On the Necessity of Making Our Own Myths

So, I’m writing this on what is technically the day after I finished Transistor.  That is, it’s after midnight, even if I haven’t gone to bed yet.  The reason I mention that is because it won’t get posted for a couple of weeks since it’s going in the queue for the Monday blog posts, but the timing in relevant.  You see, the same day I finished Transistor, I saw a Tumblr post talking about Harry Potter and JK Rowling and in one of the responses to the original post, a trans person talked about how Rowling betrayed a whole swath of her fan base.

The comment stuck with me for a number of reasons.  First, because it really does feel that way.  My childhood wasn’t great.  In fact, it kind of fucking sucked in a lot of ways, and I missed out on a lot of the experiences other kids got to have.  When I discovered Harry Potter, I latched onto in a big way, because it filled a huge void I hadn’t even realized existed.  I loved those books so much, I can’t even put it into words.  When Order of the Phoenix came out, my girlfriend at the time and I ended up with four copies, because Amazon didn’t deliver the two copies we had on preorder on release day, so we went down to borders and bought two copies.  We went to the midnight release for Half-Blood Prince.  Harry Potter was a huge part of my life for years, and now I flinch every time someone makes a Harry Potter reference, or Rowling’s name comes up because it’s an instant reminder that someone who created something I loved deeply doesn’t believe I have the right to exist.

But I think the second reason it stuck with me is a lot more important.  It stuck with me because it made me realize that far to often, as queer people, and especially as trans people, we look to people outside our community to create our myths for us.  It’s not something that’s really our fault, because for a long time, we didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.  For a long time, queer people, and especially trans people, were silenced by systematic censorship and oppression.  Queer narratives just weren’t allowed, or if they were allowed, they had to end in pain, misery and tragedy.  Those were the rules imposed by the gatekeepers.

Those rules have slowly but surely faded away.  First through queer people bypassing the system by setting up our own publishing houses, and making our own movies, but then, when the mainstream media realizes that queer people had money, they rushed in, trying to get those queer dollars.  First my queerbaiting, then by safely neutered queers who never dated or had relationships, then with the gay secondary characters, and only very recently, with the very occasional, heavily sanitized queer lead.

But the problem is, we as a queer community, and more specifically, we trans people, are looking outside of our selves for the mythology we need to nourish our souls.  That’s not healthy for us for any number of reasons.  First, because if we rely on straight people to create our myths, or to approve our myths, we never really get to see ourselves.  Not really.  We get to see what cishet people consider acceptable queers.

This leaves us with myths that are cut off from our culture.  When was the last time Alex Danvers made a horrible gay joke about herself?  When was the last time Batwoman attended Pride?  When was the last time you saw a group of queer characters sitting around bitching about straight bullshit?  When we let outsides create or approve our myths, we only ever see versions or ourselves that are acceptable to those outsiders.

Which brings me back around to Transistor.  Transistor is the fourth novel I’ve finished this year, and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not incredibly proud of the other three, because I am.  It’s just that Transistor holds a special place in my heart, because of what it is.  The first piece I’ve ever written with a Transgender protagonist.  It’s a myth intended to speak to people like me, to people who have had the same sort of experiences as me.  It speaks to the shame and insecurities trans women feel about our own bodies.  It speaks to the imposter syndrome that’s an inevitable result of transphobia and TERF rhetoric.  It’s speaks to the religious alienation we feel because of the way the church rejects and demonizes queer people, to the way our families reject us or ignore us when we need their help.  It speaks to our often traumatizing relationship with our own bodies.  It speaks to the way law enforcement neglects, abandons and abuses us.  It speaks to found family, and the lengths we’ll go to in order to protect the people we love.

Transistor is, on the surface, a story about a woman who accidently gets Superpowers, and ends up having to fight an angel to protect her girlfriend, but scratch the surface, and you’ll find a diary of my experiences as a trans woman.

I think the queer community, and especially the trans community needs more of that.  We need more storytelling, more mythology, that comes from within.  We need to raise our own voices and tell our own stories, because at the end of the day, no one else can tell those stories the way we can. No one else can tell our stories honestly and authentically.  And as long as we rely on people outside of our community for the stories and myths that inspire us and give us hope, we will always be waiting for the next betrayal, the next person to come along and give us something we love, only to snatch it away and tell us how vile and disgusting we are.

I wish I had something cleaver to say, or some words of wisdom to wrap this up, but honestly, after what I wrote today, I’m spent.  All I can really say is that a culture without its own mythology is not a culture which lasts.  We need to give voice to our stories, to give birth to our own mythology so that it’s there for those who come after us to find and absorb so that they don’t just know what came before, but they can feel it and understand it.  Otherwise, who and what we are will be lost.