Hello. I’m an author looking for help

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  • #123333
    Ben Button
    Participant

    Hi All,

    I don’t know whether a post like this is a major faux pas, or if I’m even welcome here at all, so here goes…

    I’m an author of fantasy stories, and I am trying to learn how to faithfully represent transgender people in my work.
    I do not really have anyone irl that I can ask about this. I have a number of transgender colleagues and friends at my day job, but our relationships aren’t really at the point where such a conversation wouldn’t be awkward (especially over Zoom).

    At this point, I’m struggling with how to even introduce a transgender character without it seeming clunky at best or completely offensive at worst. For instance, yesterday I was reading a book that introduced a character like this: ”Mariana had once been a man named Jared. But her gender and sexuality were as fluid as the waters beneath them. Over time, she’d taken on a new name.”  This is only two paragraphs after you first see her. It’s straightforward, but to me it doesn’t seem great.

    Does anyone have some good insight or better examples of how to introduce a transgender character? fwiw, I personally tend toward a universalist approach to representation. In my writing that means I prefer that the fact that a character is transgender is an <i>important</i> characteristic, especially as it relates to their motivations, but not their defining characteristic.

    If this post is completely unwelcome, out of touch, or offensive, I sincerely apologize. Please kindly tell me to buzz off and I will.

    If this strikes a note with you, I really look forward to what you have to say. More than anything, I want the introduction of my characters to feel real and satisfying without doing damage to the transgender community.

    2 users thanked author for this post.
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    Replies
    • #123650
      DeeAnn Hopings
      AMBASSADOR

      Ben:

      Starting with the premise that trans people are like anyone else, only with the added layer of a gender identity that is counter to what society expects, I don’t think anything additional needs to be done. It would seem that we should be introduced like any other character. Some time later, after you have begun to weave the character into the story, that may be the time to explain why the person has a different thought process, responded in a different way, or is carrying around different baggage from the rest. We get sensationalized enough, so hat usually isn’t the approach to take. It is also VERY important to use the correct vocabulary and concepts.

      You said that you live in Washington and I assume Washington State. To make it real, I suggest seeing if you could spend some time with people at the nearest LGBT facility that holds trans related events…

    • #123483
      Sabrina MacTavish
      MANAGING EDITOR

      Ben,

      As a fellow published author my best advice is to treat them as you would any other character. The backstory isn’t usually the way we introduce our character, it comes later. As others have said, it will depend on their role and importance, as much as their point of transition. Is it important that they be described as such at the beginning or can it be layered within the character arc?

      I would suggest spending some time reading the articles on this site and on CDH from the members as they describe their own personal journeys. It will give you a feel for how they think at different points in their transition. Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions.

      Brina MacTavish

      Managing Editor TGH/CDH

    • #123421
      Carly Holloway
      AMBASSADOR - EDITOR

      Hi, Ben.  I don’t think you are being intrusive, and I appreciate your wish to develop the character genuinely.  It may be that the presentation depends on the story, and the character’s role in the story.  We all have very different stories of our journey, and the ways we present ourselves in the world.  Some ladies have slipped in their new lives seamlessly, and other ladies have huge struggles in the world.  I think it would be difficult to offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ trans character.

      It may be worth your while to get to know your coworkers better, and speak with them candidly bout your book.  I, personally, would not be offended by this approach, and you might just end up with a delightful new friend or two.  I don’t know how much help I could offer, but would be willing to exchange ideas here via private messages.

      Good luck with your book idea.

      Carly

    • #123385

      Hi Ben , i am trans , and i like it . It started at birth and finally at my age now have came at piece with it . If i was writing a piece about a trans lady in a book i would see her as a very pretty and passable lady that only comes out to the man she falls in love with . Remember Allie McBeal ? , it happened on here .  Bring her out and keep her out , give her a lover and let them explore each other . Trans women are women , we really are in every way . Need to contact me , i am available . Leslie

    • #123334

      Hi All,

      I don’t know whether a post like this is a major faux pas, or if I’m even welcome here at all, so here goes…

      I’m an author of fantasy stories, and I am trying to learn how to faithfully represent transgender people in my work.
      I do not really have anyone irl that I can ask about this. I have a number of transgender colleagues and friends at my day job, but our relationships aren’t really at the point where such a conversation wouldn’t be awkward (especially over Zoom).

      At this point, I’m struggling with how to even introduce a transgender character without it seeming clunky at best or completely offensive at worst. For instance, yesterday I was reading a book that introduced a character like this: ”Mariana had once been a man named Jared. But her gender and sexuality were as fluid as the waters beneath them. Over time, she’d taken on a new name.”  This is only two paragraphs after you first see her. It’s straightforward, but to me it doesn’t seem great.

      Does anyone have some good insight or better examples of how to introduce a transgender character? fwiw, I personally tend toward a universalist approach to representation. In my writing that means I prefer that the fact that a character is transgender is an <i>important</i> characteristic, especially as it relates to their motivations, but not their defining characteristic.

      If this post is completely unwelcome, out of touch, or offensive, I sincerely apologize. Please kindly tell me to buzz off and I will.

      If this strikes a note with you, I really look forward to what you have to say. More than anything, I want the introduction of my characters to feel real and satisfying without doing damage to the transgender community.

      I am not offended by this post. Rather, I find it refreshing. Since I came to recognize that I am a transgender woman earlier this year I have been in the process of trying to understand the journey to this point – did I already have moments of clarity followed by denial (yes up to a point), why I did not admit it to myself and proceed from there and any number of other things. What changed? I discovered just how much I love dresses. Wish I could come out more than the little I am so I could wear them a lot rather than just in limited situations. All that sort of stuff. So It seems to me if you could add some of this part of the journey, even if it’s brief, it could go a long way to authenticating the character. My experience with others is that this is an important (though not the most important) part of their journey. Good luck. – Abby.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
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