Being trans is a difficult enough subject to broach on its own. If you don’t look the part, or you don’t fit societal expectations, the response can be anything from discomfort to deadly violence. And even in writing, a hobby so centered on escapism and release, it feels like we can never catch a break.
Being trans and a writer is difficult as well. How people treat me as a nonbinary individual is already bad enough. But, I’ve noticed, that when it comes to my trans characters, a lot of the feedback surrounding them is very… targeted. And of course, criticism is one thing, something I’ve adapted to over the years. But comments like these can’t really be considered criticism:
“Why did you use they? Is this multiple people?”
“I refuse to use these pronouns so I’m going to misgender them and ask you increasingly invasive questions.”
The second example is more vague – the actual conversation was nastier than I feel comfortable sharing – but the premise remains the same. I’ve learned that having a majority-cis audience is… hard. The moment you give them something they can’t understand, the best you can hope for is confusion. More likely, they’ll get upset.
There’s a common belief in writing circles that writers should be allowed to write whatever they want to. I mostly agree – within reason, of course – but have always scratched my head on how to write the things I want. A lot of it is so niche that it’s hard to find the intended audience. Instead, it gets rolled along on bigger, more encompassing waves: High political fantasy, or high fantasy in general, or contemporary thriller, or romance or…
Oftentimes, it is mighty discouraging realizing that you are the outlier. Even more discouraging is the negative response that the norm gives you. But that doesn’t mean that I or any other niche creator should be forced to give up on what it is we want. One of my biggest hopes is that, in time, aspects such as queerness and shades of the queer identity can become more normalized. More people will understand it. That can’t happen if we allow ourselves to be silenced by a majority threatened by our existence.
It’s hard being an outlier. It’s hard being trans and harder to have to try to act like I’m not. It’s hard becoming so used to escaping into the worlds and characters I created, just to have my comfort shattered by readers angry that I’m using singular they, or that I refuse to give out what bathroom a character uses. It’s hard being dehumanized, having your creations dehumanized, having everything you and your works are under such an intense microscope.
Still, we must persist.
I will never stop writing about the outliers. Angry readers can pry them from my cold, dead hands. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to be scrutinized sometimes.