Imara Jones: Hey there. It’s me, Imara Jones. Welcome to the TransLash Podcast, a show where we tell trans stories to save trans lives. Well, we’re going to nerd out big time today that’s because today the day of the show drops, it is also the first day of New York Comic Con, one of the biggest events for sci-fi, comic, and cosplay fans like me around the world. Now, nerd culture and fandom with a little bit of geekdom thrown in also have always been places of refuge for queer and trans people but we no longer have to do so in ways that are hidden or out of sight, or basically not seen. People like Elliot Page on Umbrella Academy to Jasmine Finney’s upcoming character on Doctor Who to Shea Couleé in next year’s Ironheart, we’re seeing more and more trans and non-binary characters and the actors who play them move more and more into the heart of sci-fi comics and cosplay. I personally, myself, could go on and on and on about all the things that I love in this world, we don’t have enough time. But instead of devoting the episode and to all that I would love to talk about. We’re going to just dig deep into the wider world of trans nerd culture. First, we’ll speak with Blu del Barrio, the first out non-binary actor in the Star Trek franchise.
Blu del Barrio: If there had been even one example of someone like me on my screen as a kid, it would have changed the whole trajectory of my life.
Imara: Then we’ll talk to Stephanie Williams, a comic book writer who’s bringing black trans women into the world of Wonder Woman.
Stephanie Williams: And I just wanted to-to just really be a moment where Bia was, you know, welcomed into the sisterhood, not being challenged, or any of that, She came as she was, or as she is.
Imari: But before we get to all that, we know that there are a ton of talented cosplayers out there who are listening. And, this is the month of Halloween. So, instead of our normal trans joy, we’re asking all of you to share your best cosplay on social media and to tag @translashmedia, @translashmedia and we’ll be posting and sharing that all throughout the month of October. So, that’s why, all of you trans cosplayers out there you are trans joy.
Imara: I’m now joined by actor, Blu del Barrio. You may know Blu from their role, I know I do, as Adira Tal on Star Trek Discovery. Blu is not only the first non-binary actor on Star Trek, but he is also playing the first non-binary character in the franchise’s history. Before their television debut on the series, Blu studied acting at the London School of Music and Dramatic Arts. In addition to Star Trek, you can hear their voice and the film, The Listener, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival just last month. He was also a voice actor on the animated children’s show, The Owl House. Blu, thank you so much for joining me right now from the set of Star Trek Discovery. I’m so thrilled to be talking to you. I wish I could beam there.
Blu del Barrio: Of course. Yeah, no, I’m really, really happy to be doing this with y’all. Thank you.
Imari: Star Trek has made sort of knives throughout its history, towards issues around gender, and gender identity. With the character of Dax, which actually, that species also appears in this series, we can talk a little bit about that. They’ve done some things around this before. The same is true for Next Generation for everyone who we remember a famous episode with Commander Riker and an androgynous “character.” But your character is kind of the very first explicit person who is non-binary and-and as a character and an actor that non-binary people exist, both in the present and the future. And I’m wondering how this feels for you as an actor and moving into this kind of storied franchise to hold that position.
Blu: Trek and this opportunity in the show and this character has changed my entire life for the better in regards to my own self discovery, and my own gender identity, and figuring out and feeling comfortable in who I am. I needed it. I needed this because I didn’t have a character like this on screen when I was younger. I didn’t have confirmation. I didn’t have validating figures around me, and I didn’t have anything to validate me in film or TV. And so, I didn’t know what I was experiencing and just had to agree with the people around me who were saying that I was wrong. So I think that yes, Trek has always been a huge place to show change, to show growth, to show diversity. I think this was the natural path that they were always going to take and I feel like I just got really lucky to be a part of it because it genuinely helped me go back to like who I knew I was as a kid that then got lost. I needed it. I hope that it helps people feel the same.
Imara: Wow, that’s so powerful. I think that’s something that so many people listening can relate to. The fact that we need this representation, right?
Imara: We need to be able to see ourselves and how that can be a life-saving exercise and I think that it’s so particular when we are in a moment of coming under assault of having us be in the future, right? Of your being of– by the way, gender identity and gender expressions in the future right now is so particular. And it’s also what sci-fi and fantasy and cosplay does for a lot of us is that it acts as that lifeline to the child inside who’s always known who we’ve been–
Imara: –and may or may not find expression in society but can do through the types of things that you’re inhabiting right now. So, I think that’s really powerful.
