An Interview with Sabrina “Bria” Symington

| Dec 6, 2021
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Sabrina “Bria” Symington

Sabrina “Bria” Symington is a transgender artist from Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Canada. She is best known for her ongoing web comic series, Life of Bria, as well as her graphic novels, First Year Out, and its sequel, Coming Out Again. She is an alumnus of Emily Carr University of Art & Design, a former professional martial arts instructor, and she offers free voice feminization training resources for trans people on YouTube and TGForum. She currently lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she tries to do one new thing every day.

TGForum (TGF): You debuted the Life of Bria comics about six years ago. How did the idea originate?

Sabrina: I had just moved back to Canada in 2015 after starting my transition while I was living in Thailand a few months earlier. It was basically a fresh start over in life, and after starting out the journey to make my dream of transitioning finally come true, I decided that I wanted to try and see if I could make my other dream of being a professional illustrator come true. I had gone to art school and had even written and illustrated a rather lengthy graphic novel, but nothing had ever panned out professionally yet. I had no real idea of where to start and I had no job, but I was living with my sibling rent free and I had a little sum of money saved up from working as an art teacher in Thailand. A friend suggested I rent a cheap studio space in Chinatown. So, every day I would go in there and just — draw.

A bit of Life of Bria.

Eventually I had to start posting what I was drawing somewhere so I could make a name for myself as an artist but coming up with a name for the website was tough. I was a big edgelord atheist back then, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian was one of my favorite movies at the time. I actually did not want to call it Life of Bria at first, but apparently, I never came up with a better name. The first comics were just goofy jokes, but soon they evolved into a way for me to work out all the turbulent feelings I was having during my transition. Then in 2016, the wave of bathroom bills and public backlash against trans people was hitting, and I felt the need to work through my feelings about transphobia through my comics, which caused them to go down the more political bend that they are mostly known for today.

TGF: First Year Out and Coming Out, Again have captured numerous accolades. It was another opportunity to expose your design talents and look at life.

Sabrina: These books are actually a small departure from a lot of what I do. My work usually has a bit of a harder ‘edge’ to it. Just look at my horror story, She Never Came Out, which ran on TGForum during 2019 and 2020, and which was meant to be a ‘shadow’ of Coming Out Again. So, to do something gentle and affirming like those two graphic novels was a nice change of pace.

TGF: Do folks in the LGBTQ+ community reach out to you for life advice?

Sabrina: All the time. I actually run a Discord server primarily geared towards supporting trans women — especially with voice feminization training. But there is only so much I can do. There is such a great need in our community, and I often feel like that scene in A Christmas Carol with all the ghosts of dead rich men desperately trying to help the poor and needy but being unable to, because they are ghosts.

TGF: You once said, We don’t just come out once. We have to come out continually throughout our lives. And as we grow and change and reach a newfound understanding of who we are, we come out once again in a whole new way.” Care to elaborate?

Sabrina: When I wrote First Year Out, I was asked a lot what a Second Year Out would look like, and I always said it would be a very different book, because even just in the course of writing it, I changed and grew as a person. Like the protagonist, Lily, I came out as a lesbian a few years into transition after a lot of serious reflection and exploration. But I also needed to go through that period of dating men in my first years of transition to understand my relationship to masculinity, femininity, sexuality, and queerness, etc. I think identity labels are not meant to be set in stone as some kind of immutable truth of who we are, but rather they are circumstantial placeholder ideas that help us understand and be comfortable with ourselves in our current situation. If the situation changes, so might our understanding of who we are and what label fits for us. Self-exploration does not end with coming out or transitioning, it begins with it. The first coming out is the first time we are really being honest with ourselves, and from then on, we can have an honest exploration of who we really are underneath all the layers of dirt piled up on us by the world. Just think of how many trans women live for decades thinking of themselves as crossdressers or drag queens before eventually transitioning.

Furthermore, we continually have to decide who we out ourselves to in every situation. Nobody presents their full self to the world all of the time. It is not always safe to do so. Sometimes it is just more trouble than it is worth, or sometimes we just behave differently in different settings. There might be people who we are ‘out’ to about being ‘trans’ or ‘gay’ but who we do not bother trying to explain the intricacies and nuances of being a ‘trans femme non-binary Sappho-romantic polyamorous asexual’. We just tell them we are gay. There are also people who knew us for years and years before we came out and who never get to meet us as our ‘real’ selves. And so, they are carrying around this false image of who we are in their minds, perhaps all the while thinking that they ‘know’ us, when really, they have no idea who we are.

When you think about it, that is every person–including ourselves. We do not know what is going on in others’ minds and we do not even fully understand our own minds. We are all carrying around images we have created and stories we tell ourselves to help us simplify and understand the world. But words are not truth. Words are tools for describing an objective truth that we subjective beings cannot ever fully grasp. All we can do is be willing to examine the things we believe to be true and to allow our understanding and language for them to be updated when new evidence is presented to us.

