Writing Trans Characters: Another Rant

Posted: January 31, 2016 in Uncategorized
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So I had a rant a couple of weeks ago, but looks like it’s time for Mark II.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve had an exchange with another author on why there aren’t more transmen in m/m fiction. (I will not be identifying this author, as I don’t believe in any of that name-and-shame shit that stalks the LGBT fiction genre like a seriously bad smell.) Anyway, I shared a picture of some trans people who are passing like fuck, y’all, and said this was another reason why that absence of transmen in m/m fiction is confusing to me.

Because not being funny, a lot of m/m fiction is about two hot guys, probably both alpha male types, getting together with [insert plot]. And that in itself is a whole different discussion, but my point is, if there are transmen who look 100% male and alpha type-y then…why aren’t they featuring too?

The response?

“Because it’s harder.”

Seriously, that was it. It’s harder.

Well, why? Literally the only thing I said was trans character, so…what, trans characters are de facto harder to write than gay ones?

Yeah, that’s about the point at which I blew my lid.

You know why they’re supposedly harder? You know why they’re so scary and so intimidating? Because you’re not looking past the word ‘trans’ to the word ‘person’ or ‘man’ or ‘woman’ that follows. Can you write women? Then you can write trans women. Can you write men? Then you can write trans men.

This author continued to explain that, obviously, this is because trans people are new. They confessed to waiting decades to publish about gay men in case they got it wrong, and as trans people and the trans community are new, authors need to be made more comfortable.

(I’m not even going to address the stupidity of demanding that the minority make the majority feel ‘comfortable enough’ to accept them.)

Even without addressing that, it’s still ridiculous.

Movements and groups progress and gain visiblity largely through the media. And what does it say about us as a genre when bloody EastEnders is showing trans characters — played by trans actors, no less! — and we’re still trotting out this pathetic ‘ahhhh, they’re haaaaaaaard!’ every time the issue is raised.

Transgender people have been around for as long as human beings have been. They were at the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In 1979, the WPATH Standards of Care for transgender patients were first set up. Are they more visible now than ever? Yes…largely due to the media. Writers should be ahead of the game on this one, and to wail that trans people are new and scary is just another example of prejudice and ignorance, especially now in the face of their increasing visibility.

This author said they had waited decades to publish about gay men, for fear of getting it wrong. Can I assume, then, an explosion in trans literature in 2056, also decades after it was so desperately needed? It is needed now. The explosion should be now. But too many writers are still trotting out the excuse that it’s somehow hard. They don’t know enough about trans people to write them!

And why are so many writers ignorant?

Because they choose to be. All of that information is out there. I could delete this whole blog right now and I wouldn’t have added anything to the information already in existence, already accessible. Writers somehow are fine with intensive research on places they’ve never been, jobs they’ve never worked, languages they don’t speak…but to write a trans man trying to decide between the cute guy next door and the hot but dangerous boss, that’s far too difficult and requires far too much research. Obviously.

Well, not to be sarcastic, but how the fresh hell do you suppose trans people find out about how to get treatment, about all the tricky little issues you’re too scared to address? We’re not born with an inherent knowledge of binders, packers, and the order in which treatments should be taken.

Google.

Stop hiding behind this excuse that it’s too hard. Writing about a specific trans issue is hard. Writing about trans people is not. You know why? We’re human. If you can write about other humans, you can write about us. So either stop making your excuses, or at least have the common decency to recognise them for what they are: excuses.

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