Blu: Yeah. You know, I absolutely agree.
Imara: One of the things that I find interesting is that we see a direct kind of come into themselves during the show as well. They are uncertain about so many different things in the beginning–
Imara: –and I am wondering how the experiences of your character questioning kind of their role in the world overall and then that extending to so many different areas. How do you play that? And how does that relate to what you were saying before, if at all?
Blu: Really strangely and also wonderfully, I think this is maybe the character that I’ve played in my lifetime that is most like myself that is turned out to be the most like transparent from-from myself to a character that I’ve ever played. And that was partially at my own request and on the other side of that, the writers and the producers allowing me to do that with Adira. Auditioning for this role was part of my coming out in a really small way. I wasn’t out to my family. I was out to very few friends and starting to audition for gender non-conforming a non-binary roles was part of my coming out and getting this role was a huge surprise, but because of that and because of how still unsure and frantic I felt in who I was myself, I just wanted to be as transparent with that as possible. I didn’t want it to feel false for me and, therefore, seemed false on-screen to walk in as somebody who was already a hundred percent sure of themself because I wasn’t. But I knew that what I was going through would be mirrored in a lot of people and I wanted that to be seen as well. So I really love that the beginning of their journey in the show on Discovery is frantic, is anxious, is confused. But when it comes down to it and when they have that conversation with Stamets, the part of themselves, they really know and are true and comfortable with is-is who they are and their gender. And I just I really like the way that it went down that first season that I was in.
Imara: Yeah. And I think that what happens in the second season that you’re in and we’ll see what happens moving forward, but as Adira becomes more confident in who they are as a person, they’re actually able to be more confident and assert themselves as a member of the crew. And that’s interesting to see that interplay between our ability to become more grounded in who we are and our ability to be able to show up in the world.
Blu: Yes. Absolutely. And it entirely comes from– not entirely, of course, you have confidence in yourself, but you need the people around you and your community to be lifting you up. You need that sort of love and care and why I love the show, because it’s a perfect example of, okay, immediate acceptance. Look how fast this person can grow and be confident, and be a part of this team and how much they can add to Discovery.
Imara: That’s right. And actually, the team is reinforcing their growth, so it actually helps it grow faster and I’d never even thought about until you just said that what actually is modeling is how we can become ourselves more quickly and more healthily, more fully with the support of an entire community around us. What I mean is we’re so used or at least, I’m so used to thinking about these things as oppositional like it’s us sort of pushing things out of the way for us to become ourselves but you’re right. What is actually shown in the series is the community that constantly pushes Adira to keep going.
Blu: Yes, a hundred percent and something that I’ve I’m finding with myself and also found with a lot of other trans people and trans friends is that it sort of feels like in life, they experience like-like a second childhood like it feels like they’re having to start all over, you know. Once they’re finally in a safe enough place, if they can get to a safe enough place in their life to be able to start their transition but, you know, how wonderful would it be if our childhood just got to be our childhood if that was immediately accepted. Well, we were children. Whenever we knew, we figure out who we are. If that was met with immediate acceptance, we’d be able to grow alongside our peers, you know, and not have to feel like we’re doing it all over again in our adulthood.
Imara: One of the things that is a real groundbreaking thing, I think, is in the show is that there’s actually a T4T relationship [crosstalk]–
Blu: [Chuckles] Yes.
Imara: –love interest is Ian Alexander, who plays the character Gray. We spoke to Ian right at the beginning of the show a couple of years ago and that is something, as I said, that we don’t really see.
Imara: And what is it for you to be a person who is coming into themselves in the real world able to be even more groundbreaking by playing a T4T romance.
