To Readers in the Trans Community

This blog post is specifically aimed to readers of my material who are trans or belong to trans families. I love you as an audience and love that several of you have talked to me about presenting your gender to the world. (Or in one case your mother did, but don’t worry – it was wonderful.) I will first tell you I am so honored to have your readership. Trans people in today’s world are braver than any fantasy hero, and I’m humbled to be in your beautiful presence.

I’d like to let you know that I haven’t got things quite right in my writing yet on trans, enby, or related issues. But I will try harder for my next series, so please stick with me. Spireseeker was well-intentioned but had several misses on gender. I still think it’s worthwhile and full of heart and spirit, and hope you will enjoy. As for Shkode, the passage in The Fettered Flame that discusses a trans identity is one my favorite. I’m so proud of it and hope you like it. But even The Fettered Flame doesn’t present things just how I’d prefer, and I’d like to explain to you why.

For purposes of spoilers, I am going to refer to two characters as A and B. Character A, and you will know them if you’ve read The Fettered Flame, is fighting against multiple types of prejudice. Basically, a character fighting for a cis identity. There are many more layers to it (related to privilege and hypocrisy—would love to discuss sometime but am worried about spoilers) but basically I thought this was an interesting spin on gender identity. (Whose inspiration maybe I’ll discuss at a later date.)

HOWEVER… as early drafts were shared, people—even people with modern gender views—were referring to A as a transgender character, when clearly they are not. In fact, the character struggles with their resentment against people thinking that one’s actions or appearance make them trans rather than one’s gender. I became worried this storyline would become confused with trans issues, including A’s comments that clothing does not define gender. In no way does this storyline or this aspect speak against trans identity – for example while clothing may be important to express gender, it certainly doesn’t define it. Gender defines gender.

So, in order to make clear the difference, I decided to introduce an open trans character, whom we will call B. This was after the storyline had been drafted. In my quest to create something meaningful, I picked a character of whom I was very fond, one who I considered a great hero of the story, and thought this aspect folded into their heroism well, and gave me the chance to contrast an actual trans character to A, who is fighting other types of gender prejudice, but who is solidly cis. The problem here was: B is a victim of violence, bringing me very close to the trope of trans character as violence victim. Once I realized this, I worked hard on crafting the words not to link the two, but I do understand any wishes this would not have been the case. I wish it too.

So, to you, trans readers:

  • I hope you appreciate B’s conversation with Jwala near the end of The Fettered Flame and know the love with which it was authored; I think B’s words should be an inspiration to all of us
  • Know that B’s status as victim of violence was not meant to be directly related to their gender or trans experience but instead to their heroism and conviction
  • Know that in my next series, I’ll make absolutely sure to feature an complex and heroic trans character and keep them away from problematic links. I mean, characters can be naturally problematic. But we haven’t come far enough on trans issues yet and so we need to be extra sensitive, in my opinion.

I hope you understand and I hope that you will read and enjoy my writing. It is sent to you—to all of you!—with such love.

With admiration,
E

Mommy’s Little Princes

[Note: I wrote this piece over a year ago, but was worried it would come off too snarky, as I believe in tolerance and positive messages. However, after a recent trip to Disney World (and thank you Disney World; we sincerely had a really wonderful time) I decided to take the risk and dust it off. I have no issues with children who love the idea of princesses (hey, I’m a fantasy author!), but as parents I think we should sometimes be more thoughtful about both the priorities we set for our children, and the way they are applied across genders. No disrespect is intended – just a different perspective on the issue, for thought.]

Luckily, one of my children is a girl. This way, I have someone to pass my life skills to, and someone to watch the Lions with me on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Maybe someday she’ll even become an engineer, like me. Though, I remind her, she’d need to work hard in school so she can get into a good college. I encourage her to join Science clubs, and to stay active. It’s a lot of work to get a good job and support a household. After a good talk, we go outside for a game of catch. She’s my buddy, and nothing can take that away.

But as much as I love my daughter, I have an extra special relationship with my sons, or as a call them: my princes.

Like all little boys, they have always been into princes, from the time I bought them their first prince board-books when they were babies. Every night, I used to read to them about being a prince, and tell them that someday – if they stay handsome and sweet – someday they will find their very own princess. As they got older, I got them prince dolls, and even toy chariots that the prince dolls could ride around in. They even have educational toys for boys now, like prince board games, where the boys can learn strategy while pretending to be their favorite princes. I also remind them that princes are brave!

My husband and I are just so committed to the prince theme, but only because they love it so much! I admit, it helps me keep the kids in line as well. You know how rowdy boys are. If they are a little messy, or forget to play quietly together, I remind them – if you aren’t proper gentleman, your princess might not want you! That usually settles them down, and reminds them it’s time to watch one of their prince movies. Only for the millionth time!

It’s hard to keep them out of their prince costumes. Each one has a series of little blue crowns, tabards, and swords, and they insist on wearing them around the house, running around looking for princesses to rescue. Then when Halloween comes, they pick their favorite prince costume and spend at least an hour getting ready to go out. This is the one time of year their dad lets them borrow his hair gel and his fancy cologne, so that they really look like grownups! Handsome grownups that will attract princesses!

On their birthdays, I hold prince-themed parties. There are princes on the cake, and the napkins, and even plastic signet rings as party favors. The girls won’t go, of course – princes are a boy thing. But the neighborhood boys love it. They get together, wear paper crowns, and talk about who their favorite prince is. My sons love Eric, from “The Little Mermaid.” He was really handsome.

Some of my friends (you know, the kind of moms who read too many internet blogs and need to settle down) have suggested that I push the prince theme on the boys, that they might be interested in learning about dinosaurs, or playing with building toys like their sister does. But those are people who don’t understand nature, I think. Boys will always be boys. You just can’t push it out of them! And why would you? If there’s one thing boys love, it’s princes.

Once, the boys asked me what a prince really was, which I thought was cute. My boys are so smart, too. A prince, I explained, is someone who is born into a royal family. It’s their job to set rules for other people to live by. And as long as they stay very handsome, people will listen to them as well as adore them. And someday, they might marry a princess, and then have beautiful babies, who can also be princes.

I know that as the boys get older, they might want to redecorate their prince-themed bedrooms, and maybe even think about things like hobbies, music, sports, or even going to college. But I hope I can keep them princes for as long as I can. I just don’t want these days to end. And – no matter how old they get – they will always be my little princes.

E.D.E. Bell – 12 January, 2014