by Drew Baumgartner and Mark Mitchell
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Through our research, we discovered a disturbing statistic: 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide due to lack of societal acceptance. The national average is 4.6%. We were not willing to take that risk. For Ryland’s well-being, we were advised to allow him to transition as soon as possible.
Drew: I first encountered this video as part of a training session for my job at a summer camp. It’s style, mostly still photos and text, doesn’t suggest a particularly moving experience, but the focus on Ryland as an individual helps pull the statistics in the excerpt above down to the human level. That is, anyone’s half-baked opinions about gender are rendered irrelevant in light of this kid’s very real risk of suicide if not accepted for who they are. Indeed, it’s a case that skirts the issue of gender almost entirely, finding the rate of attempted suicide in the trans community to be a much more pressing issue. These are issues that affect both Dani and Caroline but how they navigate their own choices (and their reactions to each other’s choices) lends further nuance to those dry statistics.
Many of the themes of identity and suicide have been flowing so freely in this series, it’s been hard to pin them down to any concrete ideas, but Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew reorient us on a human, relational level with an opening flashback to the start of Caroline’s “administrative leave.” Caroline asks Dani what it was like to transition, if it felt “weird to become someone else?” Dani’s response distills everything I learned from that video into a single, pithy worldview:
It just so happens that Caroline seems to have made the opposite choice.
But time and again, Viaggio and Liew point us back to Dani’s experience as a kind of guidepost to Caroline, reminding us of the central allegory of this series. And the more nuanced point is that this isn’t really a one-time choice, but an ongoing series of choices. Or, more optimistically, that this first choice is a moment of change that allows life to get better. But to get there, Dani first lays out why that moment of inflection is so intimidating.
Caroline feels like she’s at the end of her life, and she is in a way, but Dani’s point is that there’s a new life beyond it, a better life that she can’t yet see.
Dani is imagining that life will be like hers — at least in terms of continuing in our plane of existence — but The Crash has a different idea. And that might be the most potent idea of this whole issue: that nobody (not even The Crash) can predict what Eternity Girl’s new life will be. Suicide would have ended her life as Caroline in a similar fashion, but would have cut off the infinite possibilities of this newer, happier, more powerful existence beyond that life.
It’s a powerful allegory for trans issues, but we might just as easily understand this moment of choice in terms of other big life decisions, especially those driven by trauma, oppression, or abuse. Maybe it’s not a new name or body, but a new home, a new family, a new attitude. Trans individuals will undoubtedly find something to relate to in Eternity Girl’s journey, but there’s a message here for everyone about the positive effects of change.
Mark, I’m excited to hear your thoughts on the issue. I couldn’t help but focus on that suicide vs. transitioning read, but there’s so much more going on here. I’m especially curious to hear your read on the kind of multiverse of possibilities that Dani walks through to reach Caroline. Or the fact that Caroline couldn’t taste food after her accident. Or some of the more overt symbolism as Caroline makes her choice. Maybe I’m curious to hear your thoughts on everything, so I’m sure I’ll be happy with whatever you chose.
Mark: There’s a tendency, especially in fiction, to romanticize trauma and pain as a gauntlet that toughens people up and turns them into capital “s” Survivors — better off for the experience. We call cancer survivors “Fighters”, like those who pass away from their illness were too weak-willed to be saved, and we frame suffering from depression as a “battle” that can be won with enough effort. The narrative of the Survivor is convenient, in no small part because it absolves observers of any responsibility. Being a caregiver or even just a friend to someone who is hurting — physically or emotionally — can be exhausting, so telling ourselves that the sufferer can just toughen up and deal with it if they really want to is an easy out from having to continually care.
Steven, Caroline’s former boss at Alpha 13, is a fascinating character when viewed through this lens. Steven’s not a bad guy — he genuinely cares about Caroline — but he puts the onus on her to sort things out. Only once she’s fixed would he be willing to welcome her back into his life.
Throughout its run, Eternity Girl has worked to undermine this narrative of suffering and toughness. In Eternity Girl 6, Caroline is not saved by her pain, the world is brought to the brink of destruction by it. Instead, what ends up saving the world is compassion.
At the emotional climax of the issue, as Dani talks with Caroline on the roof of the Alpha 13 building, the multiverses begin to bleed together and the version of Dani that somewhere out there is a superhero converges with the Dani of the present world. For one brief moment, Dani is imbued with superpowers and is more powerful than she can completely comprehend. It’s a fitting transformation, as Dani is the closest thing Eternity Girl has to a traditional “hero.”
From the very beginning, we’ve seen Dani be there for Caroline whenever Caroline needs her. It’s true, Dani has no idea how Caroline is feeling — how could she possibly? But Dani’s been through pain of her own, and is a compassionate friend when Caroline needs one the most. Dani doesn’t expect Caroline to “fix” herself, but she encourages Caroline to make a difficult choice — to live — based on faith for the future.
And choosing to live is an inflection point for Caroline, but, as we see in the issue’s coda, it is not a solution unto itself. Once she’s made that first difficult choice, Eternity Girl makes a series of choices that she hopes will place her on a new trajectory — including leaving her life as Caroline completely behind.
After so much darkness, it’s nice to see Eternity Girl end her book in a place of hope, but there’s always the looming threat (as there is for all of us) that a series of bad decisions will undermine the progress Eternity Girl has made. That tiny twinge of melancholy rings true for a book that has always cut a little close to home, and it’s the perfect end to Eternity Girl.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?