Every couple of years this comes up.
In 1991, I was sitting in drama class with the person I most looked up to in early high school, and we came up with some truly bizarre, baffling, high-energy situations to share with our friends. It was a tale that couldn’t be told by one story. It needed three stories. It needed “Three Stories in One.” Since I made a noble effort of illustrating the whole thing, getting distracted at fifty-six pages, I have a clear idea what they look like, and I like to revisit them. I can’t just pick up the last 10-15 pages because comparing my style to the style I had seventeen years ago is like asking Michelangelo to fill in some of the gaps on a cave painting. I’m proud of the work I did, but I’ve made some improvements.
This time, I thought hard about these faces as I worked on them. Since everybody’s based on a real person, I concentrated on features I remember most and spent a lot of time erasing. Luke didn’t look like that. Amber didn’t look like that, and Wendy didn’t look like that, except for the parts that totally did. Amber smiles with her eyes (still does), Wendy always looked annoyed at me—but with affection. Luke was robbed for the Best Dressed in the Class of ’93 (I mean that sincerely). Naturally, Jeremiah looked exactly like that in 1991. Boone really did have that playful smirk when she was up.
And now we need to have a quick word about Boone. A few years ago, Boone transitioned into Severian, a woman. I have not spoken to her as a woman, I have not even seen photos. I’m not even sure I got her name right. The only conception I have in my mind of Severian is when she was presenting as Boone, and the only reason I know about the transition at all is because one of our mutual friends chewed me out for dead-naming her in my last “Three Stories in One” post. Once I knew, I don’t refer to her as Boone anymore.
Last summer, I presumptively wrote my memoirs, each chapter representing the most influential figures in my life. And she was, without a doubt, going to be a very important. I did not dead-name her once, not even in my first draft. I believe that you should be who you need to be. A trans woman is a woman, period.
That said, I’ve spent a lot of time debating this in my head, and I’m not going to change Boone’s name or gender in “Three Stories in One.” The reason I won’t is because Boone is not Severian. Boone is a character based loosely on Severian when she was sixteen. While Severian was throwing bullets at elaborate Lego constructions with her buddy, Matt, Boone was picking up cheerleaders and playing meaningless board games with them.
On the same token, Luke is not a complete bastard, only kind of a bastard. Wendy was not a good driver back then, but at least she wasn’t driving her sweet Karmenn Ghia like it was the Batmobile. Amber was perky, but she was more than just a smile and the attention span of a hamster. (What I remember most about Amber was how kind she was to me. The popular girl treated me as just another student she was on a first-name basis with, not a nerd on the lowest rung.) And if I suddenly found myself, on my bike, in the middle of the Indy 500, I’d be a smear. At the risk of grandiosity, “Three Stories in One” is a historical document.
To be clear, if Severian tells me that “Three Stories in One,” particularly my decision to leave Boone as is, is offensive to her, then I’ll stop making these posts. I hope she doesn’t. I hope she appreciates it for the playful, teasing nostalgic spirit that went into these illustrations.
I’m not George Lucas. I tend to let things go when I’m done with them, but sometimes present circumstances demand that you change the past. Once again, I’m not going to. They were a product of their time.