James Robinson Speaks Out on AIRBOY #2

In the wake of online reaction to a scene in Image Comics’ Airboy #2 depicting the objectification of transgender individuals, writer James Robinson released the following statement through GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization:

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.

GLAAD brings LGBT characters and plotlines to movie theaters, television sets and even comic books — working with writers, producers and studios to ensure accurate and diverse representations of LGBT people on the big and small screens. Special thanks to Nick Adams, Director of Programs, Transgender Media, for his hard work and dedication.

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6 Comments

  1. Kevin Bradley said:

    Not being transgender or having read the comic in question, his apology sounds sincere and heartfelt. I hope that counts for something with the folks who have read the comic and were offended.

  2. C.Free said:

    this is all well and good, but the practical result will be the writing out of any trans people/issues. If I were a comic writer and I saw this reaction I would say to myself, “I guess i just won’t write about trans people because if I say anything about them they don’t like they will freak out and try to get me fired. So I just won’t write about them.” the hypersensitivity to language will not push writers to include LGBT people, because at this point you are better off NOT addressing the issues and avoiding the headache.

  3. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    I would rather not be written about than be written about in a dehumanizing way. So, there you go.

    But, by the way, James Robinson has a great track record of writing LGB persons positively (having been nominated for GLAAD awards many times) and is committed to positive representation of transgender persons in the future. So, at least for him, your thesis doesn’t hold.

  4. C.Free said:

    Fair enough. Are there any books written by trans men/women about trans issues?

  5. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    SO SORRY for the delayed reply.

    Decrypting Rita by Margaret Trauth
    Wet Moon by Sophie Campbell
    The Blue Valkyrie by Emily Riesbeck
    Just So You Know by Joey Alison Sayers
    Transposes by Dylan Edwards
    Jem and the Holograms by Sophie Campbell (Trans character is Clash)
    Doom Patrol by Rachel Pollack (Trans character is Coagula)

    If I think of/hear about any more, I’ll keep adding!

  6. C.Free said:

    thanks! tomorrow is comic day so your timing was actually perfect!

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