How to even bring up that my character is trans?!

So… I’m going to write a teen romance and one of the main characters is a trans woman. Of course, I want to make sure I’m making a positive contribution to LGBTQ writing, but I have a dilemma:

Hannah is living as a woman. She’s gone through her transition and being trans doesn’t really affect her social interactions. She is a woman and everyone sees her as a woman. Because she isn’t the POV character, though, I haven’t found a way to actually bring up that she’s trans, since it doesn’t really come up much in her conversations with the POV character. Of course, the two of them are best friends, so the POV character is aware, but she doesn’t really care, if that makes sense.

How can I make it clear she’s trans? And if I can’t, how can I make a positive contribution towards transgender representation if no one even thinks about the fact that Hannah used to be male?

So, I have NO QUALIFICATIONS to answer this question, so I’m sorry if I offend anyone, as I know this is a really touchy subject, but I don’t see that’s it’s important to bring up if it affects her as little as it does. After all, if someone switches over, it would seem to me that they would want to be able to live normally in their new gender without being defined as transgender. It’s great you want to make a contribution, but I don’t personally think you should force it into the story if it doesn’t naturally come up. But then again, that’s just me, and I have NO EXPERIENCE about this, likeI don’t know anyone LGBT, I’m not LGBT, I’m just using what few, feeble mind muscles I have.

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References to things she’s done toward transition. Ex: I have a trans character in Lilium who says the following

“The day I believe that is the day my breasts come in”
To which Lilith points out that she IS taking hormones to grow them

Uh… I mean childhood photos too MAYBE? But that’s a really iffy situation and if you do that I would seek the input of trans people on that content shrug

In general we just. Want to be acknowledged as the gender we are and not treated like “others”. General subtext things can help clue readers in that this character is trans but otherwise tbh I wouldn’t sweat it so much

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Brainstorming here… Perhaps Hannah is an activist in the trans community. This info can come out organically, and we can learn why Hannah is involved in this way. Perhaps someone says something ignorant about trans people, and Hannah speaks up, which reveals her identity. Perhaps she reminisces about a past memory with the POV character when she was still living as a male. Perhaps the POV character (or some other character) slips up and call her by her former name and has to be corrected… Anyway, this is all just to get your brainstorming juices flowing. Good luck!

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I feel like you should have a really old friend of hers (could be a guy or girl) asked her how was the transition. Or, you can even have a family member she hasn’t seen in years.
Oh, and make them sound super sympathetic and have a family member or friend not support her.

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Or she can just visit the doctor that helped her become trans

Even if Hannah has medically transitioned, she may not always “pass” as a woman. If Hannah started as a man of average height, she’ll be tall for a woman and may resemble a drag queen. And though she may take singing lessons to expand her upper register, her natural voice may still be masculinly low.

So even if your protagonist percieves her as female, there’s a good chance others may not, and that will affect her social interactions.

The only way Hannah could avoid this is by transitioning very young, perhaps even taking hormonal blockers to prevent puberty. See: Kim Petra, Thai “ladyboy” culture. But the best she could hope for if transitioning in adulthood is to resemble Caitlyn Jenner, who gets 100x more plastic surgery and photoshop than the average trans woman.

Note that passing isn’t as much of an issue for trans men. Short men stick out less than tall women, and hormone treatment can cause a voice to drop (though not vice versa). The issue trans men run into is that it’s much harder to do any sort of bottom surgery.

Source: I know some trans women. While they may be able to take an online selfie that looks female (angled to hide an Adam’s apple, etc), there is no way in real life that I’d mistake any of them for biological women. Passing privilege is rare!

To answer your question directly: Maybe Hannah refuses a drink of water because there’s no single-toilet bathroom nearby. She’s afraid that if she uses the ladies room she’ll get yelled at, but if she uses the mens room she’ll get beaten up. This is a real issue for trans folx and causes many of them to deliberately limit fluid intake while away from home.

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lol I had a similar problem with a book I was writing. It’s difficult to get around 'cause it seems downright cheesey to just say “well she was a man but now is a woman.” On the other hand, if you dance around it too much your readers might not get it.

