Though many choose to keep a written diary as a way to cope with troubles, author Julia Kaye did so in a more art-inspired way: through comic strips. What started as a personal project of daily, stress-releasing three-frame comics, turned into a full book format. Each page is essentially a daily reflection that helped Kaye through her 2016 transition. The book, released in May of this year, examines all the various ups and downs of transitioning and how some days can feel much better than others.
Between The Lines reached out to Kaye before the book’s release to talk about her struggles in writing the book, its public reception and about new projects in the works.
What made you realize you were a cartoonist and how did the subject of “Super Late Bloomer” choose you?
Comics have always been a part of my life in one way or another — from reading newspaper
strips growing up to web/indie comics as a teen and beyond. I tried my hand at a lot of areas of the visual arts over the years but I always gravitated right back to it. I started spending all my off-hours from work writing and drawing, I had the bug and felt a powerful need to make my own. In my mid-20s I started and eventually became known for an absurdist humor webcomic called “Up and Out”.
Meanwhile, around 2015 or so, my gender dysphoria had steadily gotten worse to the point where I couldn’t ignore it any longer, leading me to finally start down the path toward self-acceptance — and transitioning. Early on in transition I found myself facing new, mentally-taxing situations daily and desperately needed a way to help process all of the complex emotions that come with living with gender dysphoria. I didn’t know any other trans people at the time — which was incredibly isolating — I found there was just so much to transitioning that was difficult to explain and relate to the cisgender people in my life. There was a very real gap in their understanding.
So, alongside seeing a therapist, I turned to making journal comics. A little daily project just for myself, my only goal to be as honest with myself as possible — which was a very new thing for me then! And so it all just sort of came together over time.
How was the creation process for “Super Late Bloomer?” Has making this book made you want to continue drawing comics?
The whole process was very therapeutic and relaxing. At the end of each day I would step
away from the distractions of technology and life to reflect on the events of the day and how they affected me emotionally. I limited myself to three panels because I didn’t want it to be stressful, just a quick ‘n easy little mental check-in. It all happened very naturally. The biggest difficulty I faced being the days where there was just too much for one comic, but I tried my best to choose what felt most important. Being so vulnerable and opening up publicly has been an amazing experience. I definitely will moving forward.
What has the reception been to the book so far? And how have you felt about it after its completion and release?
The reception has blown me away. Queer people of all ages write to me telling me how
they’ve come to understand themselves better through reading it, or were inspired to come
out in their own lives from it. Cisgender allies excitedly tell me how helpful it’s been to understand gender dysphoria. A few have even confided that they were unknowingly transphobic before reading my work and have since become allies. It’s incredible! I’m so happy to have been able to have made such a positive impact.
What are you future plans for making comics? Are there any projects you have coming up that you would like to divulge?
I’ve got some ideas for moving forward but it’s still much too early to talk about them. Gonna keep my little baby ideas close to the chest for now!