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Local transgender woman researching comic books to help LGBTQ youth

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, located on the Ohio State campus, is home to the largest collection of cartoon artwork in the world.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Acceptance. It’s what we always want others to give us, yet we often fail to give ourselves.

Her story begins at 10 years old. That’s when Maggie Dahlstrom knew.

“At the time, everything that I read being trans meant losing your entire family,” she said.

Acceptance, for her, didn’t come until years later. Even then, she says in order to hang on to what was important, she had to let go.

“With as long as I spent in the closet, I had a pretty good idea of how things would go and the people who would stop talking to me I expected to stop talking to me, and they did,” she said. “And the people who didn’t, I have a better relationship with them than ever.”

The reality of being trans, she says, and for many who are LGBTQ, is being fearful of being alone. But, she was never alone.

She always liked reading. Comic books, she says, spoke to her through words and pictures.

“Comics have always been a really huge part of my life,” she said. “I didn’t know that queer comics existed for the longest time.”

Each thin page brought a new depth of meaning.

A new meaning to acceptance.

“Finding out that there were people like me talking about stuff that I’d been through in this medium that had been so important to me for so long was revelatory,” Dahlstrom said.

A revelation found within herself that she’s now giving to others.

At the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, the largest collection of comics and cartoon art in the world, Dahlstrom, through a 10-week Ohio State Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship, is now researching hundreds of queer comics and will be creating a web resource of queer literacy in history.

“If you don’t know what’s going on, having comics can be tremendously helpful to organize your thoughts and put it on paper and find other people,” she said.

Helping to dispel ignorance and false notions while bringing positivity to the online conversation.

“Queer people deserve basic rights,” she said. “Queer people deserve to see themselves in media and to not have to wonder what’s wrong with me, why am I like this, what’s happening that I’m not like everyone else because being queer is normal. Being queer is OK.”

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