“The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For”

I first read bits of Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For strip online in my late teens. I couldn’t find all of it, especially not the early bits, but I found what was there strangely compelling. It was one of the first queer bits of fiction I found with realistic relationships between women. Queer male stories I had found, but not so much between women. It was probably also the first place I heard the term bisexual, though probably not in a very positive way.

When I saw The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For  on Kindle Direct, I was so excited. And rightfully so. I could NOT put the thing down. I’m used to not being able to put down a book, but not usually comic books. This one was different. There were parts I didn’t like (bit too much biphobia and transphobia exhibited by some of the characters), and characters I wasn’t super fond of (Mo and Sydney entirely deserve each other, talk about unpleasant jerks). But Bechdel still created compelling characters and story arcs. And I was entirely disappointed when it ended.

Bechdel also includes bits of current-events politics woven in among her stories. The course of Essential Dykes takes place throughout my early childhood (or perhaps slightly before) and continues into my college years. It was fascinating seeing an adult perspective on events I remember, but only barely, and another view of events I had just begun to notice in early adulthood.  It covers Reagan, to Bush Sr, to Clinton, and back to the Bush Years, and finally Obama’s election.

But most important to me was all the different configurations of women’s romantic relationships. From monogamy, to non-monogomy; lesbians, and bisexuals, and trans men and women, they’re all included. Even the relationships involving characters I didn’t much like, or the unhealthy ones, or the ones which ended before I wanted them to made me happy. We need more depictions of women in romantic and platonic and all sorts of relationships in our media.

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