Transphobia Not Tolerated at PantheaCon

[Note: This is similar to the original post at one of my other blogs.]

 

A handful of activists have ensured that Max Dashu, now known as someone who holds certain transphobic views, has been disinvited as a PantheaCon presenter. As a mother, as a sexologist, as a writer, as a neopagan, as a person–I’m glad.

As a mother–one of my adult kids is trans. And even if he wasn’t, I’d still be concerned for everyone else’s kids.

As a sexologist–as the ethics of sexual and gender inclusion are writ deep in this profession.

As a writer–my books are love songs to people who are sexually and/or gender diverse. I love them with all my heart.

As a neopagan–because my spirituality, and my patron deity, has no tolerance for hate.

As a person–because human beings can be better than this. Because our collective history as a species, barbaric as it is, also encompasses values of kindness, acceptance, and hospitality. Goodness is possible.


First a bit of the background.

From PantheaCon Website

“Theme for 2019: Unity, Respect for our Diversity, and Connecting Webs to Heal the Earth What are we doing to heal our mother, our selves? What are we Willing to do for the Earth and for our Community?

This year we especially want to emphasize that PantheaCon is a Safe Space for all. We tolerate no harassment of anyone by others. This is called Pax Templi where differences of opinion are set aside for the duration of the Sacred Space.”

Community/Activist Repsonse

When events and organizations make statements about safety and inclusion it is reasonable to take them at their word. So, when a few people spotted this problematic speaker on the program, they protested on behalf of their communities.

(By the way, “TERF” means “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” in case you don’t know. I’ll be using the term below.)

One of the activists who alerted the conference to the problematic speaker is Colin Davis, who blogs at Patheos. I have their permission to quote from their statement posted on Facebook.

“…a laurel: the PantheaCon staff with whom I’ve interacted around this issue have been absolutely spectacular, supportive, and committed to the kind of inclusion and acceptance that this community has every right to expect. They have been incredible allies for the trans community, and continue to do so. I am honored, humbled, and proud to be able to say I stand with them.

In closing, I want to point out that standing up for my trans and nonbinary siblings is not misogyny, no matter how often some say it is, and that stating safety concerns is not libel… especially given the outcome. If we are to have a truly safe and inclusive environment, we cannot give any platform or discursive space to the voices that call for exclusion and hatred based on identity.”

Davis’s last point about the importance of not giving a “platform or discursive space” to exclusionary speakers is another key point. Please hold onto it.


Regarding the Ousted Speaker

I mostly want to focus on actions and statements in this post, not personalities. Others have covered the qualifications, merits, and deficits of Max Dashu and have tracked her comments, positions, and noted her associations with others who take TERF-type positions. But in case anyone is wondering if her TERF reputation is deserved, here is a quote from Dashu, which I have lifted from the comments section attached to “So-Called Predators in the Bathroom… Again,” Lady Idos, May 3, 2016, Ms. Blog. There are many problems with her assertions below. Trigger warning… transphobic vitriol.


Max Dashu says:
May 6, 2016 at 10:11 am
When are people (feminists, yet!) going to get that the main issue for women is not that trans women are sexual predators, which the vast majority are not, but that the laws are being rewritten in an all-encompassing way that allows male predators into women’s spaces? As if no issue of female safety exists, as if only trans women face an issue of safety. When under these new rules, just by pretending to be women, dressing in female guise, saying they are women, *any* man can gain entry into bathrooms, locker rooms, saunas or whatever, and perv on the women in those spaces. When did feminists forget that straight men like to transgress and violate female boundaries, put cameras under stalls and up women’s skirts? that they do commit rapes in bathrooms? Yet all over the place, we see this reality being denied, by feminists! in the name of defending trans women. Looking fixedly past the reality of male violence, denying that any problem exists in the rush to make new laws: what kind of feminism is this? Safety in bathrooms is a female issue, not just an issue for trans women. (And sex and gender are not the same thing.) So incidents like the guy in Seattle who came into the women’s room and took off his shirt, and when challenged, told the pool officials, “The law has changed, and i have a right to be here.” He didn’t claim to be a woman, nor dress as one, he just wanted to intrude because he could. Male entitlement is bottomless, don’t think this won’t be a problem.


