Award-winning trans author, comic book writer, tarot expert, and activist Rachel Pollack has died. She was 77.
Pollack’s wife, Judith Zoe Matoff, confirmed her death in an April 7 Facebook post: “I am sad to tell you that our beloved Rachel Pollack passed so peacefully and beautifully today at about 12:45 p.m. after a touching ceremony called Hand to Heart.
“Several of us stood in a circle,” Matoff wrote. “I had my hand on her heart. I began the circle by saying how much I love her and what she means to me. Each took their turn after me sharing their own feelings and appreciation of Rachel.”
“I know that Rachel will continue to be a Light in this world and in the next. She will continue to inspire 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. We have felt and cherished your love and prayers over the past months and years as Rachel experienced so many health challenges. We are One.”
Pollack, who was born in Rhinebeck, New York, transitioned in the early 1970s when she was in her 20s. She published seven novels and four collections of short stories and created what is widely recognized to be the first transgender superhero character during her run writing Doom Patrol for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint from 1993 to 1995.
“DC is deeply saddened by the passing of Rachel Pollack,” the comics company tweeted last Friday. “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.”
“Rachel was a beloved writer of fantasy, but I prefer to describe her as a magical realist,” friend and fellow fantasy writer Neil Gaiman told The Guardian. “She wrote these wonderful books of heightened reality and magical worlds where she would concretize metaphor.
“Rachel and I bonded over many, many things, one of which was Jewishness, and despite being a bastion of the new age she was also incredibly Jewish,” Gaiman continued. “There’s an orthodox prayer that begins ‘Thank you, God, for not making me a woman.’ I remember her telling me that after she came to following her surgery she said, ‘Blessed to you God for not making me a woman, but thrice-blessed to the doctor who did.’”
Gaiman also described Pollack’s work on Doom Patrol as “ahead of its time.”
British writer and cultural critic Roz Kaveney met Pollack when she was living in London in the 1970s and helped her draw up the Gay Liberation Front’s first trans manifesto, called Pollack “a crystallizing force in the trans movement and so many other areas. She was perpetually an inspirational figure, and was one of the first professional trans writers who had a career while out, and proved that it was possible to do that.”
Pollack also wrote extensively about the tarot and the occult.
“Quite simply, Rachel was the greatest living authority on the tarot,” said writer and historian Morgan M Page.
“She was from that generation of trans people who were encouraged to disappear into society, to not be visible once they had made that decision,” Page added. “Rachel was one of the very few people at that time who refused to go away.”