Thoughts on piracy

The Pirate Bay logo

The Pirate Bay logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At what point is it okay to share the works of someone who is trying, or hoping to make a living at an artistic endeavour?  Is it once they’ve achieved a living by it?  When they’re rich by it?

With the internet, it’s certainly hard to fight it.  Fight too hard and, like Metallica, you just make it worse.  Don’t fight it hard enough and you’ll never get it to stop … assuming it’s even possible.  So there’s a certain futility to it all.

I know people who’ll pirate TV shows, movies, music, etc.  In some cases that’s the end of it; they have it and they’re not going to pay for it.  Some decide it was worthwhile and so buy the DVD, BluRay, CD, iTunes, whatever.  Some of the former would have bought it if a torrent didn’t exist, some refuse to ever pay for media.

Those who use piracy as a sort of library, I honestly have no issue with.  Or maybe you’re using it because you go to listen to your favourite tape, LP, or CD and discover it’s broken or ruined and it’ll be a few hundred dollars to replace because it’s out of print or something.  Seen more than a few people hunting down torrents of video games for that reason.

I don’t think file-sharing in itself is inherently bad.  As with most things, it’s intent.

Some people just share things because they can.  They don’t realise, or don’t care, that there are real people hurt by this.  Others do it as a sort of finger to capitalism and similar.  There are those who refuse to believe that data can, in some kind of sense, belong to someone.

I’ve recently found one of my books on several torrent sites.  And to get it down is very likely to require the help of a lawyer due to the rather convoluted policies on the part of both the DMCA and those sites’ interpretation of it.

On one hand, I almost feel happy:  someone liked my book well enough to share it?  And people want it badly enough to be downloading it this way?

On the other … I looked at the tracker statistics:  There’re twice as many people downloading that book as I type this than paid for it in the past two months.

I’m not so unrealistic as to believe that all of those are people who would have ever found my book to buy in the first place; there’re people whose personal Amazon is TorrentReactor.  I am not so unrealistic to believe that there are not some who see The Pirate Bay as a sort of lending library without due dates, or as a sort of free Netflix.

Still, it hurts.  It hurts personally that there are people out there who would enjoy someone’s hard work, but be unwilling to get it legally; unwilling to support that artist so that they might provide more work to enjoy.  I’ve seen musicians argue that, these days, don’t sell the music sell the merchandise – if they buy the shirt they get the MP3, according to an MC Lars song.  That’s fine and well for musicians.  What of authors?  What merchandise do we have?  That may work for some genres, but not all.  Too, I do have a bit of that; if you buy the print book from Amazon the e-book is free.

Thing is, with many arts, it’s a labour of love in the first place.  Many a musician, many a filmmaker, many a writer has to have a day job to pay the bills.  New York Times Bestselling authors who have to work to put food in the cupboards and pay the rent. Certainly those of us without that prestige … Now & Forever has two books out and both have hit the best seller charts in more than one country, not bad.  Amazon best sellers, at that!  Not sitewide, though.  Genre.  Yes, one of them did hit a point above one of the new big titles in YA romance.  Tally that against the statistics of how many people don’t read.  Best seller, in all but the most remarkable of cases; award winning, inall but the most remarkable of cases … these things do not mean well off, they don’t mean going through the dollars with a plow … they mean we make anything at all.  My writing pays my electric bill, sometimes.

The people who created the torrent of my book will probably never read this.  Even if they do, they’re as likely to troll in the comments as to take it down – the most likely is they’ll read it, shrug, and move on with no reaction at all.  I’ve no idea what I will or can do about the torrents; they exist, hundreds of people have downloaded them and the book (by-the-by, they used a terrible program to create the Kindle version put in there so it’s ugly … the ePub is one they got from one retailer or another) … I could get rid of the torrents today, and tomorrow, next week, next month … they’d be back.  With the sales lost, because some sales ARE lost, just no, not as many as the RIAA and MPAA try to claim, there’s no hope of ever affording the lawyer’s fees, to make it stop.  Maybe I’ll join the RWA, I think they offer legal services to members.

No I will not sue the people who want my book.  I’m not Metallica, I know a good portion of the downloaders are just kids, or the curious.  The torrent creators, they might get sued, but I know perfectly well how easy it can be for one to do these things without leaving any breadcrumbs … a little clever use of TOR or I2P and no one can find you unless you do something daft.  What?  Women can understand hacking and the internet, too.  Even those of us who prefer OSX and do our writing with ink and parchment; some of us just take an academic approach to it rather than a practical one.

