In one of the early years that I attended WisCon — I want to say that this is something like 2003 — I proposed a panel: Trans Feminism. Aaron L. had volunteered to moderate, but the panel almost didn’t make it through the panel vetting process. Basically, not enough WisCon attendees expressed interest in the panel. I think the panel was saved fairly late in the process by Debbie, who agreed to be a panelist.
For a few years after that, I kind of thought to myself: “okay, there’s room for exactly this much transness at WisCon.” I thought, y’know, maybe a trans panel every few years. Maybe panels about speculative treatments of gender could include a token trans person. This much, I thought, but it’s unreasonable to expect more.
This past WisCon, I was thinking about the trans and genderqueer contingent. I was picking and choosing which of the several T/GQ panels I was gonna attend. And at times, I hung out in the trans and genderqueer safer space, now in its second year. And I think, “huh. I had such a meagre vision about what trans inclusiveness could look like at a place like WisCon.” I remember, for example, having thinky thoughts about a Fat is not the Enemy panel at WisCon in 2008: the thing I thought, then, was maybe the message of “love your body the way it is” sounds a bit suspect to my trans ears, but that thought was immediately followed with, “it’s a derailment (or at the very least, uninteresting to most attendees) to throw transness into this unrelated panel…”
Part of the way WisCon has changed over the years is that there’s just more trans folk at the con. There’s a trans/genderqueer posse. And more folk means that more trans/genderqueer content gets on the programming schedule. More consideration goes in to making the space welcoming. When the trans/genderqueer safer space was proposed, the con ran with it in a way that was amazing.
These changes are good. I like them; I support them; I’m glad for them. But a remaining problem is me. I think that I really need to own the idea of raising my expectations.
“Could the doctors have made a mistake? Could I have accidentally been born a girl? I should’ve been born a boy. Can that happen?”
Jo describes this pivotal moment as “terrifying.”
“‘I have to be honest. I can’t lie.’ That’s what went through my head,” she tells me.
Jo’s reply to her child’s pressing question was simple: “Yes, that can happen.”
Her emotions were not so simple.
“That was the hardest part, trying to be supportive to your child and act like it’s no big deal and inside you’re exploding,” she says.
There’s a lengthy pause and then Jo says: “I’m sorry. I’m trying not to cry just talking about it now.”
Reflecting on that crucial conversation with Sophie, Jo says she was both “terrified for my child” and “very sad.”
“Back then I knew nothing about having a transgender child.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go from here, what was going to happen, what sort of life my child would have.
“Also, the idea of losing my only daughter, as well, was quite sad. I really wanted a daughter and all of a sudden I was going to have two sons,” Jo explains.
— ‘Mum, could the doctor have made a mistake?’
I suppose I understand that it’s considered a sign of progress that we’ve moved from “My child is a freak; I’m kicking the kid out!” to “I’m grieving to learn that my child isn’t cisgender. Oh, woe, for my shattered expectations.” But I’m already pretty tired of the new narrative.
I’m sure we’ll continue to talk amongst ourselves about how to handle the current crisis. Cis people don’t get to lead that conversation. We don’t care what you think. We’re more concerned with what you do, or more often, what you don’t do.
— eastsidekate at Shakesville
My adult understanding of my childhood with my father doesn’t erase the effects of his policing. I felt his gaze always following me, making me feel isolated as I quietly grappled with my identity. The loneliness and self-consciousness from these exchanges made me vulnerable in a way I wasn’t able to recognize until decades later.
— Janet Mock, Redefining Realness
I like that this video critiques media portrayals of trans folk.
Interesting… We’ll see where this goes.
Antinomy, I learned from Spider Robinson, is the contradiction between two opposing principles or conclusions that are equally held. Robinson’s example was the devout Catholic who learns that his fiancée wants to become a nun. At the same time, as a devout Catholic, he should feel good about someone entering a life of service, but as a jilted partner, probably feels devastated. I confess that I’ve always found that to be a somewhat cerebral example — perhaps because I’ve never really met that kind of Catholic.
But a much more visceral example, for me, is the example of famous trans people. I’m thinking, at this moment, about Lana Wachowski; I just watched a video of her speech at the HRC and I’m fascinated that she’s trying to tackle, head on, the antinomy of visibility. There’s a part of me that doesn’t even want to point out her speech: I hate how trans lives have to be so public, and when you couple that with fame, even more so. You can’t be a normal person, and be openly, publicly trans. Part of me acutely perceives what she’s given up: she’s gone from “One of the directors of The Matrix” to “That trans director.” And I have never wanted to exacerbate that, so I’ve mostly avoided talking about her.
So I finally caught the series, Hit and Miss. In it, Chloe Sevigny plays Mia, a pre-op trans woman who happens to be a professional killer. So we’re automatically in trope territory (trans people are PSYCHO KILLERS!) But, hey, I’m willing to give any show that has a trans main character a bit of leeway.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way, first. Our trans main character isn’t played by an actual trans person. We’re still not there. And the killer trope. I confess that I have a fondness for stories involving professional killers (Leon and La Femme Nikita and Colombiana and The Mechanic and Grosse Pointe Blank, to name but a few). Mia isn’t Buffalo Bill or Myra Breckenridge or “Bobbi” — she’s not psychopathic. For her, it’s a job. Which, admittedly, requires deadened empathy, but whatever. I was willing to just roll with that part of the show, despite the trope.
(In contrast, I recently watched the series, Wallander, and they’ve got an evil killer trans woman story, and I was totally not willing to roll with that one.)
One set of criticism of Liar that I did not anticipate and therefore did nothing to address was that Liar depicts a trans character who is a liar, mentally unstable, and identifies with animals and that therefore Liar is transphobic. There is a long history of trans characters being depicted as psycho killers. A famous example is Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge.
This reading concludes that Micah is a trans character because early on in the book she pretends to be a boy. She does this because she is mistaken for a boy and thinks why not go with it? Within two days she’s found out and she only lasts that long because she stays out of most people’s way. After she’s found to be a girl—again because she’s not good at passing—she claims to be an hermaphrodite.
I intended both lies to be opportunist, plucked-from-the-air lies. As is her next lie that her father is an arms dealer. Micah gets more pleasure from people believing fantastical lies than from relatively easy lies.
Notice, of course, that I’m talking about what I intended. Readers are not privy to my intentions. They’re not mindreaders. They’re coming to my work with their own life experiences.
As someone who is not trans, and has known very few trans people in my life, and none of them particularly well, it did not cross my mind that anyone would read Micah as trans. My cisgendered privilege made me completely unable to see that reading of my novel until it was pointed out. I could see only what I intended.
– Justine Larbalestier, “Racism in the Books We Write”
I haven’t read Liar. I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy because of all the conversation around the cover a few years ago.