March 31st, 2015


International Transgender Day of Visibility

I didn’t know when I got up this morning that March 31st is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I discovered it was when I logged into Twitter. Its purpose is to support transgendered people and to raise their profile to help cisgendered people to start recognizing that there are a lot of transgender people out there.

(Cisgendered: identifying with the gender one is assigned at birth. I’ve only come across this term in the past year or so, and I’m not particularly proud to admit that my first thought about it was “OMG seriously do we need a specific word to describe people who identify with their visible gender?” and then I thought “You’re an asshole, Catie,” and got over myself, because if I think combating racism isn’t so much being “color”-blind as making sure I learn to describe somebody as “a white guy” if I would say “an Asian guy” under similar circumstances, then yes, in fact, there’s an arguably excellent reason for “cis” to be in our gender vocabulary the same way “trans” is.)

I have close to a dozen trans friends and acquaintances, which has, for some time now, impressed upon me how extremely likely it is that most people have at *least* one trans person in their social circle, whether they know it or not. I mean, I’m a kid from small town Alaska, and if I have that broad a range of transgender acquaintances, how many do people from big cities have?

I remember when I made my first trans acquaintance. I was about nineteen, and I was STUNNED! *STUNNED*! I had NO IDEA there were transgender people! (I also recall her laughing at me, because I was SO SURPRISED. *laughs*) When I got done being stunned I was like “Well! Okay! Wow! Uh! Wow!” & then went on from there knowing slightly more about the world.

A while later, someone who was trans and whose family had put her through absolute hell (we’re talking electroshock therapy, the whole nine yards) re-joined a community I was part of. I knew who she was, because she’d been mentioned while she was gone, and I was friendly to her, because I’m a friendly person. Years and years later she asked me if we’d known each other before she’d been put through shock therapy. I said no, we hadn’t, and she was astonished, because she thought we must have and that the shock therapy had made her forget me, because, she said, I was always so kind to her that she thought she must have known me Before.

That confession still hurts my heart, because no one should have to assume kindness only comes from long acquaintance, but especially because her experience had been so difficult that she didn’t assume anyone who had only met her recently would be kind or supportive. I know a number of trans people who have had much more supportive transitions, but I don’t want *anyone* to have to go through that.

And it’s really just…it’s not that hard to accept people for who they are. It’s–if you can’t immediately assign a gender to someone you see, take a moment to ask yourself why it even matters. Easy gender identification gives us social rules to follow, but if our social rules were “No, really, just go ahead and treat everybody really decently” instead of “treat some people this way because they present that way and treat other people that way because they present that way” we’d all be in a much better place. I realize we’re a long way away from that, but it’s got to be the goal, or else what’s the point?

Fairly recently I was in a public space with someone I had known for a very long time, and we stopped to ask directions from a very tall person who presented as entirely female until she spoke with a *quite* deep voice. To my surprise, my friend spent the next half hour or so struggling to assign a pronoun to that person, and I kept saying, “She. Her. She. Her,” because it’s really not that hard. It’s really just not that hard.

So all of this is why a day designated for trans visibility is important to me, even if I’m a cis straight white woman. I want everybody to have my acceptance and advantages, and more.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)


Recent Reads: The Dragon, the Witch & the Railroad

I have loads of personal history with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s Seashell Archives series, which she wrote in the early eighties, and which I discovered, uh, probably in the early 80s, although possibly in the mid-80s :), and quite adored. They were light funny epic fantasy with cursed or bewitched heroines, and I’d never read anything quite like them.

I met Annie in Ireland in the early 90s, and she was very supportive of me being a writer. I sent her a copy of URBAN SHAMAN when it was published. We stayed in sporadic contact until Facebook happened, and now we’re in quite regular contact, so I was thrilled when she ran a Kickstarter for a new Seashell Archives book–thirty years after the last one! (Dear God.)

I’ve just read THE DRAGON, THE WITCH & THE RAILROAD, which is a charming addition to the series. It continues with the tradition of a cursed heroine, and has a wonderful light steampunk vibe that I don’t remember from the earlier books (and indeed which may not have been in them, but it’s been a *long* time since I’ve read them, so I could be wrong). Our heroine, Verity, is a Modern Girl who believes, as is popular, that the witchy and magical antics of the past are out-dated and old-fashioned…despite the fact that she’s cursed to not only always tell the truth but also can’t let other people tell lies around her without correcting them.

Dragons, once mighty and majestic beasts, have been tamed and now run the railroads, but all is not as it seems…and Verity has a splendid adventure learning the truth while turning some of fairy tale and fantasy’s favourite tropes on their heads while heartily featuring others–like an older female protagonist/wise woman/guide whose story is just a little bit heartwrenching.

There are aspects of the world that haven’t aged well, primarily the wild wandering Gypsy persona/Gypsy magic, which thirty years ago wasn’t (widely) considered problematic, but which now kind of makes me wince. None of it is meant harmfully or cruelly; it’s just that our cultural expectations have shifted, and I couldn’t help noticing that something that didn’t even register when I was a kid is now something that makes my eyebrows lift.

*laughs* What HAS aged well, though, is–in perhaps the first of the Seashell Archives books, the story goes from Chapter 12 to Chapter 14, with a note saying “Our heroes are in enough trouble without this being Chapter 13!” I thought that was wonderful, and told Annie so when I met her in Ireland. She was grateful and said her editor had said, direly, “NEVER. AGAIN!” and she’d felt like she was in so much trouble that maybe it had been a bad idea after all. So I’m totally delighted that with DRAGON, she has revived the tradition of no Chapter Thirteen. #beams

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)