Whenever I’m on the road, I always make a point to stop at a local comic book stores in whatever town I’m playing. I haven’t been a serious collector of comic books in years, but I still like to pop in and browse, more for the sake of nostalgia than anything else. I always make a point of buying something, though, not just because I always feel guilted into supporting small businesses. Books, in my experience, make wonderful keepsakes.
A good friend of mine is a bit of a comic book store purist. He gets all out of whack when collectible card games, action figures, or Warhammer figures start taking up too much space away from comic books. The small store I popped into before a show in Oregon would have done him proud. Aside from being dedicated to comic books, the store was also dedicated to being as open and welcoming as possible. This is very important, as comic stores have, historically and famously in geekier circles, been unhospitable thanks to a combination of social awkwardness and systemic toxic masculinity. But this store, right in the middle of downtown was open and accommodating.
Its bathrooms were gender-neutral, and a stack of free artisanal menstrual pads sat on the table between the two doors. I know artisanal isn’t the right word to use there, but if you saw that pads, you’d know what I mean.
I browsed the shelf of LGBTQ comics, many of which were created by local artists. I was immediately drawn to Non-Binary a comic book by Tulsa, Oklahoma artist Melanie Gillman. I read the first few panels, before deciding to purchase it. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.
It’s important to say here that I am a non-binary trans person. What that means is despite looking like Phillip Seymour Hoffman and clearly being a lady on the inside, I’ve found a home with myself at neither. My pronouns are they/them and Thanksgiving is always very awkward at my parents’ house. If you want a better definition of that I suggest you either buy Gillman’s book, or just Google it. It’s 2017.
I took the comic to the register, where a beautiful ambiguously gendered person scanned my purchase. I was in a cool city, in a cool comic book store, feeling very much at peace with myself. I had a show in an hour, and I was wearing a dress I looked fantastic in and more makeup and jewelry than I wear in my day-to-day.
“Will that be cash or card?” The clerk asked.
“Cash,” I said, handing my bills forward.
The clerk smiled. “My man!” They said.
I furrowed my brow.
“You know what I mean,” they said sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“It’s all good,” I took my comic and left.