Please see this page on Transgender People and Bathroom Access if you are even half-tempted to consider Dashu’s position as reasonable. Plus, there are already laws to protect people from sexual assaults and other crimes. The Seattle guy? He’s an outlier and a kook (see section below). It would be just as ridiculous to base local, state, and federal public policy on the Seattle example as it would be to base policies on the fact that a man I dated once (sadly) followed me into a community college bathroom to scream at me for not wanting to date him a second time.

I first learned of the PantheaCon’s issue yesterday, in an esoteric social media group. There was a vigorous conversation in the thread and I threw myself into it with my usual polite passion. I tend to include links and sources when in this mode. I was particularly keen to address points made in one person’s “I can see all sides of this” posts, which seemed to focus on click-bait about men “pretending” to be women to game the system for perks, as if these kinds of outlier incidents justified TERF attitudes about transgender and gender variant rights.

I added the following links to the thread: United Nations Foundation statement on trans rights, and the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. I also posted the Transgender Day of Remembrance website so that people could understand the kind of violence that many trans people face. I asked people reading and posting in the thread to educate themselves about trans issues using this material. (I think this request actually came before the other poster added click bait.)

I am Wondering About Knee-Jerk Reactions and Weaponized “Fears”

I woke up this morning with this thought. There’s something about the way that TERFs react that reminds me of how some racist white women (and a few men) have been captured on camera, weaponizing their “fears and discomfort” by calling 911 on people of color doing ordinary things. (Here is a good post about why we should not give the racist 911 callers cute nicknames.)

By broaching this subject, I am emphatically NOT comparing the experiences of POC in the U.S. with that of trans and gender diverse people in the U.S. (though many people are both). I DO  want to examine similarities between the knee-jerk responses of TERFs and the white 911 callers. I think there are some. And there are differences too, of course.

In the last year especially we’ve seen a lot of viral videos of white women calling police on black people and other POC for having barbecues, waiting for AAA, trying to get into their own apartment complex, babysitting, etc. We can easily see how distorted and ugly these actions are. We can see the racism. We can see the over-reactions. We can see that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted.

We can also see how wrong and dangerous it is to call in authorities with guns–because “we” (meaning white people here–people of color have always known) now also have a greater awareness that police often shoot black people, often for no reason. For no damned reason. (Black people shot by police in 2018.) And there’s now some discussion on the internet of how white women (in particular) absolutely have to manage their own “discomfort” and fears instead of calling the cops. Read “White Women Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over POC,” Cameron Glover, May 18, 2018, Afropunk.

What’s less visible are the very real dangers to trans people when inflammatory public figures and scholars also “call 911” by whipping up public fears and resentments. Brutal people, criminals, and even everyday bullies use the inflammatory statements to justify their right to do very bad things to anyone who does not conform to their notions of “proper” gender presentation. The Transgender Day of Remembrance documents this very thing in stark terms that we should all be able to understand. But there are also other forms of violence, of micro-aggressions, and these do damage too.

(I want to note there that people with intersex variations are also at risk here.)

The most unreasonable of the TERFs persist in denying all reality of trans and other gender experiences. To them, a trans woman is always going to be an entitled man in disguise, a “perv” as Dashu says, someone presumed to be dangerous and/or criminal. I wish someone would write an article called “Radical Feminists Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over Trans People.” We must see that the automatic assumption of criminality–especially as it impacts trans women–is unfair and unwarranted.

TERFs seem to refuse the opportunity to examine their own “discomfort” and “fears” with regard to trans people and their own intersections of cis-privilege and female oppression (intersectionality is a term invented by black scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw). The “privilege” of using one’s own discomfort and fears to affect public opinion, discourse, and policy must be examined. Academics have an even greater responsibility to do this, frankly, as they have educational privilege and supposedly also have critical thinking skills.

Some of what’s needed are facts, the ability to understand those facts, a dollop of empathy, a desire to become better educated about issues, some self-knowledge, and tools to manage our raging sympathetic nervous systems.

