Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘transgender

“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.

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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.