I won’t ask you not to download the torrents; I will, however, beg you:  if you enjoy the book, consider buying a copy.  I have no magical power to know how many people possess a copy of my book, no magical power to know if and how much you enjoy it.  Reading a book does not support the author.  Tell your friends it exists, encourage them to read it?  That can, yes, though it helps if you do so in a way that at least some of them buy it; it certainly helps to nominate it for awards and to vote for it when it’s been nominated.  Leaving reviews, leaving ratings.  These things help.  That’s cheerleading, buying the product?  That supports the author herself; it’s money in her pocket.  If she’s with a big publisher, yes, it means you probably bought her the postage stamp she just put on her reply to a fan’s letter – sad, but true, though that’s no reason not to buy her book … if it doesn’t sell, and the publisher isn’t counting torrent tracker stats as sales by any measure, then they won’t renew her for another book.  If she’s self-publisher, you’ve probably bought her a cup of tea, a little nicer … but without a big marketing team, Ingram distribution, people whose job it is to ensure that the book is on Barnes & Nobles’ physical store shelves, etc … she gets precious few cups of tea as it is, don’t deny her another … she loves tea, it makes her happy, and a happy writer writes more books.

It’s all down to intent – don’t hurt the artists you love.  Like Boris Vallejo?  Buy a book of his art that has some of your favourites from that JPEG collection you downloaded.  Like Imagine Me & You?  It’s often only us$5 at Big Lots for the DVD (remember, used sales aren’t sales, you supported the store, not the artist(s)).  Love Arden Kaywin’s latest album?  Why not, at least, get your favourite tracks on iTunes?  Want to read Love or Lust all the way through, rather than just the sample, before you buy?  Fair enough, I completely understand that – too many books out there, big/small/self published where the editing and story telling are only good up to the end of the sample, everything from the next page on is a rough draft, and a bad one, at that; and of course you won’t take my word for it that I take more pride in myself and my work than to do that to people.  When you’re done, consider grabbing a copy from somewhere.  If you like having the ePub and the Kindle version, I recommend getting it from DriveThru Fiction or All Romance E-Books; I had no control over the Kindle file created by Smashwords and therefore cannot recommend it in good conscience, but all three will give you both formats in a single purchase and my lack of DRM means you can convert any retail source’s file to whatever format you wish, just don’t blame me if it doesn’t come out well.

Ask and ye shall be answered!

I’ve always had my contact form and page and I always will.  You are more than welcome to say anything you wish to me in private.  Do be warned that if you go too far in saying anything creepy or disturbing I am also welcome to contact the FBI or Interpol, just saying.

And I’ve got my FAQ where you’re welcome to ask me things, and I’ll gladly answer them – and I’ll gladly delete anything that is naught but trolling.

There’s a third option.  Given the nature of my FAQ I’m not sure why I enabled it, possibly I just thought it’d be interesting to see if it creates a different sort of interaction.  Maybe I’m merely curious.  Maybe I just like seeing what buttons do.  Maybe it’s some or all of the above in combination.  I really couldn’t say, but I did and it’s here.

[REBLOG]: Jake’s Last Mission, conflict, a defense of Kristark’s Coronation as a story, probably other stuff too because I’m writing this right before bed so my inner editor is already asleep

This was linked to via pingback on this other reblog I made and it was, I thought, a good if rambly and typo riddled take on the subject; in her defense, the author does indicate she was writing the the small hours of the morning – ah, the logics of 2AM.

My own work “lacks conflict” and according to one or two reviews “lacks plot” because 1) these two things, by many’s definition, are one and the same and 2) because some people really have a poor understanding of what those words mean

1) Plot is A happens, then B happens, then C happens.  That’s all plot is.  It’s “wha-happ’n’d”.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s very difficult to tell any story of any sort, even a vignette, without having, by strict definition, a plot.  Conflict is … well, it’s conflict.  It’s the characters’ internal struggles, it’s their struggles against their environment, it’s their struggles against others.

2) The very fact that time passes within Now & Forever is an indicator that there’s a plot.  A single thread of plot?  Yes, actually, though it’s only liable to be clearly visible once all four books are written — though I’ll say it now:  the plot is the girls’ growing love and them growing up, and how that impacts their love and relationship; put more succinctly the plot is two high school sweethearts getting through high school together.

Conflict abounds, though it is in no way the driving force of the story.  There’s minor conflict between Lauren and Sally – as any couple will, they have their disagreements, and we see them.  Maybe it’s not generally a flaming row, but not all couples have those.  There’s “[wo]man versus [her] environment”.  I’m sorry, but even in Washington, the US is not and in 2010 – 2014 was not a terribly wonderful place to be homosexual, this is not a major factor of the story, but it is a primary source of what conflict exists.  It also has “[wo]man versus [her]self” given that the girls are growing up and have their doubts and insecurities that come with such things and that come with being in love.

Honestly, though, I’m merely echoing … more or less, anyway … what this other post says with my own stories inserted in place of hers.

Jake’s Last Mission, conflict, a defense of Kristark’s Coronation as a story, probably other stuff too because I’m writing this right before bed so my inner editor is already asleep

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, I apologize in advance for, even for me, an unusual amount of rambly-ness in this post.  And typos.  And homonym errors.  If I had any sense, I’d probably wait until tomorrow . . . err, later today, I guess . . . to write this.  If I had any sense, however, I’d have gone into a much more lucrative career than writing space opera, so . . .