However, because TERF reactions to a trans presence are generally distorted, we can’t count on them doing much of the above. So to deny them platforms, then, is perfectly appropriate as they have not “done the work” IN THIS AREA to make them fit to speak to a wider public, like Panthea.Com. (I put that in caps because, yeah, some have done other kinds of work elsewhere.)

Please note similarities to our seemingly national “discomfort” with immigrants, Muslims, you name it–and to our dangerous, knee-jerk reactions to these “threats.” We ALL need to learn to manage feelings of “discomfort,” fear, and perceptions of threats where none exist. We really, really do. And when we’ve got histories of abuse ourselves, and are likely to be triggered, the necessity for self-awareness in this area even more crucial.

We must realize that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted, no matter what our nervous systems are screaming. React to real dangers, yes, but not to imaginary ones.

Outliers, Con-Artists, and Kooks

Finally, here is my response to the person (sadly, an academic) who posted the three “click bait” news articles in the thread (for reasons which remained largely murky for most of the duration). One had to do with a trans woman who assaulted fellow inmates; one was a screenshot of some fool who wanted to know if he could qualify for a STEM scholarship by pretending to be female; and the third had to do with someone who changed the gender of his driver’s license to get a cheaper car insurance rate.

I said:

“Hey, are there jerks, con artists, and abusers in every subgroup imaginable? You betcha. White cis female imposters like Rachel Dolezal pretended to be black in order to game the system. White cis female Andrea Smith pretended to be Cherokee and boosted her academic career until exposed. But no one who is reasonable uses these examples to argue against affirmative action in universities, or against welfare. TERFs, however, inflate stories like the above to justify their ‘fears’ and ‘discomfort’ and then promote and inflame these fears in others. The result is violence and social and economic injustice against trans and gender variant people. However I’ll take your sparse selection of outlier examples and raise you with all the names of all the dead on the TDOR site–people who have been shot, stabbed, mutilated, you name it–often for being in the ‘wrong’ place. I do not believe that posting what is essentially click bait advances this discussion. A much more robustly insightful examination of prejudice and entrenched systems of oppression is in order.”

There is so much more to say on this topic. But at the moment, I’m spent.


Disclosure: I am a 64-year old white, cis-het woman with a hidden disability. I am the mother of two adult children. One is trans. As a sexologist and writer I have been vocal in support for trans and intersex rights. My pronouns are “she/her” but gender neutral would be fine as well. To borrow a phrase from a friend and colleague, “I am reluctantly gendered” as female. I’ve also experienced sexual assault and coercion as well as physical violence, and have sometimes been afraid as a result. For most of my life I’ve identified as a feminist (of sorts) but certainly NOT a “radical feminist.”


 

NaNoWriMo 2018

Logo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month

I’m gearing up for National Novel Writing Month 2018! It begins on my birthday, November 1st. I began my fantasy fiction novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, during NaNoWriMo 2016, wrote all year long, then continued it during NaNoWriMo 2017. Still working hard!

But this year, I am winding up another round of editing on The Dire Deeds and am getting ready to start my second volume in the series: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This second volume will take place in Lake County and the “wine country” of California as the Hermits of Hermitville attempt to regroup and establish a LGBTQIA etc. (pretty much everybody-friendly) school of magic.

I don’t want to tell you anything else! For me, the plot and character development flows as I write, with only a vague idea of what might happen next. I’ll be as surprised as you are when I get to my 50,000 word count at the end of November.

One thing I do know, however, a certain fabulous trickster god will make his/her/zir appearance in the book! And those Viking horns on top of the NaNoWriMo log will be so very, very appropriate!

