Writing Trans Characters

days2 copyI didn’t set out to write a trans woman of color, when I first wrote my current work in progress. I may be a trans woman—with admittedly very little color except for too much pink for my liking—but my story is not necessarily the experience many trans women face.

Which is to say being a woman who benefits from passing privilege means I don’t get called out on the street for being trans. People don’t immediately assume I am trans based on my voice or appearance, hell even having a male name (before my name change went through) didn’t give me away. Both my parents have been incredibly accepting, my family has been accepting, my friends, my boyfriend, my work, everyone who knows has been accepting and supportive. I have been called a trans slur once in my life, and the doctor that prescribed my hormones said he would have guessed I’d already been on them for the last decade. I say this, not to brag about my life but to explain that being a trans person does not make me inherently equipped to write about the struggles of being trans, at least no more so than any other writer. Frankly, if we as writers, aren’t able to challenge ourselves enough, or take on the challenge of writing experiences and lives that are different from our own then are we really that good at what we do?

I suspect most fantasy authors don’t know what it is like to fight the forces of evil with magic at their side, nor do sci-fi authors know what it feels like to walk on the moon of a planet so many light years away that the greatest minds of our time are not sure we will ever visit. You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to write one and you certainly don’t have to be transgender to write a trans identifying character. You just have to do your research. Everyone’s story is different, the reasons for their transition are as varied and complex as anyone’s reason for anything. It should not be assumed that they want or even need surgery to complete themselves, or that this is even relevant to your story. Maybe they fall into the gender binary maybe they don’t but the point is, their struggle doesn’t even have to be about their being trans. If the character happens to be trans and is also fighting on Mars against the invading Venuitians I suspect their transition might not be the most important thing to worry about at that particular moment. Not that things don’t creep up in the silence, but that is where to tackle any man/woman vs. self  struggle.

I’m in no way suggesting that every author should suddenly feel like they must include trans characters, but if you’re only reason for not doing so is because you’re not sure you’re the right person to tell a trans person’s story, know that you’re probably not, but I’m not necessarily either.

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