Tuesday 6 January 2015

Let's make 2015 the year of the T

I'm sensing a seriously different atmosphere in this part of my world - we've had a case of gender-bending catfishing, and so far, the pitchforks aren't out to go hunting trans* people. Just three years ago, they would have. (I can't speak for the Goodreads M/M Romance moderators, who used to love a little bit of trans* baiting, like upper-class twits keep hunting foxes for fun. But in my world, I'm not seeing a trans*-directed witch hunt because somebody did something stupid/thoughtless/callous by pretending to be a different gender).

Thoughts on suicide

Leelah - fuck, I' still unable to make sense of it all. I've said elsewhere that these suicides hit trans* people hard because I literally don't know a single trans* person who hasn't considered and/or attempted suicide. On and off through my teens, I was suicidal enough that my best friend would freak out if I was late for school - she really thought I'd offed myself and I'd never come to school again. Gods, the shit I put that poor girl through.

My twenties weren't as awful, but throughout my life until relatively recently, I used to call it "hitting the reincarnation re-set button" - I'm a believer in reincarnation, and so, killing myself I saw as a "new start". Hopefully a better one - proper body and genitals, and sorting out that wrenching, horrible inner conflict between the Outer and the Inner World/Reality.

The reason I'm still around? My stories. Silvio talked me through this. At age 27, I met "the Dude", who is remarkably mature when it comes to gender concepts. We've been together ever since. When he taught me how to tie a tie, I fucking cried.

When it got bad, I clung to my writing. See, hitting the "reset button" would have killed the stories. I'd have been OK with the new start (never liked that fleshy form I've taken, it's too far removed from the one I wanted, so handing it back seemed completely sane to me), but I didn't want to kill my inner worlds, the whispering voices, the utter beauty of creating something that has you slack-jawed with awe because it's amazing. And it can make somebody's day. What I couldn't express very well on the outside, I could pour into my books. It's all there, very, very thinly veiled.

So, yeah. All of this is a *tad* personal. I've only reached a place of inner peace maybe 3-4 years ago. I like it there. I'm glad I didn't kill myself. For me, it did get better, as the saying goes.

Trans* issues still haunt me. The news about Leelah rendered me unable to form a thought. Seeing her instrumentalised by trans* baiting trans* phobes to score some points in a running, long-standing battle between Trolls and decent Humanity made me lose my cool yesterday all over Twitter.

Moving forward

Anyway. I still think we're moving forward. I'm optimistic like that, and I've been around social media since the early noughties, and in publishing about the same amount of time, plus some, and since 2009 I've played the game of the commercial author - getting questioned and panty-policed by some trans* phobes and damn near run out of the genre - but all the talking we're doing does help. People are realising that deliberate mis-use of pronouns is nasty business. Trans* and genderfluid authors are more often given the benefit of the doubt.

As we remove legitimacy from people who try to police our genitals, our hormone status, and call people "straight cis women" who are often queers who keep a low profile or haven't come out, we are creating and contributing to a safe space where people can come out as queer (whichever flavour) and don't get subjected to humiliating cross-examination about how and with whom we get our rocks off in bed.

Three years ago, I saw detractors of all kinds. Gay men who were positively offended that I count myself as male - I felt they thought I wanted them to be attracted to me and that I was entitled to that attention. (No, I have a partner, I'm monogamous, and lots of those guys really, really aren't my type, anyway. Especially if I know they call me "tranny" behind my back. Really? That's the best you guys can do? What about criticising how the first chapter of my latest book chapter is a bit slow? That would hit me a LOT harder - kidding.)

I enraged feminists - I was "taking male privilege" rather than stand with my sisters. I was "wanting to be a man" to "climb up the ladder of social status." To be trans* makes you a gender traitor. And funny, just yesterday a troll who styles herself a feminist but hates everybody pretty much equally, said I was one of those men who "silence women". Look, I've arrived - I've become the oppressor. All my dreams have become true.



But there are less of those people. And MORE, MUCH MORE, who stand up and get it. People who educate themselves about trans* issues. People who clearly make an enormous effort when they meet me in person to get the pronouns right - and they sometimes slip. My best friend slips up at times. There are people who see what I'd call "the physical reality" and call me "sir" or "Mr Voinov", and I can't express how awesome that feels. Slipping up is fine. I'm not offended at the "she". It's a honest mistake and not an insult - trust me, I can tell the difference.

Being accepted like that makes me more comfortable to be among people, and it makes me a hell of a lot more comfortable in my own skin. It's taking stress off - so much so that I've fairly recently started telling relative strangers about the gender thing - it' a slow journey, but those people are increasingly getting it. Several years ago, I told my gay uncle about the gender thing, and his advice was to "lose that extra weight, and all your body image issues will go away." Thank you, uncle. I love you, but that was fucking awful of you.

So yes, I damn near cried when one part of a gay couple just nodded after my somewhat emotional explanation and said, "Well, I totally get it. You're so much more butch than [partner]." So yeah, I'm apparently beating a big, burly, gruff Australian in the masculinity stakes. I laughed, but my eyes were tearing up. That was a couple months ago.

