I wrote a post a couple of months ago about the fact that transgender books are currently enjoying a big moment, particularly in the Young Adult and Middle Grade spheres. I’m thinking again about that now, thanks to an encounter I had last weekend. I was in Old Forge, NY in the Adironacks to make an appearance as a speaker at the Ascent writers’ sojourn led by David Hazard. Just prior to the event, Hazard was also leading a workshop for aspiring writers at View, Old Forge’s invaluable regional arts center, and I joined him and some of the participants afterward for a drink. I soon found myself deep in conversation with a diminutive, affable, 50-ish fellow whom I’ll call Bill. Bill was considering the possibility of writing a memoir. It wasn’t until around fifteen minutes into our conversation that he told me that, many years before, he was Belinda.
I’ve always thought I was pretty good at sussing out these things, but Bill had had me completely fooled. I never would have taken him for anything but a guy. The longer we spoke, the more he told me about his life and his transition. There’s quite a story there, and I encouraged him to think seriously about putting it down.
Thanks to the likes of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, we’re hearing more about what it means to be transgender. And Alex Gino’s justly praised novel George is now giving Middle Graders an idea of what it’s like to be a boy who knows he’s a girl. But the female-to-male transgender process has received less scrutiny. I’m looking forward to a whole new wave of fiction and non-fiction that will help us better understand what it’s like to be a transgender male. And when the major publishers find themselves with a glut of transgender projects, and reach the point where they feel it will only interest a “niche” audience—as they eventually did with gay and lesbian-themed books–I hope trans people will continue to tell their stories through self-publishing. There are some amazing lives out there; they are tales waiting to be told. We still have a lot to learn about this increasingly visible part of our society.