Out on a Limb

I debated saying anything about this, until one part of my brain smacked the other and said JUST DO IT ALREADY, JEEZ. (This post not sponsored by Nike.)

I’ve been reading various posts by various people in the M/M romance community (by which I mean, anyone who reads or writes in the genre) regarding transgender authors and how they represent themselves. The current discussion grew out of what was—let’s be honest here—an attack by a specific person against a specific author. This person felt the author in question had been lying about his gender because he was, in fact, born a biological female.

There’s really only one thing I can think of to say to that.


The author in question is a man. He lives as a man and uses a male identity. Calling himself a man is no more a lie than it is for me to call myself—a cisgender biological female—a woman.

The physical states of our bodies have nothing to do with it. And, more than that, unless they choose to inform you of it, the physical state of someone else’s body is none of your damn business.

Being transgender, in simplest terms, means that you self-identify as a gender other than your biological sex. It is a born trait, just like sexuality, and I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that coming out as transgender is likely to be even more difficult and traumatic than it can be to coming out a gay or bisexual. Exhibit A: The reactions some people have had to the discussion we’re currently having.

I’ve seen several comments by transgender authors and readers, and many by other authors and readers, most of them (thankfully) in support of transgender authors. However, it’s been extremely disheartening to witness the degree of vitriol I’ve seen directed at transgender people by members of a community that you would think by its very nature would be more understanding and compassionate than the general public.

Well. I suppose it is still better than the general public (Exhibit B: The Republican Presidential field), but it’s nowhere near what it ought to be.

As I said above, I am a cisgender biological female, which means that my biological sex and my gender identity match. I generally describe myself as “straight but not narrow”; more specifically, I’m probably a 1.5 on Kinsey (almost but not necessarily exclusively straight). I read and write M/M romance of different varieties. I have friends who are straight, gay, and at all points of the spectrum in between. I have transgender and polyamorous friends.

(Note: Microsoft Word does not recognize “polyamorous” or “polyamory.”)

I was also raised in a conservative Christian family in the Deep South. I grew up surrounded by intolerance of all sorts, much of it disguised as “tradition.” But thankfully, I also had parents who taught me to think for myself—even if my thoughts disagreed radically from theirs, as they often did, and still do.

When I was 11 years old, I told my grandfather to please stop using “the N-word” around me. My grandfather was a wonderful, brilliant, funny, and loving man, but he grew up in a society where anyone non-white was considered inferior, and he’d been using that word all his life (although never to a black person). He was also very stubborn and didn’t take well to being told what to do.

I never, not for the next 18 years until he died, heard him use that word in my presence again.

I’m telling you these things about myself to make this point (and yeah, maybe it’s a little snotty of me, but hey): If someone from a background like mine can figure this kind of thing out, with little support or direction, it should not be so hard for others to do it, especially with the kinds of information and support structures that surround us now. And especially not in this genre, of all places. All it takes is a little backbone, a little thought and compassion—and, particularly in this specific case, a little less nosiness about other people’s private lives.

So can we try that now? Please? ’Cause I’d really much rather we spend our time reading and writing about men falling in love.

(Or lust. That works too.)

One response to “Out on a Limb

  1. Oh Shae. I love this post. Thank you for writing it.