Blu: I-I am endlessly grateful that that decision in the writers and with the producers was made, whenever it was made before either of us were cast for multiple reasons for, in terms of the show, because, yes, we don’t get a lot of T4T characters, and I think that a lot of the time, what we’ve seen is us this person and a trans person in a relationship, maybe and it that–
Blu: –the transpersonal– Yeah, maybe. Rarely, you know, but that trans person is usually other. It’s like the different person who comes into the mix, whereas this is just a beautiful relationship and we need more of them. And then for me, as a person, to be able to have Ian here was again, just incredible and life-changing because Ian has been in this industry longer than I have and they’ve been dealing with all the ins and outs of how difficult this can be for a long time I think since they were 14 when they were doing the OA. So, yeah. All around. I am so happy for whoever was in charge of making that decision. I think it makes a world of a difference and I always will root for more trans characters, but, you know, right now it’s sort of the beginning of things, ramping up in the industry. Even just having two in one show and in a relationship just, and being able to be a part of that, it me very happy.
Imara: Well and also a part of the modeling this community that we were talking about is that both of them helps the other person–
Imara: –and then this- this, uh, does happen actually in T4T relationships that- that one person can help the other become more of who they are. Right? As you’re going along.
Imara: What do you hope by playing your character that people better understand in the present about those in our community, and in our world, who are non-binary?
Blu: What I hope and what I hoped for the beginning, and what I slowly see coming to fruition is that this will start to open the minds of and change the minds of adults and older fans of the show and parents who watch the show, kids and newer viewers seeing it. I feel like we’ll immediately have a connection, you know, if they are queer in any sense of the word but because Trek has been around for so long, we have fans and viewers of all ages. So something that started happening really quickly is I started getting messages from parents of trans and non-binary kids saying that the show and Adira and Stamats and Culver’s relationship and Gray as well, started to help them understand and hear their children more. It gave them some sort of extra external validation as well, which you know, shouldn’t always be needed, but if the entire community around you isn’t supporting you to have something like a television show or a film validate that, is massive. So to get that kind of feedback from adults, and from parents is the biggest, most mind-blowing thing for me and the most important and I want to see it continue to happen, and every time I get a message like that it propels me forward a lot.
Imara: Yeah. It’s kind of like, virtually, what you’re doing in this role is providing the community that Adira has kind of fixed only to people in the real world and what’s going to happen from those parents being able to see and relate to you, this storied franchise that they’ve always gone to, to see where we should be on human rights. That’s a part of Star Trek ethos, is that it’s going to allow them to support their kids better and their kids are going to have a much easier time and be accelerated like the growth of your character because of seeing you. It’s kind of this interesting, again, this feedback, this reinforcing loop of support that we create through representation.
Blu: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. And again, if I’d had even one show or one character like this, when I was a kid to be able to point out and show my parents, would have been life-changing. Yeah, makes me very happy.
Imara: Yeah, I was going to ask you that. I was going to ask you what do you think it would have meant for you to have seen yourself on television at six or seven to have seen a character like this? Not only for your parents as you’ve just told us but I’m wondering if you have a sense of what impact do you think it could have had on you and your life?
Blu: I genuinely think that if there had been even one example of someone like me on my screen as a kid, it would have changed the whole trajectory of my life. It’s not this way for everyone, but it’s definitely this way for a lot of people. There was not one person in the entire community and circle of people that I had around me as a child, that knew what I was going through and could put words to it. There was just nothing, and so I didn’t have any resources. I didn’t have anyone to sort of help me work through what was going on and talk about it. So, if there had just even been, you know, a sliver of that in our media and I would have been able to point to it and say, “It’s like this. This is what I’m trying to explain.” I think it really would have, yeah, fully changed the way that I grew up and given me something to fall back on and given me something to look at and validate myself. But because I didn’t have that, you know, you sort of get lost in whatever the words of advice other people give you even when they don’t know who you are or what’s going on with you?
Imara: I’m wondering, as you move forward in your career, how you think having the opportunity to not only be yourself and then play a character that is grounded in you and the world at the same time, how you think you’ll move that into other roles in your career? And I’m thinking about Emma D’arcy who plays Rhaenyra on Game of Thrones who is a non-binary actor. They say, you know, “Finally, you know, I’m not a woman but I’m really great at playing them.” But talked about explicitly how being non-binary has changed the way that they play Rhaenyra and that they play Rhaenyra as discomfort with their own gender. Maybe not in the way that we would understand it, but as in her character, a woman who occupies power, something that’s traditionally masculine, that Emma’s able to play up that tension. And that’s something that they bring to an entirely different roles. I’m wondering if you’ve had a sense of what you think you’ll be bringing into the roles that you play based upon this moment with Star Trek.
