The merits of a masculine mother

Nicoz Balboa and the politics of softly queering motherhood




queer comics, Nicoz Balboa, queer motherhood, Italian comics, Italian graphic novel


Nicoz Balboa is an Italian artist based in France. In his graphic novel, Play wih fire, Balboa undisclosed his queer sexual orientation and gender identity by portraying himself as a lesbian woman in the first part of the book and as a non-binary subject ready to undertake an FtoM gender transition in the second. The artist’s autobiographical effort to communicate the troubles of gender dysphoria and the socio-relational issues that generally accompany it are further complicated by the representation of the author/narrator/protagonist’s role as mother. The article aims at reading Play with fire, Born to lose (2017), and his last work Transformer and the connected production of vignettes Balboa posts on his Instagram page through the lens of theories on motherhood and queer motherhood that insist on the political value of making non-heterocisnormative parenting visible. Coupling this theoretical framework with a methodology that employs the tools of comics semiotics, the study argues that Balboa’s graphic narratives contribute to partially de-essentialize motherhood by visually challenging its association with femininity. At the same time, the author’s self-representation as a masculine mother fruitfully problematizes (trans)gender identity using a portrayal that explicitly criticizes the rhetoric of the “wrong body” and questions gender binarism.


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How to Cite

Mandolini, N. (2024). The merits of a masculine mother: Nicoz Balboa and the politics of softly queering motherhood. Whatever. A Transdisciplinary Journal of Queer Theories and Studies, 6(1), 85–108.