Log in

No account? Create an account
See you later, instigator
Or rather, a better question is what do I want to read.

My relationship with mainstream publishing is strained, to say the least. I have about a million problems with the line people want to forcibly draw between "fan" and "original" fiction on the basis of little more than copyright law, and purchasing traditionally published books always feels subtly like buying into it. Also, there is a certain style in a lot of these published works that comes across as a little...pretentious? Uniform? Now, I'm not summarily calling a diverse bunch of writers bad. I'm saying that there's a certain style and a certain topic range that has a higher chance of being traditionally published, and most of the time that doesn't do it for me (anymore). I'm looking to be proven wrong.

Now in fandom, reading has always felt more genuine. I don't think I need to justify in an LJ post of all places why I think the traditional(ist) view of fandom sells it short, so I'll just focus on what the issues are, right now, for me. You see it used to be much easier to find things I at least moderately enjoyed, and on occasion enjoyed a whole lot, in fandom. It's gotten much harder recently. And again, I'm not making a statement to the effect that there's suddenly a lot of bad writers - there's not. In fact, the reason is me.

Ever since I had the amazing epiphany that in most canons, the characters didn't have to be cis any more than they had to be straight, I've changed how I approach reading and interacting with fandom media. (I also think everyone should have this epiphany to question their own assumption of cis being the default, but I digress.) There's some small acknowledgment of trans (I include nonbinary under that label) interpretation in fandom now, but it's all wrapped in condescending, double-standard rhetoric - particularly the term "headcanon", as if a legitimate reading of a character as trans or any other marginalized group were somehow more "in your head" than the mindless assumption that they all have to be cis, all the time. So that's already something that alienates me, because even when I do find an author or artist who portrays character XYZ as trans, 99% of the time they will preface it with something to the effect of "behold my headcanon. Sorry not sorry."

Maybe you should be sorry for treating trans readings as lesser or somehow intrinsically outlandish. But people prefer to apologize for doing it at all.

That's not even getting into the second, more obvious problem: trans fanworks are rare. Shockingly, disturbingly rare, and the few we get tend to come wrapped in a thick sheet of self-deprecation (often) and deprecation from the outside (almost always).

So nowadays, if I even want to go out looking for fics of my favourite characters, I have to resign myself to the fact that most of them will fail to align with my interpretation of them at the first hurdle. And sure, you "shouldn't" care so much about whether someone is trans or cis. And indeed if the numbers were even, I wouldn't. I'd just read anything indiscriminately, the way I used to back in the old ignorant days of not even realizing existing characters could be trans. But as it stands, with the numbers so overwhelmingly in favour of cis readings - so much that they're not even considered readings, they're considered fact - I can't.

But I'd like to read indiscriminately. I'd love to have that epistemic privilege.

In my primary fandom, if I find any trans fics, they're written by me, my lovely partner, and/or a few mutual friends of ours (as in, think single digits). For art, the number is even lower because unlike the rest of the aforementioned people, I can't draw. But even if I could, the point is that you shouldn't necessarily have to make it to have it. The thing should just be available.

Like most everyone, I get attached to my preferred readings. And when people just sweep through that first layer of interpretation, when they get to that "of course" moment when their interpretation of a character as invariably cis becomes the material of their fic or pic, after a while that kind of hurts. Stupidly, because it's not like they owe me anything. Or even produce their fanworks with a specific intent of distressing someone out there they don't even know. Obviously. Sadly that doesn't change my reading experience.

If I knew someone thought trans interpretation of a character was valid and just chose to write that character as cis on that particular occasion, that would be different. With strangers, though, it's much more realistic to assume that they've either never even considered it or would outright reject it. ("Assume" is probably the wrong word. We've been in enough fights to know people do reject it.)

There's also the fact that you won't have much of an audience if you go against the grain in this regard. I wrote my share of cis-assumed fics. In my main fandom, I eventually left a note at the end of those saying thanks for reading, I'm still happy with the characterization but could you check out my newer work with my current take on their genders? Can you guess which fics are still getting kudos after years and which sit there with a count that doesn't seem to budge?

And yet, and yet. It's not about the numbers or popularity. I don't think it's even particularly about me, in the wider context anyway. But it has resulted in this bizarre practice where I'm actually more likely to read fic for characters I don't care as much about as my primary faves, simply because it won't bother me as much when people immediately jump to the cis assumptions with them. Or I read in fandoms where I wasn't expecting it anyway, or was happier with the cis assumptions there (I generally have no problem reading about cis women because there's already so little representation for them as well, especially in fandom. Although that doesn't mean trans women shouldn't be represented). A nice way to broaden one's horizons perhaps, but no one should feel that alienated from their main fandom interests. No one should feel the need to actively avoid them outside of a specific circle of trustworthy people. And yet, here we are.

The final problem is one of content, and I freely admit I used to be like this myself. Too many trans fics are "about" being trans. Of course that gets boring fast. That's the same format over and over, and usually padded with the worst stereotypes too (alongside a heaping dose of misery). Of course many people wouldn't be interested in writing that. The thing is, neither am I - I want characters who are casually trans. Who do all the same things we've seen them do, only without the assumption that a cis person, usually a cis dude, did it. Who are known to be trans and aren't questioned. Who take a positive stance on it. Oh, and I want porn. I want the full range of moods and genres and plots and situations that have always been available to cis characters.

That's what I'd like to write (more of), and that's what I'd like more people to write. While it's infinitely more valuable to have such a fic written by someone as a labour of love, it would also be nice to live in a world where trans stories can come completely out of left field. And I just don't see the latter happening.

I want to write more. What do I read?