Second, this isn’t complaining about my reviews.  My reviewers are entitled to their opinions.  They just gave me something concrete to point at while I make a point about something that’s been bothering me for quite a long time.

Now, on to my actual post:

Ursula K. LeGuin said:

Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.

Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.

I just discovered this quote a few days ago, but it’s something I’ve thought of before.  Years ago, in fact, I argued this very point on a rpg forum when I was told, pretty much, by some people that my games couldn’t possibly be fun because conflict wasn’t the driving force.  And it wasn’t even a “rpgs are about killin’ things and gettin’ mad loot” or whatever thing.  Apparently if there’s a love story in your game or story, the drama and change that comes just from being in a relationship isn’t enough, you have to bring in soap opera elements like love triangles and kidnappings and such, for example.  Change wasn’t enough; there had to be conflict, according to these people. (continued)

Mind leakage

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, very recently I posted this which contemplated the ‘obligation’ of those of us who have a voice in the public ear to be out about … ourselves, really.

After much thought and discussion I’ve decide that I agree with myself.  I’ve no obligation whatsoever to say if I’m straight or gay, bi- or pansexual.  If I’m married, single, dating, taken a vow of chastity (though in all sincerity I share Sally’s view of that) that’s my own business.  Hell the only validity to saying if I’m male or female is because English has gendered pronouns; what anatomy I currently posses or have previously possessed is certainly no business to anyone except one who intends to make any use of that anatomy.

Hobbes (Calvin and Hobbes)

Hobbes (Calvin and Hobbes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can be argued that, were I gay or were I trans, or were I a particularly gifted gibbon that I ought to say so in order to show other gay writers, other trans writers, other gibbons that they too can be a published author.  No.  I can see a certain validity in that for things like acting or other things that truly put you in the public eye.  Writing is nothing at all like that.  I cite as my reference and infallible proof:  Bill Watterson.  This is a man who wrote a comic beloved by millions (billions?) through a number of years (decades?) and who some believe to be mythical as there is exactly one photograph that most anyone has ever seen and it’s been joked/rumoured that even his agent has no idea where he lives or what his phone number is.  He could be a she under a pen name.  We certainly know nothing about him – does he like men?  Women?  Sheep?  Does he speak Welsh, Russian, or Portugese?  Does he have testicles?  No one knows … and few have any reason to care.

What Bill teaches us is that, when we are invisible creators, us writers, we are as much or more inspirational than when we are visible.  Visible I’m clearly a 6′ tall transsexual lesbian gibbon with a unicorn horn and seven breasts.  Invisible I’m whatever and whoever I need to be to make you feel better.  I prefer semi-visible.  I mean, we learn a little of Bill from his incomparable Calvin and Hobbes comics (if you have been under a rock and know not of what I speak I suggest you hie thee to the nearest place of obtainment and remedy this unspeakable deficiency with all available alacrity); just as we learn a little of any author by taking her collected works as a whole.  I’ll talk about whole work versus single character/works later.  We learn a little from his name and that one photograph.  And we learn one more thing from his reclusiveness:  clearly he is a shy or at least not terribly egotistical man.

Lucy Pevensie

Lucy Pevensie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These little clues tell us some things.  Okay, he’s probably not a woman, he’s not a self-centred loudmouth, etc. and his characters tell us he’s probably a pretty swell and thoughtful person with a keen and well-read wit.  Does this help you decide if a cisgender llamaphilic lesbian nanny goat can make it big in the comics world?  Sort of, yes, actually – as I said, he proves that we’re anonymous behind our pages.  People see us as our creations on the page, not as the people our families look at during dinner.  Stephen King is a slightly known geekish face, a few people know he writes from his nightmares, and some know about his alcoholism – most people know him as a byline that scares the living shit out of them.

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's T...

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to authors who’ve discussed it, yes, in the publishing industry there are agents, editors, publishing overlords, etc. who will take one sex or another more seriously than the opposite.  SF tends to be dismissive of women is the biggest complaint, but men are sometimes given a little less attention in the romance universe, and people get funny ideas in mysteries and … stuff.  But look around.  There’re published women in SF (Elaine Cunningham, Andre Norton, etc.), men published under romance (Nicholas Sparks, lots of pseudonyms, etc.), Mary Shelly anyone?  Lord Byron?  No, in the end, the publishing world is wide open.  For one thing, if you must, just do it yourself.  Your work is what should matter.

My work shows that I’m sympathetic – be I an ally or member – of the LGBTQ community.  My blogposts affirm this.  I am colourblind (not in the disability sense, but in the racial sense) – to me a human is a human, their skin colour is nothing but melanin, I even spent formative years of my life somewhere that it was white people who were not the racial powerhouses and, in fact, were discriminated against and bullied – the people of Hawai’i haven’t forgot the whole annexed at gunpoint and the very dubious circumstances of the vote for statehood things.  My name is in the feminine form.

