Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s long comic series, one of the best ever written. Intense, literary, fantasy-horror from the early 90s… When I was born. Notable for so many reasons and so many characters. Today, though, we’re just talking about Wanda, a trans character from volume five, A Game of You.
Opinions about Wanda are sharply divided and strongly held. Many people hate her story, and that’s understandable. She’s not drawn like the other women, and her whole story is wrapped up in her status as a trans woman — it’s constantly challenged. Her anatomy is constantly pointed out and questioned, even by some of her friends. Other characters dismiss her as “a man,” and even the gods refuse to allow her to take part in a “women’s” ritual. Her family refuses to use her name or call her anything but their son Alvin. She dies at the end, after a story full of oppression and attempts to erase her identity.
That was 1991, and even now, in 2015, trans characters in mainstream stories are still almost nonexistent. Gaiman wrote this character on purpose. He knew trans activists, he knew there weren’t many trans characters, he knew how transphobic certain feminist and Wiccan sects could be. That’s what he was writing about. People make a big deal out of the gods misgendering her, but I don’t think they’re seeing the story Gaiman actually wrote twenty-five years ago.
Yes, people try to erase Wanda’s identity in the comic. That’s true. That’s real life. The point is that she never ever lets them. She knows her own identity. Others may reject it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. She’s strong, brave, and beautiful. It doesn’t matter what anyone else believes — family, friend, god or monster. She is who she is, she defines herself, and that’s why I love her.
The whole series, but Wanda’s story takes place in volume five, A Game of You. It references previous volumes, but I think you could read it as a standalone without much trouble.