Garfield The Cat Is Not Non-Binary (But Apparently We Thought He Was)
It turns that Garfield, legendary comic strip cat, is a boy after all. “Garfield is male,” creator Jim Davis said to The Washington Post. Davis then added the non sequitur, “He has a girlfriend, Arlene," as if only people who are male have girlfriends. But putting that bit of heterosexism aside, how did we get to the point where this was a statement that needed making?
It turns out that Jim Davis, presumably without meaning to, started that himself. Talking to Mental Floss back in 2014, Davis had this to say about the universal appeal of Garfield:
By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old. It gives me a lot more latitude for the humor for the situations.
One suspects that what Davis actually meant is that Garfield is not a man or a woman (since he's a cat), and therefore humans of all genders can identify with him equally.
However, a couple of weeks ago a satirist named Virgil Texas discovered that quote and decided to make a thing about it, editing Garfield's gender to "None" on wikipedia and announcing on Twitter that he'd done so. Wikipedia being what it is, that basically started a war. Editors immediately switched the cat's gender back to "Male," but others (not just Texas) kept reverting it to "None."
Various comics were then passed around in an attempt to "prove" a fictional cat's gender. The politics of gender identity began to play a role in the discussions as people took side not just on whether or not Garfield's gender is non-binary, but on whether or not they believe non-binary identities are valid. But now, with Garfield's creator having provided the all-important Word of God, it seems that the war is over. Garfield is canonically male, and we can move on to the next thing.
Now as an actual non-binary human being myself, all of this seems pretty silly. Garfield has always been a straight male character, and anybody who's read the comics ought to know that. For one thing, his major character traits are laziness, being overweight, and a love of food, and his popularity has never been hindered by that. Despite admirable work by many activists, mainstream American culture has never been nearly as accepting of fat folks who aren't male. On the other hand, mainstream American culture has never had any problem accepting Garfield for who he is.
For the record, despite its prominence in the debate, I don't accept Garfield's use of he/him pronouns as evidence of his gender. Many people who don't identify with a binary gender still choose to use gendered pronouns, such as actor Ruby Rose and music/comics luminary Gerard Way. But Garfield has never given us any reason to believe he's not a boy, and he doesn't object when he's called one, even if it's by that awful fat-shaming talking bathroom scale of his.
So while I'm always up for messing with the often binarist and queer-unfriendly editors at Wikipedia, I'm afraid anyone looking for non-binary representation is barking up the wrong tree with this cat. There is, I'm happy to report, a fat non-binary cat in Animosity, the comic book by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre, but that book's tone is a little darker than most Garfield stories. Although now that I think about it, Animosity's disturbing world wouldn't be too out of place in Garfield: His Nine Lives.