James Robinson has had a high profile couple months! After the first issue of the Airboy miniseries was released, a sort of meta-textual romp into the mind of the writer, he received almost universal acclaim. And for good reason as it was an amazingly personal and lively stories that will likely prove to be one of the year’s best. Then the second issue was released, and the dialogue shifted a bit. As a part of the integration of the character Airboy the characters all go to a bar that has many transgender people in it, and the language that is used in the place and around sexual acts engaged in with trans women have been seen as a little problematic.
In response to the controversy, Robinson had a conversation with GLADD where he really made some heartfelt comments that showed his intentions owed much more to how the characters were being portrayed than carelessness about the transgendered community.
I thought long and hard before writing this response, with the time it’s taken me to do so I fear having been misinterpreted as indifference on my part to the ire this sequence has caused for some. Often public figures just issue a quick apology, a snippet of contrition, in the hope that the light of scorn will then shine away from them. But those apologies often feel inauthentic or meaningless, and I didn’t want to do that.
It was with much regret that I learned how I had angered and offended members of the transgender community with a sequence I wrote in the second issue of the Airboy mini-series I am currently doing. As anyone who has read the first issue will know, this series is a semi-autobiographical piece of meta-fiction that shows me at a self-destructive and unhappy time in my life before I sobered up and entered a better place in both my work and the world as a whole. To illustrate this, I portray myself and my artist Greg Hinkle as two blithe idiots pin-balling through a succession of stupid and self-destructive actions, doing and saying stupid and thoughtless things. I intentionally portray myself in the worst light possible and as the worst kind of person.
Stepping outside of myself and the work, I can see how, while my intention when writing the scene was never to defame or harm the trans community, I did indeed fuck up and for that I sincerely apologize.
In my intention to create an ugly version of me and my world, I have inadvertently hurt and demeaned a community that the real non-fictionalized version of myself truly respects and admires.
It’s a sad and terrible fact that the transgender community is one that is often misunderstood and mocked. And that honestly, truly, breaks my heart. It is a beautiful community full of shining souls, which in a different work on a different day I would proudly show in all its variety and wonder. Honestly, that is the truth. Anyone who actually knows me, knows my feelings on such matters, and anyone who doesn’t will just have to take my word for it.
And yet here I am, in my eagerness to create a scenario that mocks my own moral worthlessness, I do no better than the worst kind of person, blindly marking the transgender community with the same sullying brush I chose to paint myself — instead of giving it the dignity and respect it deserves and is so very often denied.
This is a work of deliberately ugly satirical fiction. One part of me believes a creator has the right to tell the story he feels the need to tell. There’s a part of me that feels that it’s acceptable for a work of fiction to hurt or offend. That at the very least the work elicits feelings.
Then there’s the other part of me — the major part, I might add — that is truly saddened that the transgender community, comprising men and women who carry the burden of an ever-hostile society, should have me adding to their load.
There is minor solace — very minor — in the fact that I note the discourse I’m seeing on-line about this, is at least allowing an exchange of views that I think is open, healthy and ultimately a good thing. I hope comic book fans and creators will think more critically about the way trans characters are portrayed.
I consider myself an ally to the LGBT community and I promise to work harder in the future to ensure that any trans stories or characters in my work are portrayed in an thoughtful and accepting way.
I know this response won’t satisfy everyone, but it comes from the heart. I love all people. I wanted this statement to convey my complete feelings on the matter.