Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thoughts: A follow up on my 'Invisible' piece.

It's been just over six months since I made my publishing d├ębut with my essay in Jim C. Hines' Invisible, in which I wrote about my perception of a lack of transgender representation in fiction. At the time I was excited to be published, in a way to be almost validated, but as time marches on I've barely even thought about it – heck, I suddenly remembered in the shower that I was published. Looking back, it's almost with a sense of regret, and no pride whatsoever, that I view my piece.

Whilst I am legally an adult (I'm in my mid-20s) and more than capable of making my own decisions, I can't help but feel that on some level my piece was a mistake. I haven't heard any feedback about it directly, nor has Jim alerted me to any, so I assume that it went down okay (if people read it), which is both good and perhaps not so good.

The core of the issue is, for me, responsibility. Whilst I spoke for myself and myself alone, to the reader I may have been representing the transgender community, and that's a responsibility I cannot shoulder. Whilst I have known for coming on a decade that I am not a male-identified person, my lack of progress in that area and my reluctance to come out and a dozen other factors put me in a place where I am continually unsure of my own identity and feelings, my own lack of internal 'correctness' giving me a perpetual case of self-doubt. It's fun. But I don't have the experience of living as an out or transitioning transgender person, I don't have the bit of paper that says everyone who calls me by male names is wrong. All I have is an inner turmoil.

I do believe I made valid points at the time, and ones that are still valid today. I believe transgender representation is something we certainly need to work at in all forms of media, and whilst I'm especially grateful to authors and figures such as Mark Charan Newton for creating a transgender icon of mine (Lan in his The Book of Transformations), Alison Croggon for discussing with me how transgender issues could be dealt with in her world of Pellinor, Cheryl Morgan for her years of guidance and support, and a dozen other creators for either including transgender characters or talking about those issues with me, I feel like I have an erratum to release.

I don't speak for the transgender community, and in hindsight I feel I should not have participated. I don't think it's out of fear of causing damage or saying something wrong, but simply because I put myself in a position I'm no longer comfortable with and I assumed a responsibility I don't feel is or ever has been mine to take. It is one thing for me to talk about how these issues seem to me via Twitter, Tumblr or my blog, but it is another to publish under what is technically a pseudonym and to possibly be considered a spokesperson for other transgender-identified people. I won't withdraw my piece from any possible revisions, but I will be much less hasty to sign up to projects in the future.

The plus side of this, however, is that I have not profited at all from this – as I stated when the collection released, I forfeited the payment and any royalties so that all the money goes to the chosen charity.