GUMBALLS #2 BY ERIN NATIONS
Art
Story
Characterization
Summary
Genuine, funny, and poignant, GUMBALLS #2 explores the highs and lows of Erin Nations' life as he begins his transition.
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REFRESHINGLY AUTHENTIC
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GUMBALLS is a collection of comics both written and drawn by Erin Nations. The comic strips within GUMBALLS #2 range from purely fictional to non-fictional accounts from Nations’ life. The majority of the non-fiction portions deal with Nations’ experiences as a trans man.

Without a doubt, the visibility of transgender people in the media has increased over the last few years. “Transgender” has become a political and pop culture buzzword. Sadly, this coverage has done very little to expose the public to the lives of average transgender people.

Many people outside the LGBTQIA+ community cannot tell you what the proper pronouns are to use for a transgender man or woman. Members of the media still don’t understand that it’s degrading to refer to someone as “a transgender.” Despite the non-stop talk about Caitlyn Jenner and bathroom bills, the bulk of Americans still do not understand the very basics of who transgender people are. Furthermore, they do not know what their lives are like or how they want society to treat them. This lingering ignorance makes works like Erin Nations’ GUMBALLS so important. 

READ: Already familiar with GUMBALLS? Learn how GUMBALLS addresses toxic masculinity!

Nations is a witty writer with a really great grasp on what humor looks like in 2017. He uses the “Personal Ads” to poke fun of the ironic arrogance of some millennials. Additionally, “Miscellanea” and “Twins-Triplets” contain personal experiences and anecdotes from Nations’ childhood. Nations’ art, in general, is also brilliant in how stylized it is and in its playfulness. Not only does the art give GUMBALLS #2 its humorous tone, it could have only been created by Erin Nations.

That being said, the most powerful parts of GUMBALLS #2 are Nations’ “Tales of Being Trans.” I don’t intend to be dismissive of the fictional portions of GUMBALLS #2. I also don’t intend to define Nations and his work by his trans identity. But, as a queer person, I cannot resist pointing out why these accounts are so outstanding in particular.

GUMBALLS #2

GUMBALLS #2 Shows What Transitioning is Actually Like

In GUMBALLS #2, Nations begins to describe his transition. He starts hormone replacement therapy, a process he a likens to “going through menopause and puberty at the same time.” Nations goes into detail about the changes he begins to observe in his body, and how these changes help to ease some of his gender dysphoria.

Nations recording the start of his transition in GUMBALLS #2 is so important because very rarely are the bodies of transgender people discussed on their terms. Society oscillates between sexual fascination and repulsion for the bodies of transgender people. There is a fixation on the element of transformation, of someone emerging from their transition and suddenly being able to pass as cisgender (non-transgender).

Despite how the media has portrayed transitioning, it’s not like you get a makeover and suddenly feel amazing and super confident. Not only is it a deeply private process for some people, but it is also an emotional and subtle journey. Nations’ account of his transition celebrates even the most subtle changes in his body as progress. In GUMBALLS #2 he invites us readers to come along on this journey. As readers, we witness the daily struggles and victories that he encounters along the way.

GUMBALLS #2

Yes, in 2017 it’s Still Hard to be Transgender

GUMBALLS #2 shares Nations’ ongoing struggle to be his authentic self in a world not quite ready to accept transgender people. In one strip, Nations tries to figure out whether or not a bartender has misgendered him by calling him “honey.” In a more out-rightly transphobic exchange, a coworker scoffs with disgust at a magazine cover of Caitlyn Jenner. Afterward, we get to see Nations’ internal dialogue as he decides whether or not to speak up.

READ: Want more queer content? Here’s 10 must-read LGBTQIA+ webcomics!

GUMBALLS #2 continues to explore the experiences of a transgender person without being exploitative. The power of this account highlights the need for more transgender creators in comics and beyond. The comics in Erin Nations’ GUMBALLS #2 are genuine, funny, and poignant. These narratives in conjunction with Nations’ art manage to capture the lunacy of living in a world that refuses to respect you from the get-go, in addition to the regular dose of lunacy we all face.

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  1. […] issue of GUMBALLS was released last Wednesday (5/3)! Pick up the issue that ComicsVerse is calling “Refreshingly Authentic” at your local comic book store or order it […]

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