Every piece of art is a letter, a thank you note—or a no-thank-you note (RESIST!). This comic is a thank you note I delivered today.
A few weeks ago, I went to pick up some food at Costco for my partner’s LGBT Photo Pop Up event. It was busy—late Sunday morning when everyone is stocking up for the week and the Packers game—and I was running late, so I didn’t stop at customer service to get a new card with my name on it. My old card says “Katherine,” and I really don’t look like a Katherine anymore. I was hoping that the cashier just wouldn’t notice, but she did, and what ensued was the most beautiful moment with a stranger. I’m a cartoonist, so, of course, I made a comic about it.
This morning, I went back—to get a new card, to get a slow cooker that’s on sale, and to give this woman a copy of the comic and a few others. To say thank you. Great idea, right? Well, yes, but once I was actually there, I got nervous–what if she doesn’t remember? What if she thinks this is super weird? What if it’s awkward? What if she doesn’t like it? What if I make an ass of myself? And so on. I hoped that she wouldn’t be working so I could just leave it with someone else to give to her. Then I told all of these voices to knock it off. I took it as a good sign that the woman who made me a new card at first couldn’t find me in the system (“with that address we only have Katherine and Caitlin”), but when I said “yes, that is my old name,” she silently mouthed “AWESOME SAUCE.”
But here’s the really awesome sauce part. The cashier was working today, and was talking with another employee about how happy she was because today is her birthday. She woke up at 2:30 am like a little kid kind of excited about it. She said “nice new card” when I handed mine to her and I said, “Oh, great, I was going to ask if you remember me. I’m a cartoonist and I made a comic about our interaction that I want to give to you.” She said she had thought about our conversation more than once and that she was worried that she said too much or the wrong thing. When I told her that no stranger in public had ever acknowledged to me that it’s hard to be transgender and how much it meant to me, she got goosebumps. Me too. She would have been fine if I had given in to feeling worried and shy and not ever seen her again, but she would have continued to doubt herself. And she never would have known how moving and affirming that experience was for me, and what a difference she can and will make for other trans people out there. We hugged and I wished her a happy birthday, and it was the sweetest thing.
I love making comics because, more often than not, they have me seeking out awkward and uncomfortable situations, not avoiding them. And because each strip is a letter, which means I only have nothing to say when I forget that it’s not about me, it’s a letter for the person on the other side of the register.