By Shelby Clark Petkus
Online comics have existed roughly as long as the internet, and as a result of more freedom and accessibility to different groups of people, comics can now cater to everything from sexual fetishes to video game culture. This comes as fortunate news for those who discover Kylie Wu’s “Trans Girl Next Door,” a comic documenting Wu’s own experiences as a transwoman. Transwomen and cis women alike have expressed gratitude at finding a comic that shares their experiences, with raves filling the comic’s Facebook page along with hundreds of shares on the comic’s Tumblr page.
In the online serial, Wu depicts the highs and lows of transition, including the happiness at being called pretty and the immediate fear when she’s forgotten to take her hormones. She decided to start sharing her comics primarily because she enjoys sharing in general, particularly if it’s a funny story. “I like to talk a lot and share my opinions, so this is just another way of doing so,” Wu shares. “The fact that I didn’t know about my gender identity for so long, and the way I kind of found out about it, they were all just so funny and interesting to me, so I kind of just went, ‘You guys wouldn’t believe what had happened!’ to the internet.”
Wu, who grew up in southern China (“Man, I miss the food!” she exclaims) and moved to the Washington D.C. metro area in her teens, currently resides in southern California. The 24 year old artist, who admits to sometimes feeling like 14, sometimes 44, but “never my actual age,” went to CalArts and studied Character Animation. In addition to her penchant for sharing her thoughts, Wu was inspired to make comics by the ease of reading short pieces. “I really like reading those short and funny web comics on the inter-web, so I think they all inspired me. And also my undiagnosed (but I’m pretty sure I have it) ADHD makes me draw my comics really short,” she laughs.
Tumblr, the social networking site, operates with “microblogs” perfect for sharing Wu’s comics. The site allows users to “reblog” multimedia and other user’s blog entries. “I’m super bad with social media, websites, tech,” Wu notes. “Tumblr is very easy to use for me.”
Though the majority of her comics often include comedic takes on her transition process, such as her girlfriends and even her mother asking for hormones in attempts to grow their breasts, Wu edges into more serious topics. For instance, one comic documents the unfortunate reality of revealing her status to people on dating sites, depicting caricatures of the types of guy she and other transwomen meet, such as “the guy who sees you only as a fetish” and “the guy who wants to date you on the sly.” “I think I like to throw in some serious topics, such as transgender rights, in my comics from time to time,” she notes. “I want to make animation shorts as well, but that would take up a good chunk of time, and right now I need to focus my time on doing work and finding work to pay rent first.”
Both serious and funny comics resonate with her audience, and Wu has found them equally beneficial to herself. “People send me messages and tell me my comics have helped them a lot, which is literally the best thing in the world. However, they don’t realize that making these comics and putting them out there has also been a very therapeutic thing for me too. I wasn’t expecting this therapeutic experience for myself. So I’d say my life has changed, in a sense that I don’t feel so alone anymore, and there are people out there who get my sense of humor,” she shares. “I’d like to take this opportunity and thank all my readers for their super sweet words and love and support. I love you guys!”
The warm reception to her comics has spurred Wu to make a variety of plans for both her comic and her own future endeavors. “I really want to release an actual comic book next year, collecting all the comics I’ve made since the start of my transition till a year later, and adding some new and fresh ones in there,” says Wu. “I’m kind of old school that way; I like to physically hold a comic book in my hand and read it, like when I’m in the bathroom or something.”
She’s also interested in doing collaborations and focusing on making more art (like comics, animation and illustrations) to raise awareness of the transgender community and the LGBT community as a whole. “I want people to look at my silly drawings and get disarmed by them,” she says. “The next thing they know, ‘Woop, Bam,’ they understand us and support us.”