Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘gender fluid

See My New Guest Blog for Author Lisabet Sarai…

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Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And as such, I am extremely grateful that author Lisabet Sarai offered me a guest blogging slot today. I called it, “Putting Characters in Trouble, One Story at a Time,” and illustrated my account of same by using what I did in CHANGING FACES to explain it.

portrait in garden

First, here’s the link to the post:

http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2017/03/putting-characters-in-trouble-one-story.html

And here’s an excerpt from that:

In my new contemporary romantic fantasy novel Changing Faces, I put my characters Allen and Elaine through the emotional wringer. They are deeply in love, but Elaine’s hiding a big secret from her fiancé; she is gender-fluid, and thinks she’d be better off in the body of a man. Granted, he does know that she’s bisexual, but that’s not the same thing at all as gender-fluidity, much less wanting to change outward sexes, and when he finds out, he is floored.

As most heterosexual men would be, no doubt.

Allen is a very good man, so he wants to help Elaine. He might not understand everything about her, but he wants to, and he’s willing to try anything—absolutely anything—so she’ll stay in his life.

How does that relate? Well, two angels hear him when he prays, and decide to grant his wish. But they do so in a way that is not expected, as Allen wakes up after a nasty car accident in the hospital in the wrong body. While Elaine, after the accident, is in a coma, talking to one of the two angels in the Place of Dreams and Nightmares.

Allen can’t tell anyone who he is. And Elaine can’t talk with Allen and try to apologize, much less talk with anyone except the one angel. They both blame themselves for the accident, and only Elaine knows why this happened, albeit after the fact. Allen battles all sorts of feelings that he never expected to have, while Elaine must confront her deepest terrors in order to win back to Allen and continue on with their lives—but definitely not in the same way as before.
You can see where I took the maxim “putting character in trouble, one story at a time” and used it with regards to Changing Faces, can’t you? These two are in serious trouble. They love each other, and they want to be with one another, but they don’t know how to do it. And the two quirky angels, in trying to help them, may have caused worse problems…at least in the short run.

There’s a lot more there, mind, including an excerpt from CHANGING FACES to whet your interest. So I do hope you will go check out the latest guest blog — particularly appropriate, as it is Romance Saturday — and let me know what you think. (And thanks again, Lisabet, for having me!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Bruce Jenner, Gender Identity, and You

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Last night, Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and discussed his lifelong struggles with gender identity and self-acceptance. He said this will be the last time he speaks as Bruce (with the subtext that this also will possibly be the last time he accepts the male pronoun), and said that inside, he’s always felt like “She” (that’s the only name he has for his female self).

Or in other words, Bruce Jenner is a transgendered individual. Inside, where it matters, Jenner is female. And apparently has known it for a long time, despite being married three times and siring six children.

What Jenner discussed most was his difficulty in accepting himself. Early on, he knew he wasn’t the same as other boys. Instead, he identified more with the girls. But he pushed that aside, became a well-known athlete, and did his best to celebrate his masculinity instead.

Because that’s who he was on the outside.

But who he was on the inside was far different. And he had to really struggle to figure himself out.

Being who you are is a powerful thing, you see. But first, you have to accept yourself for who you are before you can embrace it. Being in the public eye, as Bruce Jenner has been for decades, is likely to make that struggle for self-acceptance much more difficult. And so he intimated to Diane Sawyer.

All of this is relevant, topical, and may actually help to bring about a dialogue about sexual identity, gender issues, and how people come in all gender varieties as well as various shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

However, what I’m already seeing online is a bit worrisome. It seems that some commentators are focused on the more salacious aspects of Bruce Jenner’s lifelong struggle — his three marriages and his six children. They again are only seeing the outward aspect of Jenner, or what he’s shown to date as his outward aspect, anyway…and are discounting the person who talked to Diane Sawyer entirely.

And that completely misses the point.

Whatever name Bruce Jenner decides to use from here on out, whatever gender he identifies with, the person inside — the soul, if you will — is exactly the same.

That’s what Jenner was trying to tell Diane Sawyer.

Now, how can you learn from Bruce Jenner’s struggles?

Somehow, some way, you need to learn to accept yourself. Warts and all, you are a unique individual, and you bring something to the table that no one else has. Your experiences matter, you matter, and you need to remember that.

We all have our differences inside, you see. We all struggle to become our authentic selves, though most don’t have to do it in the public eye like  Jenner.

So if you feel like no one understands you, and no one ever will, you are not alone. Because most of us — if not every single last one of us — has thought that at least once in our lives.

Remember, the most important thing is that you understand yourself.

