Trans-Gender Fiction

TG is something the fiction writer should approach with care. Everyone occupies some point on the female/male spectrum (do I mean continuum? You’d expect a writer to know something like that) so it’s inevitable that some people will find themselves very close to the point where male becomes female and equally inevitable that a few of those will sense that the physical bits they were born with are on one side of that point and the mental/spiritual/emotional bits are on the other. People who the midwife said were men will want to be women. People regarded as women will feel that, emotionally, they are men.
The important word in those sentences isn’t “men” or “women,” it’s “people”. TGs, like everyone else, are people first and man or woman second and they deserve the same respect as the most masculine man, the most feminine woman and everyone in between. In some fiction they get it and in some they don’t.
Personally, I’ve never wanted to be other than how I am (I really don’t think that acquiring an Adam’s Apple or being able to wee standing up would be worth the big upheaval in my life) but that doesn’t make me any better than someone who does. So, when I looked at the run of TG fiction on the Web, I thought “This is not for me.” Of course, I do write about things that don’t float my boat and I write about things that really disturb me because I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t, but what I’m trying to do when I write about people is to get inside the character’s head and imagine what s/he would say, or think, or do in a given situation. And I’ve seen so many stories that just don’t do that and I don’t want to add to them.
And yet.
There was a scene (an episode, really) that had been at the back of my mind for some time, and I knew it was there and I wanted to write it. So, when I was writing The Binding I saw the opportunity and I thought, Do It. If you don’t like it when it’s written, select the whole thing and hit the Delete key.
So that’s what I did, and then I looked at it hard, and it’s still there. The Binding is now a Kindle eBook and a paperback and it still contains the trans-gender episode. So I guess I’m happy with it, or as happy as the conscientious writer ever is.
Rodney McKenna is a Captain in the Indian Army in the 1890s and Halanda is an Indian woman and they change places; not permanently but for a few hours. The idea I had in mind when I started writing it was not the one I talk about above – I didn’t want to write a voyeuristic account of sexual shenanigans (though the sex is there and it’s fairly explicit so if that isn’t your bag then for Heaven’s sake don’t read the book). The experience of living for a few hours in a woman’s body is a gift to down-to-earth Rodney from spiritual India and it changes him. Which, when you think about it, is what fiction is for. If at least one character does not change as a result of things that happen, you haven’t really got a story. The centre of the episode is not the sex but the fact that…well. Let Rodney tell it in his own words: ‘You showed me that all is one.’
What I realised when I started writing this piece is that the trans-gender aspect of the episode is, in fact, incidental – what it is really about is the separateness of the self and the body. We think of them as two sides of the same coin and they are not. Rodney again: ‘I have always been content to leave ideas of the soul to the padres. I suppose I pray as much as the next man when the bullets are flying thick through the air, but on the whole I prefer to let the chaplain intervene with God on my behalf. But I knew in that moment that the body was nothing and it was the immaterial spirit that amounted to what I thought of as “Me.” The body was simply what “I” travelled in. It was otherwise of no account.’
I seem to have come a long way from TG Fiction in these 800 words. And TG is a very small part of what The Binding is about – the whole episode only takes up 2,700 words out of a total of more than 62,000. But it showed me that the subject is more important to me than I realised. And to you? There’s a space for comments below this. I hope you’ll use it to tell me what you think. You don’t need to have read the book to leave a comment – if you’ve read this and have something to say, I’d like to hear from you.

5 responses

  1. Pingback: A new story went live yesterday « sfhopkins

  2. Pingback: The Binding is Free Tomorrow and Friday « sfhopkins

  3. Pingback: It’s not ours, but it’s very good. « sfhopkins

  4. Hi SF, this makes me want to read the book more than ever. We are all the same, we seek happiness and an end to suffering. I am very sensitive to the suffering of others and despise bigotry and bullying. ~ Dennis

    • I can tell that from you blog, Dennis–it’s why I subscribed and why I read all your posts. I rarely comment because my life in Abu Dhabi is a busy one but I’m glad I did this time x Suzie

Feel free to leave a comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s