Every writer, especially a fiction writer, has an opinion about what his or her work really means.
Of course, their readers have their own opinions of what it means. And the two different flavors of opinion, author sauce or reader ragu, rarely are the same flavor, and often work at cross purposes to spoil the whole stew. Look at how the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird went over with readers for Harper Lee. Or how J. K. Rowling’s opinions about trans people have affected the most recent movie trilogy made from her works of fiction.
So, maybe I should clarify where I stand on certain issues before anybody threatens to make a movie from, or ban and burn any of my books.
(As if either of those things are ever going to happen.)
In Texas now, it is generally agreed because of laws passed and pronouncements made by Fox-News-influenced Republican leaders, that trans people are 20-or-30-year-old male perverts putting on dresses and trying to get into middle school girls’ locker rooms, or worse, trying to play and win female sports with the advantages that come with testosterone and male aggressiveness.
My opinion on this issue is… you don’t get to have an opinion on this gol danged issue unless you yourself are a trans person. This is based on knowing two trans people in the entirety of my thirty-one-year teaching career. Not enough to make me qualified to open my stupid mouth about it, but more than any Texas Republican knows about it despite the large amount of foul-smelling opinion-gas they fill their speech balloons with in public.
One of these two people whose real names I will never utter was a confident and highly competent young lady whose sexual identity you could never doubt. I only knew about it because I was the teacher tasked with sitting in on her ARD meeting (a Special Education status update that she needed only because her situation qualified her as a Special Education student under the Emotionally Disturbed category.) She was at the meeting, so she knew that I knew. She would later warn me not to tell anybody, because it was no one else’s business what shape of genitals she was born with, and her hormone therapy and entire life experience made her a girl. Other teachers had leaked her secret in the past, and that was unfair to her. She was definitely a female in mind and personality. She was sweet, intelligent, witty, and capable of laughing at my classroom jokes… if they were funny. I suspect only a few if any of her classmates knew she was actually trans. She was all girl. I never told anyone. I never heard another student bad-mouth her. Although she did tell me that bad things had happened to her previously in elementary school. Nothing she was forced to endure was in any way deserved. And I am confident she is doing fine now.
The other trans student I was aware of, didn’t have it so good. I will call him a “he” because he never transitioned. But he was actually a girl. He had a penis, but it was only on the outside. His interior plumbing included a uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. His hormones were, judging by what puberty did to his body and behavior, mostly feminine. But he didn’t have the other girl’s advantages of being from a wealthier, big-city family with relevant health services available to him. He was a member of a poor, Hispanic family that lived in a small rural Texas town. He was not treated as a trans person. He was considered a homosexual. And Hispanic culture in South Texas is not kind to homosexuals. He had serious mental problems. He tried to talk to me about his problems late one Saturday night. But the conversation ended when he tried to proposition me, and I rejected his advances. I was not a homosexual either. Months later I found him crying in the hallway and bashing his forehead against a metal doorpost. I got help from the Reading teacher to get him to the nurse. He wasn’t in class very often after that. He did not pass any of his classes that year. And he didn’t come to school at all the next year. I heard rumors that he went to Laredo and became a drug dealer and a prostitute. I also heard from one of his relatives that he had attempted suicide more than once. At this point, I feel sadly certain that he never got the help he needed and is probably now dead.
I have now told you everything I actually know about the subject of trans people. And I can safely say I had no measureable effect on either one. I still cry about one of them. I still feel a small bit of pride about the other one. As a teacher I loved both of them, but not the kind of love he asked me for on that late Saturday night when I probably should not have opened the door to him. But I am not entitled to have an opinion. It is not my business no matter how much I care.
One of my favorite characters that I have used in multiple stories, Blueberry Bates, is a trans girl. How realistic she is as a character is probably still up in the air. I have revealed what I know about trans people that she is based on. But I love her, just as I loved the two of them. I think people like that are worthy of love and whatever you have to invest in them to be of help to them. I do not think they need to be legislated against. Their lives are hard enough as it is.
My glitchy computer published this before I got to write the conclusion. But having opinions is a matter of glitchiness anyway. And if you find you need to cancel me for my terrible opinions, you don’t need my permission to do it. I doubt you would even think about asking anyway. I hope I have made what I think clear. These are my writer’s opinions. And it is obvious from this essay that this is probably not the last one I will inflict on you.