“But Barb,” you protest. “People aren’t even giving me a chance! They think I am something I’m not, because I look different than I am…remember Leelah Alcorn?”

Yes, I remember Leelah.

My point is that you have to accept yourself, whoever and whatever you are, and be confident in that self. It takes time to do this. (It took me until I was well into my thirties to accept all aspects of myself, for example.) But you should do your best to persevere, because if you give yourself time, you will find at least a few people who like and understand you for who you are.

Because you also will like and understand them for who they are.

Remember, we’ve all faced many of the same struggles in trying to form some idea of who we are. Though having a gender identity that does not match your outward physical self certainly complicates things, it isn’t the only reason that you can be confused.

(If it were, psychiatrists would have far less work to do. But I digress.)

So if you have someone in your life who has something different about him or her — whether it’s religion, politics, race, creed, gender identity or anything else — what I want you to do is simple:

Embrace that person’s diversity.

Don’t shun it.

Anything less is, quite frankly, uncivilized.

Why Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Matters

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Only rarely do I find it necessary to talk about a previously unknown individual’s suicide, but the death of Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Ryan Alcorn), 17, has touched me deeply.

Leelah, you see, was transgendered. Apparently her parents, especially her mother, did not like this. At all.

And that is upsetting, for more than one reason. Parents should love their children as they are, not as they want them to be –whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, that person deserves to be loved by his/her parents. Period.

Unfortunately, Leelah Alcorn did not feel that love. And because of that, she committed suicide.

Why has her death touched me? Partly because of her suicide note on Tumblr, which I’ll get to in a bit. Partly because she was a human being who obviously felt she’d be better off dead. And partly because one of my novels, the forthcoming CHANGING FACES, discusses transgenderism in an unusual way, so I’ve at least considered the issue before.

Here’s some of Leelah’s own words in her suicide note, published posthumously (her words were as she wrote them, but I did bold one section for emphasis on my own):

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

Ultimately, Leelah Alcorn believed that she would never be happy in this world. Because she couldn’t start transitioning, because she was continually called “Josh” or “Joshua” when she already knew she was Leelah inside, because her parents believed that “good Christian values” meant that she should be happy as God (monotheistic, male) made her — as a male, not as a female — Leelah Alcorn took her own life.

This young woman knew in her heart that she was female, just as I’ve always known my entire life that I, too, am female. The only difference between me and Leelah is that I was born female. I never had to fight to become who I was in that regard (fight in other ways, yes, as we all do to become ourselves). And I never had to worry about saving enough money to start the transitioning process, or any of the other things Leelah was obviously worried about in her suicide note.

This is a heartbreaking story, one of the most heartbreaking I’ve ever read. Leelah clearly believed nothing she would ever do was right in her parents’ eyes, and she clearly believed that not being able to transition until age 18 or later (after she’d saved up enough money) would make it impossible for her to find love.

What bothers me most here is that she obviously didn’t know some of the stories I do from pop culture. The role model here that strikes me the most is Chaz (born Chastity) Bono, because he came out to his parents as lesbian early on, but only came out as transgendered (and male) much later. So why didn’t Leelah know the entirety of Chaz’s story? (My guess is that Leelah only had seen Chaz’s “It Gets Better” commercial and maybe one of his dances with pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer on Dancing with the Stars and that’s about it. But it’s only a guess.) Why didn’t Leelah know about Christine Jorgenson, born George? Why didn’t Leelah know about transsexual tennis star and ophthalmologist Renee Richards?

All of them — all — transitioned to their proper sex later than age 18. And all did so successfully. All found at least a few lovers and friends who accepted them. And all of them, eventually, found their faith — whether it was in themselves or in God/dess is immaterial.

Leelah Alcorn did not have to die. She did not have to feel like a failure to her parents. She did not have to believe she’d be “Satan’s Wifey” (the original name of her blog on Tumblr, though apparently later she changed it to Lazer Princess) by dying and declaring exactly who and what she was.

She did not have to feel unloved, unwanted, bereft of hope and friends.

And for those who dismiss this as a typical teen suicide story and believe she would’ve grown out of it — well, you’re probably right, but how does that change anything?

A young woman is dead today at least in part because her parents apparently would not accept her for who she was. Her friends were not strong enough to accept her, either. And she, herself, was ultimately not strong enough to stand up to years of unrelenting criticism from her parents, so-called friends, and idiotic “therapists.”

Somehow, as Leelah Alcorn herself said, we must do better than this. No more LGBT youth should be treated this way. Ever.

Lest we have even more heartbreaking stories like this.