Calgary artist's gender-pronoun use evolves in new graphic novel
'I started doing more research on agender identity and found it shifting all of the time'
A Calgary visual artist and comic creator says she had a revelation when a friend was reading a rough draft of her new graphic novel.
"When I first began Lake Jehovah I was searching for a definition, even the word asexuality," Fleck told Daybreak Alberta this week.
"I came to Jay as a character as this very ungendered character. I was drawing them in many different outfits, enjoying them in both masculine and feminine expressions of themself. I realized that they were an agender character when a friend was talking about this character and didn't actually ever gender them because he didn't know what their gender was," the author explained.
"And I really liked that."
Over the course of developing the book, her first graphic novel, Fleck said her understanding of pronoun usage shifted.
"I started doing more research on agender identity and searching for a concrete definition, concrete words to use, and finding it shifting all of the time," she said.
"Around 2012 when I started Lake Jehovah, "Xe" seemed to be the most grounded non-gendered pronoun out there. By the end I had really warmed up to "they" and so I was stuck with these old pages where I had this "Xe" pronoun. I thought I will stick with it because it is real, but towards the end of the book different characters start using "they" when referring to Jay."
The idea for the graphic novel began with imagery and the words followed.
"For me it started less like narrative and more like a series of vignettes. I saw certain scenes and was like, 'Oh, that would be great to draw, I want to draw that,' and basically built a story around those," Fleck explained.
"Definitely the visuals. Lake Jehovah didn't have an actual script until two-thirds of the way through."
Fleck says her Calgary-based education gave her the foundation she needed.
"I probably wouldn't have been making comics to this capacity if I hadn't pursued education at Alberta College of Art and Design," she said.
"A lot of what I studied there really had a positive impact on creating this."
With files from Daybreak Alberta