In one book I got around it because I have a character that just blurts out whatever’s on her mind, she’s a kid so she can get away with it. I have one scene where she says “I can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman.” And that leads into a brief but effective explanation.

The other book I’m working on where I’m finding it more difficult is where the MC is best friends with a transgender boy, but didn’t know this person back when they were referred to by their biological gender. And no, the fact that this character is transgender really has nothing to do with the story and I don’t want to devote any scenes to it. It’s just how I’ve always viewed the character myself. Honestly, I might just leave it vague. Like I said, it won’t change anything either way so it doesn’t really matter if the reader knows or not.

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To preface: your bathroom point, good. And voice, depending on how far along in her transition this character is. But uh.

As a trans person, with trans friends, perpetuating the stereotype that a trans person who transitions later “may resemble drag queens” and “the best (they) could hope for… Is resembling Caitlyn Jenner” is… Wow.

Yes, trans people might not always “pass” but it’s depending on the type and length of transition, and what stage they’re in when we see them. Also like… There are plenty of cisgender “masculine” women and androgynous people who are not trans so this whole “I can tell them apart” trope is at best blatantly false and at worst, wholly damaging. You might be able to tell some, sure. But I have to wonder if you and the trans women you know didn’t become friends until after their transitions, before they disclosed this information to you, if you really could “tell the difference”

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I did not meet some of these women until after their transitions. But while I could tell that they present as women and should be socially treated as such, it’s pretty obvious they were born male.

So the situation that OP has in writing fiction would be unlikely in real life, for a variety of physical reasons. That was the point of my above comment.

I’ll add that since OP is writing teen fiction, there’s a better chance that Hannah could pass due to youth. But if she’s still at the same school she attended before transitioning, her classmates won’t let her forget it. In fact, Hannah may time a school district transfer to a point in her transition where she thinks she could pass.

The situation you are presenting as “real life” CAN be applicable and CAN happen to trans people, but is not the end-all be-all reality of trans people who seek transition later on in their lives. You’re using anecdotes based on your own experience. And indeed I have as well - even our own personal experiences conflict with each other, so presenting this scare tactic “this is the best she can hope for if she transitions later” is not a guarantee and in actuality rarer than you postulate it is, and that’s before we even consider people’s type of transition and how long they’ve been pursuing it.

There are plenty of signals that can alert someone that a second person is trans, but in my experience it’s moreso been a myriad of superficial items - i.e: things on their person, not things making up their person.

And let’s be honest here this whole “I can tell who was born x and not” is based in transphobic propoganda. Not that you are yourself transphobic - though the tone of your initial post and this secondary one are indeed antagonistic and othering.

As for her transition and classmate reactions? It really…honestly depends. The most vocal narrative for trans teens is that everyone will hate them - parents, teachers, peers - but that does not mean it is the universal experience. What’s to stop OP from putting Hannah in a trans-friendly environment? Hell, transferring schools was never mentioned so…

To reiterate, I’m not saying that the situations you are presenting arent real, merely that they are rarer than you are presenting them to be.

Can trans people for once in our lives get narratives where we aren’t othered or hated and just. Allowed to be lmao

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Fair enough.

As for our anecdotes, it’s possible we’re viewing two entirely different age groups. I’m a 30something whose acquaintances go up to middle age, a cohort that remembers when Ellen was in the closet. If you’re a teenager who regards they as a singular pronoun, your experience may well be different.

I introduced a trans character by making him tell about his past, when he worked as a maid. Because the MC is going “wtf, maid?” the penny drops.
~The character is inspired (and named) by a trans friend of mine, and he read and loved it :slight_smile:

(Background: He just walked in, and he’s smol :heart: he will be working as a butler but is actually an assassin, which is confusing the hell out of my MC xD)