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You Need a Scorecard to Keep Track…

Fk-040
Here is a list of some of the relationship configurations involving the characters in The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, a work of fantasy fiction. Many involve characters in LGBTQIA categories. Kink and nonmonogamy are represented as well. (I’m not even including most of the Elves in this list.) There are a couple of spoilers here:
1) There are twelve human characters who are residents of Hermitville. Each one has an Elf mentor (most of these are nonsexual relationships).
2) Spoiler: Babe Bump (pansexual, intersex woman) and Oyster Olson (asexual, pan-romantic trans man) become fond of each other. Tomma Bedlam (pansexual, trans, non-binary person) makes three.
3) Tomma is also involved with a butch lesbian (former) lover and there may be a surprise Elf/Human triad in zir future.
4) Divorced couple Massive Max and Sybil are kinky and still sometimes get together when their lover Maxine can make it a trio.
5) Joe Hillstrom and Sidley Croom are an on-again, off-again gay couple with a long, complicated past.
6) Hermitville’s founder, Ginger Croom, may have had a Fey lover in her youth.
7) Aarrf, a multi-gendered human puppy, finds an Elven master.
8) Glysandra, a tantrika, is Ginger Croom’s tantra partner, even though they claim to be “not lovers.”
9) Archie and George (Elves) are still on their honeymoon after 350 years.
10) Sidley Croom also hooks up with at least one “bad guy” and has had hopes for several other liaisons.
11) A few characters have human/fey parentage (backstories in the second book!).
12) Parsifal and Maud (Elves) are a dyad but also part of a larger group marriage.
13) A giant salamander that really loves buildings.
14) Most of the Elves have not yet divulged their sexual preferences. However, there are twenty-nine possible Elven genders…
15) Several of the humans have not yet divulged either.
And yet, with all this, I haven’t written one single explicit sex scene, nor do I intend to do so! It’s kind of more fun this way.
Fk-053
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Movie Casting Fantasies

What follows next is FANTASY CASTING for the Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits AND for the Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits–like a fan game, okay? It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowskis give me a ring). Got that?


Update 2020: My understanding of my characters has deepened and mutated since I wrote the first version of this blog post. This is partly because some of my characters have gone through changes, and also because The Witching Work adds a whole new cast of characters. I’ve also become aware of a whole lot of new and amazingly talented actors and performers since I first started these books in the fall of 2016. Many of these performers are LGBTQIA+, transgender, intersex, otherwise gender diverse, and/or perform drag. This revised fantasy casting list includes an increased number of such folx, particularly among the Elves and in the second book, Lucky LaFey’s witch daughters.

As a writer, it really helps to have “a face” to give to my characters. Actors and performers are easily “recruited” in this imaginative exercise. And so, enjoy the list below. I can’t promise it won’t change!

mazzolani-10

These two books are about a group of human misfits (the Hermits) and their collisions with magic and a variety of supernatural beings, while having crazy dangerous adventures. It’s a “coming of age” story for characters who are already “old”–a tale of mid-life magic.

The Hermits of “Hermitville” (Book 1) and “Neoville” (Book 2)

*Babe Bump – intersex woman, pansexual. Imagining singer and actor, Eden Atwood, (with darker hair). She’d be terrific. And this song is a perfect way for her to express her feelings for her new sweetheart! Eden has been “the face” of Babe almost since the first chapter.

Babe often functions as the quiet, emotional center of The Hermits, but no one should underestimate her. She’s a sexy burlesque performer and an intersex activist, as bold in her way as Tomma is in zir’s. And she goes through some wild changes! [*Narrator]

*Tomma Bedlam – a gender fluid/non-binary person. Prounouns are ze and zir, and ze is pansexual. Tomma is a BIG personality–complex, creative, provocative, funny as hell, sexy, confrontational, flippant, intelligent, and courageous. Ze is also extremely tender-hearted. Tomma is Babe’s best friend.

I orginally had another person chosen for this fantasy casting, but lately I’ve been realizing that Dragula’s Disasterina (and the person behind her) has a lot of the emotional range, physicality, and humor that I associate with Tomma. Though I don’t see Tomma with quite the non-stop boisterous campiness of Disasterina, Tomma comes close in several scenes. I find myself wondering if the thoughtfulness (as well as the punk-drag energy) behind the creation of Disasterina would allow this performer to deliver the Tomma I imagine. It’s an interesting speculation! [*Narrator]

*Oyster Olson – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Imagining Will Krisanda who played Max in the Brothers series, but with a little grey hair added. For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson all along and I remain devoted to this fantasy casting choice. Will Krisanda has the kind of range that Oyster needs, as Oyster’s life takes many unexpected turns. (But he’d have to learn to play blues harp or fake it!). [* Narrator]

Aarrf Perry – a gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is also head of Hermitville security. This character requires a certain kind of versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. I now imagine Dina Nina Martinez in the roll, as she’s funny as hell and I think she could carry Aarrf’s character arc.

