What am I willing to share?

1 Jun

A year or two ago, I got into a kick of reading primarily young adult literature over that written for adults. It’s not that I think one is better than the other, but YA lit has the tendency to do a lot more identity-exploring than adult lit, and I find that interesting.

I’m currently crawling through the beginning of writing a book I want to try to get published. This is something I have wanted to do since I was about three years old, so it’s a long time coming. It’s YA, and because I want to write in YA and I like reading there, I’ve started following a fair number of YA-focused blogs. A little for advice, but mostly for book reviews.

(Obligatory recs: Check out YA Highway for general news, reviews, and advice. Intergalactic Academy is awesome for sci-fi reviews. Seriously. Go read it now. Although their light-text-on-dark-background layout may make it easier to read in a feed like Google Reader.)

One of the blogs I follow is Malinda Lo’s, and she just wrote about YA Pride Month. Basically, taking the US’s general Pride Month of June and focusing on it through a lens of YA lit. The part I found most interesting in her post (and that makes it worth mentioning on this blog) is a footnote about how Lo will be interviewing authors writing YA novels with LGBT main characters. The book I am working on now has queer main characters so it caught my eye.

I decided that in my YA Pride series I wanted to mostly invite writers who identify as LGBT to be interviewed or guest post for my site. While I don’t believe one needs to identify as LGBT in order to write about LGBT people, I also feel that there is value in supporting LGBT writers. In the interests of full disclosure, I have had trouble finding transgender-identified YA writers to participate in this series, simply because there are so few of them. I haven’t finished my search for contributors yet, and I may still be able to find a trans YA writer to participate, but if I don’t, the reason is not because I didn’t attempt to find one; it’s because we need more of them.

I am ambivalent about how to manage my GSM (gender and sexual minority) identity if I ever get published. On the one hand, I have a girlfriend and we both use feminine pronouns, so I could pass as a lesbian. But one of the reasons I use the words asexual and neutrois to describe myself is because I don’t feel that way. I’m not gay. I’m not even homoromantic asexual, because my gender isn’t “female” (neither is my girlfriend’s) and I’m not romantically attracted to women. I’m just romantically attracted more to femininity than masculinity. I don’t have a particular prefix for that and just use “romantic” as a result.

And while I find it more attractive and easier to use feminine pronouns over masculine pronouns, if it would be socially easy to suddenly start going by gender-neutral pronouns and get neutrois printed on all my papers in the gender box, I would do it in a heartbeat. Like I don’t particularly relish the idea of being called a lesbian writer, because I’m not a lesbian and it would be unfair to actual lesbian writers as well as myself, I also don’t relish the idea of being called a woman writer. If, for example, I ever got asked to be on a panel focused on women writers, I honestly don’t know if it would be appropriate for me to participate.

I’ve also already written about my attitude on coming out before, and how I’m generally a private person and reluctant to come out. Partly in not feeling safe doing so and partly in not feeling a need for people to know. I mentioned in that post that if I was ever published, I would kind of feel an obligation to disclose the GSM part of my identity. Or, rather, the asexual part.

Lo’s comment “I also feel that there is value in supporting LGBT writers” reminded me of that. Her added comment about the need for more transgender-identified writers made me think of something I (somehow) haven’t thought of before. While I’ve considered whether to disclose my asexuality, I’ve never really given thought to publicly talking about my non-binary gender.

I’m not quick to use the word transgender in reference to myself. I think this is mostly because when I started looking into things like top surgery in binary transgender spaces, I got wary about people’s reactions to being non-binary. I was given advice from several people not to mention being non-binary because some people would react badly to it or find it offensive. I didn’t want to start a fight and definitely didn’t want to hurt anyone.

As hesitant as I am to use the word, though, I think I am transgender. I definitely don’t identify with the gender I was called at birth, and I don’t ever feel anything but neutral when I start thinking about gender. I’m a partner, not a girlfriend or wife, I’ll be a bridegroom, not a bride, I’ll be a parent, not a mother. (Bridegroom as gender neutral was suggested in a comment on Offbeat Bride and I kind of love it.) Heck, one of the reasons I used to think I didn’t want kids was because I didn’t want to be a mother or father and didn’t know how to articulate that.

But the idea of coming out publicly as neutrois is a lot scarier than the idea of coming out as asexual. Not that people don’t have horrible reactions to asexuality, but it seems like gender variance in general is harder for people to understand than not being straight. It makes me more nervous to imagine putting myself out there on a gender plane than it does on a sexuality one.

I don’t know how any employer would react to learning that I talk about being asexual and/or neutrois. Right now I am hoping to work in Massachusetts after graduation, though, which I believe has anti-discrimination laws for both sexuality and gender when it comes to employment, so it could be a possibility.

Lo is right when she says that there’s worth in supporting GSM writers and specifically transgender writers. So much of the trans YA lit I have read is just not good.. And yet even not-good writing gets a lot of publicity because there is just not much writing with trans characters at all, whether or not their gender is the focus of the plot.

I also realize that this is basically an egotistical exercise considering I have never queried a book, aren’t entirely sure when I’ll finish writing this one (preparing to move is both boring and time consuming), and definitely don’t have an agent or publishing deal. Most of the blogs I read agree, though, that writers nowadays have to be prepared to say what they’re going to do to promote themselves when they get an agent or publisher. If I’m going to be able to say how I’ll put myself out there, I have to consider what of myself I’ll be talking about.

I don’t know how I feel about talking about being transgender. This is something I only thought about today. I do know that I’ve basically come to the conclusion and talked to a few people, including Sciatrix, that if I wrote a book with an explicit asexual character I should probably also state that I am asexual. (I don’t think anyone else would be obligated to do this — I do not really believe that people can be obligated to come out. That is just the conclusion I’ve come to about myself.)

At some point I do want to write a narrative including a trans main character. It would be great if that got published. But I don’t know how I would feel about showing my “credentials” on the issue in that case. I do think I would be scared to do so. But I also think I would feel horrible about presenting myself as a cis person in that case.

It scares me to think of opening myself up that much. And at the same time I can think how much it could have changed my life if I’d read a book in my early teens where the author bio mentioned, “by the way, I’m not a man or a woman.”

How do I feel? I don’t know. Partly I feel like I’m being ridiculous thinking about it at all at such an early stage in my writing “career,” but I also know that this could take me a long time to come to an ultimate opinion on, so I probably need the early start.

3 Responses to “What am I willing to share?”

  1. Phoebe July 10, 2012 at 11:26 PM #

    Intergalactic Academy is awesome for sci-fi reviews. Seriously. Go read it now. Although their light-text-on-dark-background layout may make it easier to read in a feed like Google Reader.

    Hey there–just found this through trackbacks. Thanks so much! Just so you know, we have an accessibility feature on the site that lets you invert the colors (it’s “switch view,” next to the comment link).

    Also, we like inclusivity in YA–both in writers and characters–and hope you feel up for going for it when the time comes. Because I think that kind of stuff is so, so huge to teenagers, as well to society as a whole.


    • ace eccentric July 19, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

      I had never spotted the accessibility feature, thank you!

      Thank you very much. *hugs* I really love y’all’s blog and how aware y’all seem about sexuality and gender stuff when it pops up. I think you’re a great resource for finding new titles and getting thorough, critically sound reviews of material.


  1. Carnival of Aces – July 2012 Edition « A life unexamined - July 2, 2012

    […] A post at an asexual space on writing fiction and disclosing personal information and having the “credentials” to write asexual or transgender characters: What am I willing to share? […]

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