The Art of Quilting by Matthias Klein

The Cover of Transcendent 4, with a shirtless white person with short brown hair sitting and facing away, wrapped in white sheets at the hips. Behind their head is a halo of golden spikes just in front of a backlit image of trees. The text in the center in a combination of regular and pastel teal says, "TRANSCENDENT 4". The text at the bottom in dark and regular teal in a smaller font size says, "The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction" and "Edited by Bogi Takács"

I’m a knitter. While knitting has had a movement to make it less gendered, knitting–like many textile arts–is still considered a feminine craft. I think it is for this reason that Matthias Klein’s “The Art of Quilting” spoke to me from the many wonderful works in Transcendent 4, edited by the amazing Bogi Takács. In this short story, Vin finds solace in quilting as ne flees from nir unhealthy family in a horror-esque sci-fi escape that spans many planets. “The Art of Quilting” was so very resonant with common threads that I have experienced myself and have seen in the trans community when it comes to a vagrant kind of longing for a place of one’s own and the comforts of a craft taken out of its traditionally gendered context.

My family, unlike Vin’s, is wonderful and generally accepting, but there are still times where I feel like returning home is not an option. In Vin’s case, nir family pressures nem to live a specific way. In my own case, I have fears of being targeted by a police officer or a TSA agent who pulls me over and sees the “F” marker on my ID, coupled with a general lack of community ties in Tennessee. This leaves me and Vin both in a position of feeling isolated and withing to be able to settle down in one place. While I cannot fully understand what ne went through, the general themes resonated with my own experiences.

Vin approaches nir isolation by quilting and creating a square for each place ne lives, often with some kind of rock or bead to physically symbolize the space ne are representing. But quilting for nem did not always represent this–it was something nir mother (one of the very people ne are running from) taught nem. That kind of connection to a harmful feminine figure in nir life might sour the craft for a person. For me, I learned knitting on my own, though I was inspired to do so because of one of my grandmothers. Around the time that I discovered my transness, I had already used knitting for projects like making the 4th Doctor’s scarf in Doctor Who, so it was easier for me to branch away from knitting as a feminine craft. Still, though, there have been times where I have chosen to not bring my knitting along with me because I was concerned about being misgendered because of that craft.

Even still, however, Klein shows that these kinds of crafts can have a positive impact when LGBTQIA+ folks make it their own. At one point, Vin reflects on this and says, “It was beginning to feel good, truly good, to take this thing–Vin could not call it a skill–nir mother had taught nem and turn it into something less restraining, less feminine.” (92) It was the very act of continuing to do something that had previously represented a traumatic situation to nem that helped to break it free from that context. It made me think again about what it means to bring knitting into the public as an openly trans man, and what my own knitting means to me. 

And beyond just my own parallels, if you go online to Etsy shops or even just Twitter, you can find countless LGBTQIA+ people reclaiming traditionally-gendered handicrafts from quilting to embroidery to wood-working to cooking and more. It can be a way to let out frustration, distract from painful experiences, create those places that we are so separated from, and more–anything, really.

Matthias Klein made this short story pop out to me and I look forward to reading more of nir work! I think that this story would be great for both trans and cis readers, because it’s such a deep dive into Vin’s experiences with nir family. I also high key want to bump this because of its use of neo-pronouns, which I have talked about briefly before. Even if that doesn’t catch your attention, there were a few insidious moments where Klein’s writing nearly tricked me into believing the family over Vin, which really upped the ante on the horror element for me. Over all, a wonderful piece that I am going to be thinking about for some time.

The Art of Quilting by Matthias Klein in Transcendent 4 edited by Bogi Takács

Publisher: Lethe Press

Paperback: $18

Number of Pages: 87-106 of 261

ISBN: 978-1590216767

Content Warnings: Stalking, misgendering, deadnaming, family conflict, trauma

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