“Documenting my transition in my art was never calculated. I did it because it was therapeutic.”
Erin Nations, a 34-year-old illustrator and cartoonist living in Portland, Oregon in the United States. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Erin spent most of his life in Oregon before moving to Portland, where he has spent the past nine years. His interest in drawing developed early in life. As a child, he felt attracted to line work and colours; he felt compelled to imitate what he saw, recalling The Simpsons as one of his earliest influences.
Here, Erin Nations shares the details of his transition from female to male with the IPF, talking in depth about how he has been using his comics and illustration skills to document his journey.“I was about eight years old when The Simpsons premiered and I loved it,” said Erin. “It was my earliest influence. I taught myself how to draw by copying those characters. I’d redraw any cartoon or comic strip.”
“Eventually, as I got older, I began to hone my own style and create my own [work].”
Erin’s interest in comic books first manifested in college.
“I never had much of an interest in them because I assumed they were all about super heroes. However, that changed when a friend introduced me to comics by Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Ashley Wood etc. I loved them! It inspired me to want to do the same.”Today, Erin Nations is an accomplished illustrator and cartoonist who publishes several zines and comics strips, as well as autobiographical comics. That is how he eventually started making comics about his transition. It was a natural medium for him to express his feelings towards his gender identity. He explained:
“Documenting my transition in my art was never calculated. I did it because it was therapeutic.”As he was not confident enough at first to tell his friends and family that he was transgender, creating these comics was a way for him to process his feelings and come to terms with them. The comics based on his transition confront the everyday thoughts and situations of living with gender dysphoria — a feeling of discomfort a person experiences because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
Growing up Erin was a happy child and never totally conscious about gender dysphoria. He did have distinct memories of wishing to have the same body as a boy, and even tried to pee standing.
As a teenager, Erin became very uncomfortable with his body and hated all the changes occurring. He found the phrase “becoming a woman” unsettling as he never saw himself as a woman or felt he would develop into one. It was during his mid-20s when he first began to learn about gender studies and came across the definition of “gender dysphoria”. It was finally a term he could use to describe his feelings and to question his own gender identity.
“I never told anyone because I was afraid that kind of behaviour, or those thoughts, would be deemed as deviant. It was something I kept repressed. I was proud to be a tomboy and I thought that’s how all tomboys felt.”
However, Erin only opened up to a friend about it at the age of 31. Initially, he was not ready to come out and begin his transition; he needed the time to process it. One year after first coming out, he decided to medically transition and tell his friends and family.
“For me, knowing I spent 32 years feeling uncomfortable in my body and feeling strange when people perceived me as a woman was confirmation that I needed to transition. It was necessary in order to feel like myself, to be happy, confident and to live authentically.”
The fact that Erin has been using comics and illustrations to talk about his experience as a trans person has drawn a lot of support from both outside and inside the LGBTIQ+ community. He receives a large number of messages from young trans people who are thankful and happy to read a comic that they can personally relate to.
“A few have even asked me for advice on transitioning. They want to know how to start HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and where to go.”
To find out more about Erin Nations and his work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram and Tumblr. You can also pre-order his upcoming comic book, Gumballs (Issue #1), which will be published in December by Top Shelf Productions and feature comics about his transition alongside other illustrations.