The Magic of Representation: At the Scene of the Crime

Within the last few articles, you’ve heard me talk time and time again about trans representation in fiction. The Diverse Detectives hashtag honed in on this challenging endeavor by asking readers and fans of crime fiction to pick up and read detective books that represents them.

So when I heard about the Diverse Detectives hashtag, you bet my interest was piqued. As an avid fan of crime fiction, who also happens to be trans, it’s hard to find positive portrayals of myself, especially in that genre, respectfully done. Not seeing yourself accurately represented in any medium can be a lonely experience.

There are multiple times I’ve counted and kept track of supposedly “trans-inclusive” books and crime dramas only to find out that they’re nothing more than hot takes of what writers think my life as a trans man is all about.

As a trans man, research into my own representation on crime dramas and contemporary detective fiction has left me befuddled. I am almost instantaneously pegged as a suspect in one episode, in an unhealthy relationship on another, or not even given a story with a happy ending, in many other cases.

Fictional representations of me in books, have faired no better. Unless wrought well under heavy research, I was either misgendered in books or blurbs by microaggressive language, hidden beneath mountains of erotica, or given the occasional gender swap under said categories. So, what gives, fiction? Who gets to write us, trans men? Why are we wrought so badly that our voices don’t echo our own?

Seeing myself being represented so badly has given me drive to write my own stories where I am my own hero.

With Diverse Detectives, they have headed that call and as such, forged a new path, continued by the likes of V.T. Davy’s Arty Shaw in Black Art, Zoe Whittall’s Josh in Holding Still For As Long As Possible, Matthew J. Metzger ‘s Anton in Spy Stuff, Jack Harley and Suzanne Falter’s Charley MacElroy in the Transformed Series, Kris Ripper’s Ed Masiello in The Queer And The Restless, Kate Hawthorne and Carlin Grant’s Beau Warren in Stronger, Better, Faster, More, Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall's Yoshi Yakamota in the Blind Eye Series and Elliott Wake’s Renard Grant in Bad Boy.

This repeated offense, told over and over in fiction, has left me with many questions that haven’t been answered on many public forums: have trans inclusive stories that don’t involve transitioning have, to an extent, become a taboo topic? Why haven’t many more discussed it? Is it just a blip on someone’s radar only to never be discussed, again? Why is that?

Is the cisgender fiction community scared of veering from the familiar stereotypical storytelling of us, where we, more often than not, are misgendered by microaggressors? Are they scared of us telling our own stories and seeing us succeed in a genre that they have had control over for many decades? The answer isn’t simple, my friends.

I have a theory:

The questions are connected to one another. They feed into one another, like a snake eating its own tail. Basically put, without the question, the answer is meaningless. Without the answer, the response to this proposed question does not exist.

As Grissom has stated throughout his tenure on CSI:

Focus on the evidence. We deserve the same respect that they average writer is given when creating their own unknown masterpiece that breaks boundaries set in place decades earlier.

We are our own masterpieces. We deserve better. It’s a offense that is still happening in fiction, but, I am glad to see some authors step up and take the chains off.

You see, Diverse Detectives is not enough. Trans folks, like me, exist in every genre and every trans individual, like myself and many others, EXPECTS to see ourselves in a book. It's about time.

Eli Knight's picture
on November 7, 2016

GLBTQUAPI blogger, comic book enthusiast, featured in Transgender Today (NYT editorial), contributing writer for Geeks OUT and trans man. Pronouns: He/Him. Motto: Live. Laugh. Learn. Respect. Love.