Trans Writers in Podcasts: Part One

Updated: Feb 28

Podcasts about Artistic Process & Trans Writing Community


The cover image for this post is the cover image from Hazel Jane Plante's podcast.


Like the literally endless project of creating a database of trans literature, this project (trans writers in podcasts) is mostly a vehicle for me to plop all the podcasts I've been loving in one place. The hope, of course, is that eventually this haphazard online collection of all things trans and writerly might become a useful resource for people other than Future Me, but we'll have to wait and see about that.


In the meantime...


Gender Reveal is a podcast created by Tuck Woodstock, a trans "journalist, audio producer, and equity educator," and this episode featuring Torrey Peters might just be my fave yet. Tuck and Torrey talk about the words transgender/transsexual, Torrey's book DeTransition, Baby, queer intergenerational divides, and Twitter (including, around the 29-minute mark, a poem Kai Cheng Thom posted to her Twitter and some of the reactions in the Twitterverse).


SOME EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • (12:45ish) On the popularization of the term "t4t" via her novella Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones, Torrey says "Clutch Fleischmann, who writes as T. Fleischmann, had been talking about doing [t4t] tattoos with their partner, Ambrose... and Clutch was hanging out with these girls... and these girls all just tattooed t4t on each other, y'know, pretty messy, late-night tattoos." Naturally, one of my partners & I have t4t tattoos, but I was totally unaware that Torrey's novella was at least partially responsible for this cultural phenomenon. (ALSO, speaking of Clutch and the ways trans writers support and hold each other up, Torrey is quoted extensively in Clutch's book, Time Is The Thing a Body Moves Through.)

  • (19:00ish) Torrey discusses her narrow experience of transness as a white trans woman, and the importance of being ultra-specific in her writing (especially when it comes to poking fun): "the more specific you are, you can kind of burrow in so far that it comes out the wormhole and becomes a little universal - that happened by necessity... good art is setting your targets right."

  • (25:00ish) Torrey forgets the word "Slytherin," opting for "Slither-Snake-Person" instead, and well this just made me cackle

  • (27:00ish) On the interpretive nature of writing, and what happens when readers conflate a character's opinions with a writer's or misinterpret the author's intent: "I've occasionally gotten annoyed when people have quoted the characters, and it's like 'Peters writes..." No, Peters doesn't write anything, Reese says this in Peters' book. But you can't get too bent out of shape about that either... I'm just happy people are reading it."

  • (34:40) "Foiled again by binaries!" - Tuck Woodstock (I reeeeally need to start saying this in my day-to-day life)

  • (45:00ish) "Female-to-female" and "male-to-male" transitions - I love this concept! That everyone's genders (cis people included!) can fluctuate over time, and that transition itself isn't a linear, uni-directional journey of either masculine ---> feminine or feminine ---> masculine. (Even though Reese, one of the protagonists of DeTransition, Baby, definitely conceptualizes transition in this kind of monodirectional way, which is an example of the distinction described at the 27-minute mark between characters' opinions/authorial intentions.) So, as Torrey puts it, maybe "you thought you were one kind of stereotypical man in one kind of role, and actually no, turns out you're a sensitive hippie or whatever... I think that is something cis people are wildly hungry for, and have no idea how to articulate, and they're coming to [trans people] to figure out."

  • (49:00ish) "What does it mean when a trans woman has a tremendous amount of power? What does she become? What is she capable of? And I don't mean that only in good ways... I mean, what is she capable of in really bad ways." Torrey hints at the subject matter of her next project...!



t4t is a podcast by trans writer Hazel Jane Plante all about "writing while trans." Basically, it's my dream-podcast-come-true.


Hazel has already interviewed some phenomenal trans writers, including Vivek Shraya, Casey Plett, Kama La Mackerel, and John Elizabeth Stinzi. I both love the scope of subject matter that Hazel addresses in each episode, aaand I wish some of the episodes themselves were edited more for conciseness and clarity (this interview with Morgan M. Page is over two hours long, which was challenging for my brain, but might be wonderful for other people's brains!!).


That being said, even if you aren't able to concentrate for the full 1.5-2 hours, Hazel has lovingly taken the time to write up a list in the show notes of all the topics covered in each episode; maybe in future she might also time-stamp these notes? [Edit: some episodes now have transcripts available, which is wonderful to see, including the phenomenal episode with Vivek Shraya.] It's worth taking a look through the show notes alone to admire and engage with the HUUUGE breadth of artists and artworks referenced; each episode I've listened to has led me down a rabbit hole of researching & learning about trans activism, art & culture. Plus, in this one, Morgan talks about writing "thinly-veiled Tomb Raider fanfiction" in her teens, which is an absolute delight.


