In her debut graphic memoir, The Third Person (Drawn & Quarterly, May), Grove assembles fractured memories from therapy sessions seeking approval for gender confirmation treatment.
What made you decide to focus on your therapy sessions?
I decided to finally write about my transition and the transgender experience, but there was a chunk of the story I didn’t want to think about. The only thing I remembered from that period was that I once brought this book to a therapy session, and I was talking about it to the therapist, “Toby.” I looked down a moment later and the book was gone. I decided to try to figure out in my own mind what happened, and write about it, and then The Third Person just kind of took off. It ended up being about something I’d never told anybody before: that at one point I had dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a theatrical structure to the therapist/client scenes. How did you decide how to put the scenes together?
I come from an animator’s background, so I was thinking about them more in terms of storyboard panels, or maybe even animation key poses. It’s a very simple setting, it’s two characters sitting there talking.
The book is almost 900 pages long. Did you have any idea it was going to be on that scale when you started?
No, I had no idea. I started remembering things by sitting down and doing quick sketches, starting from one line of dialogue that I remembered and piecing everything together word for word. At the end of months of doing this, I had a stack of pages about two feet high. Then I sat down and tried to compile them into a narrative.
Do you feel that working on this book helped you deal with your memories?
The entire book was an incredibly emotional experience. The way I described it to my old animation director was that it was like running a cheese grater over my soul. I was writing the book as I was remembering things.
To be honest, I’m not very interested in writing about myself. I think that’s why I stopped working on the book that was just about me and my transition. One of the things that motivated me was the idea that by sharing my experiences I could help other people who are transgender, who have dissociative identity disorder, who have been abused. When you’re an abuse survivor, the last thing an abuser wants is for the abused people to get together and tell their story—but I think it’s the most important thing for people who have been abused to do. When you share your story, you take the power away from the abuser and put the power back in yourself, and you can move on with your life.