And some much nicer mail...
Meant to post this back at the end of December, this is a response to a republishing of an old cartoon in a paper in Michigan recently:
Hi Mikhaela! My name is Karen S, and I wanted to thank you for a cartoon you did which really, really touched me deeply.No, thank YOU. And keep the letters coming folks.
"Shallow Grave", the cartoon about Gwen Araujo's murder that you created in 2002, is very important to me. I want to thank you for it. The paper probably printed it just because of the verdicts in the recent retrials of her murderers.
I too am a transsexual woman, and I see that Gwen's story is something that is subtly changing our community. She is one of our Matthew Shepards, someone who died for trying to be herself. There can be a shame associated with being transgendered, especially male to female, because we lived (and still live) in the shadow of society. Even we felt that we were trying to fool society, even though that's not true, we're really trying to be ourselves.
When a murder happened happened in the old days, from what I can tell, it drove transwomen (especially) further down. Some of us will no longer "take it" though.
Your cartoon was so sensitive yet so empowering. I think that it was very powerful.
I wanted to share with you a letter that I sent to Rolling Stone magazine last spring, after they published an article about her. Bob Moser was the author, and I felt it was important to thank him.I want to thank Bob Moser for his moving article on the murder of Gwen Araujo. I am so glad that he wrote of her as she was, a young person flowering into her womanhood.
More than talking about her death, Mr Moser for the moment has brought her back to life, as a vibrant young woman who was also transgendered. She had joys, successes, and failures, like all of us. Being transgendered, she was unique, and special, not strange or weird. She made a mistake in trusting certain people, but it was no mistake that killed her.
Her killers did.
If they do not take responsibility for their act, they deny themselves their own humanity, even as Gwen lost her's to their "gay panic."
There should be no death penalty for being transgendered. No "that's what you get when you..." No "gay panic" defense should be available, no more than "black panic", "Jew panic", or any other "ignorant, bigoted panic" defense.
My name is Karen, and I am a woman who is also transsexual. As Gwen was. I have dignity, as Gwen did. I love others and myself, as Gwen did. I am loved, like she was.
I don't want to die as she did. I just want to be happy, as she wanted.
Many, many of us hold her memory very dear in our hearts, the little sister we lost. Thank you, Bob Moser, and Rolling Stone, for bringing her back, if only for a goodbye kiss.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I think your cartoon, in a few short panels, also restored her as person, a young woman who wanted to live her life as her own, and was brutally killed for it.
I am not going to write much more in this letter, because I am running out of words that match what I'm feeling.
But thank you so much for listening. Thank you for your cartoon, and your support.