A trailblazing trans author and comic book writer
BY CHARLOTTE GRIMWADE, IMAGE BY RUBI ROSE
On 7 April the award-winning trans author and comic book writer, Rachel Pollack, passed away at the age of 77. Her wife, Judith Zoe Mateen, shared the news via Facebook expressing how Rachel has “inspire[d] so many of our beloved Tarot community, the Science Fiction and Fantasy community, the Comics community, and the Transgender community for whom she shared so much respect and care”.
Rachel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945. She transitioned after she moved to the UK in her 20s. Over the course of her career, Rachel published an impressive seven novels and four short story collections. Her 1988 book, Unquenchable Fire, even won the Arthur C Clark award for science fiction a year after its publication.
Rachel is best known for her work for DC Comics, specifically the series Doom Patrol. She began working on Doom Patrol in 1993, continuing to break boundaries over her next two years’ worth of issues. From discussions about sexuality and gender identity, to the creation of the first mainstream trans superhero, Coagula, Rachel’s impact in the comic industry was profound.
DC Comics shared the following tweet mourning Rachel’s death:
DC is deeply saddened by the passing of Rachel Pollack. Her trailblazing work on DOOM PATROL changed DC forever and inspired a generation of talent, setting a new bar for ambition and experimentation in superhero comics. She loved the medium, and it loved her back. https://t.co/lQHxqWVMzj— DC (@DCOfficial) April 7, 2023
Aside from her written work, Rachel was also a trans activist as well as an authority on tarot. Rachel and British writer Roz Kaveney worked in the group that formed the first trans manifesto, titled Don’t Call Me Mister You F**king Beast. It was published in the Gay Liberation Front’s newsletter in 1972.
Rachel’s work on tarot was equally influential, with her 1980 book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom becoming “the basis of all modern tarot interpretation” according to her friend Morgan M Page. Rachel ultimately played a fundamental role in incorporating trans women into discussions about women’s position in the spiritual movement.
In both her written work and activism, Rachel refused to let her trans identity and established social expectations limit her in any way. She actively fought for greater representation, all whilst boldly unafraid to exert her creativity and passion.
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