Trans Writing + Vulnerability
In January 2017, I had one article about trans topics cancelled.
Having articles cancelled (or killed) is a typical experience for a journalist or any kind of freelance writer. It’s why there are kill fees and contracts. But it had never happened to me before, and the experience wounded me a fair bit. I was attached to the idea of the piece, as I am with all articles I write about trans identity, but I was also wounded because after this first kill, more articles seemed to disappear and drop off my upcoming publications list. One more, then another, and now I’m waiting to hear back from yet another piece that I worry will have to find another home.
Some of this fallout has to do with the fact that I’ve been obscenely prolific since returning from the winter break. I’ve been pitching and writing nonfiction pieces more than I ever have, so of course, with volume comes the rejections and the article kills. But I worry that this amount of articles falling off the radar has to do with the climate surrounding the issues I typically write about: trans people, LGBT issues, academia, and pop culture/the media as a whole.
Basically, all the things that #45 has said he dislikes vehemently. So while I attempt to make myself feel better by reminding myself that Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture, I also worry that by only focusing on the good things in this current political climate, I separate myself from more and more of the bad, which leads to my articles being killed in the first place, because people don’t want to “rock the boat” or say anything that will cause a fuss.
Whenever I write about transgender issues, people typically have opinions. And they leave a lot of comments. But comments on the internet, as Ijeoma Oluo has recognized, are not the level of discourse we want to engage with most of the time. When I wrote for the Atlantic, I wish I had warned Skylar Kergil (the trans YouTuber I profiled) not to read the comments. Because while the article was a great thing for both of us, with visibility comes vulnerability. And in those vulnerable moments, people can get hurt.
There are a lot of hurtful comments on that Atlantic article. There are a lot of hurtful comments on some of the things I write. But there are also amazing comments. When I wrote a piece on eating disorders and trans/genderqueer identity for Briarpatch Magazine, several people left me wonderful comments and someone even called into the magazine to tell the editor, Tanya, what a great thing had just happened. Visibility. Exposure. These things cannot happen without vulnerability.
The most important thing I learned from my mentorship with Michael V. Smith and Plenitude Magazine was that in order to write something at all–let alone have it be good–you must be vulnerable. You can’t write without exposing yourself in some way. And that vulnerability is terrifying because it means possibly getting hurt. It means possibly opening up and then getting an asinine comment left on your article which feels as if it completely undermines your point. But vulnerability also means phone calls. It also means connection.
What I’m trying to say with this post is that I never want to not publish something because I’m afraid–but at the same time, I know that fear is going to be present. It has to be. I keep trying to tell myself that so much has changed since #45 took office (even though I’m Canadian, I work with a lot of publications in the states), and that writing is so much more difficult than before. That publishing is so much more difficult than before, and that’s why magazines are killing articles, because they’re afraid of the comments, the fallout, of losing readership.
But that’s not quite true. Writing is always scary and vulnerable. #45 has nothing to do with it. And he shouldn’t.
So this is my long introduction to say that the creative nonfiction anthology, #Trans is vulnerable in all the right ways. There are stories that are sad, stories that are funny, and stories that hopefully make the reader think about the ways in which we structure transgender identity in relation to new media technologies. I’ve wanted to make this anthology for years, and it’s strange to think that it’s finally released and out there in the world. It’s also stranger to think that, if I had gone with one of the publishers who approached me about it, it may not even be here at all.
#Trans was never a book I wanted to be killed for an arbitrary reason, because someone was afraid of the comments, or the possible things it could say or not say. It needed to be here because these twenty authors wrote really compelling essays and I wanted to share them along with my own. My only hope is that these essays generate comments in the best way possible.
My entry here is the first on a blog tour organized by some of the contributors to talk about their work, their lives, and what other stuff they may have going on. We also have a handful of interviews on the blog for #Trans coming up too. The next person in this tour is Erika D. Price, who is working tirelessly right now on their #todayimcalling campaign and who’s work I admire greatly. Check out their post on their tumblr on the 13th, and the rest of the schedule as follows:
March 13th: Erika D. Price blogging on their tumblr.
March 17th Ariel Estrella on their website.
March 20th: J.K. Pendragon on their website.
March 22nd: Gabriel D. Vidrine on their tumblr.
March 24th: Velvl Ryder on his website.
March 29th: Allen Hope on #Trans site.