Blu: Yes, I’m so excited to watch Emma. I haven’t started the show yet, but–
Imara: It’s amazing.
Blu: –very, very excited. I’m thrilled. I’m really excited and I’m thrilled at the prospect of the future of my career and what I can bring to different kinds of roles in a way that– I didn’t even have this level of excitement when I was younger and still knew that I wanted to be an actor because I didn’t see it as this big of a spectrum yet. I didn’t know that I’d be able to do this but I already felt like there was a lot of nuance and-and just different emotions, different feelings going into characters. When I was playing growing up, even though they were all of one binary, you know, when I was younger, I played a lot of male characters and then even when I was playing a lot of female characters, I was older. It always felt, in my mind, it always felt fluid and to me watching someone who is trans non-binary gender fluid, play a character, any character whether they’re cis or not, is endlessly fascinating because you get a glimmer of this person’s experience, of this person’s fluidity in this role. You know, regardless of the acting, you always get a little bit of a hint, at least, of the core of the person playing that part, and we’ve had more and more trans actors come into this industry and come into the light and be seen by everyone. And I just find it so much more thrilling to watch like a trans person play a role because of that, and something inside me feel comfortable to do is start going out for roles that might be cis and it might be cisgender female, but having the comfort and drive to- to the producers and the creators, would you be open to having this character? Maybe not be cis. Maybe be fluid. Maybe have something else going on because that brings joy to my heart and I think that I just want the world to see more of it. But I’m very excited.
Imara: Well, we’re very excited to see you continue to play this character and everything that you will do. I know that you have to dash back into character for this season that I’m very excited about. But I’m so grateful for the time that you took and for just the continued unfolding encourage that you’re showing and modeling both in your character and as a person and, you know, as I said as a fan, this is a treat for me. So, thank you so much. I’m so grateful.
Blu: Thank you. Thank you, Imara. Thank you for the questions and everything. I’m really, really happy we can do this.
Imara: Thank you. That was Blu del Barrio, an actor on Star Trek Discovery.
Imara: Hi there. Yep, it’s still me, Imara, but I’m coming to you in the middle of this program with a really important message about a vital effort that we’re undertaking this month at TransLash. While we’re on the subject of bringing who we are fully into the world, a key part of that is a course control over our bodies, being able to decide how we present them, what we do with them, and whatever we need to do to feel whole, that’s the power that we need in our lives. That’s why beginning on October 15th we’re going to launch the second phase of our year-long narrative effort, Trans Bodies, Trans Choices with an array of TransLash content from October 15th, through the middle of November. We will be rolling out zine, animated films, a special area on our website with important resources that pertain to body autonomy, reproductive justice, and health care, and of course, abortion as well. We will be dropping a bonus episode of the TransLash Podcast and we’ll be rolling out new content on our writing platform TransLash News and Narrative to extend this conversation even further. So, I hope that beginning on October 15th, you’ll visit us at TransLash.org. Excited for our newsletter, you’ll be getting this content automatically. Follow us on social media @translashmedia. That’s why we hope that you’ll be joining us on this journey to follow all of the powerful stories and insights that you will be getting and that will be presenting with Trans Bodies, Trans Choices.
Imara: I now want to welcome the prolific comic book writer, historian, and pop culture critic, Stephanie Williams. Stephanie has written for both of the major comic powerhouses. I’m especially excited to talk with her about her comic miniseries, Nubia and the Amazons, which introduces a black trans Amazon character to the DC Comics Universe for the first time. She’s also written a story in Marvel’s voices Legacy, DC’s Wonder Woman Black and Gold #2 and the first issue of the new Wakanda miniseries of Black Panther fame coming out at late October. Stephanie also writes three webcomics of her own called Parenthood Activate, What If Though, and Living Heroes. Her pop culture criticism has appeared in publications Like the AV Club, Nerdist, Den of Geek, and Rotten Tomatoes. Stephanie will also be making an appearance, yay, at New York Comic Con this week.
Stephanie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I’m so thrilled, especially as you get ready for Comic-Con Madness.
