Comics ‘n Things: Queer identities in comics

Ariel Schrag is the author of the graphic novels "Awkward," "Definition," "Potential," and "Likewise." She is currently a writer for the HBO series "How To Make It In America" and was a writer for the Showtime series "The L Word."

I first became aware of Erika Moen ’s DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, a weekly webcomic she kept between 2003 and 2009, through the controversy surrounding it. Among other things, DAR recounts Moen coming out as gay and then falling in love with a man and getting married. A sensitive topic for lesbians. DAR also includes a comic titled Transmen Are Ridiculously Hot, which is where most of the controversy comes in.

The online “best of” DAR (named for a “d’oh”-like exclamation Moen makes) is an OK read. Not great, but if you like fart and penis jokes (which I do not) or are interested in sexuality identity issues (which I am) you should check it out. The comic evolves from a scratchy black-and-white to a slick illustration style with heavy computer gray tone. Moen rarely gets very deep, but her diary-esque honesty is appealing and the strips can be addictive, whether you like her personality or not.

There’s a Youtube video called “When did you choose to be straight?” in which an interviewer goes around asking people whether or not they think being gay is a choice (most people say yes) and then following up with the question: “And when did you choose to be straight?” It’s a great video, with the simple take-away message: “Gay people are born gay, just like straight people are born straight.” But it’s not always this simple, on either side. Moen’s DAR, which begins as a classic gay coming out story along the lines of “F–k you, Mom; I love to eat p—y, World!” soon turns into a sort of “coming out as straight” comic. Moen’s relationship with a man causes her to be plagued by self-consciousness and guilt.

While the early comics, like this one, express shame, the later ones turn indignant and self-righteous, with Moen as the victim: