Gender identity, queer/trans comics and LEGO  | Two Sketches with Toby Morris: Sam Orchard

Gender identity, queer/trans comics and LEGO | Two Sketches with Toby Morris: Sam Orchard


– It was through comics that I
started thinking about gender ’cause I started drawing myself as a boy and I was like, “what’s that about?” That’s usually how drawing, for me, works. It’s like, I don’t know what I’m feeling, I just know that I’ve got lots of feelings and then I’ll draw it and I’ll be like, “oh, okay, that’s what I’m feeling.” – Yeah. (gentle upbeat music) – All right, cool thanks for having us around. – That’s all right. – Glad to finally get a chance to do this. – It’s very intimidating, but let’s do it. – It’s gonna be fun. Have you got an idea of
what you’re gonna draw? – Of what I want you to
draw or what I’m gonna draw? – Maybe you tell me what
you want me to draw. – Well, I was thinking about
it, and I thought that, given it’s the 50th
anniversary of Stonewall, maybe you could draw a straight parade. – A straight parade (laughs), okay. Sure, okay, that’s a
great challenge, okay. – Imagine there’s lots of beige. (laughter) – Some cargo pants, maybe?
– Yeah, oh yeah, Crocs probably. (laughter) – Cool, okay, yeah, that sounds good. I didn’t have too much of an
idea of what you’re gonna draw but, what I was gonna suggest was maybe, I know often on social media, you’ll tag lots of your
pictures trans of Point Chev so I was wondering if you could somehow reference Point Chev in your artwork or – Okay, yeah. – Represent your hood? – I can do that for sure. – Since we’re here in Point Chev? – Yep, sounds good. I can do that. – Cool. – Maybe a Point Chev pride parade. – Point Chev pride parade, okay. (laughs) That sounds great. Straight parade, I like
it, that sounds fun. – Cool. (calming guitar music) (pencil moving across paper) – So, Sam. You’re a comic artist and illustrator with Rooster Tails. Your regular strip and Family Portraits, but then you’re an activist and a community advocate as well. You’ve been a youth worker as well. How do you usually introduce yourself? – I find it hard to introduce
myself ’cause of that. I feel like, at these days, I just say that I’m a comic artist, and that I draw stuff. (laughter) But I also draw stuff for social change, is kind of the general gist that I give. – Yep. – Like I’m really interested in telling stories that celebrate difference and what that means, and
for me that’s usually talking about queer and trans stuff, ’cause I’m queer and trans. But it’s also about community
and lifting up voices who usually don’t get
very much of a voice. – Like for me, as a straight,
middle-class, cis white guy, I think there’s probably a lazy tendency, and you saw this a bit with
the Christchurch stuff, I think that the way people talked about the Muslim community, where there’s an impulse I think, and a fairly well
intentioned impulse I think, to say “They’re just like us.”, like “There’s nothing scary. “We’re all the same, really.” And it’s all good, but it seems like lots of your message is about a more, a subtle difference, it’s saying like, “We’re not all the same, “We are different.” And that’s actually, that’s a good thing. – Yeah, I think that it’s like that, they are us stuff. It’s such a well intentioned thing, that we wanna include people. We wanna say, “You belong,
you’re part of the group.” But the kind of down side of that, is that it erases parts of ourselves. (relaxing guitar music) We value you as much as you fit in, which I feel like happened a lot with the marriage equality campaign. That was a lot about,
“Oh, we should be allowed “to get married, because
we’re just like you.” And it’s like well, what
if we’re just are allowed to get married because we’re humans? – Yeah. – And that we’ve got
something to bring to marriage that’s a bit different, and
we do relationships different, and we’re interested in being included. – In Family Portraits
as well, you’re writing your own story, but
you’re also interviewing lots of other people as well. So it seems like the idea
of sort of representation of a lot of voices is something that’s been important to
you since fairly early on? – Yeah, like when I
started Family Portraits, it was kind of to be the
counter point to Rooster Tails. So Rooster Tails is kind
of about me and my life, and kind of weekly strip
about what I’m up to. And then I thought, well, there’s so many interesting stories
within rainbow communities in New Zealand that I’d
like to share and talk to, and when I started interviewing people and kind of putting their
stuff on paper, I realised that I was literally
handcrafting those stories, and it felt kind of rude
to not acknowledge that. So I wanted to acknowledge
that there was some sort of conversation going
on between what I was– – You were bringing your
own, you’re coming to it from your, through your own– – Yeah. – All the time, yeah. – Yeah, and even though
I wanted to tell stories that were different from my
own, I was still filtering through them, through my own experience, and that felt important to acknowledge. – Yeah. – Like I think that happens quite a lot with rainbow stories that
