Christian Beranek, Author of Validation

Christian Beranek is the writer of the witty and thought-provoking Validation Web Comic, recently reviewed by Moon Sedai here at Land of the Nerds. During Phoenix Comicon, Moon had a chance to talk with both of these wonderful ladies about this amazing strip and their other endeavors.

In this interview, Christian Beranek discusses writing a series of web-comics, which includes Validation, the biweekly adventures of witty and transgender girl and cosplay hero Ally. Her other series is the fun, end of the world story of “Post-Apocalyptic Nick.” Christian easily breezes her way through the fun of Greek tragedies and the excitement of dinosaur love. Her conversation covers being part of collegiate syllabi and owning the costume even if it is dressing up like one’s self. She discusses her compatriot Kelci Crawford and online collaborative and narrative art and one gets the feeling that Christian enjoys her work too much… which really is the best way to do work.

Tomorrow we will publish the interview with Christian’s co-creator, Kelci Crawford. Stay tuned!

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  1. JohnBryan1

    I’ve read everything of Validation that’s on the web. I think it’s a good “slice of life” [as the author put it] in an interesting life. And I get the “no one true way” thing. However, my understanding is the character is a pre-op male-to-female transsexual, who isn’t planning on surgical correction of her birth sex, and I would guess this is autobiographical. And maybe never having surgery is too difficult a subject, or maybe it’s more common than I know, or something else. Or the character would like surgery in the future, and it’s just too expensive in the short or even medium term. But it seems like the elephant in the room, and if she is using her webcomic to explain trans culture to people who don’t know much about it, it seems worth addressing.

  2. FayeSeidler

    JohnBryan1 Your first statement was expressing that this comic was a good slice of life and I think focusing on that will help your elephant in the room, because this webcomic isn’t about explaining trans culture to people. It just happens to be about a trans person and their day to day life and all intent, story points, and interactions are with that in mind first. How does she feel? How does she interact with this? How does she deal with this? Allbeit, in doing so, there are some explanations, I’m just making the point that isn’t the purpose.
    If you’re curious though, I would recommend doing research on the matter. The best forms of entertainment, like this, help us think about things we haven’t before. You ask a really really good question, a question that is deep and personal to so many trans people and in doing some research on it you could come to understand a people and culture way better than before.
    I will offer, that as a trans person, when I read that I didn’t even bat an eye. I will also offer that in many states they require sexual confirmation surgery if you want to legally change your gender, which many claim is a human rights violation because of the risk, cost, and permanency of change.

  3. JohnBryan1

    FayeSeidler JohnBryan1 The name of the webcomic itself is Validation. What, exactly, do I think the author wants validated? The relationship between Jim and Ally? Ally’s enjoyment of Tiny Unicorn? Or Ally’s life as a trans person? The last seems the most likely to me. 

    Look, this isn’t just a comic that happens to have a trans person as a character, or that discusses trans issues in a way that’s tangential to the plot. As an example, Skin Horse is about a black ops social work group, that happens to have a male to stealth helicopter transition. 

    Validation, on the other hand, has slices of life that are about being a trans person. Roxie gets beaten up because she’s trans. Ally goes to get a new ID because she’s trans. Ally deals with guys scoping her out in public, the guys trying to decide if she’s trans or not. Presenting trans life is a large part, although not the entirety of, the comic.

    And a significant part of this particular character is that she has not had, to use your term, sexual confirmation surgery. But, she prefers going to sports bars to gay bars. She dislikes either trans specific dating websites, or the pings she gets when she presents herself as trans on a more general dating website, it’s unclear. 

    I would guess the author’s basic concept is here:

    In other words, these are things that the author considers “the most inappropriate possible.” 

    And that’s fine. The author is under no obligation to discuss anything. But I would claim that the comic is about wanting Validation for both the character’s existence as a trans person, and for the choices that person makes in life, while not explaining those choices. That makes it less interesting to me personally. Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way, but I doubt it.