People can make of that data, as they can with what they know of Bill Watterson, what they will.  No, I’m not going to make an evangelical Christian fundamentalist with very strong anti-LGBT philosophies feel much of a connection with me or my characters, not unless they’re inclined to changing their minds or at least have an open mind for lesbian characters despite their Views against their ‘lifestyle choices’.

J. R. R. Tolkien, 1916

J. R. R. Tolkien, 1916 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those looking for a rolemodel … in writing your role model should be the text on the page.  I’ve next to nothing whatsoever in common with Professor J R R Tolkien, the great man who brought us The Hobbit; I’ve little in common with C S Lewis, little in common with A A Milne or Ed Greenwood.  Spider Robinson, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Terry Pratchett, Lawrence Block, or William Shatner.  All of those are authors whose works I’ve enjoyed, authors who – along with many more – taught me to write by having themselves written and by my having read them and learned from those pages.  I do not know them, I do not feel I know them, I do not feel I must know them.  I do know Granny Weatherwax, Bilbo Baggins, Winnie the Pooh, Storm Silverhand, Lady Sally, HAL 9000, Bernie Rhodenbarr, Jake Cardigan, and Lucy Pevensiethey are the ones I met and the ones whose adventures I shared and share again & again.  They are the ones who taught me what is possible and how to dream and hope.  Those characters told me that it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman; they told me it doesn’t matter one way or the other who I love – just that I should love, and well; they taught me wonder, they taught me many things.

I think in most ways public figures only matter in what they do, not what they are.  Exceptions – always exceptions – would be those who rely on others to see their dreams through, like actors.  If, after coming out, Neil Patric Harris was never seen nor heard from again in Hollywood … well, that’s a pretty strong message.  Thing is, yeah, it makes sense that he should be out, and his career being so strong is inspirational – despite being a married gay father he is a beloved STAR, but actors have directors and producers who can decide to never give them a part because “I just can’t work with someone with green eyes, oh God no!  They’re really Satan come to Earth in disguise” and, necessarily, artistic pursuit is left open to some discrimination (hey, I’m sorry, if you’re not tall enough nor leggy enough you just can’t be a Radio City Rockette … the routines won’t work for it, learn ‘em and start a competing group of shorter folk, might work though) so stupid discrimination gets by far too often; sad but true.

But as writers we’re not selling ourselves – recently popular advice to the contrary exists, but it’s bull as the good Mr Watterson so fabulously illustrates (uhm … no pun intended).  We do not inspire with our selves, we inspire with our creations.  Writer is a, largely, crappy job – pay sucks, it’s sometimes (for some, rather often) thankless, it’s lonely … it’s a lot of things, none of them glamorous.  It is those who populate our pages they are our contributions to societal change and philosophical debate.  Professor Tolkien may have been a force to be reckoned with in the world of academia, but that inspired people studying philology and myths; Bilbo Baggins inspired people, lots of them.  Suddenly it didn’t matter how small or inexperienced you were, you could out riddle a voice in the dark, escape goblins, face down dragons, ride the skies with the eagles, meet elves, and live through the war of five armies – not bad for a timid little hobbit from The Shire.  Classics have few (no?) LGBTQ characters … at one time, including them would have actually got the authors worse than just shunned and boycotted, so give ‘em breaks.  Today … today we have Lauren & Sally, we have Dumbledore (I’m sorry, but I was not surprised when Ms Rowling said he’s gay).   We’re lacking, admittedly, in trans* representation.  I’ve only got Sally’s cousin Joe, and he’s pretty minor.  I’m sorry, I’ve just not met any trans characters in my head with a story to tell, just a few who exist as … decoration.  Maybe that’ll change one day, I certainly hope so, it’d be interesting to see what stories they tell.  I’m no expert, but I think it’s not unheard of in manga, for what it’s worth.

That doesn’t matter, though, today you write your story.  You tell of the heroism of your pansexual Japanese trans woman, then you put it out there.  The more who do this the more it becomes visible.  Sooner or later someone else has to rise to the ranks of Pratchett and Rowling, King and Meyer … sooner or later no one will notice that a character in a story is a lesbian because it won’t be that important a detail, or that he’s transgender, or that she’s black, or that he’s Asian or … already that’s starting to happen, and it’s a Good Thing.  The key isn’t to make the books about being black, or about being Asian, or about being a sentient dolphin – not that those books aren’t helpful too, but they’re not necessarily as generally accessible as books not about those things – it’s to make books about fighting dragons, about saving the princess, about climbing Everest, about life but with characters who aren’t status quo.  Few, if any, who read The Hobbit were, themselves, hobbits … and it wasn’t exactly about him being a hobbit, it was about him being on an adventure despite all the things that define a hobbit, and proving that Gandalf was right in suggesting that one, this one in particular, be brought along; and who has never, not once in their lives, had something they had to be overcome, especially something that was no handicap whatsoever but rather only perceived as so by the short-sighted?

