It’s Not All About Gender

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

[This is a post geared towards authors. This will not be news to trans, non-binary, questioning or otherwise non-cisgender persons, nor their active allies.]

Firstly, I’m super-sorry for the lateness of this post, but the reason for the lateness did inspire the subject, so…it’s not all bad.

A very close friend of mine — closer than family, and around whom my entire mad little world revolves — disappeared off my radar over the last couple of weeks. Now, he’s a busy guy. I wasn’t worried for a while. Then the niggling worry starts, then the real worry, then the flying up north to break down his door and find out what the hell has happened.

Turns out, he was in hospital. Seriously ill in hospital too, not did-you-really-break-your-leg-skiing-or-did-you-fall-down-a-manhole-whilst-drunk type of ‘in hospital.’

I have had a terrible week. Worrying about what had happened, then worrying about him when I found out what had happened, then getting him home and playing nurse for a couple of days, constantly on the phone to my day job to provide my duty-bound excuses, and hoping desperately that it would all blow over.

(Good news: it has.)

Which brings me to my actual point: I had a fucking awful week, during which my depression reared its hideous head in a way it hasn’t for a long time, and it was nothing to do with being trans.

Wait, I hear you ask, that’s fucking obvious. Not everything in a trans person’s life is about being trans. Duh.

Keep that thought in mind…now ask yourself why there aren’t more trans characters in books. Any trans characters, never mind main ones.

Many authors I talk to on the subject tell me that they don’t want to get it wrong, or they don’t know enough about being trans. Replace trans with gay, and that’s stupid. You can’t get a gay man wrong, because gay men come in all sorts of varieties. You can’t get lesbians wrong, because there are as many different lesbians as there are different women. Or human beings. Or fish in the sea.

And yet this idea somehow is sticking to trans characters.

If I said, why don’t you write a story about what it’s like to be transgender, then the issue is right. The same way that you’re going to make yourself look mighty stupid if you try writing a lesbian erotica without the first clue what a clitoris is, you can’t write about Ryan’s journey to becoming Rachel if you don’t have the first idea about how that’s done wherever Ryan happens to be. That’s right. And yes, for the love of God, if you’re going to write it, do your research!

But if I say, why don’t you write a story with a trans main character, where’s the argument? You could write a gritty science fiction novel all about alien dinosaurs, and stick a mention that your kick-ass heroine was born a man. Job done. Nobody cares how she’s gotten her hands on that stunning Lara Croft physique, there be space-raptors to shoot.

Because here’s the thing: visibility has two sides. Two stories need to be told here: the stories that are about transgender people, and the stories that show transgender people.

We need stories to tell us how these people are what they are, what they’re going through, what they’re struggling with, and how it can and does get better than that first bleak, terrible realisation that they are different somehow. We need those. We do.

But we also need the stories where they just are. Where being transgender is not remarkable anymore, and where transgender people kick as much arse as their cisgender counterparts. We need stories where, yes, Jamie’s genderqueer, but actually, this story is about Jamie’s adventures trying to awkwardly seduce Suze into a date with zim. Where Lara Croft up there is going to kick arse and take names, and what she was before she became Lara has nothing to do with it.

And you don’t need a degree in gender psychiatry to write that.



(Also feel free to steal the space raptor idea.)


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