Why would you think that? I think the final page is absolutely clear on Wanda’s gender. And I hope the story is too.
Mostly, I found a lot of the stuff I was seeing in the late 80s from some feminist quarters really offensive, seeing them dismiss trans women as not real women, and decided that I wanted to put those attitudes into the story, which, from the title on, was about identity and how we create our own. So yes, there are god-like things in Sandman who do not see Wanda as a woman, just as Wanda’s family back in Kansas are not able not see her as a woman, but then, the narrative in Sandman is pretty clear that god-like things are just as likely to be screwed up, wrongheaded and mistaken as anyone else in the story. Wanda’s attitudes and responses to the Gods in the story are mine, although said much more pithily than I would have.
If I were writing it today, rather than in 1989, when there weren’t any Trans characters in comics, it would be a different story, I have no doubt. But that was the story I wrote in 1989. I got a fair amount of hate mail for putting a trans character in a mainstream comic, and I’m still proud of it, and of Wanda.
this is such a self-congratulatory retcon it disgusts me. when you write force majeure into your story and make it do value judgments, what in fuck’s name do you think people are going to take as the last word on a point of contention
also “there weren’t any trans characters in comics” maybe not the ones you and your boys’ club were writing you smug little shit
1. Neil Gaiman wrote more LGBTQIA characters into his 80s mainstream stories than most other writers do today. Mainstream.Keyword is mainstream. How many mainstream comics or media do you know today very actively portray transwomen as a major player in an arc or storyline? What about in the 80s? And when I say mainstream, I mean mainstream.
2. If you actually read the storyline, you’ll understand that Wanda remained Wanda even while the entire world was against her, the last insult being the name Alvin on her gravestone—promptly crossed out and replaced with Wanda by Barbie, who with the lipstick wrote the last word; the last word in writing being Wanda’s true name.
3. Death, who was probably the most powerful being in existence and arguably the greatest of the Endless, knew completely and entirely who Wanda was—a woman. That was the final word, to trump all other words. Wanda was a woman, and no shitty gravestone marker, no intolerant families, and no evil cuckoos could say otherwise.
That was my point of view too. Obviously, readers’ mileage varied and not everyone took that away from the story. But I think most people did. Or at least, I hope so.
i hope you realize, if we’re actually talking now instead of you just having your fans “if you’ve actually read the books” at me, that you wrote a story where a trans woman was relentlessly degendered and attacked and the only thing that allowed her to recover her dignity as a woman or a human being was death. i hope you understand how fucking poisonous that is, how unoriginal a way of approaching our struggles it is - how intensely reliant on existing transmisogynist narratives it is. how common “when i’m dead no one can think i’m a man” is in 2014 and was in 1989, and how monstrous doing anything to reinforce that was.
you’re saying that not only was it a good thing, but it’s such a good thing it outweighs giving a voice to a bunch of other transmisogynist bullshit that was also endemic in the culture. that i should be grateful that you allowed this into the mainstream.
frankly, existing media products about trans women were more prominent and respectful for decades. we had been telling our own stories for decades and your ability to talk about us at all was a product of us talking about ourselves. in a sense you cut paychecks on our work, then patted yourself on the back for representing us in the mainstream. you’re still patting yourself on the back.
you don’t get how destructive this is - i’ve known people who have been cut to the bone by your horrible depiction of us, do you fucking realize how intensely we’re marginalized and attacked by mainstream nerd culture? do you not get how many of us think “death is the only thing that will stop me being misgendered” represents a cogent fucking argument for self-obliteration, in part because of shit like sandman?
would you like me to look up how many trans women, probabilities being a guide, read your comic? would you like me to look up our suicide rate for you?
would you like me to draw you a fucking picture?
i don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that there’s more than one human life on your conscience, mr. gaiman, i don’t think anything can undo the damage you’ve done, and i think it would suit you to be less than brimming with house-pride for once in your fucking life
Like, OK, I get that Gaiman thinks he’s being all affirming and inclusive here — depicting a trans woman who gets it from literally every fucking quarter but is then acknowledged as rightfully a woman by Death, who’s kinda the last word for anyone in that cosmos — a cosmos where even the gods and the very forces of the universe can be as confused, fucked-up and bigoted as anybody else. I get that he wrote this from what he perceived to be a sympathetic place. Hell, I know at least one trans woman who *liked* it (even thanked him for the depiction), so obviously opinions vary here.
But… it’s a good thing I didn’t read that at a certain point in my transition, because I probably wouldn’t *be* here. Because things were honestly that fucking tenuous.
I spend enough goddamn time orbiting death — partly my big-picture approach to shit inclines me to be aware of its inevitability (and my religious/spiritual outlook definitely reinforces that awareness in a way that by itself is not harmful — hell, in theory it makes me VERY receptive to what Gaiman’s trying to do here because that kinda big-picture, not-terribly-frightened by death view comes pretty naturally), partly my paranoia tells it’s coming for me sooner rather than later (due to my mistakes or just pervasive bad luck), and half the time I’m vaguely wishing it on faster due to some combo of genuine despair (however disproportionate) and just the messed-up shit going on with my psychology. I’ve attempted suicide a couple times.
You know what I’d *like* to see? Some vaguely concrete narrative telling me that I have anything at all in life to look forward to other than that. And I need it at *least* ten years ago, ideally. Because I see what you’re doing here, Mr Gaiman, and it’s not anything to pat yourself on the back about. Congratulations, your goth psychopomp doesn’t think trans women are fake — here’s your cookie for clearing a ridiculously low authorial bar. Meanwhile lots of trans authors and artists were ALREADY trying to tell stories about us and to us that had nothing to do with reinforcing cis people’s ideas about us.
Hell, one of my (cis) exes used to like to compare me (and literally every other trans girl she had a crush on during that period of life) to Wanda. And she thought that was somehow tragically beautiful — an actually rather common trope around trans women in media, when we’re allowed to be sympathetic at all (that’s your real legacy here, Mr Gaiman — you’ve helped to create one more stereotype about us). And she called on that character again when she decided to stop dating trans women in general (this was well after our breakup, and after she’d fucked it up with a couple trans gals) because, and I quote: “You’re all just so sad all the time, and I know that’s not fair but it’s so tragic and you’re just…damaged. It’s too much and I can’t do this anymore.”
So yeah. Not feeling it. :\
Mainstream fiction has *never* had anything much for me here, to be honest. But hell, it says something when Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (hello exploitation cinema!) is a more affirming narrative, just because there’s anything other than misgendering and death (however perky and sympathetic) in store for the trans character!