Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to remain agnostic, especially when everybody else seems to enjoy their relationships with god so much. Lately, the internet has come through for me in some very interesting ways -answering curiosity prayers and providing both metaphor and narrative arc to a kind of rabbit hole adventure in the search for kin. Sometimes I feel like I want my personal relationship with the internet to be stronger and more fulfilling, and sometimes it is.
This one's not about elephants
Here’s how: I rediscovered Barbara Gowdy a few days ago after watching the movie “Kissed” (OMG Rabbi Ari), and learning that the film was an adaptation of the story “We So Seldom Look On Love” from the collection of the same name. The movie was lovely, and I remembered that I’d read and adored Gowdy’s The White Bone a few years ago. I found it in Half Price (along with the collected stories of Richard Yates) on Friday, and polished off a few of the stories that night. Gowdy was just as weird and startling as I remembered.
Backtrack. This past week, I posted a question on my favorite trans forum, asking for names of trans* writers, gender variant writers, and examples of gender variance in literary fiction and memoir. I was looking for blogs, books, stories, or zines. Pretty much anything that wasn’t erotica, sci-fi, fantasy, or scholarly work.
I learned a few names that I hadn’t heard before, but overall, folks threw the same names up on the screen – Valerio, Green, Khosla, Feinberg, Boylan, Cooper, etc – terrific trailblazers all, but with woefully few books.
What transpired was a pretty enlightening conversation about the fate of minority literary fiction in the biggest transition the publishing world has undertaken in the past two centuries. The writer with the most information indicated he was both trans* and disabled, and that in his experience, it was just about impossible approach mainstream publishers with minority themed (or even minority mentioning) fiction unless you were a) inspiring, or b) fucked up in some interesting way.
I so rarely get to talk to trans*folk (let alone trans* writers) that I almost couldn’t formulate thoughtful opinions. It is so quiet out there for trans*writers of literary fiction. There’s no lack of community (though it has become fragmented and ragged through bitter infighting) online. I feel lucky to have so many resources and so much online support at my fingertips. However, despite the deluge of youtubers, journalers, transition bloggers, and scholars, I find almost nothing out there by self-identified trans* fiction writers. Out there – out there in the magazines, the journals, the cutting edge online hybrids, even in the LGBTQ mags.
I’m just looking for some writers, mind you, not necessarily transcentric fiction (though that would be fine, too), who are out there publishing. I recently submitted Topside Press’s forthcoming anthology, and the editors described a virtual onslaught of literary submissions – enough stories to fill ten books, even. Surely some of those writers have been writing for some time? Where are their stories? The anthology seeks to showcase fiction by and about trans people and culture, but the subject matter is not dictated by the editors.
I would love to read authors who are writing about trans* experience, but I don’t even really need to hold out for that. I just want those trans* voices. I know, shining beneath the sentences, there will be likely be that distant sort of yearning for the connection of body and mind, the absence of any real resolution, and the rage, and the injustice, and the wonder (and everything else that is missing in the stacks of books on my bedside table), even if the subject matter is knitting needles.
Where are these folks publishing? Are they publishing?
Perhaps they’re stealth. Writing under pseudonyms. Scared to be out, scared to be noticed, scared to be pigeon-holed. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong direction. Or maybe they’re just not being published by mainstream rags.
At any rate, it was on the heels of this exchange that I stumbled upon Barbara Gowdy’s “Flesh of my Flesh” in the collection. And that was good enough, though Gowdy’s not out as a trans*woman. I’m pretty sure she’s out as a straight white woman. This beautiful, twisty, painful story got all the wrong stuff right. It was such a balm that I questioned my spotty belief system for the rest of the night.
Anyway, I’m calling you out, trans* writers. I want to know where you are. Prove me an ineffective, stumbling reader, slow to keep up with literary trends. Though I likely have only three regular readers (probably none of them trans*), when/if I am proven wrong about my assumption (and I hope I am), I will make sure everyone knows.
*by trans, I mean one who is self-identified as transgender, transsexual, or gender variant. The spectrum is large, and I’m looking for writers who identify somewhere on the trans spectrum.