Today, Christopher Hawthorne Moss is stopping by to talk about writing as a transgender man and his novel Beloved Pilgrim! A runner up for the 2014 Rainbow Award, Beloved Pilgrim follows Elisabeth, who becomes Elias and travels to the Holy Land in the midst of the Crusades.
Do you identify along the LGBTQ spectrum in real life? How does that affect your writing?
I am both transgender and gay, that is, a gay man. It affects my writing by making me do a few things different from other writers. I find writing about gay men and their romantic involvements both stimulating and very much my own experience, so I can write, I hope, identifying with the gay men involved.
But as a transgender person I realize that might not be a perfect match since my body is female even if my heart and brain are male. I also try to relate the experience of transgender people, particularly FTM, female to male transgender people, and am aware that the “cismen”, the male bodied male gays, in my stories might not be attracted to the body and experience of a female-bodied transgender man. In one story I had the transgender man conceal his female body by only allowing his partner to receive his ministrations but not return them, that is, until his partner discovers he has a female body, and as it is a historical novel, cannot have surgery or hormones to make his body mimic a man’s. In that case the gay partner comes to realize he loves the transman for his brain and heart.
But of course there is no guarantee the gay man with the male body will relate to him that way, making the tension between them very tough. I don’t write novels about lesbians myself, so when my transman character is female bodied, I don’t have him relate to lesbian women, but I certainly could, which would make for an interesting story. But since I mostly write as a gay man about gay men, I try hard to understand how their male bodies affect their relationships with each other and try to do it right.
What was the hardest part of writing authentic LGBT fiction?
The hardest part of writing gay fiction is knowing precisely how two men relate to each other, both emotionally and physically. I try, being in my heart and brain, a man to feel what makes sense to me, but I know I have to use my imagination to really relate. I hope that the fact I identify as male will at least help me understand how two men can love each other fully. But I also know that growing up in a female body I did not have the same experience as a boy, though I had the confusion of having the wrong body. That means I have some of the same experience and additional issues of bias from others.
What has your experience with your editors and publicists been like, in terms of writing LGBTQ fiction?
I write for a gay romance and a YA GLBT press, Dreamspinner Press and Harmony Ink Press respectively. Most of the authors for Dreamspinner are most likely straight women, so we support each other and are supported by our publishers in that experience. They also appear to understand my particular experience as a transgender man, plus as such I can be a resource for their other authors. I have had one gay male author ask me to read his work for Harmony Ink Press to see if his transman character was authentic. I can also write novels that include transgender characters for Harmony Ink Press, which is a great opportunity for me.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring LGBTQ YA writers?
Be as clear on your representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning young people as you can. Remember that young LGBTQ people and readers may be new to their own sexuality and have lots of questions about who they are, who they might fall in love with or simply desire, and what might be expected of them in terms of maturity. Remember that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes and treat others indelicately sometimes. We don’t always know what to do or say or feel. Be sensitive about that, including about gay, lesbian and transgender people’s particular issues. For instance, in my upcoming novel about a transgender boy and an asexual boy I had to think how each might relate both physically and emotionally to their differences and their similarities. It would not do to show myself as operating on myths about each.
This weekend – including this interview – is part of the Queer YA Scrabble, to raise money and awareness for Stonewall. Stonewall is a charity committed to helping queer people (especially teens) navigate adversity and promoting education. The Queer YA Scrabble will run this entire weekend, from to the end of the day on Monday, June 8.
We here at YA Interrobang have partnered with the authors of Clan Hydra to bring you the most awesome prize box imaginable. Laura Lam donated a signed paperback copy of Shadowplay. Tess Sharpe donated a signed paperback copy of Far From You – with a specially written short story accompanying it! Robin Talley donated a signed paperback copy of Lies We Tell Ourselves, along with some swag. Astor Penn donated a signed paperback copy of All the Devils Here. You will also be entered to win a paperback copy of Christopher Hawthorne Moss’ Beloved Pilgrim, a paperback copy of Matthew J. Metzger’s Vivaldi in the Dark and Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun.
To enter the giveaway, you can fill out the form below. You’ll need to find and decode a special phrase in some of the Queer YA Scrabble posts back into its original word to enter, but we promise – it’s not hard. The giveaway is open to the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, Canada, Mexico, and anywhere in continental Europe except Russia. Unfortunately, do to the prohibitive cost of shipping, the giveaway and auctions are not open to countries in Africa, South America, Asia or Australia. (Sorry, Aussies.)
The Queer YA Scrabble giveaway is over; thank you for participating!