Joe Hillstrom – cisgender man, gay, photographer and personal trainer. I originally imagined Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him. However, there are several actors out there who could do wonderful things with Joe’s character.

Glysandra Shakti Om – cisgender woman, hetero, neo-tantra instructor. I originally imagined Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), as she is so sexually compelling. But there are others who do could the role too. There is potential for campy humor in this role, as Glysandra can be clueless but also overly sincere. If I was going to cast a drag performer, I’d go for Louisiana Purchase. I think she could do a lot with a hippy tantrika character!

Maximus Gordon – cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, musician and singer. I imagine casting an actor like Morgan Freeman or Idris Elba, but as Maximus is somewhat kinky, it has to be someone comfortable with that kind of role. Maximus is a former folk singer and his ex-wife and current girlfriend both live in Hermitville. They all get along.

Sybil Perry – cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Imagining Annie Golden as Maximus’ former wife and folksinging partner.

Minnie Richmond – cisgender OR trans woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. She is Maximus’ current GF. She and Maximus are somewhat kinky, so it has to be someone comfortable with that kind of role. I’d like this role to be given to a woman of color.

Jennifer Juniper – cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer. Imagining Rhiannon Giddens or Valerie Junes, except they’re both so good and there might not be enough for a musican of that caliber to do. Perhaps this is a role for someone who is an actor first, musican second?

Frank Talk – intersex man, heteroflexible, musician. I’ve thought of Mx. Annunaki Ray Marquez, an intersex activist and former professional pirate actor. However, Frank goes through some tough times in the second book (spoiler alert) and so the trauma might be tough on an actor.

Rozaline Rae – cisgender OR trans woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Imagining someone with a persona similar to Poison Ivy (of The Cramps).

Ginger Croom – cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. A “big” personality even so. I keep thinking Susan Sarandon (b. 1946), both for looks and for her activism (very much like Ginger’s). And who play the younger Ginger in flashbacks?

Sidley Croom – cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Sidley has red hair and a beard. Would look something like Jeff Bridges (b. 1949).

Elves of “The Realm” (Books 1 & 2)

Note: The Elves have 29 genders in their world, depending on their “element” at birth and timing of developmental “shifts” over the course of their lives.

Septimus Sitwell – Elf gender TBA. pansexual. Imagining Benedict Cumberbatch. Because this is a fantasy after all… And because Septimus has some great lines.

*Breadcrumb – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer who used to perform with Gooferman. I can imagine Jamie Clayton (Sense8 transgender actress) in this role. [*Book narrator.]

Professor Osbert Almond – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Imagining Tom Hiddleston with long hair (but more gloss and gleam than Marvel Loki) — mostly because he is an amazing actor and could bring a lot of depth to the professor, who has a complex backstory. Or perhaps Alexander Vlahos (Versailles), with long, dark hair.

Parsifal Berry Blue – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, T.W.O.’s dad. Character based on the real-life Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice. Would love to cast Puddles (Mike Geier) in this role.

Maud o’ Bedlam – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, Breadcrumb’s  mom. Imagining Eva Green (Penny Dreadful).

George Potts – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, married to Archie Smegley. Imagining Jake Zyrus (trans man actor/singer).

Archie Smegley – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, married to George Potts. Imagining Scott Turner Schofield (trans man actor) OR could be Evah Destruction, drag perfomer .

Gingevus Sitwell – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, brother to Septimus. Imagining Bill Nighy (with longish hair) OR could be Landon Cider, drag performer.

Who’s There – Elf gender TBA, pansexual. Imagining Biqtch Puddin’, drag performer (Dragula).

Hamfast – Elf gender TBA, pansexual, shapeshifter. Imagining Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Candis Cayne in a cameo appearance as “the Cosmic Soccer Mom.”

Supernatural Beings (Books 1 and 2)

Vesta the Salamander – this is a voice part.