Stephanie Williams: No, thank you so much, Imara, for inviting me on. I’m like, really looking forward to talking to you. So, just many thanks to you.
Imara: Many thanks to you. One of the questions that I had, and we’ll just get this out of the way before I get to nerd and geek out with you about Wonder Woman and DC and a whole bunch of other things, is how did you come to have confidence in yourself and to be able to find a way to be a comic book writer because so many of our listeners for so many trans people and people who are non-binary, the large umbrella of our community, this is a large part of energy where people gain so much validation, and have so many talents. And so, tell us how you came to translate. I love that you had into what you do.
Stephanie: So funny enough, it started with me going into parenthood. After I had my child, I’m was dealing with postpartum depression and was really beating me down. And, I remember one of the nurse practitioners saying, “It’s not you. It’s your brain doing the most.” But like it’s okay, like you will get through this and what have one of the things that you really enjoy becoming a parent and I felt like I was losing myself and a bunch of other things. But comics was something that was always so near and dear to me since childhood. So, after having my kid, I was just kind of like okay, like work. I was working as a research scientist and I wasn’t really too happy. Like, I was fine but I wanted more. So, I ended up reaching out to an author that I really admire. She happened to write back to me and was like really encouraging and saying like, “Yeah, you- you deserve to go out and tell your stories.” So I ended up getting on Twitter because I have heard you can find community there and I did find some folks who wanted to talk about comics. So I went from talking about comics and podcasting my own podcast called The Lemonade Show and from there, a podcast called Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro. We focused on black women, black films, and like those characters in comics and how they were treated. That podcast dissolved and I said, “Well, what am I going to do with all this research?” So from there, I started writing for publications and just talking about these characters in a way that spoke to folks. It made them aware of who they were and I got stronger and more confident in my own voice by doing so. Someone’s like, “You know, have you ever thought about doing like a webcomic or creating your own comics?” And I had, but I kind of almost I lost sight of that but it was just something that it just didn’t click on me that, “Hey, you have the authority to do this, like you can do it.” And one day I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do it.” Parenthood Activate came out of this, But What If Though, and then, Living Heroes, which is the biggest one because I ended up having that kick-started, and I think that funded and little over 24 hours, and I think it was in that moment where it really clicked on me that, “Okay. You deserve to be in this space. You’ve been talking about these characters so fervently and like, what they mean to you and what stories you would like to tell with them. And, I want to say maybe six or seven months after the kickstarter, a Marvel head reached out to me about participating in Marvel Voices: Legacy. I wrote a story about Monica Rambeau and then it was kind of off to the races. But I want to say that, that confidence really came from the community, came from that author reaching back out to me and saying that I can do it. It came from, you know, the nurse practitioner telling me like it’s okay that you’re feeling this way. And it came from talking about these characters, with other folks and listening to their experiences and how they gravitated to a lot of these characters. Some of them not reflective of physically who they were but they have bits and pieces of character that folks could relate to. So, I say all that to say that, um, it was really the community that really kind of gave me the confidence to go out there and do the thing.
Imara: Yes. So, essentially, it was about starting from where you were and then after that, the community kind of recognizing and lifting you up, which is really powerful because people do come from communities that know them, and often forget that those are our sources of strength for us. I want to specifically just zero in on Nubia and the Amazons. I mean, I can’t tell you how excited I was about the series even before I knew about, you know, the black trans woman who would reveal herself as trans in the series is a part of the Amazons. And the reason why I was excited about it is because Nubia, who is Wonder Woman’s sister for all you people who are not nerds out there and into the DC world, is a very under-recognized I should say, and not well known character when she is Diana Prince’s equal. And I’m wondering if you can just tell us a little bit about what made you gravitate towards Nubia and just writing Nubia’s story. And what do you think of the way that she has been historically treated and the DC World tells us, generally, about the erasure of black people in comics?
