Category: fiction

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Trans characters

By , May 25, 2011 3:24 am

One of my roommates recently got me hooked on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a sit-com about four horrible people who own a bar together, and the hilarious hijinks which ensue. The characters on the show are consistently petty, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and on, and on, and on. But since they always lose in the end, you feel OK laughing at them.

Intermittently, starting in the first season, one of the boys in the show becomes involved with a ‘tranny,’ as seen here (sorry it’s not a great clip – someone lemme know if there’s a higher quality version):

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Is ‘Orlando: A Biography’ Trans Fiction?

By , March 9, 2011 6:43 pm

Cross-posted at The Center for Classic Theatre Review, an online literary review of Court Theatre in Chicago.

As a transgender woman, I’ve read a lot of trans fiction. Stories about magical transformations, mutations which cause gender shifts, mind-transfer rays, nanotechnology, forced feminization, sexual domination. You name a way someone could possibly transform from a man to a woman, and some author on some website has probably beaten you to it. And I’ve probably read it: the full range of stories, from enthusiastic transitions of  willing participants to subjugation and rape.

When there is no one like you on TV, when pornography depicts “your kind” as a freak and a fetish item, when your story is absent from books and movies, you make do with what you can. Not all of the stories I’ve read were well-written. Not all of them cast trans people in a positive light, let alone a realistic one. But that hunger to find ourself in the world exists in all of us. Finding our own identity in stories certainly isn’t the only reason we read, tell stories, watch movies, see plays. But it’s a big one, the desire to find that resonance of ourself in someone else’s tale.

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The Princess and the Frog and the Gator

By , March 6, 2011 12:36 pm

Princess and the FrogFinally recovering from my miserable cold, and hoping to get back to a regular posting schedule. During my illness, I took time to watch lots of Netflix streaming movies: Sleepless in Seattle (how had I not seen this movie before?!), some European subtitled lesbian coming-of-age stories of varying artistic merit, and the most recent (and some say final) ‘real’ Disney animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog.

I was skeptical going into this movie. I grew up with the ‘Disney Renaissance,’ and was raised on films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Needless to say, I have high expectations for my animated musical Disney films. I was also nervous about the race issues surrounding Disney’s first black princess. Fortunately, The Princess and the Frog surprised me: the songs were good, the animation quality high, and while it mostly sidestepped issues of race (particularly interracial interactions in the 1920s American South) there were occasional nods to racism. I don’t feel well-versed enough in race theory to really comment, other than to say that – as an admittedly privileged white woman – I enjoyed the film.

What really threw me for a loop was the issues of ‘passing’ brought up by the alligator, Louis.

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Three wishes

By , January 27, 2011 2:43 pm

This came to me after reading a story about a genie. (Obviously.) My nit-pick concern is how to deal with tenses, as I sort of go back and forth between present and past – any suggestions would be appreciated. Also not sure if this story is worth continuing, since its original goal was teasing out my own issues. Shocking, I know. Anyway, thoughts on whether you’d like to see more would also be appreciated.

“I don’t understand.” I’d gotten the lamp as a lark, at a local thrift store. It was nothing impressive: tarnished metal, battered in a few places, curving upward into a classic “genie’s lamp” spout. I figured I would put it on a shelf, next to my LEGO Star Wars scene and Happy Meal toys of Robin Hood and Peter Pan. An interesting conversation piece, right? Something amusing and unusual, to prompt a laugh from guests and a distraction for me when I should be working. No one ever expects to find themselves in the middle of a fairy tale, the middle of 1001 Arabian Nights. You think about it, sure. Ask your friends, have late night discussions about what you would do with those three wishes. You never expect it to happen.

“I believe your culture is full of stories about genies, Master. Jinn, Ifrit, whatever you wish me to be called.” The jinni spoke with an androgynous voice, emanating from a smokey body, not clearly male or female. In true fairy tale fashion, the incense-like smoke originated from the lamp and spread upwards into an unreasonably solid-looking cloud. The smoke continued to pour out, but hadn’t expanded past the jinni’s “body” or filled the room; the only smell was a subtle hint of something floral, impossible to pin down. When the jinni spoke, the cloud around its face swirled, and subtle puffs of smoke emerged out from where its mouth would be, like breathing out on a cold day. “What is it that you do not understand? As the one who freed me from the prison of Solomon’s seal, you are entitled to three wishes, delivered to the best of my ability. A superficial read of your thoughts indicates you already understand the general guidelines from countless tales of fiction: no taking of life, no returning of life from beyond the veil, no wishing for additional wishes. There are more esoteric rules, but I will appraise you of those if and when you encounter them. For all that, you are entitled to three wishes, Master.” I could hear the capital ‘M.’

How do you decide on what to wish for, when wishing for what you always wanted would erase and rewrite your entire life?

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More trans fiction – it’s like reading a book

By , January 13, 2011 10:13 pm

Been hunting through BigCloset TopShelf for more good trans fiction about trans characters, and found this:

It kind of strikes me. Being transgendered is a lot like having amnesia. I mean I can know things and I can self identify myself but at the same time when we all start to go through this we really don’t know a whole lot of things about who we are. It’s all Images, those lives we once led, not anything of substance really.

Kind of like our old or otherselves were a movie, one we had watched over and over until we knew it line by line and hated it. Then we start to transition and we’re given the book to read instead and it’s nothing at all like the movie. There’s similarities but it’s really not the same and we all have to start at the first of the book not really knowing what the real story of us is going to be.

I hadn’t heard either of these analogies before – being trans as having amnesia, and transitioning as the experience of reading a novel instead of seeing the movie – but I think they both have some value.