That is the obligation of a writer, I think, if we wish to be inspiring and to Change The World – we need to all have more Bilbo Bagginses.  We all need more Tiggers, and more Aslans, more Prince Thorks, and more Tee Tuckers.  It’s them who spread the message.  If your book preaches to the choir, you do a service and your book is important – it tells those who may feel excluded and alone that they are not alone; please by all means do still write and keep on writing them.  But if you don’t want to write a book about someone being gay, but you want to have a gay character … well … that’s a damned fine idea too – that‘s leading by example.

I think I’ve wandered and meandered long enough.  I’m going to stop here and hit publish.  I’m tired and almost afraid to actually spellcheck or proofread this.

A discussion, I hope.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an article I found on Facebook, shared it too as I recall.  The Best Way to Change Minds:  Come Out, Stay Out, and Speak Out.

Of particular note, for me, is the first paragraph:

Last week my friend, Professor Jenny Boylan of Barnard College, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Trans Community Can Change Minds by Changing Discourse.” I think it’s very important that our scholars are finally being provided with a platform to reach a far wider audience, and Jenny is one of our most articulate spokeswomen. It’s also important to note that — gasp!trans women are Ivy League college professors. I will even go so far as to say that what she said is less important than the fact that she is published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. That will have a great impact on accomplishing what she stressed as the goal of her piece: changing the nature of the public discourse around trans persons and the experience of being trans.

Now, of course, it’s about the transgender community.  Applicability, a word I learnt from the late Professor J R R Tolkien‘s lovely writings on the subject of storytelling, though means it says so very much more.  Amazing how much storytelling and life can have in common if you take a moment to look around and see it.

I’m rather torn on the subject myself.  This is why I hope this will be a discussion in the comments.  It’d be interesting to see the varied opinions and discourse on the matter.  I’m a private person.  I don’t like, as I’ve said before, giving details about myself.  I’ve no problem standing up for people.  Race, sexuality, gender expression, gender identity … we’re all people.  I stand up for people because first off, it just seems the right thing to do.  None of my business if someone is a woman, man, or other.  Doesn’t matter the slightest to me if they’re Buddhist, Pagan, Jew, Christian, Islamic, or pray before an old Pepsi can from 1973.  I certainly can’t imagine being too upset about anything that two or more consenting people might like to do with/to one another.  Above all else, I’m not going to say that someone doesn’t deserve the same rights as anyone else just because of who it is that they love and find attractive.

My point is; do people in the public eye – authors, actors, politicians, etc. – do we have some obligation to be out?  And out about any of it.  Out about being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, pepsisexual, transgender, transvestite, transatlantic, or transmitted; anything.  Does it matter?

I do feel that we should certainly speak our minds if we’re willing and able.  I’m somewhat able and somewhat willing, so I do.  But that’s not because of our being public.  I think that’s just a very good and human thing to do.  If you want to be objectivist about it and find some self-serving reason for it then how about Martin Niemöller‘s words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Should it matter if you are gay or trans*?  Should it matter if I am?  Your cousin?  Should it be enough that you don’t feel that anyone should ever be treated as less than human?

So I do, I ask:  am I right or wrong?  Is it enough to speak out, even if I will not come out cis/trans/queer, gay/straight/bi/other? I am out on one point:  I’m an out redhead and an out woman.  I’m also an out writer (exceedingly vague reference to The Notebooks of Lazarus Long).  Does it add some weight to what I say if I am Cis or if I’m trans?  If I’m gay or straight?

The article seems to think so.  At least taken in an extrapolated form.  To be fair, the article itself isn’t talking so much about the Laverne Coxes, the Ellen Pages, the George Takeis of the world.  It’s talking about the guy who bags your groceries, the woman who delivers your mail, etc.  It’s about advocating by simple example.  By not isolating yourself, as a trans person, estranged from anyone who ever knew you as your assigned gender to begin fresh and reborn as your true gender in another town all alone … It points out that, if no one can really identify with an issue, put a real face and person to it they’re not really going to feel much point in supporting the cause.  Little girls like Jazz, women like Laverne Cox; they may seem unreal to people, or isolated curiosities.  George Takei and Ellen DeGeneres; same thing.  They plant the seed, the curiosity, the vocabulary.  They shout the issues from the rooftops, but the ones who prove them right are the gay parents at the PTA conference for their’s daughters’ school; it’s the little boy struggling to be allowed to play for the boys’ team instead of the girls'; it’s your trans brother and your lesbian sister-in-law, your bi cousin.  That point I don’t argue with.  Those who know me I’m out about my sexuality with, my marital status, etc.  What I can’t seem to make up my mind about is this:  does it matter in either direction to the public?

Funny I should say this, given my post about representation, but I guess it comes down to this:  representation in my work exists.  I’d assume that my characters present far more valid role models than myself.  You get to know them, you see their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, all of that – you share a bond with them.  Me?  What am I?  A dyslexic typist who happens to occasionally take it into her head to string several English words together in something like a logical and coherent order.  Does this make me the kind of public figure whose personal details matters for representing anything or anyone?  I can paint landscapes populated by cis/trans/queer alike, homo/hetero/bi/pan/a whatever, but I can do that regardless my gender, race, height, weight, bust size, inseam, zodiac sign, sexuality, etc.

