Thursday, March 12, 2015
Interview with Assigned Male creator: Sophie Labelle
Assigned Male is a web comic that follows the life of a Transgender child named Stephie as she navigates cis-centered culture and fights for her rights. Through a tongue in cheek approach Stephie tackles tough issues about gender norms and privilege with her group of varied gender non-conforming friends. Stephie is surrounded by her supportive mother and father whom is finally coming around to view the happiness of his child. The comic is updated weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can read it online on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/assignedmale or follow on tumblr at: www.assignedmale.tumblr.com
Assigned Male is a great introductory guide to those trying to understand transgender issues on a accessible level. The first section of comics are available on Sophie's etsy page www.assignedmale.etsy.com , in both french and English versions.
We were lucky enough to have Sophie squeeze some time in the busy schedule of being an artist to answer a few questions about the web comic and other work. You can support Sophie's work here to help bring stories about Stephie for many years to come: www.patreon.com/sophielabelle
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Who is this artist behind the comics?
I was born in a rural town, in a french region of Canada. I'm passionate about books, education, drawing, sewing and bicycling. I teach at an alternative elementary school in Montreal and my walls are covered in children's drawings.
What got you started with art?
I was good at it! (laugh) Seriously, I always had very low self-esteem, and art has always been, since I was in kindergarten, a way to gain recognition from my peers. That's what gave me strength when I was in high school.
I started drawing comics in 2nd grade, to imitate my older brother. I never stopped since!
Where did the idea come from for your current web comic series: Assigned Male?
I've been working a lot with trans children, and I've noticed how negative everything we tell them about their own body is, so I wanted to create a character that could respond to all those horrible things trans kids hear all the time. That's how I created Stephie!
On average, how long does it take to make a comic?
About 5 hours. That includes drafting the storyboard, inking, coloring and correcting both the french and english versions! English isn't my primary language, so my boyfriend always corrects everything before it gets published (love him!).
What has been the reactions you have received for your comic?
You mean besides from TERFs, MRAs and truscums? (I learned so much about those people, I didn't even know they existed before they started hating my comic!)
So besides them, the reaction has been really positive. I receive messages almost everyday from parents, trans youth and adults, allies or educators telling me how they appreciate my comic. So it's been mostly positive!
What is the experience like now that you've started getting fan art for your comic?
I'm getting so much love for this comic, it's indecent. I have the best supporters in the world!
As well as your comics, you have educational guides. How did the educational guides with the characters start?
As I stated previously, I am a teacher, and I work towards making spaces safer for trans youth. So it seems natural to me to make those efforts available to as many people as possible!
Besides Assigned Male, do you have any other projects we should check out?
I have another art project, called Uncommon Girlhood - Stories I need to tell (storiesineedtotell.tumblr.com) about my own experience of growing up while trans. I update it less regularly than Assigned Male, but it's still alive!
Do you take part in any advocacy work?
I do! I facilitate workshops in Quebec and give conferences about transfeminism and trans history in Quebec. I'm also active in our trans rights movement, which gained many things lately - the possibility to change sex markers without surgeries being necessary, some surgeries' costs being covered by our health care system... but there is still work to do!