Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Trans Characters

I want to write Tippetarius from Oz as a transgender character (trans woman), but I’m struggling with figuring out how to best describe her (not to mention I’m not transgender myself and have no clue what that’s like).

I am doing research on the topic, but I’m also hoping folks here might be able to give advice.

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You’re in luck, the FWG just so happens to have a number of trans members. I’ll make sure this post is seen.

This is like my favorite thing! I’d love to help with whatever questions you may have.

Thanks a lot! The help is greatly appreciated!

This is like my favorite thing! I’d love to help with whatever questions you may have.

Thanks a lot! In the original book, Tip is fun-loving and a bit of a mischief-maker, which I plan to keep in her. However, I’m not quite sure how to get the transgender part across. Clothing isn’t going to work (Oz has different fashions than Earth) and I want to avoid being accidentally transphobic in regards to her description. What should I use? What should I avoid?

I hate to bump, but I really could use some help on this.

While I don’t want to focus on getting ‘clocked’ as a defining part of the trans experience, it is an event that’s almost uniquely trans. It’s a source of uncomfortable dysphoria, and is one way you can add relatable pathos to a trans character. When I wrote a trans characters, I found a few sexually dimorphic (but not sexual) characteristics of that character’s species to give hints to other characters as to their identity that someone living in that world would be familiar with. Friends might avoid drawing attention to it, while unkind or unaware outsiders might mention it.

One other thing that’s important to express is that there’s an opposite to gender dysphoria, which many trans people I know label ‘gender bliss’. This is the joy they feel when they are able to see themselves in the right body in some tangible way. Sometimes it’s something really small, like getting their hair or nails right. Or getting their voice right, or passing to someone they don’t know. It’s easy to write a character that’s all pathos and drama, but they’re incomplete without the other side of that coin, too.

Please recognize that I’m talking about these experiences in a very utilitarian fashion. Both passing and getting clocked can be a very personal experience, and you’ll want to use it sparingly. Have it happen once. Just like other character traits, make sure that you don’t treat being trans as their -one and only- character trait. You’ll end up with a stronger story if it’s something that comes up once, creates the appropriate drama, is dealt with, and then returns to set dressing while the character’s other interests take focus. It can be really simple and low-key, and it doesn’t even need to involve the character directly.

Unaware character: “Hey, is that -deadname-? He’s looking, uh, different.”
Friend of character: “That’s -charactername-. She’s changed a bit since you knew her in high school.”
Previously unaware character: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know. Um, yeah, okay. She’s really rocking that dress tonight.”

Perhaps your best tool when working with a trans character is subtlety, subtext, and implication.

I’ve just been reminded by my girlfriend that here in the UK they call it ‘Gender Euphoria’. May have other terms? Still, the experience is something that is important to the trans experience.

Gah, I’m sorry, I was between email providers and didn’t get a notification for this, and I guess at some point, I marked all as read. I’ll echo what @Kandrel said, in that, unless it’s super central to the plot, to the point where a large portion of the plot revolves around it (e.g: transition stories, etc), it’s often best to leave the interactions as smooth as possible and limit the amount of times that it occurs. Having another character mess up on a pronoun, get corrected, and simply go “thanks” and continue talking is a good way to tip the reader onto what’s happening. If you’re in a position to include gender euphoria, for example a slight bit of elation on being properly gendered by a stranger, that’s also a perfectly valid option.

One thing that I’d like to add, however, is that a trans character can have negative experiences without the writing or story being perceived as transphobic. I suppose I deviate from a few other trans folks in this respect, but I find it important, especially when attempting to write stuff more along the lines of literary fiction, that characters also experience realistic friction within the setting. If I am writing a transgender character who experiences pushback around their identity or even transphobia, the best way to do so without the writing turning transphobic is to center their experiences.

An example of this might be having a nonbinary character experiencing some pushback around the choice of eir pronouns. Centering that character’s experience, even if ey’s not the main character, would be to have their reactions at the core to the response, rather than another character’s. Alex may experience bigotry, so one good solution might be to have em correct the bigot, Chris. Another might be to have another character, Benji, correct the bigot, and then have a conversation between Alex and Benji about Benji’s responsibility versus Alex’s autonomy. A poor example would be to have Benji confront Chris, and have Alex simply thank Benji for their work. That centers Benji’s experience and makes Alex subservient to them.

Thanks so much @Kandrel and @Makyo! This has been really helpful! I think that representation is very important in media, so I want to be sure I’m sensitive to these sort of issues and doing my best at good representation through my characters.

This is what the new Sabrina did with the trans character in the first season and the reason I stopped watching (If you want a more comprehensive example of what not to do).

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