Stephanie: Yeah. So Nubia, funny enough, was one of the characters that we cover in Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro, and I remember I was doing the research for that. It wasn’t a lot of research as there wasn’t much there. So, it was like a really quick thing fast forward to be kind of researching other characters, and there’s a piece that I wrote about the Dora Milaje and I bring that up because to me the Dora Milaje and the way that they function, but something that I found similarities to them in the Amazons. When I was approached about writing the Nubia series, I thought, okay, so you have this character who has been pretty much on the show for so many years, but not enough to kind of stick around and have any kind of definitive plays in the DCU. So in that, I was like, okay, so we got a lot of things going here and this series is probably going to end up even if we aren’t outright saying it, there’ll be a lot of things that are relatable to like this character’s treatment in the universe and there’s the broader treatment of black characters in comics. A lot of that was just based off of her first appearance in Wonder Woman. I think is like, Wonder Woman 2005 when she shows up at Themyscira and challenges Diana like, “Hey, I’ve come to get what is owed to me.” And then things kind of go how they do and then she just falls back into obscurity. In that, I know for a lot of folks that were fans of her, when you’re thinking of Nubia and because she’s supposed to be this like, Wonder Woman or Diana’s sister, it’s through the proximity of Diana and her relationship to her and just seeing her as this black Diana. But she’s not that she’s Nubia. Coming into the series, both myself and Vita Ayala, a co-writer, and we wanted to make sure that by the end of that series, you knew who Nubia was. And it wasn’t, “Oh, this is Nubia, Diana’s black sister” or, “This is the black Wonder Woman.” No. This is Nubia, Queen of the Amazons. It had been a while since there have been a great amount of focus on Themyscira in a way that you would actually care about what was going on the island, the women there, and what life looked like, the politics because it’s different. It’s not a man’s world, you know, race is treated a little bit differently. So, even though Nubia is black and there are other Amazons that are non-white on that island. What does that look like? What are some of the conflicts that they would have because it’s supposed to be paradise, but Paradise can be subjective.
Imara: Yeah, and just for everybody out there, who’s again, not into the DCU, Themyscira is the home of the Amazons and Wonder Woman and if you’ve seen the movies, that’s- that’s the island. So, within this world that you were building or you were really centering the identity of this black woman and this black woman leader and leader of other women, When did you as a black ciswoman think, you know, we need as a part of this world of Amazon’s a black transwoman? This is something that is not only missing, but something that I think needs to be a part of the world that I’m building. What led you to that.
Stephanie: That was an immediate thought. It’s something that just came quite naturally and I mean this in the best way possible. It felt like the bare minimum. A black transwoman should be on Themyscira because again, if this is a place that women are supposed to go who have fallen in man’s world, the most violent ways have been let down by those a man’s world, then, who else if you turn on the news, what are you seeing? You were seeing that black transwomen are being harmed at a disportionate rate. So, that just made all the sense to us. I just really wanted it to be on a divine level that black transwomen and transwomen in general, and that on Themyscira like anyone else would end up on Themyscira, like anyone else would because there was a point where Themyscira just looked very the same just like it just white woman there.
Imara: I mean, one of the interesting things to me about the way that you really– because you really do write the Amazons, right? It’s Nubia and the Amazons and the title is reflective of a lot of the time and energy you spend on the Amazons is that the character Bia, if memory serves me, Bia reveals to her sisters that she is trans like in a very emotional way and it would seem to me to be a way of cementing the sisterhood of that particular group of women. And so, can you talk a little bit about what you were trying to underscore and tell us and teach us about the way in which we need to have sisterhood and relations across cis and transwomen and black ciswomen and black transwomen through the way that you wrote this scene and kind of tell that story?
Stephanie: You know, this dinner scene that you’re talking about, there haven’t been any new Amazons to come through The Well of Souls since Nubia. After she came out, the Well of Souls closed. So, she becomes Queen. It awakens something and the Well of Souls opens again. So, during this dinner, these women are naming themselves and who they would be, now that they are on Themyscira, the second chance at life. In that moment, it is supposed to be a welcoming into the sisterhood. And, in that moment I wanted it to be again, like all encompassing and saying that, you know, we do not win and we are not, if everyone isn’t in, right? Not to go all, just [inaudible] but–
Imara: You are from Chicago. So, that would make sense.
