Last night, I met cartoonist Sophie Labelle. I didn’t have a proper conversation with her, much as I would have liked to. I listened to a Q&A discussion and asked her to sign a poster. Got a selfie. I floated home full of thoughts and dreams. I was taken by the humility of this lady who made remarkable comics. I want to touch lives as she does.
I’ve always wanted to reach people. To communicate. I’ve pursued interests that inherently do that thing: theatre, teaching, writing, psychology. The sweetest experience is speaking out into the world and being understood. Being heard. To connect. It’s the link we find with another person that is sacred. The topic is secondary.
Listening to Sophie talk about her journey, I heard a kindred spirit insofar as she had no plan. No real aspiration for her life to take this direction, yet here she was. I have no plan either and I can’t call myself as successful by any stretch, but sometimes we just land where we fall. We make the most of what happens, and that’s how I resonated with Sophie.
I came away thoughtful and reflective – because I come away from everything thoughtful and reflective – and thinking to myself how much I wanted to reach people on that scale. It wasn’t all roses, that much was made clear. I knew about her doxxing and the harassment from her posts on Facebook. I’ve stumbled into horrible subredits looking for specific comics with google. It’s terrible what people say, what they do. Put your soul out into the wild and people will tear it apart.
As my identity emerges more and more online, I admit I feel that fear. First my first name on Facebook and attached to my email address. That seemed harmless enough: the surnames were aliases. Later, my middle name being used in some places. Most recently, my full name on transgender universe along with an email address to reach me on that site. I can feel myself becoming more vulnerable, though I haven’t met the kind of success or gained the attention necessary to make that vulnerability matter. Yet.
I felt that vulnerability this evening as people criticised the title of my review of the event. It was a witticism made by Sophie, a quip about her career. It was a joke she repeated often at talks, according to her running commentary, and I loved the play on words. The idea of cross dressing as a a profession is hilarious. People didn’t see it that way.
In the end, I held firm because I loved it so much and I felt that it conveyed the lightheartedness of the evening. The easy going way the talk went that inspired me so much. The casual play on words, the off hand use of potentially dangerous language. I liked that it was dangerous. I liked that it provoked people. Invited discussion, caused people to pause.
What I didn’t realise is that exact thing would make me a target. Not a very big one: the comments are largely restricted to the comments page on Transgender Universe’s Facebook. Pretty tame, compared to what Sophie’s faced, but it cut me up a bit. I wanted to reach people and I alienated them. Sort of my worst nightmare, really. Much of my personal anxiety surrounds rejection.
I say to myself that I won’t please everyone. That I will say things that upset people. That nothing I say is truly harmless. Anything I put out there will be judged and I’m not always going to be understood. But I still hate that those things happen.
So. Inspired, I took a risk. Not a very big risk, and it had the effect I half expected, in hindsight. I didn’t set out to inflame or upset anyone, but I picked a line that might have been made clearer. I had a go being like Sophie; try out her wit… and proved I was no Sophie Labelle. Yet.
Like her, I think I’ll take this opposition and use it to spur me forward. I’m still very new to this publication game – that was my first attempt at journalism. I’ll figure it out and find a place for myself eventually. Until then, I’m going to continue to let myself be inspired by my heroines to chase my dreams.