An Apology to the Trans* Community

In 2010, I failed our community when I misguidedly published a short story about a male-to-female trans* person in my collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. As with all the stories in the collection, this one bore a title meant to serve as the main character’s *label* or *job*. In hopes of exploring the tasks and very real trials heteronormativity requires of trans* people, I wrongly titled the story with the transphobic slur “She-Man.” I’d hoped to write a story that rendered my collection inclusive. Instead, I wrote an offensive story. The story contains a number of abhorrent phrases that have the potential to do damage to its readers. I am so deeply sorry for this. Reading the story now, these offenses sicken me. My level of ignorance at the time was truly astounding. I conflated allyship with intention. Because I meant well, I imagined that I could explore trans* consciousness from my privileged position. I know now that an ally must listen more than s/z/he speaks and act in accordance with the trans* community. I know now that an ally must act under the guidance of any community with which the ally may feel an affinity, but not share an identity. I have, I hope, evolved a great deal in the past four years, and am committed to being a trans* ally. I’m committed to my own ongoing education, and that of others. Through the gracious council of friends and my own studies, I have come to comprehend the egregious nature of my past errors, and wish to perform some service that might materially apologize for my story’s cavalier arrogance.

First, I hope to use whatever visibility and influence I might have to showcase another author who is far more able to write a story that gives voice to an m-to-f trans character. I would like to sponsor a contest for a story about a trans* woman character, or about trans* woman-relevant issues, whose judging I’ll turn over to a prominent trans* writer. I’d then like to replace the offensive story in my collection with the winning story, and offer a 1/3 agreement for any future royalties from the collection: 1/3 going to the winning author, 1/3 going to a trans-positive charity of the winning author’s choosing, 1/3 going to me. I would like to offer $1000 as the prize for the winning story, in addition to future royalties. The winning author will retain all rights to the story. I will provide compensation to the judges and screeners of the contest (full contest info will be posted shortly).

In the interim while the contest is held, we are pulling the story from the collection’s next printing.

I’ve also signed up for training to become a volunteer with the LGBT Community Center of Cleveland’s writing programs, and have made a celebratory donation to them. For a long time, after my initial defensiveness and denial abated, I felt immobilized. “I’ve done something terrible and there’s nothing I can do about it,” I thought. Luckily I’ve learned to put aside such a self-pitying line of thinking. There’s so much I can do! And in doing what things are available to me as an ally, I hope to work toward helping create a warmer, more aware community.

I want to again give a long-overdue and sincere apology for perpetuating transphobic language and for any offense my story gave. I am very sorry. I will do much, much better, and I am deeply grateful for your patience and the opportunity to try.