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Bogi Takács PERSON @bogiperson
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🖋️ Worldbuilding thread! 🖋️

How (not) to include trans people as background characters - some common mistakes.
Just a note: this thread is not subtweeting the stories I am currently reading for #Transcendent3: Year's Best Transgender SFF

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It was inspired by several books I recently read - what I'll say will be more relevant to long-form.
(Please don't try to guess the books from my Goodreads feed, I usually don't add the books I DNF within the first few chapters. ;) )

These are common issues that appear in many, many books - and increasingly so, as writers try to be more trans-inclusive (which is good)
First of all:

If your worldbuilding is cissexist, you do not get to add trans characters as background flavor. It will not work and it will boot readers out of the narrative

(It will also make trans readers annoyed at best.)
It is important to distinguish between the WORLD being cissexist and the WRITER being.

It is very possible to write about a cissexist world while not being cissexist.

Technically all contemporary fiction is about a cissexist world ;) but SFF and especially fantasy is often too.
I assume that if you, the writer are cissexist on purpose, you will not be reading a thread about how do to better about trans worldbuilding. :)

But we still need to discuss cissexist worlds.

I'm NOT saying you shouldn't write cissexist worlds. (Again, this wd exclude contemp!)
Probably the most common way of having a cissexist world built looks like the following:

* Women do X things
* Men do Y things
* There is no visible pathway to transition between genders
* There is no visible possibility of being not a woman or a man (ie. nonbinary)
For example:

In this fantasy book (I am making this up) men do water magic and wear blue robes, and women do fire magic and wear red robes.

If you have this kind of setup, you need to be VERY careful what you do with your background characters.
If you have this kind of worldbuilding, you do NOT get to say trans-inclusive-looking asides like "men, women, both and neither".

Because then... what color robes would the "both" and "neither" wear?

If you are showing a crowd, where are the purple robes? The gray ones?
If you have this kind of setup, you need to think through precisely how trans people fit in.

Even if that is shown only in a few sentences like these!

Otherwise the incoherence will be very easily spotted & possibly also be casually hurtful to readers.
You can ABSOLUTELY have gendered aspects of your fantasy worldbuilding.

You can have men's and women's things in your worldbuilding.

But you will probably want to think about how trans people fit into this, even if it's not shown beyond maybe a paragraph.
* Is it possible to transition between the two binary genders?
* Is it possible to NOT fit into the two binary genders?
* How is it possible?

This does not necessarily mean that transition has to be easy or widely available.

Your society can be actively oppressive!
I think it often happens that writers do not think about how such a binarist and trans-excluding society is actually oppressive.

Beautiful men's and women's traditions! Yay! This can be written really well.

But what happens with the people who do not fit the 2 boxes?
When this kind of casual exclusion is combined, *on the surface*, with trans-inclusive phrasings, that doesn't really work. And I increasingly see this.

If you say "men, women and other people", you need to have an answer for the "other people". Who are they? (Who are we?)
I will say something that makes me very acutely uncomfortable. But I have to say it.

I think that editors are increasingly educated about gender-inclusive phrasings. On the sentence level.

Many of them do not think about the implications on the structural level.
So we see works that work sentence by sentence. That do not reduce pregnancy to women, that do not reduce people to men and women, etc.

And it breaks down when we get to the structural aspects of worldbuilding.

I see this also in other aspects, most frequently about colonialism
(This is not a thread about colonialism / invasion / exploitation of other cultures in worldbuilding, I have many thoughts and feels about that too. Different time.)
I brought a fantasy example, now I will bring a science fiction example too.

If your world has fancy nanotech shapeshifting (please do, I love it :D ) where are the trans people? Will people experiment casually? The setting really heavily implies that they will... if not, why?
Trans people will often transition, despite HUGE obstacles. Yes, historically too.

Also please be aware of the existence of intersex people, historically too (and that trans and intersex people are not the same, but one can be both, too)
One more impt aspect is that I think if you're a cis writer, you probably do not want to write about a crushing oppression specific to trans people. I think this is generally accepted these days?

But you also don't want to IMPLY that casually. A lot of the above implies that.
Non-cis people of all kinds are quite common. It is a kind of Anglo-Saxon Christian thing that we aren't. Both of my own cultures had trans and/or intersex concepts historically.

So yes you probably want at least SOME people who are not cis as background characters. :)
But this means that you need to think at least a little bit about this aspect of worldbuilding.

I can promise you, a few clueful sentences that show that trans people EXIST will give you many happy trans readers.

We are desperate to see ourselves in fictional worlds.
A little bit of thoughtful worldbuilding *will* go a long way even if this is by no means the focus of your book.

Just be mindful that if your characters say present-day "progressive" things, the social structures need to reflect that (they can!) otherwise it'll ring hollow.
The social structures can be any kind (with the above caveats about trans-focused oppression). It is always possible to include trans people.

(Please do not come in with some incredibly convoluted scenario where trans people cannot be included. That is missing the point.)
This is it for now. :) Thank you very much for listening!

Besides RTs/favs, you can also express your support by backing me on Patreon (many trans recs!)
I have a Ko-fi too, for one-time small donations (rn they will most likely go toward food):

I also have an Amazon wishlist, but I understand if you are boycotting them for one reason or another:
Thanks again and happy worldbuilding! :) I am happy to respond and discuss.

I do sensitivity reads and such too, if you have very lengthy questions (I have nice rates on novel manuscripts) -
(I'm a Publishers Weekly & Locus recommended editor :) )
I usually do $$$ disclosures on longer threads, just because I think it's interesting to see how much people donate.

So far I got +$6 via Ko-fi, +$1/mo. via Patreon and if I'm seeing it right on Amazon, someone bought me a copy of Spin State by Chris Moriarty :)

Thank you!!!
Thanks again!! So far I got about $35, which I promptly went and spent on groceries :) (I just got back home.)

I also got $9/mo (total) in Patreon backing.

Just $10 away from the next Patreon goal, the trans and intersex SFF timeline! (It also includes some nongenre stuff :) )
I still have some things to do before I can go to sleep, so I'll be off for now, but I'll try to respond to comments tomorrow!

Thank you very much for reading :)
I think I answered most questions? I got slightly deluged by notifications :) I had no idea that this thread applied to Altered Carbon, btw, I haven't watched it yet!

I got some more Patreon backing, and I have an announcement about that actually -
I'm just $5/month away from the $325/month goal. This is the end of the month, and I post goal rewards generally at the beginning (because backing fluctuates mid-month)

so NOW is a good time to back if you'd like to see the trans and intersex fiction timeline SOON!
Thank you very much :)

Also, if you backed me on Patreon just now, ping me, because every new backer on Twitter gets a custom recommendation from the archives.
I posted my newest book recommendations video: recent trans SFF anthologies!

And just $3 more until my $325 / month Patreon goal, which will bring you the trans and intersex fiction and poetry timeline! Many firsts. :)

#translit #DiverseBookBloggers
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