So this month, I got a chance to interview Sabrina Symington, a transgender comic artist! She illustrates and writes Life of Bria, which is a long-running comic about transgender issues. It’s one of those comics that has randomly popped up in my feed for the last few years, so I’m pretty familiar with her work. I’m super excited that Sabrina was able to take some time to answer a few questions! Okay, here’s the interview!
How do you identify and what pronouns do you prefer?
Where were you living when you came out? How did your family handle the transition?
I was actually living in Thailand at the time I started my transition. My dad and brother were both immediately 100% supportive, but my mom had her reservations. It took several months of arguing with her over video chat before she came around – I think this time period formed the basis for my “Talking With Bigots” comics. Of course, now my mom is one of my biggest supporters!
What kind of art are you interested in making at the moment?
I’ve getting back to my roots a lot lately and drawing a lot of action/adventure comics, and using all classical tools – brushes, crowquill pens, markers, and only using digital tools for text and colouring – you know, just like cave people used to draw their comics.
What kind of media are you enjoying? (video games, movies, music, etc)
I’ve mostly just been bummed ever since Dragonball Super finished back in March. It probably won’t be until Jojo Part 5 gets animated that I’ll be excited about a series again. I only recently started seeing movies in theatres again – I vowed I wouldn’t until I had a book published. Now that I published my graphic novel, First Year Out (available on Amazon and anywhere fine books are sold – buy yours now!) I can watch movies again – I saw Black Panther and Blade Runner 2: Blade Runninger. They both lived up to the hype, I guess. Really, though, I want to get a VCR so I can watch terrible old VHS tapes. I’m not allowed to play video games anymore – I tend to get addicted to them and they take over my entire life. The last one I played was Diablo 3 on PS4 in Summer 2017 – it took over my entire life and now I’m not allowed to play it anymore. I listen to mostly Synthwave music – NINA, Carpenter Brut, Dance With the Dead, Sunset Neon, Megadrive, LeBrock – it makes for really great work music, and, honestly, it feels so good to feel for the first time in my life like I have some kind of musical identity and like I’m connected to a music scene of any sort.
Do you have a certain moment that made you realize you wanted to come out or inspired you?
I got stage IV cancer at the age of 25. That brush with death forced me to finally confront my gender and start examining who I wanted to be in the future if I survived. I kept going back and forth about transition for over a year afterward but then finally decided to transition after my beloved childhood dog died and I realized that time stands still for no one and I wasn’t getting any younger. Jeez, that’s a real bummer of a story. Luckily I turned out so cute to make up for it.
What kind of comics do you read? Any graphic novels you’d recommend?
I’m actually only just getting back into reading comics after a long hiatus. I mostly buy terrible ones from thrift stores, but I’m excited for that new Sonic the Hedgehog series. Sonic was actually the very first comics I ever read and I still have most of my old ones. Otherwise, I’ve always had a deep love and respect or Ode to Kirihito – and, really, anything else by Osamu Tezuka. Lone Wolf and Cub, Kamui and any of those gekiga style samurai/ninja comics are my absolute faves. I also quite love Jeff Smith’s Bone and Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales aka Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, as well as Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. I think the art for the manga of Fist of the North Star is godlike and I can only hope to someday touch its level of beauty.
A lot of your comics have a manga-influence, I think. Did you grow up watching anime? What’s one of your favorites?
There wasn’t a whole lot available when I was a kid. There was basically Dragonball, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon, and they all affected me deeply. But, to be honest, I don’t actually watch a whole lot of anime as an adult. Though I absolutely adore Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and take most of my fashion cues from it.
Is there a dream project you’d like to do, if time and funding wasn’t an issue?
I guess I’m kind of working on that right now. I’ve been developing my new series, Starfist Gemini, for a few years now. It’s like a super gay, post-apocalyptic kung-fu adventure series set on a distant planet populated by extraterrestrial dinosaurs. I know I’ll never feel like the art is good enough no matter how much prep I do, so I’m just going for it. If transition has taught me anything it’s that you have to go after what you want in life.
Do you have any trans role models?
The closest I have to a trans role model would be my best friend, Sophie Labelle. She continually inspires me to greater levels of self-love and compassion.
What are you excited about in 2018?
Dating babes. I’m gonna get some tattoos. Maybe go on a road trip. Supposedly I’m doing some book tours in the US and Canada.
How is your community in the city you live in?
Isolated. There’s a ton of trans people in Vancouver, and a solid broader Queer community, but not much in the way of an organized trans community, especially among trans-feminine people. I want to change that.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? What’s the best job?
The worst job I ever had was working in a candy store – which is nuts because that job included free all-you-can-eat candy. The working conditions and management sure sucked though, and that can ruin any job – including one that gives you free candy. My favourite job, other than being an artist, was being an elementary school art teacher in Thailand. Sometimes I fantasize about dropping everything and moving back there (don’t worry, I would never abandon my readers).
What is the one thing you’d want if you had the money? (piece of gear, computer, tv, idk, a leather jacket)
I need a good pair of dyke boots. Also, my tablet screen has been cracked for close to a year. I should probably get that fixed.
Any links for your art? Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks again Sabrina for doing the interview!
(If you are a non-cis person that makes music, art, comics, lets play streams, etc, then email me your basic info and links to: email@example.com and we can set up an interview.)
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