Recently my friend A. K. Lee, who is a wonderful fantasy novelist, interviewed me. It was quite a thoughtful interview, and you can read it here: Write as You Are.
I recently rediscovered a short story I had written a few years ago, featuring an absolutely wicked queer couple. It is the antithesis of what I usually write, which is quaint domestic character studies. And I thought the story was fantastic. A fun, murderous romp.
I remember writing it and believing “no-one will ever publish this because the gays are evil”. Now I am thinking of including it in a collection of short stories for a contest.
I well know the “evil queer villain” trope, where the villain is coded as effeminate, or trans, or pick any flavor of queer. I am well aware of the negative representations of queer people. I fully understand and appreciate, therefore, the current social push to represent queer people more positively. It’s important to counteract hundreds of years awful representation.
But there must also be room to let queer people be . . . bad. Monstrous, even. We are as capable of murder and violence as anyone else, as unpopular as that “take” may be.
Queer people are well, human. The “evil queer” sought to paint us as inhuman. Because of this, when we are written, it is imperative to present us as complex human beings rather than simply “good” human beings. The former gives us our humanity, the latter just goes back to making us inhuman on some level. Even a positive representation must show parts of us that are unflattering, or which contradict some of the positive.
Similarly, when we write evil queers, they must be complex human beings. A murderer may show tenderness and express love even though they kill people. In this way, it becomes a subversion of the “evil queer” trope. Instead of distancing us from our humanity, it brings us closer to ourselves: those carnal, bloody desires which sometimes make our hearts caper.
I am not sure I succeeded in my own story. We’ll find out. Until then, I would actually like to see more well rounded queer villains get their slice of the murdering pie.
I am sick of not seeing trans men in fiction, but I am also sick of the lack of variety of trans men represented. We all must conform to the mold set by cisgender, heteronormative society: hate your cunt, hate your breasts, desire top (and possibly lower) surgery with all your might, take hormones. It also helps to be straight.
And I am sick of this very narrow perception of what it means to be a trans man. It has broadened since my college years, true, but where are the trans men who like their breasts? Who enjoy their cunts? Who do not desire surgery? Who don’t take hormones?
Don’t tell me these people are non-binary either, because it is perfectly possible to be a man with breasts. Breasts, a cunt, taking hormones, surgeries: none of these define whether or not you are male.
Realistically, as well, there are plenty of trans men who don’t fit the stereotypical mold. I have known more trans men outside of the mold than who adhered to it.
So please fiction writers: give me trans men with breasts, give me trans men with cunts, give me trans men who do not want surgery or hormones.
This was originally inspired by the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, and was originally posted to Tumblr. Sadly, this is a continuing issue in the trans community: that of parents abusing their trans children, psychologically and otherwise. Leelah, and others, are not isolated incidents. If they were, it would be as easy as saying these parents were simply bad parents — abusive and active inflicting harm on their children — and that it’s only a matter of bad parenting, or “bad families”, or individual situations and choices.
But it’s not.
It is not an isolated incident.
I previously wrote about censors and censorship, and the essential characteristics of the people who try to censor writers, be it the self proclaimed “social justice warriors” to the Evangelical parents who squawk loudly at the school board to have a book banned because it’s “inappropriate”. Today, I want to turn to the moral responsibilities of the reader.
So often responsibility is placed on the author to make a “tasteful” work, something that is somehow ennobling. Not all literature is about “ennobling” us or making us feel good. Some of it is about making us feel like crap, in point of fact. Have you ever read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison? It is the most profoundly perverse and heartbreaking narrative I’ve ever encountered. It’s not supposed to be wholesome, but a sad commentary on race and gender.
While authors are constantly told to take responsibility for their work, I have never once heard someone ask a reader how they took responsibility for their reading and understanding of the piece. That is a curious, dangerous problem. We have a society of people whose tastes are catered to, who are not challenged, so that when they encounter a challenging piece, like The Bluest Eye, they are wholly unequipped to deal with beautiful, disturbing writing. They just want to feel good, not think.
But, nonetheless, readers have moral responsibilities. I say “moral” to emphasize the imperative to hold readers to a high standard of conduct — the same standard authors are often held to. If we hold our writers to high standards, it only stands to reason that we hold readers to the same rigorous standards.
Censorship. Let’s talk about it, shall we? Or, more precisely, the people who enact censorship.
Recently a budding author, Amélie Wen Zhao, pulled her debut young adult, or YA, novel, Blood Heir, from publication after an internet ruckus decrying it as “racist”. You can read more about it here.
Kosoko Jackson, also a budding writer, also had his debut release canceled due to internet mobs. I admittedly don’t have much sympathy for him. He participated in the campaign against Zhao, and, according to his website was “a vocal champion of diversity in YA literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers”.
While the author’s intentions were noble, his actions in regard to Zhao demonstrate otherwise. After what he did to her, the cancellation of his book is just karma if you ask me. The other information will be pertinent later.
I was reading Drew Nellins Smith’s “Let’s Not Get It On: The Indefensible Sex Scene” and found myself making faces at the article. It’s unimaginative, to say the least.
The first problem the author has is that they haven’t read. There is plenty of (gasp!) fanfiction which has provocative and wonderful sex scenes. The same is true with the Romance genre of fiction. Both provide sex scenes that are crucial to character development.
(If you feel the need to mock Romance, bite me. It was one of my staples growing up, right next to James Joyce.)
And that’s the second problem the author seems to have: the inability to recognize that character development and sex go hand in hand. They focus so wholly on the matter of sex in literature they never mention the characters. How are they feeling about this?