Still, perhaps I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear what others think:  does my sexuality, gender-status, marital status, etc. matter?  Never mind me specifically, I mean anyone.  Does J K Rowlings’?  Does Stephen King’s?  George R R Martin’s?  Neil Gaiman‘s?

Is it me or is that a long list of Caucasian, cisgender, heterosexual people?  Look, writing as a profession or even hobby doesn’t actually need representation, does it?!  I mean, the anonymity of the pen/keyboard?  How many authors use pseudonyms!  I mean … people know this right?  I mean were I gay or bi or whatever, that wouldn’t make a difference to whether or not some little girl who falls in love with my books decides to take up the quill and tell her own tales … would it?

Damn, now I can actually see arguments both ways.  Stupid blogpost … bad blogpost, no cookies!

Life would be so much easier if humanity weren’t so caught up on the idea of finding reasons to look down on one another.  I mean, aside from obvious ones like rape, murder, theft … people are starving, and there’re religious groups spending money and energy on fighting the legality of Portia and Ellen’s marriage.  Really?!

Still, these comments are no less moderated than any others.  Your comment won’t show up unless you have a previously approved comment or unless I hit the magical, mystical approval button.  But, you know, discuss away.  Between the comments and my own soul searching, maybe I’ll get around to writing up some kind of bio about myself.  Maybe I won’t.  I’m still leaning to “it doesn’t matter”, besides … could turn out I’m just as status quo as Ms Rowling; at least with the silence there’s a mystique.

RIP Robin Williams

American comedian Robin Williams at "Stan...

American comedian Robin Williams at “Stand Up for Heroes,” a comedy and music benefit organized by the Bob Woodruff Family Fund to raise money for injured U.S. servicemen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, by now I’m sure everyone’s heard the news:  The great Robin Williams is dead, having committed suicide yesterday.

The world is a far lesser place without the laughter and joy he has brought to so very many souls in his life.

Depression is no joke.  It can blind one to just how much you mean to others and leaves you feeling worthless even when you might be one of the most precious people of an age.  True, a lot of us never knew Robin well, but what if he knew how his death would affect the world … would he still have?  Maybe, it’s hard to say.  We don’t know what in his life was such a tragedy to him – the sad thing about depression is, there doesn’t even have to be.

Still, perhaps he’ll be making the world a better place even now as he brings laughter and joy to the gods and heavens instead.

If you’re feeling a bit down yourself, find someone to talk to.  You may just find there’s something to live for.  Never underestimate the restorative powers of a pet, either.

For those in the US try this:  http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

For those in other countries, I’m sorry, but Google was being rather Amero-centric and its typical unhelpful self.  Please, put the revolver or sleeping pills down and take a few seconds to find your equivocal, or go find a priest, any priest, or just hold a purring cat … something.

English is so annoying

There’re really times I wish I could do my writing in Latin instead of English.

In Latin it’s so much easier to be clear who or what things refer to because there’re different sets of suffixes for accusative  and nominative, to say nothing of the existence of the genitive, ablative, dative …

Why does English have to lack that sort of clarity of grammar?  It makes writing any sentence where two people of the same gender are interacting with one another terribly awkward and cumbersome, truly.

“The New Civil Rights Frontier”

I’ve been thinking very hard about something recently.

Time magazine has been receiving a lot of flak for calling trans the next civil rights frontier of America.  Even I criticised this on my Facebook page.  But while there were numerous other reasons to criticise the article, I believe this is one thing it was dead right on; albeit I think it’s the new worldwide issue, not just America.  There may be legal recognition of 3-5 genders in parts of former Persia and in India and Thailand might have no problem with its ladyboys (hey, literal translation and one that those ladies who speak English from there prefer or don’t mind), but by and large it’s a struggle abroad, too.

Thing is, the criticism is that it makes it seem like the fight is over for women, for races, for homosexuals.  It’s not, no, but the battle there has evolved and has momentum; it ain’t won, but it’s a matter of time, winning is becoming inevitable.  Trans is sort of the new kid, our battles began … when would you like to say?  With the fops and dandies of a bygone era?  With the 20th century?  Somewhere in the 19th?  History is fun that way, depending how you want to interpret a question the answer could actually be since before we came down from the trees.

I was thinking about this because I wondered why so many of the things lately I’ve been seeing, sharing, talking about, etc. have been trans-rights.  I realised because it is the new war for equality.  Trans has had it’s battles, its skirmishes, but that was the underground, viva la resistance!  Now it’s armies at war, now it’s faces like the young Jazz or the beautiful and talented Laverne Cox, now it’s something that is in the news every freaking day in some fashion or another.  Now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine!  Racial equality, women’s rights, gay rights?  These have fought those battles.  Kirk & Uhura kissed on national TV.  Babylon 5 had a woman pope and president to say nothing of the force of nature which was Ivanova!  Will & Grace?