“You see, back before the first world war, I was a maid. I became an assassin during the war—and it’s also how I became blessed with transcendence.”
Hannah added, “He saved one of us but at the cost of his own life—hadn’t she transcended him.”
Lea frowned. “So, you’re fine with it because you were a maid a century ago?”
“Yes, ma’am. Even after being transcended, I’ve been a maid and a butler quite often as it’s a good cover for an assassin—especially for one with my physique.” There was a devious glint in his eyes.
Still confused, Lea asked, “Why a maid? Was it normal back then to have guys dress up as girls?”
Hannah and Rory exchanged looks and chuckled.
“Oh, you’re a doll.” Rory took a step closer to Lea and whispered, “Back then, this lad was still a lass. A very confused lass, but a lass all the same.”
Lea flushed as she finally understood. “I-I’m sorry if I offended—”
Rory waved his hand and smiled. “No offence at all, ma’am. I said I was a maid back then, so it’s only normal it would provoke questions.”

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As for other ways… A family member of mine is trans and hospital visits or check-ups are “reminders” of this. So you can bring that up (she gets her blood checked, or because she had surgery recently she goes back for a check-up–or you just have her talk about when she will get surgery (if your character even wants that))

Other “reminders” are that when we talk about childhood events, before she realised she was a girl, we still tend to call her by her male name, as those memories are of her as a boy. (Though, I do need to say that we are using her female name even with old memories more and more.)

And furthermore… jokes. We had a game night last weekend and because she had her surgery not too long ago, jokes about sausages (well, lack thereof) did happen several times xD but that would also depend on the type of family/friends group you have if your character would actually find such things funny or offensive. (We are a group who love Cards against Humanity, so that should give you an idea about our type of humour =P (and take a guess who tends to win when we play…)

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Just thought of this… You can have her receive mail and the envelope still has her old name on it.
Could have her groan and state she always forgets to update her credentials. It’s simplistic and without the need of any discussion/conflict/negativity :slight_smile:

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@Shimaira I agree - for all of my trans friends, the only reason it usually comes up is because they’re joking about it. :laughing:

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You may also be able to find a fellow Watty who identifies as trans to do a pass on your first draft if you offer a crit on their work in exchange. That’s always my first instinct when I go far afield from the boundaries of my own experiences. And hey, if you guys happen to be writing in similar genres you might find a beta partner :slight_smile:

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I mean, I kind of get where you’re coming from - some trans women don’t pass, and I think it might be harder for a mtf to pass than a ftm - but it’s definitely not true that all late transitioning adult transwomen don’t pass.

For instance, you’d never guess Contrapoints was trans if she didn’t mention it, and she only started transitioning a year or so ago.

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I’m not a teenager, and they/them have been used in singular fashion since Shakespeare. But yes, our experiences are indeed different, especially considering I am transgender and your experience comes from observing transgender people. Shrug

@Bobbi_McAllister OttoRocket on Tumblr is another example I point to. I mean, I hate Tumblr but she’s a walking definition of a glow-up

I’ve definitely found narratives like this (the older you get the harder it is to pass) mostly serve to scare older trans people - like my partner, for example. Or myself.

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I am a trans man who has been living “stealth” for about 15 years, meaning, most people have no idea that I wasn’t born male. So, I’m no high schooler, but I may have a perspective that’s useful.

When talking to my mom the only time me being trans comes up is when she’s ranting about politics and how she fears for me in today’s political climate. Current events, politics, and activism are definitely ways to mention your character’s trans identity.

When talking to my wife, my being trans comes up in a few different situations. For instance, we talk about my hormones, as in, “Did you remember to refill your testosterone? You get cranky when you don’t take your shot on time.” Maybe two high school girls would chat about hormones - breakouts and mood swings are real side effects.

Sometimes my wife and I talk about disclosure. I tell very few new people about being trans, but I could totally imagine two high school friends talking about whether someone knows or not. This would especially be a topic of interest if your trans character is interested in dating someone.

When I was younger my being trans would come up in relation to running into old acquaintances who would misgender me, conversations about legal stuff (name changes, ID, etc), and maybe with physical insecurities.

I’m sure my being trans comes up in other situations, but can’t think of them right now. Like I said, most people just perceive me as a cis male, and I usually don’t correct them.

I hope that gave you some ideas! Good luck with writing!

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