Nienna, Elven Goddess – Dual role for Victoria Elizabeth Black (see Gyda below).

Lucky LaFey & Family (Book 2)

Lucky LaFey (Norse God Loki Laufeyjarson) – Imagining Hale Appleman (The Magicians), but with red hair.

Váli, Lucky & Sigyn’s Son – (changed into a wolf by Odin). Not yet cast.

Angrboda, Lucky’s Jotun wife – Powerful. Imagining Maxi Glamour, drag performer (Dragula).

Sigyn, Lucky’s Aesir wife – Imagining Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine). Brief action role.

Gyda, Lucky’s Witch DaughterVictoria Elizabeth Black, drag performer (Dragula). And see Nienna, above. She could do both.

Runa, Witch DaughterIndya Moore, transgender actress (Pose). I can also see her as Breadcrumb though.

Magnhild, Witch DaughterDahli, drag performer (Dragula).

Ylva, Witch DaughterAngelica Ross, transgender actress (Pose).

Thyra, Witch Daughter – the “punk rock” one. James Majesty, drag performer (Dragula).

The rest of Lucky’s Witch Daughters, not yet cast. Eerika, Alva, Oili, Ase, Unn, Sigrid, Gunvor, Nanna, Ingrid, Eira, Asta, Sylvi — all could be played by transgender actresses and/or drag performers.

Sophie “Socks” Lokisdottir – a transient human trans girl adopted by Lucky. Not yet cast.

Bad Guys (Book 1)

Anna Phylaxia – cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares. Imagining Vander Von Odd as fantastic in this cis female role, as well as the person behind the scenes who designs quite a lot of The Realm scenery and Elf costumes.

Stanford Lawsome – cisgender, part-human, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Half human. Imagining Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian supernatural foe, preference unknown. Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.

Sri Niri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun, leader of a Hippie Doomsday Cult. Small role. Haven’t cast him yet.

Bad Guys (Book 2)

Samuel Dipps aka “The Big Dipper” or “The Dip” – Wethrini supernatural foe. He looks like an orange, spray tanned “Malibu Ken” doll. This is a nasty villain! Haven’t imagined a fantasy actor yet. [Also, “The Dip” has minions, not yet specified.]

Anna Phylaxia – Returns as a friend of Samuel Dipp. See Bad Guys (Book 1).

Film Crew (Book 1)

Miranda Jackson – cisgender female, lesbian, documentary filmmaker. Have imagined someone like Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).

Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person, sexual preference unknown. Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, their). Camera. Imagining Em Grosland (New Ambsterdam).

Toledo Jackson – Cisgender male, hetero. Miranda’s goat-selling, former tweaker brother. Hippie dude. Imagining someone similar to Russell Brand, but even more unraveled.

Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors (Book 1)

Namaka – cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. I imagine someone like singer/activist Hāwane Rios or singer/activist Laulani Teale.

Uncle Iolana – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70ish. I imagine someone like singer Liko Martin.

The kapu baby, Keikiokalani (gender not specified), and a boy of ten. Not cast.

This “casting” is actually a productive exercise for a (cis, white) writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” and “cast cis” and to broaden the character possibilities beyond a token character or two, tossed in as a sop to “diversity.” It is also a way to search out and appreciate the work of talented people who in some cases have less recognition than they deserve. And it’s also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

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Oyster Olson – Humble Bluesman Turns Wizard

Oyster Olson is a resident of the fictitious Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective near Pahoa, Hawai’i Island. He is one of twelve “hermits” (musicians, artists, and oddballs) invited to live at the intentional community by the founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom. At the beginning of the book, Oyster has been a resident at the farm for about six years. And he’s probably the most introverted member of the community at that point.

Oyster didn’t start out in my mind as a main character in my work of fantasy fiction, but he, along with Tomma Bedlam and Babe Bump, have grown to become the three main human protagonists. Babe does most of the first person narration, but Oyster and Tomma also narrate chapters, and the friendship between the three is one of my major pleasures in writing this story.