people want to write about us, but they don’t want to
acknowledge their own journeys through their own sexuality,
or their own gender, within that, it’s like trans
people get all the gender, and queer people get all the sexuality, and no one else gets any of that. It’s like straightness isn’t
seen as neutral or nothing, or cis-ness is seen as neutral or nothing, and I think that’s not true. Like cis people have a lot of gender. You know, I think if you’re gonna throw birthday parties with
gender reveal things, that’s a lot of gender going around. (mellow guitar music) – So Rooster Tails has been
going for a while, right? – Yeah, Rooster Tails
started in January 2010. – It seems like you’re using your own sort of individual story
to talk about bigger issues sometimes as well, right? Like it sort of functions half as a diary and half as a way to talk
about broader issues. – Yeah, I think so. I think so it’s been going
on for such a long time, and because of just the
limited nature of our stories being told, it becomes a
mouthpiece for something bigger than what it is, which
you know, has some pros and it has some cons, but
it does mean that I want to be careful about how
I talk about the things that are happening in our communities, because it becomes part
of a larger conversation. You know the media really
likes to portray trans people as stuck in their own body,
and really upset and depressed, and sad, and locked in,
and this kind of scandalous idea of who we are. A lot of the time, that’s
about saying, you’re difference is the thing that’s wrong. That’s what it feels like
the narrative is about, and so for me it felt
really important to be like, what if the difference that I have are the things that make me good, the things that make me
interesting and complex, like I’m a white dude,
and that’s the most boring part of me I think. (laughter) It’s all the other stuff
that makes me interesting, I think and that’s
the stuff that doesn’t get validated or valued by the wider society, so I want to use comics to
give those parts of myself love and validation, that
feels important to me. (calming guitar music) (pencil scratching paper) – So you drawing with a blue
pencil to start off with? Is that your usual, your usual trick? – Yeah. I find that, because I colour
all my comics in online digitally, that if I draw in blue, then it doesn’t come up in the scanner, which mean I don’t have to like– – It saves you the step of erasing it all. – Erase, yeah. – Oh, that’s good. It seems
like a very professional comics thing to do, like
I remember reading that in books when I was a kid. How to be a professional
cartoonist or something, it seemed like a blue pencil is like what a real, hardcore pro would do. – I feel like I do very few
things like a professional. (laughter) But, like, that’s the one that I’ve clung on to. – Yep. – I’ll use a blue pencil. – Yep, no you’re very serious. – Yeah. What do you used to ink
with usually? – Well, so usually my go-tos are that I think these have
been on here before, the Tombow pens. – Yep, yep. – That, – Classic. – Yeah. I feel like Dylan Horrocks
introduced them to me, and he might have, – Yeah, he might have introduced
them to me as well, yeah. Let’s just to him right, that blue one. – Yeah, and I like the green one as well, that has a bit more– – It’s a little softer, right? – Yeah. – Yeah. – It has a bit more life to it. – Yeah. – If there’s dialogue
or stuff, then I use the fine liners, the pigment liners. – Yep, I’ve used those as
well, mm, that as well, yep. – And then, very occasionally, when I want to do something
in black and white, I have a real nice one of those ones, would be use that. – That’s cool, that’s got actual – Ink in it.
– Bristles on it, right? – Yeah. – Ahhh, I like how
mysteriously unmarked it is. – I know, I think it’s
actually just a Pentel. – Yeah.
– Yeah, it is. – Yeah. – But it’s real fun. – Did you draw as a kid? – Yeah, I found a assignment that I did when I was in primary school, that said I wanted to be a
cartoonist when I grow up, so it’s like, it’s definitely
been there for a long time. – Yeah. A dream come true. – Yeah, that’s, yeah, be careful what you wish for. (laughter) – And then Family Portraits,
you talk a little bit about drawing lots of
angsty comics as a teenager. What were those comics like? – I mean, a lot of the
angsty comics that I drew growing up, were about
working at the supermarket, and being incredibly bored, and like different ways that
you could kill customers with, like, the cashier
machine, or the eftpos cord, or things like that. But also I think it was
just trying to figure out who I was, and where I
fit in, and you know, I watched a lot of TV
and movies growing up, and never really saw myself,
so I turned to comics to try and find myself. It was through comics that I
started thinking about gender, ’cause I started drawing myself as a boy, and I was like, what’s that about? – That’s interesting, that
you drew that into reality. – Yeah, it was kind of
