A new collection of stories from trans authors who go well outside the status quo box in exploring how trans signifies more than assimilation to the main stream.
Rather than make a meaningful difference in the lives and acceptance of transgender people, the Trans Tipping Point [of 2014] was a career boost for a select few, while the incredible violence facing trans people of color, the murder of trans women of color, particularly Black trans women, and policies that harm trans people in school, prison, and public spaces (many of which are now expanded by the Trump administration) continue unabated in 2017. Groups like No Justice, No Pride continue to shut down pride events, calling out the incredible harassment, violence and harm that trans people of color face even in LGBTQ spaces, and Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military shows that transphobia is still politically salient.
In many ways, the narrow scope of the media’s Trans Tipping Point [first heralded by mainstream TIME magazine] has been harmful for trans people, as it focused on the specific experiences of very particular types of transgender people. Infamously, those transgender people, including Caitlin Jenner and other supposed trans advocates, used their substantive place in the public eye as an opportunity to advocate for policies antithetical to the needs of most transgender people, including endorsing Donald Trump.
But even when the fixed media story of transgender experience isn’t actively harmful, it’s often boring. If the Trans Tipping Point did anything, it normalized a particular type of trans narrative that would then become almost mandatory for any trans person receiving public attention, regardless of the basis for that attention. The transgender story, according to most major media outlets, went as follows: dysphoria, transition, fulfillment and societal acceptance. Even the measured and well-crafted interventions in this story from trans figures like Janet Mock didn’t stop the “trans story” proliferation across cable, Netflix shows and Law and Order episodes. More importantly, the number of transgender writers in positions of mainstream cultural power remained unchanged — with notable exceptions provoked mostly through outcry.
Enter 2017’s Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, an anthology of 25 stories edited by Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett. The anthology, which comes with the tongue-in-cheek promise that readers can “Experience Post-Reality as a Transgender Human,” blows up the idea of a “trans story” in 25 different ways. The trans authors in the book cover a variety of worlds and genres with gender transgressors at the forefront, from undead cyborgs to ancient warriors with gender classifications with no context similar to our own. The book is a huge win for trans writers and Topside Press (a small press that exclusively publishes transgender writers) even in that it exists — but far more importantly, it’s fun and totally wild, a panacea to the cookie-cutter transgender narrative to which even the most ostensibly progressive media relegates trans creators and content.