Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘gender fluidity

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

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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.

Leelah Alcorn’s Parents Take Down Her Suicide Note, and Internet Erupts

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Folks, a few days ago I wrote about Leelah Alcorn, a transgender youth who committed suicide at the tender age of 17. Leelah left behind a note explaining why she felt she had nothing whatsoever to look forward to, and my previous blog discussed just how heartbreaking I found that to be.

Well, since that time, Leelah’s parents have managed to get her final note taken down. They were her kin, and they were adult, so they had that right.

But in doing that, I believe they’ve shown how little understanding they had regarding their own daughter. Leelah knew she was transgender, and apparently had been asking questions for a long time — including at Reddit’s Ask Transgender Forum. Her parents have insisted that they didn’t know Leelah called herself Leelah and that they couldn’t “support” their child due to their religion.

Here’s a bit from the Daily Mail article on the subject:

…earlier this week Leelah’s parents said in an interview they did not ‘support’ her when she revealed that she was transgender – but insisted they loved their child unconditionally.

Carla Alcorn, Leelah’s mother, also refused to acknowledge her daughter’s sex, using male pronouns and referring to her as ‘him,’ ‘he’ and ‘son’ throughout the interview.

Speaking with CNN on Wednesday, Carla said of her transgender daughter; ‘We don’t support that, religiously.’

After reading this, I don’t know whether to tear my hair out or start throwing things.

Like being transgender is a choice? Like Leelah wanted to be a female trapped inside a male body? Why can’t Leelah’s parents understand this at all?

Look. It’s hard enough to make peace with our bodies when you’re a teen and everything is new and strange. It has to be that much worse if you’re transgender.

To have a family that has continued to insist that this poor young woman be called “Joshua” shows right there that Leelah was not understood. At all. And it makes my heart break for her, again, to know that even now her parents have apparently learned nothing whatsoever.

The Internet has erupted in outrage over Leelah’s parents taking down Leelah’s suicide note. And the reason, I believe, is simple: taking down Leelah’s final words is a way to silence her one, final time. And that’s just wrong — so wrong, I don’t have the words for it.

I wish Leelah were still alive.

I wish she’d have done anything other than kill herself.

That said, I believe Leelah’s final words should be honored. And I’m not the only one, as various places have reposted Leelah’s final missive in its entirety, including here (at the end of the previously-referenced Daily Mail story).

So please, read her note. Honor her wishes. And do what you can to help LGBTQ youth.

That’s the only memorial that’s truly worthy of Leelah Alcorn.