My desk is littered with toys, actions figures, and collectibles. Every day when I come in to work, I’m greeted by the plastic faces of Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Captain Kirk, and many other of my favorite characters. These toys remind me of characters who I’ve identified or fallen in love with. Displaying them on my desk is an important way for me and many nerds to share the fandoms they love with the people they spend time with. Yet while I own several bisexual characters, I have yet to find a single toy of a transgender character that I identify with, despite being transgender myself.
So when I heard that Funko Pop! was releasing a line of Pops based on the Saga comic book series by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, I was ecstatic. Saga contains one of my favorite science fiction transgender characters, Petrichor. Yet when I saw the list of Saga characters that were getting Pops, Petrichor was nowhere to be found (though we did get two versions of the Will and three versions of Lying Cat).
Petrichor is one of the few trans characters in science fiction that I truly love. She is clearly transgender, often remarking, educating, or even joking about her transness. Her transness also informs her character choices. Due to her having lived in two gender worlds, Petrichor empathizes with the lead character’s plight of being hunted for her biracial identity. Yet while being trans informs her character, it does not completely define it. She is a remarkable soldier, is easily the most well-trained of any of the lead characters, can do magic, and has saved the protagonists’ lives on numerous occasions.
Most important, however, is that she is not perfect. She has flaws like every great character. She’s gruff, quick to anger, and slowly works to recognize her own internalized racism as the series progresses. She’s an amazing character, and learning that I could not add her to my collection of Funko Pops! was deeply disheartening.
After researching, I found that there are only two official Funko Pops! of transgender characters: White Rose from Mr. Robot and Grell from the anime Black Butler. And no, I don’t count the RuPaul’s Drag Race Funko Pops! as transgender, as RuPaul himself doesn’t think transgender people can be drag queens.
It’s not as if transgender characters haven’t had opportunities to be Pops before. There are several Funko Pops! franchises that contain transgender characters, like Alesha Who Smiles at Death from Magic: The Gathering. Yet still, only two transgender Funko Pops! exist. Disappointing, considering the staggering 5,000-plus Pop designs.
Maybe we trans people just need to make our own transgender Funko Pops! as transgender artist Jaden Remy did when he created Pride Pops! His Marsha P. Johnson Pop figure is amazing, and the money from the sale went to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. But he creates Pops of real people, not the fandom characters that I enjoy. And the less said about my own arts and crafts skills, the better.
Perhaps some will argue that the transgender characters that I love so much simply aren’t popular or mainstream enough to warrant a Funko Pop! To this, I call bull. Part of the fun of Funko Pops! is getting to buy cheap toys of even the most obscure of characters. Unless you’re telling me that Ojeda is character everyone needs to own (and if you just hit the hyperlink to see who that even is, you just proved my point).
Yet maybe that obscurity is the problem. When it comes to transgender characters, especially in science fiction, we’re either an unimportant side character, a nonhuman gender metaphor defined solely by our trans identity, or even worse, nonexistent. Don’t get me wrong, I love A Fantastic Woman just as much as the next trans person. Yet I’m honestly tired of having to watch movies where a transgender character must constantly struggle in and sometimes overcome a world that oppresses who she or he is. I don’t want to them to just survive, I want them to thrive.
This weekend, I’m incredibly excited to see Pacific Rim: Uprising. It’s going to a big, dumb action movie full of giant robots fighting even more giant monsters. Yet every time I watch the trailer at my desk, surrounded by my myriad of action figures, I think about how much it would mean to me to just see a trans woman punching the crap out of a monster Kaiju. Not every franchise needs to have transgender characters, just like not every franchise needs to represent every single gender, racial, or sexual identity. And of course I’m going to go buy the Pacific Rim Funko Pops! because I want to share my fandom with my coworkers. I just wish that one of these days, I would get to buy a Funko Pop! that enables me to share my identity alongside my fandoms.
JESSIE EARL is a video producer for The Advocate.