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Thread: Writing Transgender character

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gabriela Jessica's Avatar
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    Question Writing Transgender character

    One of my main characters is a transgender. Born as a female but identify more a male. Since I am not a transgender, it'll be helpful to get information from the real one. Can anyone help?
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  2. #2
    Ships full of vampires are hell. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    My suggestion would be to first read stories that have trans characters written by trans people.

    Read narratives. Listen to transmasculine folks. Google about cis people writing trans characters and the pitfalls that lie therein and the harm that can be done when cis narritives about trans people are lifted above those of trans people themselves.

    There's a lot of variation between trans experiences and expression.

    You haven't been here on AW all that long. Realize that you're asking for a lot of emotional labor. A lot. Without having given much to the community here.

    I *have* beta-read a novel specifically for non-binary rep (I'm non-binary transmasculine), but I only did it because I knew, had conversed with quite a bit, and admired the hell out of the author. The author's works that I'd already read have wonderful and sensitive queer rep. I trusted the author would approach an NB character with the same nuance that they already had displayed--so I felt *safe* in reading the work. I also knew the author would take my suggestions to heart because we talk about queer rep all the time.

    So basically, do your homework, interact with folks on a personal level and build up some friendships here before asking for extremely personal information.
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  3. #3
    Techno-Cathar Perfect Diana Hignutt's Avatar
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    Well, it's no different than writing any other character: do your research. Start by reading stuff on this forum. There are tons of books by trans folk, read some. Watch documentaries. What you don't do is go to a place where trans people gather and ask them what's it's like being trans. No one wants to be someone's trans guide.
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  4. #4
    Prepared to sing! AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Someone may correct me if I'm wrong, but "transgender" is an adjective to describe a person, not a noun referring to them. So your character is transgender, not "a transgender," but could be "a transgender man."
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  5. #5
    Techno-Cathar Perfect Diana Hignutt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sage View Post
    Someone may correct me if I'm wrong, but "transgender" is an adjective to describe a person, not a noun referring to them. So your character is transgender, not "a transgender," but could be "a transgender man."
    You are not wrong.
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  6. #6
    Ships full of vampires are hell. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sage View Post
    Someone may correct me if I'm wrong, but "transgender" is an adjective to describe a person, not a noun referring to them. So your character is transgender, not "a transgender," but could be "a transgender man."
    Yup, that's correct. Saying someone is "a transgender" dehumanizes them. They're a transgender (or trans) person. Or "my character is transgender."

    And certainly a flag that the original poster might be out of their depth when it comes to tackling writing a trans character. It's basic 101 trans stuff.
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  7. #7
    Certified Non-Genius randi.lee's Avatar
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    Go to the source. Join a forum, like you did with this one, only for/frequented by transgenders. Explain who you are and what you are looking for in joining. I'm sure people will be more than helpful to open up to you if you're honest.
    I suppose I should think up a proper signature.

  8. #8
    Ships full of vampires are hell. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randi.lee View Post
    Go to the source. Join a forum, like you did with this one, only for/frequented by transgenders. Explain who you are and what you are looking for in joining. I'm sure people will be more than helpful to open up to you if you're honest.
    Transgender is an adjective. People aren't transgenders.
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  9. #9
    Techno-Cathar Perfect Diana Hignutt's Avatar
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    Honestly, this should be moved to Ask an Expert. Frankly, it is a little offensive to find this bit of cis privilege down here.
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  10. #10
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diana Hignutt View Post
    Honestly, this should be moved to Ask an Expert. Frankly, it is a little offensive to find this bit of cis privilege down here.
    They get to own it. It's not any more acceptable anywhere else on the boards.

    Consider the fact that people aren't going to know if they're not told.

    They're not going to know a crap source from a good one. Here, we can say, that's a bull shit source, and you're being offensive because we know.

  11. #11
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randi.lee View Post
    Go to the source. Join a forum, like you did with this one, only for/frequented by transgenders. Explain who you are and what you are looking for in joining. I'm sure people will be more than helpful to open up to you if you're honest.
    You didn't read the thread, did you.

    Nominalizing an adjective is a way of treating a person as a thing. As explained upthread.

    Moreover, you didn't read the stickie. The one mentioned in big letters at the top of the forum. The one that says Skip Reading this Stickie at Your Own Peril.

    You might want to do that now. While you still can.

  12. #12
    Certified Non-Genius randi.lee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    You didn't read the thread, did you.

    Nominalizing an adjective is a way of treating a person as a thing. As explained upthread.

    Moreover, you didn't read the stickie. The one mentioned in big letters at the top of the forum. The one that says Skip Reading this Stickie at Your Own Peril.

    You might want to do that now. While you still can.

