By Stefania Rudd. It’s a big world out there, filled with people who can’t wait to meet you. Showing respect to folks is of paramount importance, obvs, but for some it’s easy to take something seemingly innocuous as pronouns — and their use in casual conversation — for granted. For those who aren’t familiar about pronouns and how they can at times incorrectly gender another person, Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson are here to help.
A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, published by Oni Press imprint Limerence Press and aimed for a June 13 release, comes packed with information about gender-neutral pronouns and why they’re so important for our daily discourse. For Bongionvanni, it was the ultimate way to finally address some of the many social gaffes one might encounter over time, and to make things easier for those who may be a bit too afraid to ask when pronouns inevitably enter our conversations.
“Comics are an exceptional and accessible tool for teaching, telling our stories, and creating a sense of connection between the story-teller and the reader. I am a firm believer in that,” Archie Bongiovanni tells DoomRocket. “One would hope that just talking to each other would get there, but honestly, there is something non-threatening about reading a comic that allows folks to be open to ideas they might be more closed off in conversation. It’s also just entertaining, and I think that can help people read through topics they’d otherwise not want to read about.”
Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson took time out of their schedules to speak with DoomRocket contributing writer Stefania Rudd about their upcoming project, learning curves, and becoming a good ally.
1. Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book! How do you think ‘A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns’ will be received by readers today?
AB: Thanks! I’m hoping that it lands into the hands of those that need it. We kept the price low so it’d be accessible to lots of folks. We’re also hoping it shows up in libraries and school libraries, too! I guess that I’m hoping it gets into the hands of those that would find it the most useful.
TJ: Hopefully they’ll like it! We loved making it.
2. How did you two meet and how did you decide this was the subject you wanted to work on together?
TJ: We’ve been friends for a long time. Nine years, I think? We knew each other before Archie came out as non-binary. I didn’t have a lot of experience with non-binary pronouns.
AB: And I had no experience being non-binary!
TJ: The zine came about from both of us figuring out how that worked in our lives. I had to figure out how to change my language, educate myself, and be a good ally.
AB: And I had to explain my pronouns, teach folks how to use them and explain why they were valid over and over and over and over again. I got really really tired of it. So I asked Tristan if he’d like to help create a zine about it so I could just hand it off to people.
TJ: Originally, you wanted to throw it at people.
AB: Yep. It gets real old having to explain the same thing over and over!
3. When you told others about your project, what was the feedback like? Were you given any advice on how to address this topic?
AB: Well, we first made it as a zine and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Folks are always excited when they see it at zine fests or comic cons. People bought multiple copies to hand off to new people who were just starting to use gender neutral language or to hand off to folks in their workplace. I think that shows how necessary and important this information is. Most of the advice on this topic I’ve gotten just through lived experience, but that isn’t to say there isn’t a plethora of useful and awesome material out already (mostly on the internet). While much of this information can be found online, it’s nice to have something printed to hold in your hands to read and hand off to folks.
4. How did you decide to publish this through Limerence Press?
TJ: They reached out to us and we sort of collaborated on the idea with them!
AB: They’re a really great publisher for this; they have access to distribute the comic in bookstores, comic shops, and other sort of places that it might sell well.
5. Your book comes across as accessible and non-shaming for those who want to educate and for those willing to learn. How crucial was that for you both when developing the book?
AB: That’s exactly who this book is for—those who want to learn or know more but are just starting the process. This book isn’t going to change anyone’s mind who is outright against non-binary identities, nor does it try to. That can’t really be done through a comic or an essay, but rather by empathy created by meeting and connecting with non-binary people.
TJ: I think it was the most important part of this project.
6. How did you two determine what would and wouldn’t be covered in the book? How important is clarity in a project such as this?
TJ: We were trying to balance what information we chose to keep from completely overwhelming someone new to non-binary pronouns.
AB: I mean, clarity is important and we definitely had a vision of what we wanted to include. There are definitely some gaps though: We don’t address how age/race/ability/class can intersect with non-binary identities and how that can hinder/enable access to using non-binary language. This isn’t meant to be an oversight, but there are many, many writers and blogs who can address this more thoroughly than we’re able to in a short comic.
7. How do you feel people can learn (and hopefully change) their way of thinking through art, like graphic novels, comics, movies, songs, etc.?
AB: Comics are an exceptional and accessible tool for teaching, telling our stories, and creating a sense of connection between the story-teller and the reader. I am a firm believer in that. One would hope that just talking to each other would get there, but honestly, there is something non-threatening about reading a comic that allows folks to be open to ideas they might be more closed off in conversation. It’s also just entertaining, and I think that can help people read through topics they’d otherwise not want to read about.
TJ: Graphic novels are also more approachable than nonfiction books on the subject. We tried to inform the reader in an entertaining, but also accessible way. It’s also important that you can read it in such a short amount of time. I think it increases the chance that if you give it to someone to read, that they’ll actually do it.
8. What are some of your favorite comics right now that do a beautiful job in showing people who identify differently from one another in a natural, realistic way?
AB: Yes, good question! Honestly there’s so much and I don’t think I can list them all. I’m a big fan of comics by Alyssa Andrews who also draws for Autostraddle. Julia Kaye’s comics are delightful too. I’m really looking forward to reading The Pervert by Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell.
9. What are some other subjects you would like to tackle together in graphic novel form? Could you see this becoming an informational/instructional series?
TJ: Maybe! We’ve been talking about what our next project will be for while now. I’ve wanted to do a educational comic solely about making your business/workplace more queer/non-binary inclusive. We also have a few fiction comics that we’ve been scripting out for a few years now.
AB: I think the idea of ‘a quick and easy guide’ will continue, but with other cartoonists, which is exciting. I’m hoping to take a break from non-fiction after this and would totally be down for creating some fiction comics with Tristan.
10. What is one piece of advice that you could give us readers to help us live as our most authentic selves?
AB: Life isn’t linear. Our health isn’t, our sexuality isn’t, and our gender isn’t either. So be open to change for yourself and be respectful and open to whatever change others are going through. And remember, YOLO!
TJ: Never stop educating yourself. Don’t fear being wrong. Laugh at yourself. Oh god, I sound like the the inside of a Snapple cap…
‘A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns’ hits stores June 13.