“Transcription” is a collection of daily strips that chronicles Houxbois’ transition experience and sexuality. It’s for adults, and brims with unabashed honesty and tenderness. Warning: spoilers ahead.
Creator: Véronique Emma Houxbois
We’re all mostly familiar with, and hopefully supportive of, the concept of trans creators telling trans stories, but the stories that still gain the most visibility and popularity tend to be sexless, or heavily edited for the cis gaze. Trans sexuality is often approached as a fetish, as deviant, as salacious, as shocking. At best, it’s treated as a mystery incapable of being penetrated. At worst, it’s commodified for the pleasure of the outsider.
The thing is, trans sexuality is only shocking if it’s outside the bounds of your experience and if you’re unwilling to acknowledge that trans and gender-nonconforming people have a right to safe, fun, raunchy, pleasurable, cute and naughty sex. Houxbois does an incredible amount of wholehearted work in “Transcription” to invite us into a deeper knowing.
“Transcription” documents exploration, joy, orgasm, and, most importantly, connection. Houxbois challenges all norms by putting her sexuality on full display. She’s in charge of how we see it, but she lets us see the humor, the vulnerability and the hotness of it all. Together, we explore the changes in her sex drive, and her experimentation with toys and the joy and innocent, comical shock she feels as she sizes up a bit too fast. We see a woman who’s falling in love with sexual exploration and with a lovely other, unnamed in the comic, but clearly precious. And, importantly, we experience the joy and heartbreak of embodiment in a society and industry that does not value self-actualization.
Craft-wise, “Transcription” is deceptively simple. Each strip is 3 borderless panels, hand-lettered, with a strict color palette of baby blue and pink. The art is expressive, with bubbly eyes, simple anatomy and blissful, pretty face and body details. The first few strips are a bit too pale, but Houxbois adjusts the tones for readability and contrast against the white background pretty quickly. The colors are obviously those of the trans flag, but they’re also a commentary on the gender binary and the simultaneous infantilization and fetishization of trans women. They’re also pretty, and nice to look at. Lettering can be a touch small at times, but Houxbois finds increasingly creative ways to place the text, and the hand-written style complements her line.
Houxbois experiments with what sequential art can do in interesting and economical ways. Comic strips force a creator to pack a lot of meaning into each choice. There’s one wordless strip of a sex toy experience that ends with a delightful zigzag background, against which the fictionalized Houxbois’ blissful, tongue, accented by a few cartoonish flecks of saliva, pops adorably well. A small moment of sublime pleasure, at once cute and dirty but owned. In another strip, Houxbois talks about how HRT changed her emotional responses, and she holds a pony plushie close to her as she cries. Though we can’t see her face, the tear falling from the pony’s eye is an innovative way to communicate that emotional moment, and the “HONK!” sound effect is gentle, funny and well-executed. Another Sunday strip features Houxbois detailing a joyful meditation on what she wants from her partner. One poignant moment features her desire to be both dominant and submissive, and places the lettering along the forearm and wrist of the dominant hand and the next phrase in the palm of the open, submissive one. It’s a beautiful and clever use of the comics page, and the lack of border between the two moments perfectly captures that multi-faceted, simultaneous desire. It’s a bit of comics poetry that, frankly, I come back to over and over to admire.
In “Transcription,” readers will get a deep love letter to girl cock, yes, but they’ll also get a full and nuanced look at what it’s like to want, and be wanted, as a trans woman. The pieces are educational, provocative and informed by external politics without centering them as a convenient frame for entry. We enter “Transcription” sensation and experience first, and Houxbois builds up an impressive and beautiful document of desire and vulnerability.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 – “Transcription” wraps two tender, beautiful hands around our hearts and holds it close as we journey through an honest and unique journal of one trans woman’s sexual awakening and transition.