meaning “on this side” or “on the same side”
Trans- is a latin root meaning “On the other side” or “on the opposite side.”

That makes a LOT of sense.

Oh, yeah, those prefixes have been around for ages. They’re used in chemistry (for example, cisplatin is a useful chemotherapy drug, while transplatin has the same chemical formula but not the cancer-fighting power), astronomy (you can talk about exploring cislunar space versus translunar space), physics (cisplanckian versus transplanckian energies), geography (trans-Atlantic versus cis-Atlantic), and more.

I stopped asking questions when the head my college’s QUILTBAG+ group mixed me up with the only other male-presenting individual in my study track (Education majors unite!) and got decked for his trouble.

In my defense, you shouldn’t tap someone on the shoulder when they’re double-timing through a camera deadspot after dark.

I was actually under the impression that “assigned [gender] at birth” terminology was invented by trans women, and can’t find anything to the contrary. Do you mind sharing the sources that you have?

I mean…books?

It can be tricky to search because the vocabulary changes so much. But here are some articles from medical journals that use “sex assignment”, “gender assignment”, “male-assigned”, and “female-assigned”, all referring to surgery on infants with (in modern terms) intersex conditions:

Belis JA, Hrabovsky EE (1979). “Idiopathic female intersex with clitoromegaly and urethral duplication.” J Urol. 1979 Dec;122(6):805-8. PMID 574562.

von Schnakenburg K, Bidlingmaier F, Engelhardt D, Butenandt O, Unterburger P, Knorr D (1980). “17-ketosteroid reductase deficiency — plasma steroids and incubation studies with testicular tissue.” Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1980 Jul;94(3):397-403. PMID 6775489.

Money J, Devore H, Norman BF (1986). “Gender identity and gender transposition: longitudinal outcome study of 32 male hermaphrodites assigned as girls.” J Sex Marital Ther. 1986 Fall;12(3):165-81. PMID 3761370.

Money J, Norman BF (1987). “Gender identity and gender transposition: longitudinal outcome study of 24 male hermaphrodites assigned as boys.” J Sex Marital Ther. 1987 Summer;13(2):75-92. PMID 3612827.

Oesterling JE, Gearhart JP, Jeffs RD (1987). “A unified approach to early reconstructive surgery of the child with ambiguous genitalia“. J Urol. 138: 1079–82. PMID 3656565.

Note that I’m definitely not endorsing the content of these studies. (Most of the writers take it for granted that their job is to give these patients Normal [Gender] Development, including heterosexual relationships and strict gender-role conformity. It is…hard to believe that any of them were trans women.) I’m only linking them as a historical how-this-vocabulary-was-used reference.

Do you have a copy of that first one, Erin? My understanding is urethral duplication is *incredibly* rare, so I’m curious what their sample number was like, but the online sources I have access to only have the abstract and my university doesn’t have a copy of that volume of the journal.

Yeah… I left out Hibby because his gender isn’t explicit in-strip (and he’s fictional), Hestia because it didn’t seem in the spirit of the thing to include a deceased character, and Artie because I drew it before they were introduced.

Del does have the most appearances, but I figure trans guys don’t get as much rep in general, so it’s good if the cast has a variety of them.

To be honest, I don’t mind it as it is used because it varies from the original enough to be distinct while still getting the point across and to be fair being assigned something you are not and being forced to live that way, often with all kinds of guilt and shame, is traumatic regardless of medical intervention.

I myself am intersex, though I was not medically altered as my external genitals were not ambiguous and I was raised as female, with a lot of pressure to be female and a girl. I am a man and I am male and being raised as female and forced to live as a girl was traumatic for me.

Your opinion is valid and I can see where you’re coming from. Given my personal experience, I disagree. Language changes and is appropriated all the time, the term gay for instance, so I see no problem with language evolving Besides, there are plenty of trans people who are also intersex, so I figure it’s not anyone’s place to question how someone else labels themselves since they don’t know that person’s history, but that’s just my opinion.

Thank you for speaking up! I’m glad the terms don’t bother you.

To be clear, it’s not that I doubt the trauma potential in being forced to live as the wrong gender, I just wish it wasn’t elided into the trauma of forced surgery. Especially since in this case the terms also end up getting applied to non-intersex cis people, when “having your gender correctly identified” isn’t traumatic at all.

And yeah, I certainly wouldn’t advocate going up to random people and saying “you, personally, don’t have the right to use this term.” Because it’s always possible there are things going on in that person’s life that you don’t know about. (And don’t necessarily have a right to know, either.)

I appreciate your reply and I can see where you are coming from. I still see it as more of a shades of grey kind of thing, in that I think there’s no one right way to label your own experiences, but I do agree applying it to cis people who have not experienced anything in regards to sex or gender trauma is odd. I guess I’m just not big on policing language. For instance, I have C-PTSD and I really hate it when people use triggered to mean “upset by”. I’m also really irritated by a lot of political correctness, but I respect people’s right to define their experiences because I can’t say for sure that them being upset by something doesn’t trigger a flash back in them. That’s why I try to come at these kinds of things from a neutral stand point. I fully respect your view.

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