Creating Trans Characters That Readers Love
Over the last couple of days I've had some wonderful, insightful discussions with Riley McCool over the topic of creating #trans characters in fiction that readers love and identify with. Based on how these people are abused and harmed in our society, we debated along the same lines of would stories written by white people over the African American experience mean more than stories written by the people who lived them?
To be fair, Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a big example of using fiction to change the course of society.
Over the past year, Riley and I have been working on stories in this vein. In her webcomic series "Habibah's Song" we are introduced to Puck and Montigo, cute fluffy creatures from another world who struggle to come to terms with love when Puck, born a male Pooka, reveals that she identifies as a doe.
"A Deviant Mind" has illustrated since issue #7 the saga of Najimi, an intersex teen who was rescued from a life of sex trafficking and slavery, having been sold into that life after it was revealed that she was "not normal". Rejected LGBT teens living on the streets and in horrible situations is a fact of life in our world, and the science fiction setting of Najimi's life is no different. At first my readers hated the obnoxious, bird-flipping Najimi, but now she has grown to become one of the series' most beloved characters.
I believe the #transgender community is in a sense of apathy and despair over where they stand in our society at the moment, and they want some token indicator that someone outside of their kind would champion them. It really has nothing to do with us being cisgender as much as it has to do with us coming forward with these stories. Christianne Benedict illustrated this point in the story she created for me in the last issue of Voices Against Bullying. In "With a Little Help From My Friends", the characters have a clash as Janey asks Maddie, the transgender girl who's taken a beating during her time as a new student at her school, "Why don't you stick up for yourself?" Here is Maddie's tearful answer (this has stuck with me ever since):
Riley says of the discussion: "I argue both sides, the pros and cons. And in the end it doesn't matter the race or sexual preference of the writer, it's that the story gets told, that the story made one think and feel something. That the reader walks away with something, even if it's just more questions."
To read Christianne's story in its entirety, check out Voices Against Bullying #2 On sale at IndyPlanet, printed by Ka-Blam Digital Printing. Featuring stories by Austin Allen Hamblin, J. Riley McCool, Christianne Benedict, Mikal Barker, Elizabeth Fernandez and Lisa Perz. Follow Riley McCool's already-beloved love story Habibah's Song at SmackJeeves.com!