Last month’s blog post about My Creative Process™ has handily led me on to this month’s and an issue I’m having with The Flowers of Time, my main work in progress.
Flowers is a f/enby romance between Edie and Jones, set in the Himalayas in the 1780s. This was a new historical period and geographical location for me when I started it nearly twelve months ago and it’s been extremely interesting to research. It’s also the first thing I have written with a trans MC and as such it’s been strange to write. Not in a bad way… but just… strange.
Jones is AFAB and non-binary, or possible agender. She seems to be demi or gray ace as well. We’re still working that out between the two of us. When I started writing I used female pronouns for her unthinkingly and as time went on I became more and more uncomfortable about how I was framing her. Part of the issue was that I felt alternative pronouns like zie and hir would jar in my eighteenth century world, which meant my only really legitimate options were the usual binary ones.
Early in July I became so unhappy that I bit the bullet and spent a week changing all her pronouns to masculine. I hoped it was going to be the answer to all my issues, but actually, it sucked. Jones doesn’t think of herself as gendered at all, she doesn’t think of herself in relation to sex at all and has never needed any of those self-descriptors to identify herself. She’s never even anticipated that might be necessary. It just doesn’t matter to her.
Writing her with male pronouns was very peculiar. It felt as if all her actions should be less soft. More decisive. Less collaborative. And then, one night when I was thrashing round with insomnia thinking about it all, I realized that actually, these are all my issues, not Jones’. It’s my assumptions and programming about gender roles that are making me uncomfortable writing Jones using she/her. Jones just wants to get on with digging up temples and reading old books and hanging out with Edie and she doesn’t give a damn what words other people use to describe her.
At that point, I realized that Jones is actually me, which makes the whole story an exercise in self-exploration that I’m probably going to have to redraft a million times to make suitable for anyone else to read. It was both an enormous relief- as if a dam had unblocked- and also quite scary, because how could I have such a giant lack of self-awareness?
In the morning when I woke up, I went back and changed all Jones’ pronouns back to she/her, updated my twitter bio from she/her to she/they and booked myself some counseling. I’ve found a place for Jones to sit with herself and I’m working toward finding one for me.