Trans Comic Artist Julia Kaye Has a Message: ‘You Are Not Alone’
The Up and Out comic by Julia Kaye offers an intimate look into the life of a woman undergoing gender transition. It’s autobiographical, revealing and deeply honest.
Kaye was kind enough to answer our questions about her work and her life.
PLEASE READ? This strip has NOTHING to do with how I currently look. I'd only been on hormones for five months at the time and my features were still masculine. Hormones can take upwards of a year to really change your body, please take that into account. ✨June 3rd, 2016✨ I was terrified of using the women's bathroom because I was visibly trans and the anti-trans bathroom bills on the news. As I was washing my hands, a father with his three young boys saw me and shouted at me. I never used the men's again. It was humiliating and terrifying. It's dangerous for trans people to be forced into the wrong bathrooms.
Why did you call your comic Up and Out?
Before starting the comic, I was working at a real estate company as a graphic designer and saw drawing comics as my ticket up and out of there. It seemed fitting!
In the beginning, your comic was really different and took more of a gag-a-day joke format. What led you to switch to a more autobiographical approach?
Despite being released under the Up and Out branding, I think of my gag strips and autobio work as two entirely separate projects. Early on in 2016 I started making autobio strips just for myself as a therapy aid during my gender transition. Making them gave me a chance to set aside time each day to check in with myself and reflect on my mental space. I originally had no plans to release them publicly.
Months later, I found myself sitting on a large pile of unreleased content. Despite my fears of sharing them online, I realized others might benefit from seeing them. Being that I had already built up an online audience making gag strips over the years, I realized I had a rare opportunity to raise up trans issues to a large audience that might not have otherwise sought out that sort of content. And, just as important, I could hopefully provide relatable content for other trans folks as well as people questioning their gender identity.
I don’t have time to juggle two separate projects now that I’m working a day job, so I’ve placed priority on the autobio series for the moment.
How did your readers respond to the announcement that you were transitioning?
They were absolutely wonderful! The day I came out, there was such an outpouring of support, it was almost overwhelming. I had been so scared to come out to such a staggering number of people, but in the end there was nothing to fear! Sure there were a few bad eggs here and there, but that was nothing in the face of so many caring messages.
What surprised you the most about transitioning?
Probably how quickly my new life has normalized. I live my life doing countless things daily I’d been scared to do for so many years. It’s all wonderfully routine. I love it.
How has writing and drawing Up and Out changed your life?
Before starting the strip in early 2013 I was pretty aimlessly going through life, but Up and Out gave me focus and direction. I’ve met and become friends with countless incredible artists and it got me a job offer at Disney Animation, which is nuts. Also, it’s incredibly humbling to hear how many people my work has touched. It’s all been incredibly validating.
Do you have any plans for the future of Up and Out? Will you continue the autobiographical series indefinitely?
Yes I do, but I’m keeping that to myself for now. 😉
I will say that I finished drawing the autobio series some months ago. At a certain point I realized I had said everything I needed to and brought it to a close.
I’m currently working on putting a book together for it, but it’s too early to have any details to share about it. I’ll be making a lot of noise about it on social media when I have more details.
Can you talk about some of your other projects? I understand you’re working on a series for Disney. I’d love to hear more about it.
I’m currently working as a storyboard revisionist on a new show called Country Club that’ll be coming out on Disney XD in mid-2018. It’s shaping up to be pretty incredible! I’m very excited to have been given the opportunity to work on it. Afraid I can’t say much about it just yet, though!
(Header image via Instagram)