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Anthology Embraces Complexity

Imagine walking into a bar in which the sexual preference of every inhabitant is indecipherable. Women flirt with trans women and buy drinks for men; androgynous men dance with men and ask for women’s phone numbers. It would be, in a word, queer....

Imagine walking into a bar in which the sexual preference of every inhabitant is indecipherable. Women flirt with trans women and buy drinks for men; androgynous men dance with men and ask for women’s phone numbers. It would be, in a word, queer. That’s the world envisioned by Zan Christensen, editor and publisher of Anything That Loves, an anthology of comics that break down the sexuality binary.

The book, released this month by Christensen’s publishing company Northwest Press, has already sold 1,000 copies on Kickstarter, where it raised three times its $10,000 funding goal. Christensen started the press three years ago to publish LGBT comics and graphic novels. “My goal was to get a bunch of people to talk about their lives,” Christensen says, “liking other people, getting their hearts broken, falling in love, going through transitions and changes and challenges and being people.”

The comics range in style from Ellen Forney and Erika Moen’s spare cartoons to Tara Madison Avery’s Marvel-like hyperrealism to Jason Thompson’s manga. Some authors illustrate narratives of unrequited crushes or unexpected sexual encounters. Others, such as Kate Leth, address myths about bisexuality. (“Bisexual? Does that mean you’re into threesomes?”)

Romantic love possesses a duality of its own—it’s as complicated as it is simple. Contributor Bill Roundy writes about being a gay man who’s dated trans men. “In the beginning he said it was a little challenging to be up close and personal with his boyfriend’s vagina,” Christensen says. “But the fact that it’s his boyfriend—the fact that it’s a man he’s with—makes all the difference to him.”

In Margreet de Heer’s “Minnie,” the bisexual protagonist responds to the concerns of her girlfriend’s lesbian mother (who worries she’ll leave her daughter for a man) by quipping, “I’ll run off with another woman, OK?” Anxieties raised by bisexuality are no different from anxieties raised by any sexual or romantic vulnerability. “The idea that gay men want one thing and straight men want another thing and bisexuals want both of those things is oversimplifying it,” Christensen says.

Still, to reject the gender and sexuality binary is to dive into a messy can of alphabet soup. In Gender and Sexuality for Beginners, another local book released in June, writer Jaimee Garbacik and artist Jeffrey Lewis attempt such a feat. While Garbacik’s mix of introductory academic gender theory, LGBT history and graphics is an explanation, Christensen’s anthology is an exploration—a collection of origin myths defining the queer identity.

In Christensen’s ideal world, gay, straight and bi would blend into the all-inclusive queer. “Some people were concerned that the book wasn’t promoting a bisexual identity,” Christensen says. “I get it. But I believe you can be publicly bisexual and stand up and be counted, but in your human life you need to be able to just be a human being.”

Anything That Loves contributor Erika Moen agrees. “We’re just people who are attracted to and fall in love with other people,” she says. “Hopefully this anthology will, literally, illustrate that.”

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