SOME EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • (39:00 to 43:00) Morgan talks about "telegraphing more obviously" the references in her work to other trans artists. This is something I think about A LOT, and a lot of trans writers do in a way that really excites me, such as Torrey & Clutch (I may have another blog post in the works on the subject of trans writers in conversation with each other through fiction...!)

  • (43:00ish) Morgan's non-fiction history podcast, One From the Vaults, as a means through which "to re-introduce a trans oral history"

  • (57:00ish) The concept of "the deceptive transsexual... is it lying if they make you lie? If the world is set up such that a person cannot truthfully exist in it, and survive, is lying even deceptive... or is being deceptive a lie?"

  • (1:08ish) General ramblings on increasing trans representation: "now that we have this... golden era of trans representation happening, we have the opportunity to have more voices telling more different kinds of stories... so it's not all middle-class white people whose only opposition is a transphobic world... and it's also not all after-school specials anymore about, isn't transphobia awful?"

  • (1:10ish) Discussion of early critiques of Imogen Binnie's pivotal novel, Nevada, and how it was expected (by some folks in trans community) to represent everyone, and the general pattern within trans community and other underrepresented communities of "hyper-critiquing." Torrey speaks to this in the podcast episode on Gender Reveal, above, too.

  • (1:25ish) Advice to young writers from Morgan M. Page: USE A PEN NAME! Morgan talks about being held at the American border because of her work. Yikes!!

  • (2:09ish to 2:11ish) Morgan on intergenerational divides in the trans community (beyond the effects of the AIDS epidemic, which are well-documented and oft-discussed): "from 1977 to present day, there has been a concerted effort to make people afraid of intergenerational friendships in the LGBT world, which comes out of, like... the religious right! Y'know, they were trying to push this agenda that they had lost on the initial battle of gay righs in the early 70s, suddenly there was gay power... So they changed tactics and focused on age as a factor: we have to protect the children. And unfortunately, a lot of us grew up with that [false wisdom] that all strangers that are adults outside of your family are dangeous."




The Greenlight Bookstore Podcast isn't specific to trans writers, but does feature some amazing trans & GNC folks nonetheless. In this episode, Akwaeke discusses their book The Death of Vivek Oji with author Rivers Solomon (author of An Unkindness of Ghosts). The highlights for this episode are almost exclusively direct quotes, because Akwaeke talks a lot in this interview about craft and process, so basically I just would recommend listening to the whole damn thing (unless you want to skip the usual listing of these writers' various accolades and commercial successes, in which case you can start at 3:10).


SOME EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • (9:20) Emezi discusses the tradition in Igbo culture of giving children "reincarnation names" and one of the book's driving questions: "What happens if this [assigned male at birth] child is a reincarnation of the grandmother, but isn't given a reincarnation name because the parent assumes the child's gender at birth, and what are the spiritual repercussions of not being given a proper name?"

  • (21:00) Emezi on why they chose to write this story of grief and loss: "The craft of it came before the story, which is rare for me... but with Vivek, it was like okay, you need to think of a a structure first... I had read Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicles of a Death Foretold and I was like oh, you murdered your protagonist in the first chapter and you still had a book, and I'm not sure how you did that but that seems difficult, that seems like it would keep me busy. I'm going to try that."

  • (22:40) On writing a book where the gender non-conforming protagonist is immediately killed off: "I felt so bad because I was like, I wrote a queer character who dies. And there's no way to bring you back to life, because the entire point of the book is that you're dead. So I'm going to have to figure out how to make this work without it being a harmful trope... but he's also speaking from beyond the grave, and there's a lot of life in there, and it's really about his life. I was really nervous about that for a while."

  • (26:46) On polyphonic VS singular narrator stories: "I actually find [writing from] a singular perspective much more difficult [than writing from multiple perspectives]... it feels like having to force my attention onto something, it's not how my brain naturally works... [writing from multiple perspectives] forces my work to be rigorous, because I've already complicated it from the jump."

  • (28:00ish) Akwaeke discusses how they use the word-processing program Scrivener to help them write, organize and edit their work (rather than doing it analog, like Rivers).

  • (29:33 - 35:00ish) Akwaeke on writing about taboo subject matter (such as, in Vivek, incest) without imbuing the writing with any kind of moral judgement: "I really wanted to write love that was tender and deviant at the same time... is it perverse, and is it sweet, and can we put that together? Yes!"

  • (43ish- 47ish) On finding community and disentangling yourself from violent family dynamics: "I'm personally a big fan of disowning [biological] family... because we get disowned so often, I'm just like yes, you should be worried! That was when I reached a healthy point with my family, when I was like, I should disown you!... It shifted the power dynamic... It made them respect boundaries more."