For a long time, I didn't think representation in fiction affected me the same way it affects most people. I intellectually understood that it mattered, and why, but I didn't fully get it. I'd read books with protagonists who were boys and protagonists who were girls (and protagonist teams that had both), and it didn't make much of a difference to me. I admittedly had (and still have) a soft spot for stories where a girl passed herself off as a boy, like Alanna, then of Trebond, from Tamora Pierce's Tortall universe, but there wasn't any great reaction to protagonists who were "like me".
Probably part of this was that most autistic characters written by non-autistic authors are really stereotypical. Definitely part of this was that I'd never actually read a story with a protagonist of my gender. Ever.
By which I mean, I'm non-binary. Reading a story about girls isn't actually representing me, no matter how many people mistake me for a girl.
Then I read Ninefox Gambit, The Raven Strategem, and Revenant Gun.
On top of the plots, which, yes good, these books have casual trans representation. There is an important minor character who uses they/them pronouns, and it's not considered noteworthy that they do. There are plenty of things that are noteworthy about this absolutely terrifying human, but in-universe, their pronouns are just a casual thing.
I actually started crying when I first saw Zehun referred to as a they.
There's also a trans guy in the story whose transness is, again, not a big deal in-world. We know about it because we see him binding (or undoing his binder before bed? I don't totally remember.) That's literally the only reference, but it tells us that yes, there are trans people in this universe. Many (perhaps most?) get surgery, but there are still trans people who bind.
He's a man and I'm not, but again, I cried. Here's a character binding and also being very important to the story for reasons that have nothing to do with his being trans.
When we talk about casual representation, with trans characters in stories that aren't about being trans, this is what we mean. (And yes, I'm aware of some irony in this post being about how they are trans. Representation matters, so I'm going to tell y'all the characters are, in fact, trans. Zehun is like me. I needed that.) There's enough information for me to know these characters are trans. But the story isn't about gender. It's about oppressive interstellar empires and living within (or upending) them. With trans people in it. Their world isn't one I especially want to live in, but it's one that recognizes people like me exist. That means something.
Alyssa Hillary, an Autistic graduate student, blogging about life, the universe, and everything, especially their life. (The answer is 42.)
Note For Anyone Writing About Me
Guide to Writing About Me
I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.
I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.
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MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Casual Representation Matters
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Alyssa, your writing is such a gift to me. I cried reading this! Thank you so muchReplyDelete