My relationship to bias against trans people in the publishing industry

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my ‘career’ (so to speak) as a trans writer for teens, which (oddly enough) now includes being one of the enemies du jour for a substantial part of the country!

Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much. I don’t lose sleep over it. If I got harassment or felt unsafe, I’m sure that would change. All the consequences are professional. There’s a huge appetite for trans narratives now, but I think they’re also risky, and that more marginal or nuanced perspectives like mine are just not what the country feels like it needs. That’s even aside from the risks of a book being banned by the right or cancelled by the left (or, as in a few cases, cancelled by right-wing trolls who pick out seemingly-offensive passages and use them to get the left riled up)

I see being trans the same way I see being a woman or being brown: it’s a definite professional liability, and it probably makes publication and acclaim harder to come by, but it also makes the work more meaningful. In a way, it’s kind of a privilege to be able to write about things that people care about, to say stuff that they might not’ve heard before, and to have a perspective that’s valuable. Which is to say, if it wasn’t harder for me to succeed, the would be less worth doing. I do think that if you want to produce something valuable, it’s always going to be more difficult, precisely because what is valuable is rarer, less-understood, and doesn’t have the same immediately-intuitive appeal.

But the fact is, I don’t rely on writing to pay the bills. That is the X factor. Other writers could disagree, but personally I think racism and prejudice are a lot easier to bear when your life and livelihood aren’t under threat. As I wrote earlier this year, if I never wrote another book, my family wouldn’t starve. That’s not true for most trans writers. There are a lot of people out there who need writing to work if they’re going to survive and have a good life. And these people just want to write. They just want to do the thing they’re meant to do. And if they were white, cis, straight, etc, they would have a much better chance of succeeding in this profession! It’s really sad! People come to me looking for reassurance, and I’m like…I don’t know what to say. It doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t always come together. People don’t always sell books. And that’s an injustice. It’s not the world’s worst injustice, but it’s hard when you see it happening to people who really do deserve better, and you know it’s happening because the industry just isn’t good to those with an outside perspective.

But speaking purely for myself, I’m fine. It’s not an ideal world, but I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m able to keep working and, basically, to just not think very much about that sort of discrimination.

I was remarking to Rachel recently that I think a lot of Indians of my parents’ generation, especially, just don’t get that worked up over American prejudice. And it’s because…they didn’t really expect better. Like, you don’t come across an ocean to a new country and expect the people in the new country to treat you like you’re one of them. You come for a better life. You come so you can get an education and do your work, and as long as you can do those things, you’re like, well…that’s pretty good! With regards to myself, that’s sort of how I feel: I don’t really expect anything better of the publishing industry or, really, of the world around me, so I’m rarely disappointed!

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