Legally these wars are won.  Note, though, I said legally.  The need for an equal pay act isn’t a question of legal victory, it’s the get legal protection from a social ill.  It’d be a legal victory if there was a law specifying women earn less than men; it’s a form of the Affirmative Action laws which made it law that society give blacks a chance so that they could take advantage of the elimination of the laws that kept them in second class status.  Gay marriage is a legal win, and one that 20 of 50 states have been won in!  Numerous countries have bowed out of that war and homosexuals have their rights — other fronts are still a bloody and brutal battle; some parts of the Middle-East, for example.

To say that transgender isn’t the new fight, isn’t the new war, isn’t the new frontier isn’t to invalidate the fighting for it that has already happened, nor does it say word one to deny that other civil rights battles haven’t and aren’t still in process of being fought.  It just says that the battles are big, public, and people are actually aware of them now.  More importantly the fights are being won!  Before the fights were more to do with small measures of acceptance from this employer, from that family member, from this friend … now bottom surgery is slowly disappearing from the laws governing changing the gender on ID; now little by little gender-identity is being specified as a protected status – and if you think that isn’t important, talk to a homeless transgender person who can’t get even a job at McDonald’s and who has been denied housing, has been turned away from shelters … except maybe you can’t because odds are now the poor woman or man is dead, murdered for being who he or she is and in a few too many cases it was discovered because as ever when a group is marginalised so thoroughly — they turned to prostitution, and unless whoring is legal with nice safe and clean brothels to work in … well … not a happy scene.

I believe wholly that all people regardless race, religion, gender, sex, orientation, etc. are people.  Some people are good, some are bad, some contribute better to society than others — but that’s because of who they are, not what they are.  Catholics can be amazing people or utter twats; I’ve known Asians that were the most fantastic people you’ll ever meet and others who were the most hateful and horrible people; same with gay, trans, men/women/other … truly it matters not because labels don’t make someone bad or good, they just help us communicate things like “she prefers the ladies”, “he has a kind of reddish tint to his skin” and so on; our actions and our words make us good or bad people that’s what makes us “oh, he is such a saint!” or “God, she was Satan in her past life”.

So I suppose the answer to why I’ve shared so much related to trans is simply that besides the latest news on the latest fight won, the war for gay equality and the fight for women’s equality and the fight for racial equality … no, they’re not over, but they’re not news!  We all know that battle is still being fought and what the issues are.  The odd reminder now and then keeps the fight alive, the celebrating of the next milestone victory let’s us know yet another checkbox on the to-do list has been filled.  Thing is I’m an author of teen fiction.  I’m not an Advocate, this blog isn’t for promoting anything but myself and my work — and to fill in the time in-between that purpose I ramble and subject you all to the inner-workings of my psyche — it’s on Human Rights Campaign‘s website, or on George Takei‘s Facebook page, or Lizzie the Lezzie’s blog/Facebook that one can find a constant barrage of “this fight is being fought” “there’s a pride parade over here!” “oh bloody hell!  can you believe someone actually said this to me today?!”.  If you want live, up-to-the minute coverage of women’s rights, gay rights, racial rights, and even trans rights this is not the place to find that, those other places are.  I’ll just share the news that catches my attention and right now the important part of that word, ‘new’, is the inroads that trans rights have suddenly found itself making.  I am, for the time being, celebrating that.  I think it’s beautiful and wonderful.

[Reblog] Cis Lesbian Dismissal of Trans Lesbians, and Why it’s Wrong

Rather beautifully put, I thought.  Though I do tend to find that referring to things as hetero-privilege, or cis-privilege, white-privilege is often a bit short sighted.  I’m not sure it’s a privilege to not always think things through properly or to simply be unaware of an issue or to not be able to quite wrap your head around it.

An example — my own editor is, psychologically, quite androgynous despite identifying as female and as such can at times be rather confused about things that matter to cis-men or cis-women alike around her and some aspects of transgenderism don’t quite … click … for her without a little hand-holding and analogy to help her fathom whatever concept is in question.  She’s not suffering from this disease of cis-privilege, there’s room to even debate if she is or is not cis for one thing, she just doesn’t understand because it’s not her issue.  She’s bisexual and her issues are not those of the homosexual nor the heterosexual people around her and just as those trans and cis friends of hers must explain things to her, she in turn must explain her androgyny or bisexuality to them.  Do they, then, suffer trans-privilege or homo-privilege in addition to the others purportedly possessed of cis and hetero privileges?

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some privilege extended to men, to cisgendered of either side of the binary, to heterosexuals.  This is rarely anything that can be helped by the individual, only by society and its expectations.  This is the man being, perhaps, more likely to get a job.  The white person who isn’t watched by security as closely in the department store.  The person dressed in a fashion that suggests wealth being treated with greater deference than the one who, by their clothes, may well be poor.  The cisgender who is taken more seriously at work and who is never asked to go to a special restroom at their job or asked for ID by some zealous clerk when taking a pee in some public facility.  Cis and straight, regardless of race, are not denied their basic civil rights by any country in the western world that I can think of.  That is privilege.