TGF: What book or piece of writing has had the biggest impact on you?

Sabrina: I am a Taoist, and the seminal text of that philosophy, Tao Te Ching, is something that I have returned to frequently throughout my life. Although, realistically, Bruce Lee’s unfinished martial arts text, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, has had an even bigger effect on me, as it takes a lot of the principles of Taoism and put them into action. Although the text is centered on martial arts, it follows a principle borrowed from seventeenth century Japanese sword master, Miyamoto Musashi’s celebrated text, The Book of Five Rings, which states that the underlying principles of success within one art form can be translated over into others. Bruce Lee himself was not just an unparalleled martial artist and talented actor. He was a brilliant writer, incredibly well-spoken, wise beyond his years, an expert Cha Cha dancer, and an excellent visual artist as well. Everything you do makes you better at everything you do, and to master one art is to master them all.

TGF: By chance, we meet at a local coffee shop. I am crossdressed, and we strike up a conversation. What direction might the discussion take?

Sabrina: When I run into a person in the wild who looks to me like someone who might be trans or perhaps ‘gender expansive’, I try not to draw attention to that for their own safety and comfort, but I do usually compliment them on their clothes and at some point, early on casually let slip that I am trans to let them know I am a safe person to talk to. Outside of that, as a very driven person who is always working on many new projects, I always want to know about what a person is doing and the ins and outs of their trade, art and career, as well as the ‘scene’ in which they operate. I find that fascinating and inspiring and it helps me contextualize myself and how I can operate within my own little world.

TGF: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?

Sabrina: My mom is an artist who has always unabashedly lived life on her own terms, and she has always encouraged me. As I get older, I realize how increasingly alike we are, and as a trans woman, that is extremely affirming. I also always looked up to my big sibling. When they took up martial arts, I did, too, and now it has become a lifelong passion that continues to center and guide me every day. When my sibling took up guitar in their teens and poured their heart and soul into practicing, that encouraged me to start trying to be an artist in my teens as well. They said to me “Who says you have to be already good at something in order to do it?” and that really stuck with me.

TGF: What is your proudest career achievement?

Sabrina: I honestly never thought I would actually get to work as a professional artist. But I have been doing this for six years now and I am still going, and that is nothing to sneer at. I was probably most proud when I held my first published graphic novel, First Year Out. I am also extremely proud of the goofy video I made earlier this year, Lovely Buster Overdrive. It might not look like much, but I did basically everything on that video myself — from writing, directing, and starring in it, to doing the music, editing, costumes, and special effects — and I basically had to teach myself all of it. Sometimes branching out into a new path can give us even more confidence and inspiration to go back to our main career line and succeed in an entirely new way.

TGF: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sabrina: A day where I have absolutely no obligations and I can work as long as I feel like on whatever I feel like doing. I can just relax and have fun with what I am doing without worrying about somewhere I have to be later. Although, the happiest moment of my life would be when I first kissed my girlfriend at a concert during a really romantic song by our favorite band, The Midnight. I swear, it was like a movie. I am going to treasure that memory for the rest of my life.

TGF: What makes you laugh?

Sabrina: Usually really stupid stuff. This past year I have really gotten into Japanese Tokusatsu shows. Tokusatsu basically translates to ‘special effects’ and it covers everything from Godzilla movies to the TV series that ended up being used as the basis for Power Rangers here in the West. They always have a ton of creativity to the costume designs, using all kinds of funny, low budget special effects you would expect from shows from that era, and they just have the goofiest, nonsense plots you can think of — with their hilarity often magnified by their not getting a proper translation from Japanese. So, you get these outrageous visuals accompanied by gibberish subtitles. On top of it all, most of them are very pure and innocent, and watching them can be very friendly and comforting. It does not matter how hard a day I have had. Putting on a ‘Toku’ never fails to evoke pure, unbridled joy in me.

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About the Author ()

Shelley Anne Baker has been part of the transsexual and transgender community for six years. Wandering about the California BDSM community, she finally found her stride in making the transition to dresses and high heels. Today, her women’s apparel, and shoes outnumbers her male apparel (that she just has to have for certain occasions, but such is life). She has seriously considered HRT, but now feels life has passed her by on that count. She is a professional writer and experienced corporate brand marketing and public relations consultant. For interview consideration and participation email Shelley Anne at

Comments (1)

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  1. Angie Angie says:

    I just love this! Great interview with a wonderful girl. Your questions bring Sabrina out 🙂 for us all to get to know. Her insights into continually coming out really resonate with me and many others I’m sure. She is so right on.