First Year Out: A Transition Story
This is the hardest kind of review to write. First Year Out: A Transition Story means well and supports a great cause, but it’s not very good comics.
Sabrina Symington’s graphic novel covers key events in the first year of Lily’s life as a woman. She goes through laser hair removal to lose her beard, struggles to explain her change to her mother, narrates techniques for looking more feminine, reminds friends her pronouns have changed, and demonstrates voice training. She struggles with dating, until she finds an accepting guy that her friends tell her is too good to be true, and she contemplates gender reassignment surgery.
Events are driven though long blocks of dialogue that sound nothing like real conversation. It’s as though someone wrote an essay about the best way to respond to common questions about transgender issues, and then chopped it up and dumped it into large word balloons. The main character is constantly lecturing her mother and friends about how she feels and why. Educating readers on what it’s like to be trans is a good idea, but I couldn’t react to Lily as a character because she’s a walking encyclopedia, with a boyfriend who never does or says the wrong thing. Plus, the figures are lumpy, there in most scenes just to indicate who’s talking.
Challenges arise but are promptly resolved in the most ideal way possible. (Unless you’re another character in the support group Lily attends, where an older woman tells the story of how coming out destroyed her life.) Lily calling her mother a TERF causes her to promptly research what that is and abruptly change her opinions to accept and help her daughter.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see things work out so well for Lily. It just feels fake when so many conflicts are handled quickly and relatively easily. The wish-fulfillment aspects conflict with the educational elements. Perhaps a longer book, or one that tackled fewer aspects of the experience, would feel more realistic.
I suppose a graphic novel will attract more readers than an essay or FAQ, and I support the educational efforts of this book. But it’s a stodgy read that is a poor representative of what can be done with comic storytelling. (The publisher provided a review copy.)