May 14, 2024

Novels that treat transgender side characters in a good way

There are some good discussions about transgender representation in books going on, most of them focusing on the works of visibly queer and transgender authors. That got me thinking: What about strong transgender characters in other books? 

There are a lot of novels and stories that presents negative and bigoted views of trans people, and in particular trans women. These characters are often sexualized, pathologized, ridiculed and presented as "traps" – a threat to cisgender adults and children.

However, there are also good books that do the opposite, books where the transgender side characters are just people like everyone else. I am going to present two books that passed my trans humanization test, and one that does not quite make it.

Summon The Angels by J.J. Campanella 

Campanella has published two books in their Eddy Bratenahl series. These are exciting and entertaining crime/thrillers with some drops of horror added – well written and well researched.

Bratenahl is a policed psychologist at the Chicago Police Department. As such he is not really supposed to take part in investigations, but for reasons that will become clear to the readers of the books he does end up doing detective work anyway, due to his experience and contacts. 

Amanda Richards is introduced in book 1, A Sum of Destructions, but it is in the second book, Summon the Angels, she plays an essential role. You do not have to have read book 1 to read book 2. 

Minor spoilers from here on.

When Amanda disappears she leaves her nephew Joshua in Bratenahl's care. He is soon engaged in the search for Amanda. The book then follows this search in parallel with a presentation of Amanda's past, including her training as a glass artisan in Japan. 

Campanella has clearly done a lot of research on Japanese culture, and that alone makes the book worth reading.

The reason Campanella passes my trans humanizing test is because Amanda is presented as a complete human being. She is treated with respect by the author (and most of the other characters), and the story about her transgender journey and her life as a transgender woman seems true and believable.

By the way, there is another strong female character that caught my interest. Mary Kate Calderon is a veteran  homicide detective working side by side with Bratenahl, and she has powers you rarely see in books like these. The book definitely passes the Behcdel test.

Summon of the Angels is a  real page-turner, but what makes me love it is the way they go beyond pure entertainment and explores more existential questions like the role of evil and suffering in people's lives. Amanda's life story therefore becomes one of many threads in a tapestry depicting love and hate in a world that is often hard to understand and embrace.


April 12, 2024

Trans woman: Am I a woman or is it just "autogynephilia"?


"Am I a woman or is it just a fetish?" This question pops up from time to time in queer and transgender forums. This is a question created by a culture that use sexual variance to invalidate gender variance. As soon as you see erotic crossdreaming fantasies as an effect of gender variance, they all makes sense.

In spite of all the transphobic activities we see around the world today, the "autogynephilia" theory has lost much of its traction. Sure, "gender critical" TERFs ("trans-exclusionary radical feminists") make use of the theory from time to time, as it allows them to portray trans women as sexual perverts. 

Still, the main  argument used against trans-people today is that is that they are  victims of some kind of left-wing/Marxist/postmodernist plot run by a hidden cabal of transgender activists (a variant of the old Bolshevik/Wall Street/Hollywood/Jews conspiracy of the 1930s, if there ever was one.) 

That narrative is extremely harmful, but it does not do the same direct damage to the souls of trans people. Younger  people are in general much more tolerant of sexual variance, so it is easier for them to see that the "autogynephilia" theory is just another example of old people trying to uphold the values of an oppressive society.

However, older trans people and trans people who are growing up in extremely conservative environments may be led down into this rabbit hole of old fashioned medical pathologization. This is partly because they are much more likely to be looking for a disease explanation for their crossgender dreams. If it is a disease, there might be a cure, they think.

This blog was originally set up to tackle this way of thinking, so it makes sense that we come back to the issue when needed. 

Trans woman in doubt

Over at Crossdream Life one member reports struggling with understanding their gender identity in relation to Ray Blanchard's autogynephilia (AGP) narrative. They recount experiencing sexual fantasies about being female or emasculated during childhood. At 34, they are now undergoing medical transition, having lived as their female self since 2022 and started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) soon after. 

February 5, 2024

Against the «common sense» of anti-rights groups (Part 1)

It is very common in anti-rights discourse to appeal to arguments whose authority lies, according to them, in “reality itself.” Thus, religious groups, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, libertarian conservatives, alternative right-wingers, liberals of dubious neutrality, and even orthodox leftists, invoke the apparently innocuous and incontestable mantle of common sense.

By guest writer Amilka González

Every time these groups obtain what they consider a small victory against the LGBTIQ population —that is, a setback in terms of human rights— and especially against the trans population, they cheer: Common sense has won! This is what happened recently in Spain with the reduction of LGBTI laws by the Government of the Community of Madrid —for a detailed approach to this situation, we recommend reading here , here and there .

Throughout the international arena where anti-rights groups strive to impose anti-rights rhetoric, the same script is repeated. The central point of their arguments is that common sense must necessarily be the guideline to follow when it comes to settling social disputes around sex and gender. And, according to them, their only interest here is to defend common sense and truth.

In this article we will try to answer several questions: What do these groups mean by common sense? In what ways can this elusive concept be understood in the context of science? What advantages or disadvantages would using common sense give us to resolve important differences in our societies? 

Let's see.

What is common sense? 

«Common sense is, as its name indicates, the unanimous feeling of the entire human race (...) of all times and all places, wise or ignorant, barbarian or civilized.» 

Amadeo Jacques. «Memory about common sense»

First of all, this is not a simple question and answering it in a non-superficial way is challenging. From a historical point of view, to get an idea of the magnitude of the issue, it is enough to know that common sense has been attempted to be defined many times since ancient times —and maybe, since very distant galaxies. 

January 4, 2024

Gender variation, normalcy, "autogynephilia" and the culture war

I was talking to the transgender blogger Joanna Santos on WhatsApp the other day and we made some observations regarding generational shifts regarding the role of transphobic theories like "autogymephilia" in the lives of trans and gender variant people.

If we allow ourselves to generalize a bit we may say that the older generations (boomers and those 50+) have had to face several challenges:

  1. The oppression and shaming that is associated with such theories, when used in politics and public spaces.
  2. The way these theories can be used by family and friends.
  3. The way these narratives easily become internalized, leading to shame, suppression of transgender dreams, fear, anger and depression.

The younger generation, and especially Gen Z and the Millenials, more often face only one of these three:

  1. The oppression and shaming that is associated with such theories, when used in politics and public spaces.

The right wing and TERF backlash against transgender rights makes this remaining bullet-point painfully visible right now, but as Joanna pointed out to me, young people today get their gender affirmed by those who matter: Friends and family. 

A new culture for the young

Younger cis people may not fully understand what being trans means, but are more likely to have grown up in a cultural setting where you respect and accept the identities of others, and where marginalized groups are to be included and not ostracized.