Part of the 2016 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up Keynote, “What is your queer romance dream?”
I remember the first time I read a novel following a trans character written by a trans author. During a chase scene when she skateboarded down a hill to get away from a team of vigilantes wearing power armor, I had to stop for a moment and try and figure out why my heart was racing.
You see, I had never before really identified with a character that way. Not just empathized – but identified with her. How she talked, what her hobbies were, even how she went to queer sex parties where no one wanted to hook up with her – she seemed just like so many of my friends. She seemed like me. And when she was being chased by jock-ish brutes who wanted to beat her up for their idea of justice – I worried for her the same way I would if I got a text from a friend who was in trouble.
In the decade since I’ve read Supervillainz by Alicia E Goranson, I’ve been searching for more of that, as well as trying to create it myself. In the past few years, we’ve seen a flourishing of media telling trans stories. But the problem is that so much of it, unlike that novel, isn’t actually a trans story. So much out there are actually cis stories about trans topics. Something I often put into the category of “Oh No!” narratives.
These are the stories about a cis character suddenly thrust into a world of trans experiences. Everything from “Oh no, my partner wants to transition!” and “Oh no, my fiancé was secretly trans!” to “Oh no, space aliens have hit me with a gender swapping ray!” and “Oh no, my lover is a fourth dimensional being whose experience of gender is literally incomprehensible.”
It can all be summed up in a succinct tweet by @itsSupecar, “cis TV show about trans topics: my parent is transitioning. trans TV show about trans topics: psychic hacker fights cops.”
But lost in the comparisons between the huge budget projects of Jill Soloway and the Wachowski sisters is the fact that right now, more than any other time, there are low budget or even free options for getting your stories out there; and trans and genderqueer creators are taking advantage of that by the hundreds – perhaps even thousands.
From authors selling smut on amazon kindle or publishing novels on Lulu to webcomic artists and podcasters producing serialized stories that are free to access, there’s a lot out there. But there are two problems.
First, while tens of thousands can debate whether or not Stephen Universe has trans characters and millions will see or hear about Michelle Rodriguez’s upcoming transploitation film, the followers of small time trans creators often number in the hundreds or even just the dozens.
Secondly, without the support of large publishers, trans authors lack the resources to pay themselves, let alone editors, proof-readers, web designers, PR consultants, or all the other roles that go into making a good story better and get it out into the world. After ten years of self-publishing your work you can’t help but improve your craft, but it’s still not the same as ten years of feedback from professional editors.
It’s my dream that one day there will be enough well known trans romance out there that I could focus specifically on this genre for a talk like this rather than having to draw examples from a variety of other genres and mediums. But for right now, we need to grow trans media as a whole. I want to see websites devoted to cataloging our work and directing readers to the author’s site for purchase. I want to see the handful of small trans focused publishers popping up to grow and multiply and become a resource for trans authors just starting out. But all of that will take something from you: your time, your dedication, and more often then not, your money.
When creating trans work for trans audiences, we know that many of us don’t have money to spend and price accordingly. An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color offers free copies to all trans and non-binary people of color. Torrey Peters has set up her own micropublishing for her amazing novella’s The Masker and Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones, making ebooks available at sliding scale prices – all the way down to zero. Isz Janeway publishes awesome smut simply on tumblr. Fay Onyx is reimagining fairytales following trans, genderqueer, and asexual characters in hir series, Writing Alchemy and even reads the stories with ambient sound to you for free on a podcast.
But that only works if there’s someone paying full price. Seek out these creators on patreon, smashwords, and everywhere else.
I want you to watch Her Story – it’s free on Youtube and the best trans romance I’ve seen or read anywhere. If You Were My Girl is incredible and you can get it as part of a free trial to audible. Read The Black Cube and At Land by Morgan M Page. Read everything by Charlie Jane Anders. Read books from Topside Press, I especially loved A Safe Girl To Love by Casey Plett and if you haven’t read Nevada what are you doing with your life? Go onto patreon and support Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls, Sophie Labelle, Amy Dentata, Kylie Wu, Thirty Helens, and so many more. Pay double the full price if you can, and if you can’t tell all your friends to.
And of course, sign the email list going around or email TheNewTransErotic@gmail.com to get information about my own anthology due out next Valentine’s day. Also, email me there and I’ll get you a list of all the works named in this talk.
Because my dream for queer romance is both incredibly simple and world changing: I want trans creators to get paid – at least enough to be able keep doing this.
GRNW 2016 Keynote
Listen to the GRNW 2016 Keynote