Stephanie: [Chuckles] Yes, right. So we need to be making sure that we are taking care of everyone. No one should be left out because if we’re leaving folks out, then we are losing. And I just wanted to just really be a moment where Bia was being welcomed Into the sisterhood, not being challenged or any of that. She came as she was, or as she is. I hope that, that moment– it was tricky writing that because I just wanted it to be nothing, but love in that moment and I hope that, that was felt on the page.
Imara: That’s what I felt. I was also really feeling her vulnerability in that moment. Like it was something that I related to and what she must have felt in terms of one feeling safe enough in that group to say that at that time, and that welcoming ceremony and just how emotional that was in terms of it being the beginning of her second life, starting her life from the beginning, as herself in declaration and in view of all of her other now sisters. I thought it was really powerful.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Imara: One of the things that is really important about comics, I think, for so many different reasons is showing us what’s possible. Right? Like what actually is possible for us through the world of imagination, but that’s just an extension of who we are and you show this group of– a black woman leader, leading other women who are all-powerful, who are all diverse. And one of the things that I love about the world of Wonder Woman when written well, is that it’s not actually really concerned about the world of men. Like– it’s like, they almost don’t exist, you know. They’re off to the side. And for me, what’s so powerful about what you did here is that it actually gives us a world not perfect and with a lot of different dynamics, but- but it gives us a world without patriarchy, and I think that that’s so powerful.
Stephanie: Yeah, and that’s the fun thing about Themyscira and I was at– where was it? I read Circe, Madeline Miller’s Circe prior to writing it and one of the things that I took away from her book is that it was okay for women to be the focus of this book. Men are there, but they are not put on centerstage and the same thing went for Nubia and the Amazons. There was no need to include man’s world or any of those afflictions on Themyscira because Themyscira is his own thing. So there would be, you know, different dynamics to be shown, but we didn’t really have to include man’s world. Now, Nubia does go out into man’s world in some flashbacks, but it was really nice to just focus on the island, its inhabitants, and just really kind of grow that culture, and expand on it, and just get really imaginative in what the world could look like because no, it wouldn’t be perfect but at the same time, wouldn’t suffer from the same afflictions and everything that you know folks have to do with in men’s world.
Imara: And thinking about again like this world without patriarchy, right? Where patriarchy is concerned about hierarchy and maintaining its order. When pressured, it will tokenize but still not fundamentally changed. One of the things that you just said really plainly last year, right up front, telling this to your fans and to all those in the DCU was quote, “Bia will have a role on Themyscira beyond just existing. She isn’t set dressing. She isn’t a box to tick. She is a fully-fledged character that is important to her community, just as black transwomen are important to us in real life.” And that was a very powerful kind of stake-in-the-ground that you put. And I’m wondering if you had any, not blowback, but did anyone either at DCU or your fans go, “Oh, I don’t know about that or why are you doing this or why are you so woke?” Like, what was the reaction?
Stephanie: So for the most were positive, or at least, what I got directly wasn’t until a few days later that [inaudible] the folks may have seen a video and is especially attacking co-writer Vita Ayala who is trans and non-binary. And it was just really gross. We are being called agents of the CIA, FBI, industry plants and all these things and it just was really, um, it was sad, but also funny in a not haha way but in a weird way because it’s amazing how you can go from just being, you know, just a person out here doing your job to something else because you are no longer appeasing someone and whatever it is that they feel that you should be doing. The fact of the matter is that it is a comic book.
Imara: One of the things that is emerging now are, of course, more and more stories like the one that you’ve written making their way into live action. We know that the next Black Panther is going to be very much centered on the world of women and on the world of the Dora Milaje. I mean I actually thought the first one was too, but I’m happy to have that conversation with a whole bunch of people. I think the women actually drive that entire story. Okay, put that to the side and we now see others like The Woman King also springing for it. And I’m wondering if there’s been any talk or interest expressed to you about one, bringing Nubia to live action and the Amazons. And just for me, I mean, the power of seeing Bia and the other women in the way that you’ve written them up on the screen, I think would be really powerful. So I’m just wondering if there’s any possibility of live-action given what’s happened over the MCU and The Woman King, which is not a comic.