At the start of the book, Oyster is shy, reserved, and somewhat unfocused–unless he’s playing music! In the second chapter, during the farm’s monthly “Community Emergency Response Training” (CERT) drill, Oyster has trouble remembering the meaning of the triage colors* (red, yellow, green) as Tomma, participating as a mock “disaster victim,” is carried to the medical tarp on a repurposed surfboard. Babe notices his distraction, but also takes note of his “swoony” brown eyes.

Oyster is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays blues harp (harmonica), synthesizer, keyboards, and even harpsichord, with The Incredible Unstrung Band (the farm band). While skilled on keyboards, his real joy is playing the blues on his harp. At one point in the book he’s delighted to find that Babe recognizes a Charlie Musselwhite tune that he’s playing (Sorcerer’s Dream). Babe, a neo-burlesque artiste, tells Oyster that she’s been a fan of Musselwhite since her teens, and that blues and burlesque go together like “poke and poi.”

Oyster is a transgender man. He’s been keeping this private at Hermitville for personal reasons, but eventually confides in Babe, who is very out as an intersex rights activist. (Tomma, a gender variant person with ze/zir pronouns, figured out Oyster’s secret on zir own, but discreetly never mentioned it.) One wonders why Oyster didn’t confide in Babe and Tomma before, but as I said earlier, the guy is shy!

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1

Oyster’s growth in the book is a result of his growing friendship and intimacy with Babe and Tomma, along with his training in magical arts, and through the magical, multi-dimensional challenges and dangers they all face together.

If I were to cast Oyster’s part in a movie version of the book, I know exactly which trans male actor would get the part. He’s a little younger than Oyster (who is in his mid-40s), but could definitely carry the role. He’s got the right look and “vibe.” Just add a few gray hairs…

*Red-Immmediate Care, Yellow – Delayed Care. Green – Minimal Care. When I lived in Pahoa, HI, I took the CERT training. I had also taken it in Albany, CA.

Intersex Characters in Hermitville

Babe Bump, the book’s primary narrator, and Frank Talk, one of Hermitville’s fine musicans, live in bodies that have intersex variations. However, Babe and Frank each deal with a different set of circumstances, as the intersex variation of each character is different.

Babe was born with partial androgen insensitivity. Fortunately for Babe, her parents resisted medical and social pressure to force genital surgery on her. She self-identified as female at an early age and so did not want androgen therapy at puberty. If you want a simple label, you can think of her as a woman with XY chromosomes. Babe is generally “out” as an intersex person as she is an activist for intersex and trans rights (as well as a well-known neo-burlesque performer).

Frank keeps his condition relatively private, but confided in Babe during the first few months of their residency at Hermitville. Frank has 47 XXY chromosomes, which is known as Klinefelter Syndrome. Most of the other Hermits don’t know, mostly because Frank doesn’t think it is any of their business. He is a performer and he focuses primarily on his music.

Though I am not intersex myself, I included intersex characters in this book, as well as other gender variant and sexually diverse characters, for several reasons – including my background as a sexologist and commitment to sexual and gender rights, my being the mother of a trans non-binary person, and just a general sense of fairness. In the interest of greater visibility, more such characters need to be included in a majority of written and filmed materials. However, characters with such variations do not necessarily need writers to be hyper-focused on the variations, either. This could just be a part of who they are, not the totality of their identities or the totality of how we view or understand them.

So, even though this is fantasy fiction (I’m not an Elf either, but I’m writing about them), I am hoping to do my part to help heighten visibility and awareness for a number of different types of people who are marginalized, including many people in the LGBTQIA etc. categories. The struggles that Intersex people face are almost beyond imagining (including forced surgical mutilation), and yet are very little known to the general public.

I encourage readers to check out these links:

United Nations Intersex Factsheet

Organization Intersex International USA and the Intersex Campaign for Equality

Mx. Annunaki Ray is an intersex activist with many incredible links and blog posts. Check out the page on links for intersex allies, including this printable PDF from OII.

Below is the symbol for Intersex Awareness Day (Oct. 26) and Intersex Day of Solidarity.

flag

Finally, if a movie is ever made from this book (Hear that, Wachowskis? I’d want YOU to direct! That’s my dream!), I would want intersex actors to play the intersex characters, trans actors to play trans characters, and so on – so all these folks could get more work!