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A little trans fiction story for Christmas

By , December 25, 2010 2:03 am

It’s been quite a while since I’ve added anything to the Trans Fiction section of this website. My reading trans fiction sort of goes in cycles, and very often I’ve been most into reading it when I’m feeling the worst about myself. It’s an escape, very often into worlds where the main character doesn’t choose to transition, but has the transition happen to her. Recently, though, I’ve been seeking out trans fiction which actually involves characters who identify as transgender. (Shocking concept, I know!) Characters who aren’t dragged, kicking and screaming, into some sort of magical or medical or forced transition, but choose to transition for the same reasons any of us choose to do so.

In that vein, I came across The Silence of the Night. It’s not super-long, and it deals with some dark subject matter – child abduction and implied rape – but it’s really a lovely story about a trans person trying to come to terms with her past. I was skeptical at first, but the magical and religious elements all come together in the end. Even I, agnostic at best, found a lot to like in the story, and definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a little hope to come out of all the darkness.

Virginia Woolf, where have you been all my life?

By , November 30, 2010 9:45 pm
Cover of the book Orlando

SIR Orlando to you

Sorry I’ve been so busy! Here’s a short post while I get some longer ones together.

Last night, before going to bed, I began to read Orlando. Briefly, Orlando is about a nobleman who – after some earlier adventures taking up about half the book – goes to sleep and awakes to find himself a woman, Lady Orlando.

Orlando often comes up in discussions of trans studies, and not without good reason. That said, some say that the character’s identity (and sexuality) stay as “straight male” throughout the book, meaning it isn’t quite as “trans” as is often held. I haven’t gotten to the part about the gender swap, let alone any same-sex relationships, so I’ll hold off commenting. I will say, however, that I’m loving Virginia Woolf’s style of writing, her self-awareness as a narrator, and her willingness to poke fun at the genre in which she’s engaging. I look forward to finishing Orlando (and writing more about it) as well as diving into other works of hers.

Trans fiction: Easy as Falling off a Bike

By , April 9, 2010 4:19 am

For the last week or so, I’ve been making my way through Angharad’s epic piece of trans fiction, Easy as Falling off a Bike. It follows the tale of Cathy, a trans woman in her early twenties, as she’s pushed toward transitioning, love, and, well, I’ll let the author describe it:

Stella, someone who could get women drivers a bad name, literally knocks Charlie off his expensive racing bike. She discovers that Charlie, a research field biologist, has a secret. He’s gearing up to transition as a woman, only he’s too frightened to do it. Stella takes control and her brother, Simon not only fancies ‘Cathy’ but falls in love with her.

Follow the mayhem, as this romantic and at times adventure story rambles all over the place as they pursue their lives. Keep the tissues handy, it has pathos, humour and real life, as Cathy deals with the triumphs and tribulations of being a woman.

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Heinlein, fictional universes, and fan fiction

By , April 1, 2010 9:02 am

Excuse me while I’m a giant sci-fi and lit geek in this meandering post. If you’re not interested in any of the subjects in the title of this post, you may as well skip ’till tomorrow. Or, add some titles to this list of books you like to read and reread as a fun escape: now that I’m done with Heinlein (for the time being) I’ll need something else to get started on.

I’m a big fan of Robert Heinlein. I readily admit he had problems creating really nuanced female characters, and many of his male characters – particularly in his later books – are huge Marty Stus. Yet, for all that, I love the stories he created. He had an expert sense of dramatic timing, created worlds and universes that were exciting and dynamic, and (most importantly) wrote books that are fun to read. And reread.

On top of that, as a teenager first reading Heinlein, I loved the ideas he put forth about personal autonomy and individual freedom. As I’ve grown older, I think his vision of capitalism, of hard work equaling success, is a bit naive, but he does an excellent job of making it attractive. Of making the reader believe that, sure, if everyone tried their hardest and respected their fellow man (and in Heinlein, it usually is their fellow man) the world would turn out alright. And I still feel very shaped by Heinlein when it comes to my own optimism about the possibilities open to humanity: space travel, medical technology, and more.

More than that, though, Heinlein created a universe to which I love to return, again and again.

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Trans Lit – searching for our reflections

By , March 25, 2010 6:40 pm

It has been quite a while since I’ve done a post on trans fiction, hasn’t it! The LGBT literary site Lamnda Literary had a post a while back by Cheryl Morgan titled Is There, or Should There Be, Such a Thing as ‘Trans Lit’? The post has lots of interesting links to authors who have written on or about trans issues, including links to various trans comics and trans fiction sites. (Some of which I’ve linked to from this blog, and some of which I’d never seen before. Check out both the main post and the comments.)

But I have to admit, I was (and am) a little confused by the question Morgan is asking. It seems self evident – even in the links within her post, not to mention those in the comments – that there is trans literature being generated. (Morgan seems to define ‘trans lit’ as ‘fiction,’ a definition I don’t have any problems with.) More broadly, she seems to be creating divisions where none need be:

Yet what would “trans literature” be like? When we talk about the literature of an identity group we mean that members of the group want to read about people like themselves. African-Americans want books with African-American protagonists; lesbians want books with lesbian protagonists; and so on. But the trans community is very diverse, and different parts of it have very different needs. Cross-dressers, for example, often read, and write, erotic fantasies about cross-dressing. Pre-transition transsexuals reportedly read memoirs and theory voraciously in order to find out if transition is right for them, and how to survive it. Post transition, however, they often settle happily into their preferred gender and have no further need for trans books. They are often content identifying with characters of their preferred gender and don’t want to be reminded of what they see as a painful past life.

Those who regard themselves as in a third gender, as gender-free or gender-fluid, and those who are intersex, will probably want books about people like themselves. Obviously there is a real need for a literature for them. However, they are only a part of the trans community (and apologies to any of them who do not want to be regarded as part of it), so the market is even smaller.

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