The gay unicorn agenda

Did you catch the reveal of Max’s parents in this week’s strips?

I’ve actually known all along that Max has lesbian parents. I’ve been waiting for years for it to come up organically. And it actually did in the forthcoming Phoebe and Her Unicorn In: The Magic Storm, which is due out in October. So in the current camping storyline, I introduced them, so that they’ll be established for longtime readers by the time they appear in Magic Storm.

I couldn’t help wondering how people were going to react. Yes, it’s 2017, and we’ve come a long way. On the other hand, we’ve entered a cultural moment when any attempt at representation seems to be met with a lot of allegations of “political correctness” and “having an agenda.”

And I guess I do have an agenda. I think representation matters. Families come in a lot of forms. Art should reflect it. And, characters in the strip are often based on people in my life, and not all of my friends are straight people.

I’m always kind of fascinated by how many people don’t know this, but although my marriage looks conventional on the surface (I’m legally a woman, married to someone who is legally a man), I’m a transgender woman married to a self-identified androgynous person. And I don’t particularly appreciate the notion that in a medium read by children, only “normal” families can be depicted.

Only depicting “normals” is itself an agenda. Refusing to acknowledge people who aren’t the societal default is totally an agenda. Every writer has one, consciously or not. I’m willing to own mine. Obviously I’m not anti-straight people (look at Phoebe’s parents), but we’re all in this together.

Also, what if I told you Phoebe’s maternal grandfather is Mexican-American, and her piano teacher is Muslim? Neither fact has ever come up organically in the strip. If they do, I won’t avoid them, and we’ll see what people say.

If it’s anything like this, I think it’ll go fine. The comments on the first two strips this week have been pretty good. I’m informed there aren’t a lot of terrible flagged comments, either. My audience is apparently pretty chill about this stuff.

Good on you, everybody.


  11 comments for “The gay unicorn agenda

  1. J.M. Thayer
    July 25, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I think it’s awesome! It shows a diverse, multi-sided worldview that goes beyond stereotypical normative of “man and woman.” It conveys to all the creator of Phoebe & her Unicorn actually dares to step beyond overused generalizations to a new, daring plateau. I applaud you and patiently wait for your trail to be blazed, leading us to a bold new & sparkly world. –Author J.M. Thayer

  2. G Gentile
    July 25, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    The Gay Unicorn Agenda is like any other Unicorn Agenda; Focus on my own fabulousness 25/8.

  3. July 25, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    I am so happy that my amazing agender Unicorn kid gets to grow up in a world where they aren’t forced to be invisible. Because when the media refuses to show images that are representative of your reality, it’s like who you are can’t really exist. So thank you! Because YES, representation totally matters!

    • October 15, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      The modern unicorn is everywhere. On children’s TV, on Gay Pride marches and selling beauty products.

  4. Averagemoe
    July 25, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    I feel like you really dodged a bullet there. I personally am fine with it, but I know that there are a large number of people out there who will want you dead for this. Try not to make a habit of making me fear for your well being.

    • Dana Simpson
      July 25, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      Ultimately, I am who I am.

  5. July 26, 2017 at 12:26 am

    I wonder if there will be a difference in response from web-based readers vs. syndicated print readers. My hometown paper carries your strip and tends to be very, very conservative-leaning, in terms of readership and editorials…

  6. Ken
    July 26, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I caught it and had to wonder if I’d missed a big reveal earlier (having come to your delightful strip late in the game). I love that you handled it so smoothly that I was left wondering.

  7. Lexi
    July 29, 2017 at 12:42 am

    I actually didn’t realize at first until read the comments, which I did because I didn’t understand why it is special to “toast WITH marshmallows” and what else there is. Then I remembered the racist thing where tan people call light people this word and looked for skin colors but the one saying it is among the palest, which confused me even more … end of story: I needed to have the most interesting thing of this strip being pointed out for me.
    But yeah! To diversity! ^_^

    • Dana Simpson
      September 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Actually I didn’t know that either. But now I do! It works on levels I wasn’t even thinking about.

  8. Roger Ritter
    August 6, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I think a large reason you’re not getting much flak about it is because you’re not emphasizing it. You’re just presenting it without calling attention to it, the way most people would in real life. A large part of what gets non-minority people upset is when minority groups (and I include all minorities, not just the LGBT folks) insist that every story, film, work of art, etc. must have the approved number of their minority included. A good recent example is the fuss about the film “Dunkirk” not having any non-white actors. It’s a historical movie about WWII armies in northern Europe – there just weren’t a whole lot of non-white people involved at that stage of the war, and the movie reflects that.

    You have avoided that problem, just presenting the gay couple as ordinary people in the ordinary way. I believe that’s the best way to do things – just treat them as so ordinary that it’s not worthy of comment. Well done!

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