One of the things that was interesting to read was how varied everything was, as far as... when you first met Christina, as Eduardo, he was really withdrawn and would barely speak. And, having met Christina at the end of this journey now, it just seems impossible to even envision that person.
Yeah, she's so great. She's so powerful now, and yeah, you got to meet her in person. She's so funny and smart, and she's doing all this great HIV outreach work, and peer counseling work, and she's amazing. She's a powerhouse. She lives in college, and I'm just astounded by her growth and her resilience, and really, I'm just so proud of her.
Yeah, she even said we could link to her MySpace page, in case any of the trans kids on her site need to talk.
So, did this change your viewpoint on what it is to be a lesbian? What it is to be female?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think what's really amazing is these kids is they opened my eyes as to what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a person. In some ways, because they're caught... they have so little left to lose. They fall under the radar of so many people, so many social service providers, gay and lesbian organizations, especially transgender homeless kids. They fall under the radar of youth service providers, gay and lesbian service providers, HIV organizations, so they're really not getting a lot of their needs met, which is the downside of it. And that's really unfortunate.
But the upside is they've created this really powerful community unto themselves, and they really don't have the same kinds of rules and restrictions that society has placed on them. Because they're not seen by society in the same ways, they don't have the same rules for society to put on them.
So, within that, they are able to say 'what does it mean to be a woman? A woman can have a penis. I can call my penis a pussy stick. I can redefine what this means.' And that's a really liberating place for all of us, I think. That's what's really powerful and what we can learn from them. They sort of break down the boundaries for everybody.
Many people that are gay, or straight, or genetically male, or genetically female, or whatever, have bumped up against societal restrictions of what it means to be a woman, and 'real girls don't act like this,' and 'real boys don't act like that.' These kids break down that whole ideology and free it up for everybody. That's what's very powerful about them, I think, what can be gleaned from them.
As a writer, was it hard to sort out the constant pronoun issues? Or was it clear for you because you were immersed in this world?
It wasn't so tough for me, but I know it can be. I know it was a trick for my editor at times, like with Christina, and the beginning of the book, she's a he, and then it gets easier somehow. It would probably be a lot easier if we had a genderless pronoun society, but we're a long way off from that, unfortunately.
Since a lot of the Oasis readership is in smaller towns, and not urban settings, how much of Transparent is an accessible transgender teen story, as opposed to being very specific to the experience for minority teens in Los Angeles.
I think both. I've gotten a lot of really interesting feedback from the book. In some ways it's a very specific story, and I was really careful to tell a very specific story. In no way was I trying to make generalizations about the transgender community. I wanted to tell the story for four very specific transgender girls, in a very specific time, and a very specific place. I think it can be very tricky when you're trying to generalize.
And I think you need a lot of heart when you extrapolate one person's story and say it's everyone's story. And I think the deeper and more personal you become about a singular person, the more meaning it has for a broader audience, ironically. When you feel someone's individual story very personally, it has more resonance than if you try to generalize.
So, I think readers will connect to certain parts of the story, because there are certain things a lot of trans people will identify with, like the feeling of looking for love, struggling with parents, those kinds of things. There are some universal things that a lot of trans people experience. And then others are very specific to growing up in poverty, or growing up in L.A., or growing up with gangs, which they may not necessarily understand. But I think there are enough general connectors, so a lot of people will have on-ramps to the freeway.
Yeah that issue comes up a lot when I talk to novelists. Because of a lot of their most intimate and personal things are what make it universal. The thing that makes it most specific to you makes it accessible to everyone else.
Right, exactly. And I hope people wouldn't just toss it out like, 'Oh, these are just kids in an inner city, that doesn't relate to me.' Because I think there are certainly human experiences that we all feel, like loss, love, hope, dreams, dreams dashed, all of those things are very human experiences. But not a lot has been written about urban trans youth, very little. When people think of transsexuals, especially male-to-female, they think of a white transwoman in her 40s who's transitioning, who's going to go for the surgery, and that's what we have in our minds. But that's not the case. There are a whole lot of kids in the inner city who are doing a whole lot of different things with their bodies. And that was the story I wanted to tell.
And even when you're telling about Christina's interaction with her mother, there's universal elements to all of that. She just kept trying to establish that connection, and it wasn't ever quite what she wanted it to be. But, at the same time, when she graduates, her mother's there. So, you can feel that she's still trying somehow, to be there. Everyone seems to be doing what is in their best interest, or what they felt they had to do, but you didn't dehumanize anyone for their choices.
At first, I didn't understand the double entendre of the book's title. So, going into this, would you have ever imagined that becoming Christina's mother would have ever been the result?
I had no idea, of course not. I don't know how I could have. She's like the unplanned child. That was not my intention in any way.
Yeah, there's such a heart to this book that it almost seems it would be a shame if people who aren't into the trans issue would dismiss it. There's so much in here they could embrace otherwise.
You know, I hope that that part breaks through. And then people can learn about the trans side as well. That would be my hope.
The trans stuff becomes more of a backdrop to the story arc you did create. And it's a fascinating backdrop, as backdrops go.
Yeah, it sort of hooked on itself. It was weird.