Small Press Expo 2022: Trans Identities in Fantasy and Fictional Storytelling

Small Press Expo 2022

Small Press Expo 2022’s panel “Trans Identities in Fantasy and Fictional Storytelling” gave the spotlight to trans and non-binary creators.

Small Press Expo 2022, an annual convention celebrating independent comics, took place the past weekend in Bethesda, Maryland. The convention, in-person after two years of virtual events, was a fun showcase for comic creators and fans. There were lots of great panels throughout the weekend, including a reminiscence of the 90s zine revolution on Saturday.

Sunday also featured several interesting panels, including one focusing on trans and non-binary creators, “Trans Identities in Fantasy and Fictional Storytelling.” The moderator and panelists, L. Nichols, Andi Santagata, Bread Tarleton, Casey Nowak, and Tommi Parrish, were either trans, non-binary, or both. After sharing their introductions and pronouns, the panelists discussed their creative processes as trans and non-binary creators.

There was a consensus that many of the characters that they created for their work were inherently trans or non-binary. One panelist indicated that the lack of focus on identifying gender until necessary was evident in how they drew their characters. Though another panelist later indicated that sometimes focusing on gender roles is needed for certain characters they are portraying.

When the discussion shifted to cisgender creators attempting to create trans and non-binary characters, the panelists were adamant that they were not a fan of stories that focused too much on revealing a character’s gender identity. They preferred that creators focused on making the characters more than just their gender identity and not merely token characters. The panelists also added that they didn’t like when the character’s gender identity is merely hinted at, mentioning J.K. Rowling’s treatment of Dumbledore’s sexuality as well as her recent anti-trans rhetoric.

When discussing portraying gender identity in a fantasy setting, the panelists discussed the creativity of incorporating gender identity. One panelist cited the Dragon Age video game series as one example of a fantasy series that incorporated transness and gender identity into its world in a creative way.

As the panel concluded, an audience member asked panelists what they want to see more of in trans and non-binary characters. In addition to wanting to see less focus on the big reveal, the panelists indicated that they wanted more fleshed-out trans and non-binary characters of all types. They argued that they wanted to see messy or villainous characters as much as they wanted to see heroes.

Small Press Expo 2022’s “Trans Identities in Fantasy and Fictional Storytelling” was an insightful discussion about trans and non-binary representation in media that allowed trans and non-binary creators to drive the discussion.

Author: Jessica Wolff

Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.


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