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A Quibble

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.

Not an Isolated Incident

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.

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The Moral Responsibilities of the Reader

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.

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An Indictment of Censors

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”.

sipping tea

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.

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Titillation (or Lack Thereof)

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?

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His Aura Thefts

I wrote here about the publication of His Aura, an anthology of transmasculine erotica. I am not an erotica author, but I had a few pieces I’d written for a friend’s project which didn’t pan out and thus needed a home, so I submitted them. I was accepted. Gleefully, and trustingly, I signed the contract. And then waited. And waited. And waited. Payment was supposed to happen a few months prior to publication, and include copies of the book. The publication happened. The payment never did, and those copies never came.

The editor of the tome is “Shaun J. Phree” or Shaun Peterson, though, both could be pseudonyms for all I know. It is convenient he vanished from the web after the publication. He made promises to authors by email to pay us, but never did.

But just so you know. If ever a guy wanting to publish trans fiction appears and has the same name, tell him to go fuck himself rather than submit any work to him. And, as always, for authors working in any genre: be careful as you can.

The only reason I bring this up after so long is that I have the energy to deal with it now, and it I feel obligated to warn people.

ETA: Apparently he now lives here and publishes the book through his personal site so he doesn’t have to pay the authors, the snake.

 

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear 22-Year-Old Me:

After getting over the shock of discovering your older self is, in fact, a man, and hairier, smellier, and grubbier than you currently are, I expect you might be a tiny bit disappointed. (But not with the impressively groomed facial stubble.) I know that you didn’t expect your life to be like this, thirteen years in the future. I think you expected to be a university professor by this time (ha ha), rather than some dude who works part time as an adjunct. I think you also expected yourself to have written and published a few novels by now, and might look on this scruffy character — who will be you — as something of a failure. Not only is he one short bastard, and not only has he not even finished a single novel, he does not even give two shits about writing novels anymore. He has all these — novellas and short stories — just simmering away on his mental burners. But what does he really have to show for those thirteen years’ time, creatively speaking?

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