that’s, that’s usually how drawing for me works, it’s like I don’t know what I’m feeling, I just know that I got lots of feelings, and then I’ll draw it, and I’ll be like, Oh, okay, that’s what I’m feeling. (calming guitar music) (pens and hands moving across paper) So, We Are Beneficiaries, could you quickly explain
what that was all about? – So, basically the idea behind it, was that we were getting
people to write a few sentences about their experiences using the welfare system in New Zealand, or what they wished the
welfare system in New Zealand can be like. And we got them to send in
a picture of themselves, whether it was their face or their hand, or a picture of their cat, or whatever, and then we got artists to draw that up, so we could share those
images on social media. I think mostly it was
a project out of anger. I was real disappointed
in the election campaign, the last election campaign, lots of people talking about like rockstar economy and things like that, and it’s like, aw, that’s not the New Zealand that I live in. And then when Metiria
talked about her experience on the benefit, it really was like ah, this is, this is New Zealand that makes sense to me
and this is an issue that feels really important. And then when she was just so badly, kind of maligned publicly,
I was so upset and angry, and I was like, “Well,
I have to do something.” And because art is what
I do, I kind of just asked some mates to get together, and we drew a few pictures of ourselves, and our experiences being on the benefit. Like, you know, most artists have been on the benefit before. And I thought that that would be it. But then the response to it was huge. Like people just started
sending in their stories, and saying, “Can you draw us?” And artists saying, “Hey, can I volunteer and draw some more stories?” And so, it just yeah, really took off, and kind of took over our lives for you know six months, which was incredible. But it was heartbreaking, like I find it hard to talk
about without getting upset, ’cause I think, you know, the way we treat
each other is pretty shocking. And the, what that system does to people, is horrifying, and the fact
that we’re still waiting for change to happen is really, yeah, it’s just upsetting that we’re okay to sit in this society that says, “Yeah, “we’ll treat our most marginalised “and most poor people like this.” And we think that’s okay, and we think it’s somehow their fault. Just, yeah. – How many stories did you
end up with in the end? It got big, right, like both in terms of people reading it, and
the amount of stories? Yeah, we managed to
collect over 200 stories, and usually, what we found was that we’d put one story up,
and then underneath, 30 people underneath would say,
“oh yeah, that happened to me too.” And that’s how you know it’s
like a systems problem, right? It’s not just one-offs which is what I feel like with Metiria, they tried to say, “Well,
she should’ve done this “differently, and if she
had’ve done this differently, “then this would have
happened differently.” – It’s her bad choices or something. – Yeah, yeah.
– Yeah. – And it’s like, well
now if you have 30 people saying exactly the same thing,
and then you have another 50 people saying the same
thing, and then there’s three or four themes that keep coming up, over and over and over
again, it becomes impossible to blame the individual. – Yeah. – It becomes really clear
that this is a broken system. – Yeah. And at the end of it, you
collected them into a book, right, and–
– Yeah. – presented that to the government? – We gave them, we gave them
out as Christmas presents to the newly formed government, when they first came into power, and said, “Hey, here’s some
light Christmas reading.” – Something to read. – Yeah. – Was it well received? – They said, “Thank you.” But, and they did the welfare, and welfare inquiry, but the response to actually making those changes, I feel like has been pretty limited. – Yeah, it’s more convenient to keep ignoring those voices. – Exactly. Or to say it’s too hard,
or too costly, it’s like you know, yeah, I’ve
been really disappointed at the response, ’cause I think that, if you’re gonna talk a big
game about transformational government and talk about wellbeing, then you need to listen to the people who are the most marginalised. And if you’re not doing
that, then what’s the point. (calming piano music) (pen scratching on paper) – So I couldn’t help but notice, you got a bit of Lego around the house, is that a secret creative passion? – I don’t know whether
Lego is actually creative when you follow the instructions, and that’s what I like to do. – Yeah? – But I find it deeply relaxing. – Yeah. – Just to sit, it’s like doing a puzzle, a really easy puzzle. – With a satisfying end, you got some. – Exactly. – Is there a particular, what’s your favourite Lego jams? – I feel like my two big collections are Harry Potter and Star Wars. – So it’s sort of a relaxing thing you do? – Yeah. – Do that to unwind. – Exactly, you don’t have to think too much and it’s, it’s fun. Like if you like, I had good memories of playing Lego growing up. That’s what’s good about Lego,
is like it’s non-gendered, not violent, just fun, creative particularly if you’re
doing your own builds. – Yeah, yeah.