People are getting it. Some still sneer. There's a huge amount of gender politics involved. Status, privilege, etc. It's less a matter for me of privilege, and more a way to be able to live and write and thrive with what I've been given. It's not ideal. But not everybody gets handed a perfect 10 at birth. I can try to be aware of my privilege and call out sexist/misogynistic assholes where I see them. I can support my Rainbow people.

It's nowhere near as awful as it was three years ago.

No rainbow flags for bigots

We still have a ways to go. We need to challenge people who wrap themselves in rainbow flags while being misogynistic, bi-phobic, trans*phobic. We need to tackle the derision and hatred for women in this genre. We have a whole lot of work to do there. But I'm seeing more f/f being written and published, I see people write bisexuals, and sometimes they even have sex and sometimes they don't turn into woman-haters once they've found the "one". There are even bisexual women - I know, shocker.

I see more genderfluid characters, more trans* people in books who are not victims/saints/psychopaths. I see trans* people with agenda. I see trans*/genderfluid authors getting accepted and feeling safer than we were three years ago when the fox-hunting, panty-policing witchhunters were running around trying to blackmail publishers by trying to organize boycotts against those who wouldn't disclose the gender of their authors. Yes, they tried that.

Let's call out people who wrap themselves in rainbow flags but don't actually include the whole rainbow or act in bi-/trans*phobic/misogynistic ways. (There are people who mistake getting off on "two pretty cis men fucking" as activism/allyship, when it's really a sexual fantasy/a kink. I get kink. I have kinks. Everybody is entitled to their sexual fantasies and getting off on whatever. But call it a kink and not activism/human rights if the rainbow only has one colour for them.)

Let's audibly clear our throats whenever that kind of fetishism happens and ask, "What about the other colours?" Let's ask this question A LOT.

From what I'm observing, f/f is making strides, and I see more bi fiction. That's brilliant.

What's lagging is the T.

Trans* stereotypes that need to go away

Give us more supporting AND main trans* characters who aren't defined by depression, suicidal thoughts, or by having been raped and/or murdered. You don't get brownie points for including ALL of them. It's not edgy, it's not cool. We stopped killing gays because they're gay, let's stop killing trans* people. Besides, the dead trans* character is so Boys Don't Cry, and that film's pretty old. Let's evolve.

Don't turn trans* people into the equivalent of the "magical negro". If I never see cis writers write a saint-like, angel-winged trans* person with no other role but to validate/support a cis person in fiction again, it'll be too soon. Trans* people do actually have other plans in life than to support gay men in  their choices. (Yes, really. Especially considering that there are still lots of gay cis males who think we're "impostors" and try to push our yucky bodies on them - write about that.) I don't lie awake at night trying to fix my cis friends' lives. Really, I don't.

And the "evil tranny" - well, done to death since roughly Silence of the Lambs. Pathologising is one way to express the fear and disgust in "legitimate" ways. Another way to render us unthreatening is to kill us. Dead tranny = harmless tranny. Poor tranny. Crocodile tear. Let's perv some more over pretty boys who're born with penises.

Let's just move forward. We're capable of it. We can do this shit. We can create and sustain a safe space for every human being, trans* or not. We might just be able to safe a life in the process.


  1. Thank you.

    Thank you for your honesty.
    Thank you for your courage.

    I'll never understand the need for labels. I have two; you are either nice or your not. If you're nice you're welcome in my life. If you're not you'd better stay away from me. The package nice presents itself in is irrelevant.

    It's an honour to have met you.

  2. My daughter is in school with a child who is biologically a girl, and is addressed as a girl but dresses solely in male clothing, down to underwear (though not swimwear). She looks like a boy, walks and moves like a boy. She's friends mainly with the boys, plays a lot of sport and is the star of the cricket team. Her family are loving and educated (both doctors), and I think whatever her future brings, she'll be supported. Knowing her and them has been a perfect opportunity to get the dialogue going with my children, and other people I know, about the nature of gender. I don't know much, and I'm constantly learning. But as a parent I have a golden opportunity to plant some good seeds with my children, who in turn I hope will share what they know. I hope that my daughter's friend grows into a kinder world than the one Leelah lived in, and almost all other trans* people.

    This was a brave and moving post, sir. And for the record, I think you look great as you are.

  3. To me, people are people - if you're an ass, I'm not going to like you. If you treat me well, I'll treat you well, regardless of what you have in your pants or who shares your bed. Only you can decide what you choose to present, the person you want others to see. Those who treat you badly because you've had the courage to be true to your inner self are hypocrites and cowards.

  4. So beautifully said, Aleks. And I do so admire your courage and determination.

    I'm happy Silvio was there for you :) You have my respect.


  5. The movie, "The World According to Garp" came out in 1982 (the book was published in 1978) and it included a trans person (played by John Lithgow) who was neither tragic or evil but a well-rounded interesting character. One would think that more than 30 years later we'd be over the trans-clich├ęs.

