Thank you for checking out my newsletter! You can read the archives and subscribe. I have two brand new books: Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories just came out on August 17. It’s a writing-advice manual for the scary moment we’re living through. And in November, I’m publishing Even Greater Mistakes, my first full-length short story collection, including tales that won the Hugo, Sturgeon and Locus Awards. Also, check out the podcast I co-host, Our Opinions Are Correct.
There's a mythological person that you hear mentioned all the time in the writings of anti-trans pundits: the Good Trans Person.
The story goes something like this: Once upon a time, there were only a small number of trans people. And they were Good Trans People, who lived with dysphoria for years before going through the system and proving themselves, and at last having surgeries. They accepted that they weren't really ever going to be their real gender — they were going to be flawed facsimiles of men and women, and they knew that they were allowed to exist thanks to the charity of everybody else. These Good Trans People did everything in their meager power to walk unnoticed among the normal people, hoping for a modicum of tolerance and understanding. They were grateful for whatever crumbs the world tossed their way.
But then along came these Trans Activists, who are Bad Trans People. They imposed a heinous "gender ideology," which insisted that trans men are men and trans women are women, and non-binary people are valid. This is outrageous, and flies in the face of everything that good, decent people believe. But there are still Good Trans People out there, who do not subscribe to this harmful ideology — who know their place.
What a shame it is that the Good Trans People — the humble, well-behaved transfolk — are being misrepresented by these vicious activists whose ideology proclaims that trans people deserve recognition and respect, and the same opportunities and facilities that are available to literally everybody else. For shame.
When I first showed up in transtown, there were a lot fewer of us, it's true. Or rather, fewer of us were willing or able to be visible and to go through all the hoops you had to jump through. The medical establishment was still imposing a lot of rules and boundaries and gatekeeping on us — we were just starting to get rid of ludicrous requirements like, "You have to live as your real gender for a year before you can get hormones or any other treatments. " (If you really want to be consumed with the desire to claw your own face off, read The Woman I Was Not Born to Be by Aleshia Brevard, in which she talks about transitioning at a time when it was still illegal for AMAB folks to wear women's clothes in public.)
So when I read that narrative about Good Trans People, I am instantly reminded of the world that was coming to an end as my transition began. This is the world that transphobes are nostalgic for, the one that they feel was stolen from them by ideologues.
Where these haters see a dreadful ideology, I see a lot of my friends finally and joyfully embracing the people that they always knew themselves to be. I cannot tell you how many people I know, who in many cases were in my life twenty years ago, who have finally transitioned in the last five years. When I see those people I'm always astonished: it's like they were in suspended animation, maintaining only the most basic life functions until they arrived at some far off destination. And now they're emerging from cryosleep, and they're just so happy to have arrived. I've also been amazed at how many young people I know who are transitioning in their teens and even younger, and finding so much happiness at getting to arrive without having to spend decades in a cryogenic freezer.
The other thing that this pervasive narrative about Good Trans People reminds me of is the kind of discourse that we had twenty years ago around gays and lesbians. Gays were seeking "special rights." They had a "gay agenda." They were going to convert your children, and they were predators, who must not be allowed into single-gender spaces. No matter how much gays and lesbians tried to explain that they didn't want "special rights" — they just wanted rights — the haters kept insisting some lethal ideology was being spread, which would destroy good, mainstream people. Why couldn't gays and lesbians just be happy hiding away, the way they used to? Why did they have to be so public about it?
I kind of suspect who some of these Good Trans People are, to be honest. When I was first transitioning, twenty years ago, there was a very vocal minority of trans people who held what's called "transmedicalist," or less politely, "truscum" ideas. Many of them had come along at a time when trans people had to jump through a ton of hoops, and they were mad at the notion that younger trans people might get to skip some of that. Which was weird, since we were in fact benefiting from the struggle and hard work their generation had put in to change the system. It's not unlike people who paid off their student loans and don't want anybody else's student loans forgiven: I suffered, so you should too.
I'm far from the first person to say this, but most of this handwringing about gender "ideology" from comes from a deep-seated belief that being trans is really, really bad. And that people who transition are doing "irreversible damage" to themselves, as the title of one of these recent books proclaims. Trans ideology, in this telling, is tricking people into thinking that there's nothing wrong with transitioning. That being trans is awesome, and loving yourself is a good thing, and you should live your truest self. And you know what? I subscribe to that ideology whole-heartedly.
Transition is excellent, for anyone who feels the need or desire to do so. We all deserve to be happy and to live as our truest selves. And trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people should be celebrated, not merely tolerated.
So I'm proud to be a Bad Trans Person. Not only that, but I'm so grateful to belong to a community of Bad Trans People, who have the best fashions, art, music, writing and friendships out there. Bad Trans People are the absolute best.
Top image via San Francisco Trans March.
On Friday at 6 PM, I'm taking part in Friday Forty, a "sketch comedy news quiz show" hosted by Dave Holmes and Scott M. Gimple. This a fundraiser for ZYZZYVA, one of my favorite literary magazines and a local institution. I'll be joined by Vanessa Hua, Michael Jaime-Becerra and musical guest Wesley Stace. Please come hang out!
Also on Saturday at noon PT, I'm going to be on Instagram Live with V.E. Schwab, author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. We're going to be talking about writing and stuff.
I published two books this year (Victories Greater Than Death and Never Say You Can't Survive) and I have a third coming out in November: a short story collection called Even Greater Mistakes. You can order/pre-order signed, personalized copies from Folio Books, right here in San Francisco. I will write something truly wacky in your book if you want.