Eddie, my first trans character, from the Tempest Series

When I was still living in Calgary, I put a story into a workshop. One of the critiquers, who I’m sure has gone on to have a much more enlightened point of view, seeing as how this was over ten years ago at this point, told me that if the main character was gay, it had to be important to the plot or to cut it.

I’m a big proponent of Chekhov’s gun theory of plotting (except when I was a kid, in which case it confused the hell out of me because the only Chekhov I knew of was the guy from Star Trek and I couldn’t figure out why a engineer from Starfleet was so important to plotting) but there was an assumed assumption in his advice, and that was being non-gay was “normal” and being gay wasn’t.

Eddie doesn’t appear Coral were his Bones until the very end of the story but he’s a driving force in No Mortal Business. Devon is as much an orphan as Finn is, but Devon’s parents died when he was so young he can barely remember the night they died or anything that happened before. He was three when it happened, and Eddie, who had been babysitting him since Devon was a baby, raised him in every way. He was ten when Eddie married Muriel, but even before he was part of a blended family, Devon had all the support he needed. Finn, on the other hand, was raised by a woman who was an older woman when she adopted Finn’s mother. When Finn’s mom died, Finn was six and his grandmother sixty. She provided for him as best she could, but the gap in their ages meant they were coming from two different worlds.

I have to admit I was a bit worried when I figured out Eddie was a trans man. I don’t say decided, because I didn’t decide he was anything. I was so afraid of doing “it” wrong. When you’re writing characters, whether the gender/orientation/race doesn’t match your own and the last thing I would want to do is hurt someone’s feelings. People bemoan about the “PC police” but I totally agree with Neil Gaiman’s idea that being “PC” is another way of saying “you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings”. And trans people out there have one of the highest levels of suicide, abuse, assault and unemployment because of who they are. I think when you write characters who don’t match up to the label you wear, you have to be respectful first and foremost.

Does that mean you can only make your bad guys white, straight able bodied men? Of course not. You just have to realize that when you do, Hollywood has branded gender and sexual minorites the bad guy since there was a Hollywood. Being gay or trans has been shorthand for evil or serial killers for a very long time. Lesbian couples may be evil, but you know at least one of them is going to die. Bisexual characters are immoral sluts who might stab you with an ice pick. If you do choose to make your villain a gender minority, remember you’re not saying anything original or unique. It’s been done literally to death. If you still want to go on the well trodden path that makes a gender minority evil, remember the high rates of abuse real trans people suffer. Fiction and life imitate each other as two mirrors set up across the hall from each other, and their reflections of each other have infinite iterations.

Eddie, as a trans man, thinks of his surgery as a gallbladder removal, i.e., no one’s business. He doesn’t attend LGBT events, but doesn’t judge other people for wanting to. Finn’s a selkie and his nose tells him more about the world than his eyes do, and his nose tells him Eddie’s a man as much as Finn or Devon is.

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