    Fortunately, most people learn, get wiser and more open-minded and accepting as time goes on. I know this from my own example. Unfortunately, some rare individuals never do, because they see the world around themselves only as their own reflection. With narcissism and envy as their sole driving force they will use any excuse to tear into others. No doubt they rationalize their motives to themselves but this sort of malice comes from a deeply disturbed soul.

  6. This is well-argued and thought provoking. It's a whole new area for me and I've learnt so much over the past couple of years about Trans people. I still find it a little confusing and worry, probably unnecessarily, about using the wrong terminology. I have huge respect for the bravery of anyone having to step out into the world each day and possibly endure insults and sniggering. I agree with Helena, if you're a nice person you deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect, regardless of the way you look, your gender, your sexuality, your religion.

  7. Very well said Aleks. I'm glad you found happiness.

    I'm a firm believer in the same labels Helena uses: Nice and not nice. You're nice? I will accept and respect you, no matter what. Not nice? Go out of my life. There's nothing for you.

    Oh, and I'm about 22k in the story you requested, Aleks. A contemporary menage, where one of the MCs just happens to be ftm trans. :) And this MC is everything, but not an angel-like saint...

  8. I think a sign of progress is how loud the bigots are yelling. They know their time is passing and they are scared.

    Thanks for your honesty, Aleks. An excellent post.

  9. Great post Aleks. Thank you for sharing it.

    Sometimes I am naive and tell myself that everyone will eventually get along in this community, but several times this past year I was hit in the face with the reality of how untrue that is. Things are a lot different than they were several years ago it seems, but it's still a work in progress.

  10. A great post, as you know I knew nothing about trans people really until I met you, I think you should be cloned and speak in schools and to educators.
    Thank you for sharing, and you rock

    1. This organisation speaks in schools. But I expect they are under-represented by trans* role models. http://www.diversityrolemodels.org/

  11. This post is, as yours always are, powerful, personal and well informed. I didn't have a chance to speak to you at UKMeet but your whole persona and charisma was impressive. Why does anything else matter to people. As Helena Stone said there are two types of people in my world nice and not.

  12. Brutal. Honest. To the point. I have seen transpeople treated as less than a person. No one should have to suffer in that manner. It's absolutely deplorable. This is an excellent post you have written Aleksandr .

  13. Beautifully stated. Brave. Keep tying that tie and be proud. ❤️

  14. I was pretty much in the dark about, well everything there was to do with trans individuals and the struggle/hate/discrimination they experience until I read one of your stories, liked it so damn much that I simply HAD to look your website/blog up. And there it was. As I was going through your posts I came across the ridiculous awful hatefulness you had experienced from supposed supporters of LGBQT causes/issues. I was so damn pissed off ( for you and for anyone experiencing the same!) that I wrote you a message that was so full of careful wording (because I so didn't really know the ins and outs) trying to convey my support and respect without causing more pain by my ignorance.

    That post and subsequent message changed me. It made me more AWARE.
    It made me go and try to learn more and understand more and just be MORE.

    Thank you for being you.
    Thank you for being true.


  15. Beautifully honest. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Thanks Aleks for a thought-provoking post, I admit I am a bit ignorant in this whole area and probably naive too, however I am very happy to learn, as I would hate it if I unknowingly upset someone through ignorance. I do tend to take people at face value and as you seem like a decent bloke and you do write cracking books, I don't think it matters what's going on in the "trouser department" plus, unless you tell me otherwise, its none of my business anyway!

  17. Great post, as always, Aleks. Thanks so much for sharing your stories and your life with us. I'm sure it has been tremendously difficult (and no doubt, that's a horribly inadequate way to put it) to reach the place you're at, and I applaud your courage for talking about what you've gone through. The more people understand others and their experiences, the better, especially when those experiences aren't run of the mill. It's too easy to demonize what you don't know, but much harder once you do. I have many friends and family in the LGBTQ community, and it's heartening to see the social progress going on in this country. I'm hopeful that someday trans issues will be well-understood by the general public. There will always be ignorant idiots, but hopefully a lot fewer of them as time goes on.

  18. Thank yo for the wonderfully honest post, Aleks. I strive to be accepting of others and to teach the same to my children. There is already so much hate in the world that I don't see why people need concern themselves with who someone loves or what's in their pants. I'm much more concerned with what's in their hearts.

  19. Well said, Aleks! I miss you dear friend, but hopefully we will be able to get together for lunch again soon.


  20. Thank you. This gives me hope; something I did not have much of two years ago when I finally came to a few realizations (after a very long search). I really like you as a writer, but you are an even better person. Thanks.

  21. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for putting it out there.

  22. Courageous, honest and beautifully written. Thank you, Aleks.
    And yes, your stories definitely make my day.

  23. Courageous, honest and beautifully written. Thank you Aleks.
    And yes, your stories definitely make my day.