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breeden
ursulav

Too Subtle?

Quick question for you, my kind beta-readers--did anybody pick up that Grandma Billy is transgender? Think I went too subtle there...or we've moved to a glorious world where such things pass without comment, and I am skeptical (if hopeful!) of that last...

ETA: Thank you, guys, for the feedback--obviously whatever I am trying to do is not making the jump to the page at all, and I need to go hammer at it awhile longer. Big thanks for the suggestions, all. This is maybe a hard thing and I am trying to do it correctly--please forgive my flailing so along the way.

I confess to missing that.

I missed it as well. Honestly, I was more interested in figuring out what Selena's deal was, especially with regards to the boyfriend who wasn't described as an ex-, but I think is an ex- because if he wasn't, she'd at least be able to borrow money for a train trip back from him. I'm also trying to figure out what her deal is and how she got to be so timid and anxious.

I am really digging the postmaster/mayor, too. Grandma Billy wasn't as awesome as her, in my mind.

Edited at 2014-02-01 04:58 pm (UTC)

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I didn't catch it on the first read. I just reread more carefully, and still didn't really catch any moment where I should have clued in; I know several cis women with thick wrists and strong bones. "Billy was my second husband" probably deflected me a bit, too. (Though I'd already figured her name was originally Wilhelmina, and Billy was a nickname--so I had to do some mental adjusting there, but I never figured transgender, just androgynous. Which perhaps just speaks to my own mental defaults in reading...)

Between the "Billy was my second husband" and being married to a ciswoman who is 6 foot and large framed, the wrists didn't really raise any flags.

Oh! I had a flash of "I wonder if Billy is a fella who goes by "grandma" due to genderfuck reasons" but I took the pronouns in the narrative and the second husband comment at face (het-default) value.

Didn't catch that. Actually liked the fact that you weren't describing an older woman as a frail flower.

This. She certainly wouldn't be the first woman I've known of named "Billy".

I also didn't catch it, even on a re-read. My mental image of Grandma Billy is definitely of a thicker-built woman leaning toward androgynous, but from that short description and conversation I didn't even consider she could be trans*. That said, I'm probably still culturally conditioned enough that you'd have to beat me over the head with it before I'd start to wonder...

--SMQ

Totally didn't catch that. Looking back over it, pretty much everything falls under "old woman who doesn't give a damn what people think", including the name. In real life, wrists and hands are the biggest tip-off I've noticed, but it's not enough to give it away in this amount of text. You wouldn't want to overemphasize it, I wouldn't think. Not sure what else would work as a subtle clue, though.

Nope. I myself am a ciswoman with big feet/hands/wrists (size 10 shoe, 5'5" tall), so nothing short of an Adam's apple would have registered with me. (I also have whiskers.)

Yeah, my cis-womanly hands/feet/wrists/ankles are anything but delicate (8" wrists, size 13 feet), and at 5'9" I'm at the low end of average height for an adult American man so... totally did not get any pings. I'm afraid it would have to be quite obvious for me to catch it. Like "could see that from orbit" obvious, which is probably not something you can do sensitively short of the character talking about transitioning.

Catched "person" being mentioned more times than usual and started to wonder, but when grandma put the emphasis on grandma I accepted it as "female person" and did not think more about it. Then again, my wrists are thicker than my partners and I am born and identify myself as woman so I wouldn't get that reference either. :)

Same here, the use of 'person' flagged much more than the wrists

I didn't pick up on it. I wouldn't pick up on it in real life until and unless someone made a comment. Then I'd likely wonder why they thought it made a difference.

I mean - yes, it does make a difference to the transgender, it's important to them and it's part of them, but it's only important to me in how it affects them. From my incredibly selfish point of view, everyone is different and everyone is a person and what matters to me is how that affects me. Are they friendly? Are they poisonous? Are they interesting? Are they more interested in how impressed you are with them than how comfortable you are?

The older I get, the more I know how selfish I am. I accept people for who they are and if they want to tell me more, that's fine. But I don't see as how it's any of my business to be judging how they got there.

Goes for race and sexuality as well as gender. Who you are doesn't change who I am.

Sorry, I didn't mean to preach. Grandma Billy comes across as an irascible elder person who delights in the freedom of age from conventionality. I was a trifle confused by the difficulty the woman had in assigning gender to her, but since confusion is her defining characteristic I don't see that's a problem.

Grandma Billy comes across as an irascible elder person who delights in the freedom of age from conventionality.

This. And honestly, I didn't notice the use of 'person'. But I tend to be clueless about these things.

Did not catch it... and I'll mention, very gently, that using physical cues as a "giveaway" is sometimes hurtful to trans women, who are tired of having people play "spot the leftover hints of man" in their bodies and/or being reminded of ways in which their bodies are deeply traumatizing to them. For that matter, it may not thrill cis women with big bony wrists either!

Ditto using "person," as far as that goes; she's a woman, and subtly suggesting that she might not be (or is androgynous or un-gendered) is not an entirely kind thing to do to her.

The problem, of course, is that it *is* pretty awkward and difficult to tip readers off as opposed to just flat-out telling them.

On the other hand, having a trans woman character who is gives-no-fucks and seriously cool is awesome, so props for that.

That's the problem I'm having--it's tight first person so we have to stick with Selena's observation. I worry that if I default straight to female pronoun without any ambiguity, we'll have the issue that default = binary genders (and apparently that's what happened anyway!) So I'm not sure HOW to do it right here...

Another large-boned woman here, so didn't see anything but a non-frail elder, which was refreshing in itself. Besides, I used to have an honorary grandmother named Jimmy. :-P

I caught that as a "hm, there may be something genderqueer going on here..." but nothing definite.
I'd personally vote for leaving the narrative as-is, and perhaps having Grandma Billy's identity/past/whatever become clearer in the course of the story.

Yes, excellent suggestion. (Which, yes, means "that's what I was thinking!" LOL)

Missed it - another cischick with a load-bearing frame and knowing plenty of older women who give no fucks. Good on you for not doing the campy "we can totally tell, but we're humoring you" physical tells. IMHO, even if you've known someone on both sides of transition it's really hard to tell they used to be the same person unless you are a complete asspimple who starts forcing themselves to deny the person in front of their face. If it needs to be part of the story it's honestly better that it's not obvious when you meet her, and it would be more tasteless if it was.

Well, I didn't want to play spot-the-tells because that really is a jerk thing to do--but tight first person omniscient narrows some of the options down.

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