Still, regardless my pet-peeve on the overuse of ‘privilege’ in our language these days, this post makes a fantastic point:  If you cannot accept a trans-woman as a lesbian or a trans-man as gay then you are being a) quite sexist and/or b) you are saying that this person whose sex and gender simply do not match is not who and what they say they are.  Are we so insecure in our own gender-identities, are we so ashamed or proud of our sex and our sexuality, that we should deny others their right to be who and what God made them?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cis Lesbian Dismissal of Trans Lesbians, and Why it’s Wrong

Ying posed the following scenario/question: “Recently, I heard a lesbian woman comment about a trans woman (who happens to be a lesbian). She said the transwoman was not “really” a lesbian like she was. It was upsetting to me. No one can define another person’s identity, right? It seemed so petty, too. What skin is it off her nose anyway? What are your thoughts on people not accepting a trans person’s sexual orientation as being valid?”

Something to consider is going into this is that even though many of the LGB portion of our acronym are supportive and allies, that makes them no less cisgender. Just like any non-LGB person, they’re acting from a position of cis privilege, and don’t understand the implications of their actions, because, frankly, they don’t have to think about it much. We pop up once in a while, in a single circumstance here or there, and that’s generally the extent of it. And while they’re our allies for political purposes, I’ve come to find in my experience that LGB people are often woefully ignorant of the issues of the transgender community they support. Which is no surprise, really: We’re a vastly smaller group, a minority within our lgbt minority, so appropriately less time is spent on issues relating to us. (Just a shout-out to the LGBTU student group at The University of Akron, as they break this trend and give trans issues a much larger chunk of the spotlight than we deserve by population, because they’ve recognized the importance of these topics. Well done on them)

So what does this mean for the lesbian in question? Well, she’s invalidating our trans lesbian’s identity, plain and simple. By saying she’s not ‘really’ a lesbian, she’s implying an awful lot, and none of it is good. First and foremost, let’s go ahead and define “Lesbian”: a lesbian is a woman* who is attracted exclusively to other women*. Pretty simple definition, right? Well the two key elements are “Woman” and “Attracted exclusively to other women”. By saying she’s ‘not really a lesbian’ she has to be excluding our trans lesbian from one of the two criteria: and since, presumably, the trans lesbian has been with, or is currently with another woman, and has shown no interest in men, we can assume that ‘Attracted to other women’ is true. This means the only remaining conflict is in fact, our trans lesbian’s womanhood. There’s no other way around it. (Continues here)

Updates and contemplations

Frankly this post isn’t really about anything in particular.  I just had some things to share.

First the important one:  Ready or Not is looking more and more like it will not be ready until around the anniversary of Love or Lust‘s publication (end of June).  I’m sorry, it just didn’t come out half so cleanly in its first draft as Love or Lust had so the editing is going a bit slower, and too there’s the several weeks’ delay while I was in hospital or recovering — my editor takes a very interactive approach to the process (for which I’m grateful) instead of just assuming she knows what my idiot mistakes are supposed to say.  Regardless work should progress well from here and I’ll announce a release date the moment I have a really good idea when that will be.  Sorry for the delays, I am; I’ve anxiously awaited a sequel more than a few times in my life, and I really appreciate the messages asking after the next book and stating how you’re looking forward to it.  It’s possibly the most heartening thing an author can get.

Next is a contemplation on surgeons.  Plastic surgeons work hard to minimalise scarring, and even have tricks for removing ones someone/something else left behind.  Why is this technique not taught to all surgeons!?

I was looking down at my belly full of laparoscopy wounds (yes, plural … 5!), where a damnedable drain thing was, and then the gash showing the neighbourhood of the problem which took me to the emergency one fateful Tuesday afternoon and realise that the former half-dozen scars are dimpling and then the gash is like six inches long and near my hip … glad I don’t go in for skimpy bikinis!  And I’m not so self conscious as to now avoid two-pieces, but good God, could these not have been done in a cleaner way so that they can’t be seen?  Ah well, I suppose it’s better I’m alive than flawless, which I wasn’t anyway — I’ve my share of childhood scars, I was quite the active little thing.

Finally a comment:  Frozen was seriously, undeniably, unabashedly one of the awesomest movies I’ve seen in awhile and certainly continuing my newfound adoration of Disney animated films.  Tangled, Brave, Frozen, Princess and the Frog … I love this new trend of the princess being the hero of the story, and I love how in Tangled and Frozen the prince charming was not a prince (though they were charming … in their ways) and were heros, I love the equality of that.  Most of all, though, I simply love the phenomenal storytelling that is going into these.  Frozen really took the lead, though, there was something simply beautiful about it, I swear to you I cried at more than one point watching that movie … albeit, not for long (thank you Olaf, I love you!!).  And for those wondering, I didn’t see it until recently — movie tickets in this town are obscene, but we have a second run cinema that finally got it … c’est la vie.