– Good times. (light guitar music) – And you did crowd funding for the Queers And Comics
conference recently, right? – Yeah, we got enough money
to fly me and Joe over there, and it was just amazing. – Is there things that
you’ll bring home with you, – Yeah, totally, – That would inform your work? – It was really nice in terms of just having people to geek out about stories and how we tell
stories about ourselves and, you know, lots of stories about people using comics to find out
about what they’re feeling, and what their identity is, and things like that,
which I really relate to. But things about you know,
robots, and monsters, and how we use analogies to talk about our queer and trans
identities and things like that. – And you were doing a panel
about masculinity, right? – Yeah, yeah. – How did that go? – It was good, it was interesting. I feel like maybe this is something that you might relate to, but talking about masculinity,
is really fraught and fragile because we don’t talk about it a lot. People get a bit scared
and get a bit defensive. – Yeah, it’s a touchy sort
of subject for sure, yeah. – And we don’t really
know how to talk about it, and I think a lot of people
who are men, or men-adjacent, or doing something masc
are really interested in doing it in a way that’s inclusive and not toxic
and things like that, but it also means that
it’s hard to talk about our own privilege and the ways that we might perpetuate
some bad shit as well. – Yeah, that’s something
that it would’ve changed for you over time, is sort of coming into this identity of being a white dude, that suddenly it kind of changes your sense of privilege, your sense of what you can and should and all those sort of things to talk about. – Yeah, absolutely, it’s real
interesting, and I have to, I feel like I’m still
learning quite a lot about it. But just in terms of how I’m treated, in general about, you know
people listening to me, in ways that they haven’t before, and treating when I kind of
just say my bullshit opinion, people are like, “Oh yeah,
that’s very interesting, “that’s very smart.” In a way that they would’ve
just like ignored me before, or spoke over me, or like it’s real. It’s there’s some intensity
that goes on with that, and some I don’t know, carefulness that I feel. – Yeah, yeah. – It’s important. – Yeah. That’s something that’s sort of big, ongoing challenge for me and my comics I’m trying to talk about give a voice to you know people who don’t normally have a voice as well, that same kind of thing, but yeah, always being conscious that
it’s still of me as well, that I have to be – Yeah. – Not speaking on people’s behalf, or like how to sort of navigate that it’s always really interesting. – Yeah, and the importance of like, white men talking about racism, or talking about patriarchy, is important also, but you know as taking over the
conversation is also not – Yeah, yeah. – Appropriate. – Yeah, yeah. – Not necessarily, we don’t need to be the focus of everything. (laughter) – Yeah, that’s the thing, people are not used to being the, like wait, this is not about me,
it’s like an adjustment for lots of people, that I feel like as a country, we maybe we’re going through, you know, select people in general, – Yeah. – broadly speaking in society sort of happening at the moment. – Yeah, and sometimes,
when you’ve had a lot of a lot of the limelight,
suddenly to be told hey, just maybe take a seat, can feel like oppression. And it’s like, oh, and
now actually this is just equality. – Just giving everybody a turn, yeah. We don’t need to hear it, we don’t need to have a panel with six white guys on it. – Yeah. – We don’t need to have a panel
with any white guys on it. Still interesting things will happen. Do you remember that one panel that we did, at the Auckland library? They organised one that was like a diversity in comics kind of panel? There’s one, it was like they
had a lot of people on it. And they asked me to be on it, and I said, “I’m not
sure if I’m gonna be able “to add much to this.” And I didn’t, I ended up
not really saying anything. – Yeah, I think I was on that one. – Yeah. – I’m trying this year to not say yes to any panels where
I’m not the only white guy. I want to be the token white guy. I don’t want to take
up the diversity role, or the gender role, or the whatever – Right, yeah. – That’s less interesting. (calming guitar music) – Done. All right. You ready? – Yeah. – Can I show you mine? Ba-baaaa. (laughter) – Aww, love it. Got his cargo pants, got his crocs, that’s kind of to me, that’s the epitome of the like straight white dude, and they kind of just
like, they’re used to it. This happens every day, and
that’s what I was imagining. This is like (mumbles). – I love the balloon being like pffft – Yeah, we’re straight, we’re used to it. (laughter) – Draw string pants
even, that’s very good. – Some khakis. How’d you go? – All right, this is my
Point Chev pride parade. – I love it, I love it. Point Chev beach. – Yeah. – That’s the beach, I
love Point Chev beach. – Bit of construction going on. – Construction, I love it. – Some parks. – I love that you’re out there, marching, and Joe’s there just chilling. – Yeah, Joe hates pride and all parades, so I feel like they’d just like, “Ugh, just let me read my book.” And I’m like, “YEAH!” – Whatever works, something for everyone. Well, thank you so much for doing that, and it was so fun. – Thank you. – It was really interesting to chat and, – Yeah. – It seems like all the
projects that you do, are for a purpose, or
working towards a purpose, and it seems like you’re
someone that believes that drawing can make a difference. – Yeah. I think so, I mean sometimes I wake up, and I’m like, “Oh, we’re all fucked, “and we’re gonna die, it’s all pointless.” But I think there must be
something in me that has hope, that has a sense of like,
“We just gotta do better.” like, yes, the world is pretty fucked, but we gotta make it as
less fucked as we can. (soothing guitar music) (gentle upbeat music) (whoosh)

8 thoughts on “Gender identity, queer/trans comics and LEGO | Two Sketches with Toby Morris: Sam Orchard

  1. I don't know what's going on but they're being accepted into our society why are we in now pampering to them what about the homeless people spin

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