Stephanie: This is not official in any kind of way, but I have heard, at least, rumors that, that could be. I know, one thing, when writing a series that I had in mind was animation. I’ve loved DC animated movies and the TV shows like the Justice League is how I really got into that world. I would love to see it again like I’ve heard rumors that Nubia could pop up in Wonder Woman 3. It makes me a little scared. [Laughter] But if it’s, you know, if it’s done right then, you know, it’ll be fine, right?
Imara: Yeah. I mean, it’s got to be like number one or number two. It’s a big difference.
Stephanie: Yeah, but I’ve heard some things, again, like rumors, it is not official but I would love to see it as past time and you’re right. I am somebody who will go to bat and I have written about this before, how the women of Wakanda really are the driving force of that film and also the last like six years or so, seven years have been the driving force of Wakanda and its expansion in comics as well. So, hey, all I’m- all I’m asking for is just to consult just a little bit. That’s all.
Imara: It would have to totally be done right. I mean I- I even, just as an aside, I even don’t really like the way that Diana Prince is written because Diana Prince as originally conceived, was not interested in men, didn’t have an interest in Steve, like, the way that men have decreasingly be centered in that world like in the first movie when she made out with him and it was like, confirming her womanhood. I almost wanted to vomit.
Stephanie: Okay, that’s a whole tangent.
Imara: [Chuckles] That’s an entire tangent. What’s next for Nubia and the Amazons and Bia? What’s next for this part of the world that you’ve created?
Stephanie: So after the Nubia and the Amazon series wrapped, we had Nubia Coronation, which is kind of a assuring her to the rest of the world, her being Queen of all the Amazons and Nubia Queen of the Amazons, the second mini series that just wrapped up focuses on Nubia out in man’s world now and dealing with that, and Bia is with her. Bia is part of her, I guess you would say, her entourage, the court so to speak. Her series, Bia, show that not only is she essential, but she is somebody who’s extremely wise. She is the second oracle to the Amazon, something that I really thought was important because again, we’re going to be listening to black transwomen. What better than for her to be an oracle. She’s in the series, you know, helping the Queen the best that she can and as far as I know or I don’t know, actually, so after I finish the series, there’s Nubia and the Justice League, but I’m hoping even if I’m not writing anything further that Nibia’s star continues to rise, Bia’s star continues to rise because there’s a lot that she, as a character, has to offer the greater DC Universe off of Themyscira. So, I’m personally just hoping that for both of them in the rest of the Amazons, that things continue to go in an upward trajectory because the Bat[?] family is cool but also so are the Amazons.
Imara: Well I just want to thank you so much for joining us. This is a real, real, real treat for me as a fan and up until now a follower on Twitter mainly which people should definitely follow you on Twitter because it’s a great feed and a great way to follow your work and it just shows that’s just the power of comics and the power of possibility and what you and you to have brought here is what it actually looks like to include black transwomen and the power of black transwomen in a way that feels authentic and in the marginalization of us by centering our humanity. And so, I just want to thank you so much.
Stephanie: No thank you.
Imara: That was comic book creator, Stephanie Williams.
Imara: Thank you for joining me on the TransLash Podcast. Now, listen all the way through to the end of the show for something extra. If you like what you heard, please go to Apple podcast to rate and review us. You can listen to TransLash wherever you get your podcast. Check us out on the web at TransLash.org to sign up for our Weekly Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @translashmedia. Like us on Facebook and tell your friends.
The TransLash Podcast is produced by TransLash Media. The TransLash team includes Oliver-Ash Kleine and Aubrie Calloway. Our intern is Mirana Munson-Burke. Xander Adams is a contributing producer to the show, and our sound engineer, digital strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano. The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK records. The TransLash Podcast is made possible by the support of foundations and listeners like you.
Imara: So the main thing I’m looking forward to this week is what you all heard in our mid-roll and that’s just really all of our Trans Bodies, Trans Choices content. I can’t think of a better way for us to be thinking about during this month of October. When we are thinking about our bodies and thinking about dressing up, and how we change our bodies to express ourselves through characters like we spoke about this entire episode, the issue of body autonomy and the freedom that we have. So I just really want you all to engage in the content. We’re going to be dropping extra podcast and animation. All the things that we’ve said here, we’ve worked so hard on it. I’m just so excited for you all to see it. It’s just a thrill to be able to work on on this issue that isn’t talked enough about in our community, but it’s so vital.
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