Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Transgender is the new black


I noticed that the New York Times today has two op-eds about transgender issues. In fact, thanks in part to Bruce Jenner, we’re seeing a lot more about transgender people than we used to. I’m not sure what the incidence of “gender dysphoria” is in the U.S., but it’s definitely an issue whose time has come.

It just so happens that I wrote a novel about a transgender person ten years ago. It was called “Aunt Daddy.” I really loved that book, or at least the writing of it, because it was challenging and involved a lot of research, and, believe me, there’s no better way to understand a cultural phenomenon than pinning it to a character and writing a 300-page novel about it. I came away with a much deeper understanding of transgender people and a lot of empathy — because, in a way, transgenderism is a metaphor for a whole host of identity issues. It’s one of my favorite themes. Who are we? Are we what we say we are, or what society sees us as?

Unfortunately, my agent at the time passed on the book, saying that readers wouldn’t be able to relate to my protagonist, a woman who transitions to a man. I tried to make my case on the basis of Google searches that yielded hundreds of thousands of results, but she was firm. I’d have to follow up Parts Unknown with something more appealing to a wide readership.

Such are the unreasonable prejudices of the traditional publishing system. They think they know what readers want. Readers tell them by buying the books the publishers put out there. See?

Ironically, I bet there’s a subgenre growing already about transgender issues. I’m sure the YA area is full of realistic, slice-of-life transgender tales.

I guess I was just a tad too far ahead of my time. Maybe I’ll have to take “Aunt Daddy” out again one of these days and brush the dust off.

9 comments on “Transgender is the new black

  1. pinklightsabre
    May 5, 2015

    Funny Kevin: my wife and I have been discussing the same. She worked-up a story idea about Stu Rasmussen, the first trans-mayor in the US (not full transgender, partial, and transvestite). A screen-writer friend of hers in LA managed to get the film through Forest Whittaker’s workshop and it looks like he’s going to direct it, a great story. And she comes from a small town (Pueblo, CO) where a doctor there at one time was like the only doctor who would do the procedure. I half-thought about tracking that doctor down to get some stories. Seems the time is right. And for you, to dust it off.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 5, 2015

      What great news for your wife! Hey, I need to get me one of them “screen-writer friends.” 😛

  2. islandeditions
    May 5, 2015

    Yes, time to review that manuscript, I say! The more I read and hear about your writing, the more I realize just exactly how versatile you are as a writer. You may be an agent’s nightmare, but this reader enjoys reading about all these wonderful, different, and interesting characters you create. Keep writing!

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 5, 2015

      Thanks, Susan! I’m glad you like what I’m doing, though I’m not sure how much I have left in the tank.

      I do think I drove my agents nuts with my failure to stick with the same kinds of books. But I always look at a writer like Jane Smiley and say, Look what she can do! Every book is a different experience.

      • islandeditions
        May 5, 2015

        Exactly! It’s their problem they can’t think in an innovate manner, but constantly stick to the old methods that work for them, but are kind of boring, to say the least, for us readers who enjoy it when a favourite author stretches themselves to show what they can do. Dinosaurs in a business that is quickly changing and will eventually not require their services any longer.

  3. 1WriteWay
    May 6, 2015

    I almost laughed out loud when I saw Susan refer to you as “an agent’s nightmare” 🙂 Really, Kevin, must you be so versatile? Must you have such a creative, imaginative mind?

    But, to cut agents some slack, readers can be pretty parochial too. It’s a tough business, perhaps more so today when everything is commodified. (Didn’t Charlaine Harris get death threats because she wanted to end her series True Blood?)

    Why not dust off “Aunt Daddy”? You would have little to lose and your readers would have a lot to gain 🙂

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 6, 2015

      I do blame readers in part (as you know!). They’re addicted to Chips Ahoy and don’t want to try anything new…

      Weird state of things when creativity and versatility are considered problems. 0_0

  4. sknicholls
    May 6, 2015

    I have a transgender person in my crime novel. It’s not all about her, but she’s certainly a main character. I wouldn’t trade her for all the tea in China…she makes the story.

    • Kevin Brennan
      May 6, 2015

      I think we’ll be seeing more of it too. Lots of possibilities for characterization.

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This entry was posted on May 5, 2015 by in Writing and tagged , , , .
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