17 October 2010

Late post is late.

So. I was reading a random, generic, happy-ever-after book. It was OK, certainly the author is good at what she does, and overall I was pretty happy about having read it. It certainly didn't feel like I was wasting my time.
However, certain aspects displeased me immensely. Disclaimer: I'm a white, straight, cis-gendered woman. So, I am privileged in many ways and am still learning in many ways about politics and levels of privilege. This may very well come across as an ignorant post and if it does, I apologise because I mean no harm.
Anyway, onwards. There is a character in the book called Bella. Who is clearly a transwoman, but for most of the time she is referred to as 'he', and we know her primarily as him because she appears mostly in pre-op mode. I admit, I yelled in my head to the author to call her 'her', rather than 'him', until the end when she appears as a woman and is referred to as such. So, possibly got on my high horse. But throughout the book, language such as 'poof' and 'queer' was used; harmful language, the kind of language that can scar a kid. And, okay, that is realistic. It's used all the time. But I would have liked to have seen the characters pulled up on this implicit homophobia in some sense-for Bella herself to challenge these characters in their viewpoint. Instead, she is a caricature; catty, bitchy gay man pre-op who is possessive over his best mate and unnecessarily shitty to everyone else.
And if this bothers me, generic white-straight gal, I can only imagine what it must do to gay men and women reading this. Maybe I'm overreacting, but it annoyed me. So, a question. Can anyone recommend any books who deal with gender-identity, or sexual-identity, problems in a sympathetic, readable manner? I need to expand my reading material, and would like to start here, I think.


  1. I'm embarrassed to say I just don't have a lot of recs. Clearly, this is a hole in my reading.

    The two I thought of off the top of my head were Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce and The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King.

    Tamora Pierce has been writing kick-ass books for teens about young women who become heroes in a fantasy world since about the 1980s. Bloodhound is her latest, book two in a series about a woman who works as the medieval-fantasy equivalent of a police officer, and there's a secondary character who is gay and trans.

    Laurie King is a mystery writer who does two series; one about a police detective in modern-day San Francisco and the other about Sherlock Holmes in the 1920s. Art of Detection is a sort of crossover between the two and features several gay characters and at least one trans.

    Both of these aren't really about the transition, and the trans characters are somewhat at a distance from the main characters, and therefore the reader. So they're not the best examples. Neither rang any nasty bells for me, but I'm cis.

    I know one of the classics that deals with that topic is The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, but I haven't actually read that one, so I can't speak for how good it is. (I've read some of her others, and they're good, and it's well-known, if that means anything.)

    Yes Means Yes!, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti is an absolutely fabulous nonfiction book of feminist essays, and I know some of them are by or about trans people, too. That one I can recommend with no reservations. It's a blog, too.

  2. I agree with Arcadian - have puzzled and identified a definite gap in my reading. Can offer 'Tipping the Velvet' by Sarah Waters, which is a relatively light hearted romp through victorian london, the book examining feminine/masculine identity in lesbianism in a more perceptive way than the contraversial Russel T Davies television adaptation did.

    Either that or 'The Well of Loneliness' by Radclyff Hall, one of the first published (and subsequently banned) books to address what Hall (an openly gay woman at the turn of the last century, who lived most of her life as a man) calls the 'inverted' nature of men/women uncomfortable with their gender/sexuality. Its much better than it sounds, I promise, and is very interesting and quite a good read!

  3. I haven't done much reading in this area myself--thanks for the kick in the pants to get started!

    I *did* find two booklists to start with. One is for children's and YA books, put together by the GLBTQ Services Round Table of the American Library Association.

    The other is the list of winners of the Stonewall Book Award, given annually by the ALA.