Detailed Diversity

Happy March, everyone!

It’s been a whirlwind of a few months for me, with moving house, two book releases, and a load of family things to deal with.  But as we’re finally settled into the new home, complete with my shiny new office which has slowly transitioned from a Ravenclaw hovel to cats and Star Wars- don’t ask, I have no idea how that happened- I’m finally able to get back to work.

I’ve begun revising a couple of books which I hope to have out in the summer months, along with starting work on two new ones, though I don’t have dates for release on those yet as I’m just starting preliminary outlines.  But it’s nice to feel productive again.  I’ve done 10k words in the last two days which feels like a huge accomplishment since one of those days I also spent an additional eight hours unpacking (read: stuffing half-unpacked boxes into cupboards) and organising everything else we had left to do.

After my foray into proper adulting, I sat down to get a bit of marketing done.  I scheduled a few sales on some of my books, and passed by my amazon page to see where my review standings were (a necessity when it comes to marketing websites and submissions), and had a peek at a few of the new ones.

As always, I’m humbled any time someone takes a minute out of their day to tell me what they thought of a book—whether it’s critique or compliments, or maybe even a bit of both.  But one particular comment caught my eye, and it made me realise it’s probably something I should address.

Now I can guarantee most of my book readers won’t be popping by this page.  I’m not a NY Times Bestseller or anything, so my page isn’t a go-to for people perusing amazon to get their short romance fix.  But just in case, I thought I’d make something clear when it comes to my books, and about what I will and won’t write.

Now, one site I avoid look at is Goodreads—the comments there aren’t always very helpful in my writing process, so I generally avoid it and allow people to have their own discussions without fear or worry that it’s going to get back to the author.  But in the beginning I had a poke round and I noticed a common theme with a few readers whose first experience with trans characters happened to be Endless, Forever.

And a lot of the critique came with the request that I include a glossary of terms, and spend more time in the story discussing Gabriel’s transition process.

I won’t be doing either of those things, and it’s not to be salty or spiteful, and it’s not to be lazy.  I’m doing it for important reasons, and reasons that I think a lot of authors use when they write trans characters as well.

My books aren’t a platform to educate cis-gendered people.  If you don’t know what cis-gendered means, I promise all you have to do is type it into your search engine and you will find the entire first page of your search with accurately described terms.  In fact, if you type in any of the confusing terminology in my book into google, you’ll happen upon blog after blog, written by trans/non-binary/genderqueer folx who not only will educate you, but will do so based on their own experience existing in the world as their gender.

The reason I say my books aren’t here to educate cis-gendered people is because they’re not.  My characters exist in order to give representation to individuals who don’t often see themselves represented in stories or mainstream media.  It’s only been in the last few years we’ve been given non-cis characters whose story lines aren’t absolute tragedy or—at the very worst I’ve seen—fetishisation.

And that last point there is one of the reasons I will not go into detail about a character’s transition.  The truth is, whether the character is fictional or not, it’s no ones business what a trans person does with their body.  They’re trans, whether or not they transition medically, whether or not they have surgery, whether or not they are on HRT.  And it’s no one’s business what’s under their clothes.  Normalising the idea that writers are obligated to tell their readers who are unfamiliar with trans characters exactly what the character went through with their body normalises the idea that it’s okay for cis-gendered people to ask trans people in real life what they’ve done with their bodies.  And it’s not okay.

If a trans person is willing to share with you, that’s a personal choice, and it’s never an obligation.

Laverne Cox has some amazing insight, and of course explains it far better than I ever could, but those lessons should be applied to both fiction and real life.

Which means I will continue to feature trans characters in my stories.  It means they will have diverse backgrounds, personalities, and story-lines.  But I’m not going to use them as makeshift text books to sate the curiosity of the cis reader who might not be fully educated.

It’s okay to not understand these terms, but it’s also not okay to place the burden of education on other people.  There are far too many articles written by people willing to share their education, life experiences, and stories for not knowing to be an excuse for the invasive questions.

So hopefully that answers that question—why didn’t you include those things in your book.  I didn’t include those things because it wasn’t necessary.  My characters are no less valid in their gender, regardless of their transitions.

In conclusion—as I channel my old grad school days—my books will remain as-is.  As diverse as I can manage, without a glossary, and without using my characters as a mouthpiece for sating curiosity.  I hope people continue to enjoy them.  And if my books are less enjoyable without those two things, and you feel like we need to part ways, we can do so now.  No hard feelings.

For now, I’m going to sign off.  It’s back to work, and then to manage the house as the kids are on a week-long spring break.  I plan to do as much writing as I can, and possibly enjoy the pool in this lovely—but strange—90F weather.

I hope everyone has an amazing March, and I hope to update again soon.

~E.M. Lindsey