Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

“Changing Faces,” the Fall Book Fair, and Transgender Men…

with 6 comments

Recently, at the Washington Post, I read an article about how transgender men have seen differences in how they are treated based on their outward appearance. Born in a woman’s body, and then becoming the male they feel themselves to be inside, causes them to see the world in a completely different way than others.

When I read this, it reminded me of my character Elaine Foster from CHANGING FACES.

Why? Well, here’s a quote from that article.

From Zander Keig, a trans man from San Diego:

Prior to my transition, I was an outspoken radical feminist. I spoke up often, loudly and with confidence. I was encouraged to speak up. I was given awards for my efforts, literally — it was like, “Oh, yeah, speak up, speak out.” When I speak up now, I am often given the direct or indirect message that I am “mansplaining,” “taking up too much space” or “asserting my white male heterosexual privilege.” Never mind that I am a first-generation Mexican American, a transsexual man, and married to the same woman I was with prior to my transition.

So, you’re the same person. You have only changed how you look, outwardly. And now, you’re accused of “mansplaining.” Or worse, “asserting (your) white male heterosexual privilege,” even when you aren’t anything of the sort (as Zander isn’t).

And Alex Poon (only 26 to Zander’s 52) says in this same article:

My voice has started cracking and becoming lower. Recently, I’ve been noticing the difference between being perceived as a woman versus being perceived as a man. I’ve been wondering how I can strike the right balance between remembering how it feels to be silenced and talked over with the privileges that come along with being perceived as a man. Now, when I lead meetings, I purposefully create pauses and moments where I try to draw others into the conversation and make space for everyone to contribute and ask questions.

What Alex seems to be doing is trying to strike a happy medium, but admits there are privileges here and that he’s not used to them.

portrait in gardenHow does this relate to my novel CHANGING FACES? Well, Elaine is transgender because she’s always felt wrong in her body. And yet, she’s also gender-fluid, so if she became male, what would happen to her? Would it be easier, harder, or what? And how would you be the same person — as you are the same soul — in a different body?

The way I solved this (and created more problems) was to put Elaine and her heterosexual boyfriend Allen in each other’s bodies due to a car accident. Now they’re both transgender, but as Elaine was deeply damaged due to early abuse and rape before she ever met Allen, she’s in a coma, talking with a higher being who may as well be an angel. (This being, Moe, is neither male nor female, and comes from a long line of Amorphous Masses. So Moe can be anything Moe wants to be…more or less.)

This article in the Post reminded me that the person you are stays, regardless of how you are perceived. But that perception of who you are can change everything for you on the outside…and that can be a gift, or a curse, depending. (One of the other men, who’s African-American, has said it’s much harder to be a man in some ways than a woman, due to how African-American men are treated by the police.)

I had an interesting time with Allen, once he ended up in Elaine’s body. He still wanted to be with Elaine, no matter what body she was in (providing she wakes up from the coma, of course). But being seen as a beautiful woman rather than a geeky heterosexual male was a real problem for him; he’d never had to worry before about half the things he now must, and it all but precipitates a nervous breakdown in the poor man.

My hope in writing CHANGING FACES was that people would maybe understand each other a little better after reading this. But I especially hoped, as a woman, that other women would read about Allen’s struggles and feel his plight…and be able to put themselves in Allen’s shoes. (That I hoped a few would do this for poor Elaine, too, was a given. But don’t forget about Allen, as they come as a set.)

Yesterday, Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair (which I’ve talked about all week) finished up with several young adult and new adult books, including CHANGING FACES (which counts as new adult as we’re dealing with college students). All of them are ninety-nine cent e-books. And at least one of them may tickle your fancy, even if my own quirky take on LGBTQ relationships does not.

(Though I hope it’ll do some good for someone out there. Or I’d not have written it at all.)

So do take in the Fall Book Fair, even though it’s now — technically, at least — over. The post is still there. The books are still there. And there are fifty books from the entirety of the week to choose from, all priced at just ninety-nine cents.

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6 Responses

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  1. IMO “white male heterosexual privilege” is just an excuse to put somebody down. This Transgender is getting the same treatment that white men have been getting in this modern world.

    And people wonder at the growth of the “Alt-Right”. 😦

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    September 8, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    • Paul, when someone says that it’s “white heterosexual male privilege” in a reflexive way, that just throws out everything that person can say — it’s dismissive, and it can be very, very rude.

      I think it’s revealing that this transgender man has run into that. And I also think it’s ridiculous for someone to say that about someone who’s had to endure so much to become the person he needed to be…

      We need more kindness in this world. Less fear. And more hope.

      And a whole lot less of any dismissive comments that don’t show anything except for derision — ’cause what good does that do?

      P.S. As for the “alt-right,” all I can say there is, I don’t understand that movement at all. I really don’t. The worst people who’ve been identified as “alt-right” are white supremacists, though not everyone who IDs as “alt-right” are…what I do know is what I said above: we need more understanding, love, compassion, and a whole lot less dismissiveness.

      My hope is that sooner or later, people will realize that all human beings matter, and that we all have different things to bring to the table. I think we were all made differently so we’d all learn how to compromise…and so far, we’re making a big-time hash of it. 😦

      Barb Caffrey

      September 8, 2018 at 9:16 pm

  2. Being into my 67th year, and not always ‘in tune’ with society in all its facets I’m not as in contact with the various gender identities which have come into our lexicon (I cannot for the life of me personally work out the difference between bi-sexual and pan-sexual).
    That said an examination of history down the generations shows there is nothing new under the sun, it’s just that we now have new technology for folk to realise their dreams and hopes.
    Of course no one group will have the monopoly of ‘The Angels’ or ‘The Demons’
    I admire you coming up to the challenge in ‘Changing Faces’ and am with you all the way in your final comments in reply to Paul.

    Woebegone but Hopeful

    September 9, 2018 at 9:27 am

    • Thanks, Roger. I appreciate that.

      I have to admit, I don’t understand pansexual either. I think it’s an attempt to label something that has already been in existence, though…and maybe it’s meant to be more inclusive for those who do not identify as gender binary in any way?

      Barb Caffrey

      September 9, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      • It baffles me, but as the saying is ‘There you go’. Just keep ‘whatever’ consensual and don’t involve children or the vulnerable.
        (And keep the noise down….some of us want to doze in front of the TV! 😴)

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        September 9, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      • Yep!

        Barb Caffrey

        September 10, 2018 at 5:30 pm


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