    I read the sticky, and I apologize - I sincerely was not trying to be offensive in any way, at all. What I meant to say with my post is that if the OP wishes to write about individuals who identify as transgender, then joining a forum for those who identify as transgender might be profoundly helpful in properly writing such a story, because hearing about experiences from an individual who identifies as transgender is going to bring far more truth to anything said individual has experienced than "hearing it from someone who is friends with a member of the LGBTQ community." I was NOT, NOT trying to offend or dehumanize anyone, and I gravely apologize if it came out that way. I tend to write quick responses as I don't always have the most time to elaborate. If my shortness was taken as anything other than shortness, I sincerely apologize.
    I suppose I should think up a proper signature.

  13. #13
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Gabriella, just from your post, I'm wondering if English is your 1st language. There's some nuance in your writing pattern that suggests it may not be. Please forgive me if I'm wrong.

    This is something you are going to have to consider if you're writing in English with sensitive subject matter. The seemingly linguisticly tiny matter of "a" before the word transender has massive implications. What you meant is that your character is a transboy/transman/transmale depending on age and preference of term.

    By all means seek resources to help with characterization, but also consider translation assistance so that you don't misspeak without intention.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW PyriteFool's Avatar
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    I would also strongly advise against joining a forum for trans people solely to ask them questions about their experiences. These online spaces are escapes from constantly having to explain/justify themselves to cis-folks. No matter how well intentioned or polite you are, I'd be surprised if you didn't encounter pushback (which you've even gotten a taste of here). And that's not because anyone is mean, or doesn't want to be helpful. It's just exhausting for people to be constantly 'othered' in the world and talking about that experience in a place they go to be validated and understood might be really unwelcome. And that's not even getting into the trolls who "Just Want to Understand (TM)" while pestering people with rude/invasive questions while not listening to the answers in a thinly veiled attempt to attack or harass them.

    What is good advice is reading widely. Read things BY trans people (not cis people talking about trans people). Seek out accounts from trans men. There are some really good resources out there, and you might even find some people who make themselves available to discuss their experiences in order to educate. Them I think it's safer to talk to (again only if they explicitly welcome such questions.) Plus reading widely will give you the linguistic tools to ask the questions you want to ask without being unintentionally offensive. It's something I've had to work on myself, and the preferred language does shift as we become more aware of people's lives, identities, etc. For example, I noticed in your post you said the character has been "Born as a female." It would (I believe) be more proper to say "assigned female at birth." Again, seems small, but has pretty major implications for a lot of people. This is the kind of thing you will discover as you do your research.
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  15. #15
    Revolutionize the World kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randi.lee View Post
    I read the sticky, and I apologize - I sincerely was not trying to be offensive in any way, at all. What I meant to say with my post is that if the OP wishes to write about individuals who identify as transgender, then joining a forum for those who identify as transgender might be profoundly helpful in properly writing such a story, because hearing about experiences from an individual who identifies as transgender is going to bring far more truth to anything said individual has experienced than "hearing it from someone who is friends with a member of the LGBTQ community." I was NOT, NOT trying to offend or dehumanize anyone, and I gravely apologize if it came out that way. I tend to write quick responses as I don't always have the most time to elaborate. If my shortness was taken as anything other than shortness, I sincerely apologize.
    To go a step further, people don't typically "identify as transgender". We simply are transgender because our genders differ from the ones we were assigned at birth.

    I second (third?) the advice to read books and articles written by trans people. Many of us are writers after all.

  16. #16
    We just don't know. fairybee's Avatar
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    "Transgender" is an adjective. It is not a noun. It is not a verb. People are not "transgenders," nor are they "transgendered."

    Calling someone "a transgender" is kind of a red flag, as is the fact that you're asking such a broad question-- "How do I write trans characters?"-- as if trans people are so vastly different from everyone else. To be blunt, I think you need to spend some more time just listening before you ask any questions. Most trans people do not take well to being asked to teach Trans 101. I'm not trans, but I sure don't like teaching Bisexual 101 to randos. It is stressful, sometimes extremely so, to be prodded with questions of this nature-- it reminds you that a lot of people still see you as some kind of weird alien, that misconceptions about you are everywhere, that it can be dangerous and scary to not be a straight cis person. Please do not pop up in the spaces trans people have carved out for themselves and be the Curious Cis Person.

    My advice is... watch and listen, for now. If you have to ask a specific question, ask Google. I'm not saying "never talk to a trans person" or anything, just... like amergina said, you're asking a lot. There's already plenty out there on this subject that you could be reading rather than waiting for it to be hand-delivered to you. Read some books by trans authors. Trans writers and comic artists and comedians are out there, telling their stories.
    Last edited by fairybee; 09-15-2017 at 06:34 AM.

  17. #17
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PyriteFool View Post
    I would also strongly advise against joining a forum for trans people solely to ask them questions about their experiences. These online spaces are escapes from constantly having to explain/justify themselves to cis-folks.
    THIS times a thousand. Such a bad suggestion.
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