Interviewers and reviewers have already asked me: So why is Hild a lesbian?
I say: First, she’s bisexual. Second, why the fuck not?
I am tired of having to have a reason for characters being queer. When my first agent told me that my proposal for Slow River was “not a selling outline,” I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, why does Lore [the protagonist] have to have a girlfriend?” I said, “Because she’s a dyke.” And fired her.
Nicola Griffith is right that it should be normal for some characters to be queer, that there doesn’t have to be a reason for them to be and that more science fiction/fantasy writers should be unafraid to use queer characters if they want to. What I’m more worried about is whether the average science fiction writer is up to writing queer characters without it coming over as exploitative or overtly preachy.
In some bizarre alternate reality, however, I’m seen as a villain who invades “real” women’s spaces and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. A small but vocal band of activists known as “Radfems” see transgender women like myself as a blight on the feminist movement, but — because their views are not representative of the feminist movement as a whole — many trans*-inclusive feminists refer to them as TERFs, or Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.
Just before 8:00p, the doorbell rang insistently. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen, expecting a taxi driver, asked his friend Luther Boggs to let the man in. Perhaps Boggs, after he pulled the door open, had just enough time to smell the Ronsonol lighter fluid that the attacker of the UpStairs Lounge had sprayed on the steps. In the next instant, he found himself in unimaginable pain as the fireball exploded, pushing upward and into the bar.
It’s a horrible, upsetting piece of history, depressing even, but what is important is that it is history and things are getting better, as Joe Belknap Wall argues:
Forty years ago, when I was five, I was destined to be a victim, but things changed. We spoke up, sat in, made our points. Things changed.
Thirty years ago, when I was fifteen, I was destined to be a marginal citizen, but things changed. A disease came out of nowhere and shook the world, even as our President did nothing and said nothing, even as the population cracked jokes and shrugged it off and the preachers waved their crosses to stir up the hate, but we spoke up, stood fast, and made people see. Things changed.
Today, I am forty-five, and I am still a citizen without full protection under the law, but—
Today, I can marry in my state, and receive the protections accorded to the rest of my neighbors. If I fall victim to a crime driven by hate, it will be investigated. Few, if any, people will laugh and point and make a mockery of my basic human dignity. I am no longer required, by the dominant cultural norm, to be ashamed of who I am, and the people who once felt empowered to fuel the fires of hatred and intolerance are the ones on the run. The last of the churches built on foundations of hate are being deserted by their children, who were not raised with the old faith that had them accepting an injustice because they were told to, and the louder they get, the more they demonstrate that it’s all just a death rattle, destined to go silent as the older generations fade away, and the churches may yet turn back to the message of love.
When I feel that hot rush of rage, reflecting on what happened forty years ago today, I want to say “WE ARE COMING FOR ALL OF YOU,” but I don’t need to. The future is coming, and daylight and information wipe the world clean of those old, ugly falsehoods and make fools of those who used to get away with promulgating that fetid, soul-killing bullshit. There are miles to go on the way to a just, open, loving world, but we have come farther than ever before.
It sadly does not come as a surprise that one of the Penny Arcade boys made some ignorant, transphobic remarks. This is not the first time either of them was caught saying something dumb and hurtfull, nor the first time that they dug in first rather than apologise and acknowledging that they’d done wrong. It’s not so much that they deliberately set out to provoke or hurt people but rather that they’re somewhat more ignorant about certain hot button topics than they themselves realise, nor all that used to being contradicted. So instead of backing down, they double down on the offensiveness instead.
Why this is may be explained by their own history. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik were your typical gaming nerds that through a combination of luck and hard work managed to make what was just another gaming webcomic into a multimillion dollar business, themselves into nerd kings. They’re in a position where they rarely have to listen to anybody else, with an audience that actively sucks up to them and they have that typical nerd mentality of thinking they know everything about anything. It’s not full on Dunning Kruger, but it does mean they have trouble recognising their own ignorance at times. Which is deadly when it comes to these kind of indentity issues. What’s troubling is that they also seem unwilling to address their ignorance, preferring to just not talk about these things instead.
In conclusion, Penny Arcade is a land of contrasts, not willfully evil but perhaps willfully stupid.
A while back NBC’s Dateline did a surprisingly good and respectful documentary about Josie Romero, a nine year old trans girl and how she and her parents dealt with the fact that their little boy was actually their little girl. It also looks at the medical challenges young trans children have to deal with, those who start transition before puberty. If you know your physical gender doesn’t match your real one, going through puberty is hell, as that’s of course when the physical differences between boys and girls really start to matter in all sorts of way. Going through that, then going through physical transition to get to your chosen gender does all sorts of things to your body. Therefore the best practise for children like Josie is to start them on hormone blockers to delay puberty a few years, then start hormone treatment when they’re old enough for it to get the physical transition going. It all sounds scary if you haven’t had to think about it before, but the Dateline documentary does well in presenting it as honest and positive as possible.
If you want a slighter wider view of what living your life as a trans person means, take a look at the Trans Scribe series over at the “girl on girl culture” magazine Autostraddle. It’s a honest, at times moving series, that shows that trans lives don’t have to be tragic.
France has become the 14th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage , pushing through François Hollande’s flagship social reform after months of street protests, political slanging matches and a rise in homophobic attacks.
After 331 votes in favour and 225 votes against, there were chants of “Equality! Equality!” in the French assembly, where the Socialists have an absolute majority. But thousands of riot police and water-cannons were in place near parliament in advance of street demonstrations planned against the law.