When I figured out I was transgender and subsequently came out, I had no fucking clue what I was doing. I tried binding, using a packer, hell–I even got a Justin Bieber haircut (hey, don’t judge me, this was when that style was popular).
I did all kinds of things, and yet, I was still left with the question: who am I supposed to be now that I know I’m trans? Am I supposed to wear ugly-ass plaid shirts with bootcut jeans and take up half the space on a couch? Sure, that helped me get misgendered less, but wasn’t the whole point of coming out about being transgender that I’m supposed to be authentic to myself?
The truth was, I didn’t have any transgender role models. I didn’t even have a connection to other trans people outside of knowing that Laverne Cox was a person on a show that I didn’t end up watching.
I knew “the trans story”, though: trans (woman, usually) figures out she doesn’t feel right from a young age, feels uncomfortable for a long time, gets bullied for being effeminate, has a lot of trauma, and finally gets the courage to come out and overcome her issues, only to be not accepted by her family.
But, I’m not a trans woman: I’m a trans man. I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel right in my body until I was about 17–way past childhood. I wasn’t bullied in high school. My dad was even supportive when I told him that I’m transgender. There was no guideline for me; just a feeling of being out of place.
As I grew and met more and more transgender people, I realized that I was not alone in this. Out of all of the trans people I’ve become friends with in person, only one of them has fit “the trans story” narrative. I came to understand that the cause of my feeling of displacement wasn’t that I was some outlier and that I should question my identity because I didn’t fall in line. The reality was that media doesn’t portray trans people accurately. (Surprise!)
But why is that? It’s because so many of the people who make movies or publish novels are and have been cisgender and either did not know that transgender was something that existed, or were not interested in writing about transgender people. At first, I was angry upon realizing this.
How could they not write about us? Are we not humans who deserve nuance? And sure, yeah, I’m certain that there are cisgender people out there that feel that way. I grew up in the south, though. Often, people just don’t know what it means and think that being transgender is something scary because they heard about it on the radio once.
That doesn’t mean it’s our job to teach them, (especially in the age of the internet) and it definitely doesn’t mean that everyone is interested in learning, but I’m willing to give at least one person out there the benefit of the doubt and say they just hadn’t thought of it as a possibility. I mean, damn, I didn’t know what being transgender meant until I was in my late teens scrolling through Tumblr (yes, that is, in fact, how I discovered my gender identity).
But all these good intentions didn’t really mean anything, in the end. The fact of the matter was: trans people just didn’t appear in movies and books and comics. And if they did, they were always a joke or a murder victim or a rapist. I didn’t see one out trans man in a film until 2018 when I watched Colette, and it took this blog for me to find trans books by trans authors. I probably wouldn’t have ended up looking for them had I been born cis.
Me, being the constantly-anxious productivity-nut that I am, thought, “What can I do about it?” It’s not like I could go and convince every Hollywood bigwig that trans people should be cast in movies and should be hired as writers. I couldn’t go to every publishing company and author and say, hey, why don’t you add a trans character to some of your upcoming novels?
Around this time in college, I was having my third or fourth or maybe even fifth crisis of what career path I wanted to take in life. (I went into university intending to be a physics major and came out a classical studies/English double major.)
There was one common thread for me throughout my life, though: I wanted to write novels. When I imagined myself, it was as a forensic scientist/writer, a math professor/writer, a lawyer/writer. I always had thought of writing as a side gig, since that’s how the arts function nowadays: you don’t get paid well and people think less of your work.
There was another reason, though, why it had never occurred to me to be a novelist. I never liked my books enough to edit them, and I often never even finished writing them. I would just lose my drive to finish it part of the way through.
I’ve finally settled on author/librarian, and part of that is because I now actually have something to spur me on: transgender visibility. (I know that’s over-idealistic, but what can I say? According to the Enneagram test I’m a 1-wing-9, so that apparently I have to be idealistic.) Realistically, I know that I can’t single-handedly save transfolk from poor representation, but that’s not going to stop me from writing as much as I can and educating the people who are willing to listen.
That brings us to this blog. Jeez, took me damn near a thousand words to get to the whole point of this piece. I decided to name this blog “Trans Narrative” for multiple reasons. 1) I am a writer of books about trans people and will be talking about how to write transgender characters, 2) I want to change public perception of the general transgender story, and 3) I want to take back control over my own narrative as a transgender man.
What can you expect from this blog? A whole smattering of things, really! I’m definitely going to talk about how people can respectfully write trans characters, along with reviews and critiques of media portraying trans people. I’m intending to set up a newsletter so you can hear about my own adventures being an author of trans stories. I’ve also had some thoughts about putting up some more posts about trans folk in history, especially since there’s a silly myth going around that trans people were invented in the last three decades.
If you have any questions or suggestions for what I should post about on here, feel free to leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a message on one of my social media accounts!