Diversity as is has been a basic setting of any world I've created for my characters from the beginning. My characters' sexuality or gender is never the key element in my writing... All right, maybe that's not completely true, since I prefer writing men falling in love with men above any other pairing. Still, not one character blinked an eye when two princes danced together in The Fifth Son, just like no one turned their heads at triads in the Forester Universe, or Oren loving Veld or Noah loving Connor. Love is love.
There are many notions of how men should behave or what men do or don't do, like 'men are strong', 'men don't cry', 'men don't wear dresses', and 'men don't talk about their feelings'. Honestly, living with four men in real life (my husband and sons), I go around complaining about "Men!" every single day, but my men are really not the same. As much as some traits and interests may overlap (e.g. sportiveness, quick minds), some couldn't be more different (e.g. arrogance, laziness). My men are unique individuals who approach similar situations in very different ways, some with less enthusiasm than the others. I think it's safe to say that what goes for my men, goes for all men. 'Cause men are men, right?
While researching transgendered males, I found many opinions on what makes a man a man. For every positive article I found, I found as many—if not more—articles filled with intolerance and negativity against those breaking our rigid gender perspectives so they can live as the person they are, instead of how we perceive them to be. Those articles brought me back to the mid-eighties when I was 16/17 and slowly getting angry at all the intolerance and negativity against gay people—specifically gay men and AIDS. Then, I wanted to show the world how beautiful love between men could be. Now, it was time to show the world that men were not defined by the sex they were born with.
As with other issues, every man reacts differently to whatever body-issues they struggle with. Some will hide their issues, wallowing and complaining about them in private. Some will do just about anything to get rid of the problem—whether through exercise or surgery. And some embrace it and learn to live with what they've been given.
As an author, all these issues are worth digging into. I think the best part about writing characters is finding out what makes them tick, what makes them choose one and not the other. Finding out who they are. Writing a trans-man just adds another dimension to it. But... as much as writing trans-men fascinates me, my stories are not about coping with being transgendered. My stories are still about men loving men, even if one of them wasn't born in a male body.
As mentioned at the top of this article, I create worlds on a diversity-as-is basis. This means that I don't deal with coming out, per se, and I don't deal with the fight against prejudice and intolerance. Those fights were either never needed in my worlds, or they've already been fought a long, long time ago. What I do write is men whose gender and sexuality are only a small part of who they are, and never the reason for conflict or inner struggles.
That leaves the small stuff. So, when writing a trans-man, I don't go for big revelations, I go for small hints and clues scattered throughout the story. It may be as little as undoing his binder when he undresses, or writing a sex-scene suited to his body, but without screaming that he doesn't have a cock. It's also about how he handles showing someone his body for the first time, and then that someone's reaction to seeing him as he is.
To show how different trans-men can be, here's a list of characters I've written into my various works in progress up to now:
- Pip is young, fond of motorbikes and his identical twin-sister. He doesn't see the need for surgery, yet, since he's got no breasts to speak of anyway, and only packs when he's really in the mood. (Packing means creating a realistic bulge, aka appearing to have a cock.)
- Nivet has always been desperate to get rid of the body he was born into. He hated it with a vengeance. His uniform (he's a field surgeon) made it easy for him to look how he wanted to look, which isn't overly male, but more on the androgynous side. But the minute he'd saved enough, he nipped over the border and had his body transformed, knowing full-well such an act was illegal in his own country. To him, it was never a question of choice; it was change... or perish.
- Callum is a very tough man, always has been. Even before he completely realised who he was, his step-father trained him and his step-sister as security agents in the making. He's had top-surgery done, takes testosterone-shots, but has learned to live with his vagina and can live with the absence of a cock. He's more interested in his boyfriends' cocks anyway.
- Illan is a confident man in the work place, but in private, a past experience has made him skittish about showing himself to anyone. No surgery for Illan. He binds, but doesn't pack at all. He's content with the body he's been given and loves being fucked. (Binding means creating a male-looking chest, usually via compressing the breast tissue.)
This last character is from my short In His Defence… which will appear in Storm Moon Press' Legal Briefs Charity Anthology at the end of March. Storm Moon Press is one of only a few publishers actively seeking submissions for trans* fiction, both for anthologies and longer, open line calls. So far, I've enjoyed working with Storm Moon Press very much. Though, like any author, I kick against edits at first glance, I've learned a lot from them, and they're always willing to answer my questions. Not to mention they hire awesome cover artists and are very helpful on the Marketing side of things. If you write trans* fiction, definitely check out their website!
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