mathisnicerwhensimpleas314159265 asked:

Neil, you've written a trans woman character in Sandman but the way the story develops makes it seem like you think trans women arent actual women. And well, considering what you said about your friend, im sure thats not the case. So... could you clarify things? (i hope this doesnt sound accusatory, thats not how i mean it)

neil-gaiman answered:

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.

Just to insert some additional facts into this, as someone reasonably knowledgeable of the texts in question.

1) The twenty-eight year friendship Gaiman referred to earlier in this discussion is almost certainly Roz Kaveney, a trans activist who is particularly outspoken critic of TERFs, as well as a prominent member of British sci-fi fandom who is thanked in the credits for the Game of You trade paperback, and who I can basically guarantee you without having seen an interview quote to this effect served as an advisor and consultant on the Wanda plot. This is not, of course, a magical inoculation against all problems, but it does at least provide reasonable evidence that Gaiman knew what issues he was coming into contact with.

2) The goddess that misgenders Wanda is a moon goddess. This is almost certainly intended as a reference to Dianic Wicca, a feminist pagan tradition that is also ideologically transphobic and an early example of what we now call TERFs. The case for this being intentional seems to me very strong, and I think anyone trying to argue that it was not Gaiman’s intent when writing Game of You would need active textual evidence against it - it would be shocking if, between Gaiman’s increasing connections to the neopagan community via fandom and his friendship with Kaveney he did not know about Dianic Wicca. 

3) While I quibble slightly with “the most powerful being in existence” mattering much in terms of the Endless, it remains the case that, on the whole, Death is the closest thing that Sandman has to a moral authority. The text is consistently deferential to her view, and she’s essentially the only character in the entire text where you’d really have to struggle to find a moment where she does something awful to anyone. The fact that the story goes out of its way to show Death acknowledging Wanda as a woman does, in fact, speak volumes. 

4) All of which said, the story absolutely does contribute to a larger cliche of the trans person as beautiful but doomed to die. There are of course defenses to be made of any individual text in this tendency. Indeed, they’re kind of inevitable - stories that are angry and about demonstrating something that is wrong with the world, particularly horror stories of that sort, are overwhelmingly likely to end with sympathetic people dying. Yes, there are way too damn many stories about trans people dying. But…

5) There weren’t nearly as many in 1991-92, when A Game of You came out. Dianic Wicca was younger then than A Game of You is now. Gaiman’s statement above that he would write the story differently now, I would suggest, almost certainly meant to indicate precisely that fact - that he recognizes that things that were progressive and major breakthroughs in 1991-92 would be considerably less progressive in 2014, and that he would aim to do something different today. 

Accordingly, I do not think that the critique of transphobia in A Game of You is particularly persuasive. It is an imperfect text, but a frankly bizarre choice of targets given its historical context.

I suspect part of the problem is that people don’t read Sandman in historic context. And mostly, they shouldn’t need to. 

It would have seemed ridiculous when I started writing it to think that that people would be reading it 25 years later as current fiction, rather than, if anyone read it,  as a curiosity that you could find in single issues in the quarter bins of comic book stores.

Would I write that story in that way now? Obviously not. But Wanda was one of my favourite characters in Sandman, and there were a lot of characters.