  4. FayeSeidler

    JohnBryan1 FayeSeidler I don’t believe in authorial intent, we each have our own way to view a work. I would find the authors vastly interestingly, but not the end to the value obtainable from a work.
    I will express I’m not trying to prove you wrong or myself right here, but here is a perspective you don’t have, that might help you. Before you consider or rationalize it away, attempt to presume it is true and work with that notion while examine the whole. If it doesn’t fit or answer your question, disregard it.
    Validation isn’t about trans people, it is about Ally and Dino. It is written and built bottom up with that in mind. It isn’t going through each trans motion and problem, it is going through Ally’s life which happens to have that. Why else focus on a game like tiny unicorn? Nerd culture? Cosplaying? Dinosaurs?
    You disregard that because it doesn’t support your point and instead focus on all the details that do. And sure there is much more trans stuff, but would you say the same type of comic, featuring a woman as lead would be about woman or about the lead? Why aren’t comics featuring men, about men and not the main character? There is a predilection to find the different the most compelling part. And that is fine. But why even say all of this? Because you’re the one with the question and I’m trying to let you know what you may have gotten wrong, to help you understand.
    Given that it’s about Ally, any questions related to the surgery don’t matter, because it doesn’t matter to her. It doesn’t matter to a lot of people. It isn’t a significant part of her character or trans life in truth, but is mistakenly a huge significance for cisgender people and news reporters.
    Given what I said about the predilection to find the different the most compelling, I’d see why you’d jump to trans to be the most important relation to validation. It isn’t wrong, but it isn’t entirely right either. If you consider, again, the comic from Ally as a human first and trans second, you’d see validation is important to everyone – for everything they do and are.
    The conceit here is Ally is a human who happens to be trans. An obvious, but incredibly important message, because so much gets lost in labels. People become not themselves – it isn’t your friend Tony, it is your gay friend tony. It isn’t your friend Ally, it is your trans friend Ally.
    Your complaint about not explaining themselves seems insincere in that regard, because she shouldn’t have to explain herself? She doesn’t need to justify herself. That’s the point. And the great thing about this comic is it is written like it isn’t the only comic with a trans lead. It is written as though this thing were common, because it focuses on Ally as a character. And in twenty years something like this wouldn’t be unexpected, it wouldn’t be representing trans culture, because it’d just be about the different kind of people that do exist. No?
    Sorry that was so long, the short of the matter is the question of her wish or not wish for surgery doesn’t matter if you’re attempting to understand her or trans people. If you still want to know, it is for other reasons and not from a respectable place.
    And it is fine if you still disagree, being trans doesn’t make me right about trans things, but it does give me a perspective you probably don’t have and consider that. The internet is often a terrible place for arguments, because everyone is so argumentative and truthians to boot. So much of my reply wasn’t directed as you as much as people who may read these comments, because your original question is at its heart a good question to examine on both why we ask it and what it means.

  5. JohnBryan1

    Look, interpret the comic however you want. But we have, on this page, an interview with the author. “Validation is about a trans girl named Ally, and it’s about her day to day life, trying to live a fulfilling life with a lot of different challenges along the way. Also, it incorporates her love of geek culture, so we get a chance to tackle a couple of different issues at once. Not only trans issues, but geek issues.”

    If the comic were stick figures, with no references to whatever sex someone presented themselves as, it wouldn’t make much sense. It would be boring to me. What geek issues are addressed, to me seem superficial- Ally does cosplay, but we don’t see what she had to do to get the outfit together. Did she buy it off the rack? Buy parts? Sewed it herself? In real life, getting to know a person as a person and not a label is a good and useful thing. In a webcomic though, the fact that Ally is trans adds spice to the basic plot of person A meets person B, can they have a life together. 

    I get that questions about whether a trans person has had surgery, or is on hormones, or whatever, coming from a stranger, can be intrusive. But we’re not strangers, we’re an audience. I, at least, am much more interested in what’s going on in Ally’s head than what’s Ally’s relationship with Dino. And I will guarantee you that every trans person, by Ally’s stage of life, has considered whether or surgery might be right for them. The answers will be different- yes, no, hell no, right now! But the question has come up. 

    It may be that her answer to that question isn’t particularly interesting. Or it doesn’t matter to her, at this point in her life. Or it may be that the author is wary of making the story too heavy, and is leaving out certain issues [for example, I don’t think we’ve seen any of Ally’s family. Are they supportive? Not? Varying between people?] 

    Ally doesn’t have to explain anything. The rest of the comics could be nothing but her trying a different flavor of ice cream every week. I would guess the comic would lose readers, and the author wouldn’t sell many books, but that could be a choice for where the comic could go. Personally, I want to understand the character of Ally, how she ticks, and it seems to me we only have a bit of the picture. We may get more as time goes on. We may not. Whether she wants surgery in the future may or may not be a big piece of the puzzle, but it’s a piece.

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