My first event promoting Blue Water Dreams was a visit to the Gender Alliance of the South Sound (GASS). This is a vibrant, engaged group of trans* folk (though some would use other language) who welcomed me warmly. As I said in my previous post, I stayed with the group facilitators and they brought me to the meeting. People were already waiting, a half hour early, and kept streaming in until well after the start time. Almost 30 people were present by the time they gave me the floor.
I had thought I would have more time read than I ended up having, and cherry picked the excerpts that introduce the characters and give you a good sense of the book. I enjoy reading sex scenes, so I did one of those…and it struck me in the middle that I was reading a cis woman and trans man having sex to a group that was almost completely trans feminine. It really made the clit and wet and breast language stand out for me. I could only hope that it would work for the listeners.
They certainly appeared rapt. Many closed their eyes, facial clues reassuring me that they weren’t napping. Others shifted in their chairs. It can be hard to pinpoint the difference between the discomfort of some people in hearing explicit sex read aloud and the discomfort of listening to a type of sex that they don’t (but perhaps would like to) have.
The feedback between readings was slow but honest. The group was big enough that I would have called on people to talk, had I know enough about them to be sure I wouldn’t make them uncomfortable. It was like a big classroom!
The lone trans man in the group spoke up after I read a sex scene and expressed his feelings about hearing Oly’s experience of his body and sharing it with another person. He has more gender dysphoria than Oly experiences and it made him envious. Also, though, he was uncomfortable with the possibility that people may assume that Oly’s body image and way of relating to Lania (his sex partner and the co-star of the book) was somehow representational of the trans male experience.
I was so glad he brought this up. I never thought that Oly would be “The Trans Man” or that his experiences and body image would represent any wide swathe of the trans experience (a far more various than homogenous thing in reality, though so often depicted in simplified fashions). Oly is a particular person and when I wrote him doing, being, reacting, I questioned only what was realistic for him to do…not what a trans man would do.
My opportunity to specify this brought more people into the discussion. We talked a bit about the dearth of positive, fun trans stories and how I’m hoping I’ve provided one. I know that it’s necessary to have serious works dealing with the hardships and roadblocks common in trans lives, written by trans people or with such intimate knowledge that many people can see themselves and their own difficulties.
I also believe that it’s valuable to write stories where things go just a bit better than they usually do in real life. Where a trans person is living without suffering for being trans, where the conflicts and challenges come from other spheres. Books like this, books like mine, can emphasize the whole person, which includes a trans history or identity but is not defined solely by that.
What a wonderful opportunity to talk and think. I learned a lot about my story and about the people who may read it. I hope that those who purchased a copy read and enjoyed it!