How (not) to include trans people as background characters - some common mistakes.
These are common issues that appear in many, many books - and increasingly so, as writers try to be more trans-inclusive (which is good)
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 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.
But we still need to discuss cissexist worlds.
I'm NOT saying you shouldn't write cissexist worlds. (Again, this wd exclude contemp!)
* 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)
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.
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?
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 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 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!
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?
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 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.
And it breaks down when we get to the structural aspects of worldbuilding.
I see this also in other aspects, most frequently about colonialism
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?
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)
But you also don't want to IMPLY that casually. A lot of the above implies that.
So yes you probably want at least SOME people who are not cis as background characters. :)
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.
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.
(Please do not come in with some incredibly convoluted scenario where trans people cannot be included. That is missing the point.)
Besides RTs/favs, you can also express your support by backing me on Patreon (many trans recs!)
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 :) )
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 :)
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 :) )
Thank you very much for reading :)
I got some more Patreon backing, and I have an announcement about that actually -
so NOW is a good time to back if you'd like to see the trans and intersex fiction timeline SOON!
Also, if you backed me on Patreon just now, ping me, because every new backer on Twitter gets a custom recommendation from the archives.