I’m back with another pick from Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge! For the comic by a LGBTQIA creator, I chose Flocks by L. Nichols, a transgender man, engineer, father, and artist. I’m trying to think back if I’ve ever read anything by an author that I knew was transgender, and I can’t think of anything (so I’m glad to have finally remedied that and will hopefully do better in the future). I’ve read multiple books featuring transgender characters, however; Julie Anne Peters’ Luna was the first and really opened my eyes to what being transgender is back in the mid-2000’s, and Kirstin Cronn-Mills continued my education in 2014 with Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. I’m happy to add a trans voice to my reading list.
Flocks is a memoir in graphic novel format about Mr. Nichols’s childhood growing up in a Christian family in Louisiana. By age eight or nine, he was fervently praying for God to change him, because his community had already taught him that he deserved to burn in hell forever, and I absolutely lost it by about the fifth page. This message is hammered home over and over throughout Mr. Nichols’s youth, and despite his fervent prayers, his constant attendance at church and acts of service toward others, he’s still the same person he was born, and because of this message, he never feels good enough.
It’s not just his sexuality; being intellectually gifted doesn’t help Mr. Nichols fit in, either. It’s not until he attends a gifted camp and then spends his final two years of high school at a school for kids talented in math and science that he begins to find his tribe and hears for the first time that he’s okay and that he matters. And although there’s still plenty of adjustments to make, his time at MIT is when things truly begin to fall into place and his identity as a man solidifies.
Above all, this is a message of hope, and a warning of all the harm that words and absolutes can cause. Mr. Nichols’s journey is a painful one, one that ultimately concludes in relief and happiness; not all transgender people are as fortunate. The murder rate for people who identify as transgender is horrific (2018 was the worst year on record); the suicide and attempted suicide rate is abysmal as well. Mr. Nichols was able to rise above the pain caused by those who demanded he change all through his childhood; he’s become far more than many people ever even attempt. What if we stopped demanding change and instead just appreciated people for who they are? What could everyone accomplish with all that extra energy not spent hurting? Think of all the ways humanity could benefit. I think it’s beyond time for this to happen.
Flocks is another book that’s easy to read, but not at all an easy read, and I hope it falls into the hands of the people who could stand to learn a little more about compassion and how their stances and ideals hurt the people behind the labels. I enjoy graphic novels, but I never seem to get around to reading them without being prompted by an outside source, so I’m glad Book Riot motivated me to read this.