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This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's Alive! (also known as "Transphobia!")

Oy! So, recently I have been having all these thoughts. Thoughts are good, yes, yes. But then, I think I should put them up on the blog and then I think "no, no, it's been far too long since you posted anything, best to just let the blog die, a natural, slow, and painful death where you think about it once every couple days but don't post." but like Frankenstein, I will play god and create life from nothing (only I won't go spurning it, eventually leading to this blog killing a small child.... what? oh the point seems to have gotten away from me!) and thus I bring you this post.

Which in turn brings me to transphobia. No really.
Well, you see, because Mary Daly died, and I didn't know jack-all about her works (I'd heard the name but only enough to say "that sounds vaguely familiar") until her death, when a few feminist blogs I frequent (and many I don't) a-sploded . What with Daly apparently having written some virulently transphobic works during her life (none of which she publicly recanted), and one of which had a chapter about trans women with a title referring to Frankenstein*. So that's how this blog coming back to life and Transphobia are linked.

But instead of the transphobia of Mary Daly, I want to talk about the most pointlessly (and thus astoundingly) transphobic book I read over my winter break.

It's the third book in Mercedes Lackey's Bardic Voices series (The Eagle and the Nightingales). The book's plot is long and winding, but to sum it up, a Gypsy (Lackey's characterization) Bard is sent by lots of her friends off to a far away city/nation to find out why the High King (king o' all the kings) is letting governance slide and all of the countries under his purview are slowly going to shit. When she gets to this city she quickly becomes a performer at the local hot spot for non-humans, and then begins a romantic relationship with a non-human.
Meanwhile the Church is basically evil and saying that non-humans don't deserve rights, oh, and it's totally trying to destroy all creativity and spirit and fun (in the form of the Free Bards, which are the focus of this series, ps Mercedes, I'm a cranky atheist who gets yelled at for being too "atheist pride" or whatever, and I thought the Church-hatin' was a little ham-handed, just saying). (Keep this theme of "intolerance is bad!" in mind, it makes the transphobia even more of a doozy). So the main character quickly goes about trying to figure out how to fix whatever's ailing the King so that he can govern well and all can be peachy keen again.

But, this is 400+ page book, there is a rather lengthy set up and all where she's traveling and then getting set up in town and little side-plots etc., which is why the transphobia that jumped at me on page 155 was a little surprising. That's almost halfway into the book. And it was done so absolutely pointlessly, making a joke about a character we haven't even met yet, who I believe only actually shows up once in person to be reacted to, and who is only mentioned (tops) 5 times during the story.

Here's the first instance (emphasis mine):
"Well, Lyrebird, you're eating like a bird indeed today - twice your weight in food! You're eating like dear little Violetta!"
He winked at that; most of the staff found Violetta amusing. The name was female, and surely the little misfit dressed like a woman, but there wasn't a person on the staff who was fooled.
No matter. Freehold was full of misfits, and if "Violetta" wanted to dress in fantastic gowns and gossip like one of the serving-wenches, no one here would eve let "her" know they had seen past the disguise.

And then, just as quickly as it came in to ruin my day while reading, all mention of Violetta disappears again. Why, if I didn't know better I'd think this exchange was merely shoe-horned in in order to set us up for later random transphobia!

Oh wait, it was! 4 pages later we get this gem
nothing happened - other than Violetta showing up, as if Derfan's earlier mention of "her" had conjured "her"
'Cause if there's one thing I love it's having trans people's gender identities questioned every time a writer puts scare quotes around their fucking pronouns. Not.

Then we find out on 178 that a generally non-communicative snake-man thinks that Violetta is "exquisite" Why? We don't know since we haven't actually had any character have a single line of dialogue with her. I guess we're supposed to think that if some weirdo snake-man (who unlike other characters can't tell that she isn't "really" a woman) likes Violetta, she must really be a freak, or something.

And then, so far as I noticed, we don't get a single other mention of this Violetta until page 407 where SPOILER, it turns out that she's secretly the killer traitor!
She had seen this "Lord Atrovel" before - but not here.
In Freehold. And "he" had been--
Violetta...
Ok, so wait, what? Now we've decided that Violetta really is a girl? I mean, that's what the scare quotes on "he" mean, right??? I'm confused.
But wait, there's more! Not only is the trans/cross dressing/Merceds-Lackey-just-decided-to-cobble-together-"evil male bodied person in a dress"-stereotypes person the killer traitor, ze's also a PERVERT! (How the main characters gleaned this just by realizing the dual identities is beyond me) See!:
Hunt through his private papers, his suite, and question his servants, and you will probably find a trail of sabotage and evil as vile as the man himself. And you will likely find lace hankerchiefs that match those left by the mysterious gaol-raider. As well as a--" he coughed "--remarkable selection of female garments made in his size"
Oh Main Character! How did you ever restrain yourself from making a joke about how ze probably has lace panties by the gajillion and masturbates every night into them while cackling evilly? I mean, that's what I'd do in your situation. It must be that you are far too genteel to talk about such a thing, even though we've been reading about how as a bird you don't understand human prudery.


So to review: totally pointless introduction of a trans character for the sole purpose of mocking her. Which we learn is in fact vitally important because Mercedes Lackey really wanted to try something new and risky, which is having the trans person actually be a bad guy in disguise. I've never heard of that. Have you?


*(little recognized fact, the monster in Frankenstein is not called Frankenstein, he sadly doesn't have a name... poor widdle monster)

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