Science Fiction as a Journey of Gender and Sexual Identity: Conversation with Author K.M. Szpara

A conversation between K.M. Szpara, Sunny Morraine and others.

Published author K.M. Szpara offers a personal account of becoming a science fiction writer, and how doing so is inextricable from an ongoing journey of gender and sexual identity. Szpara’s thoughts spurred a larger conversation that is included below.

The text in this entry is adaped from “The Importance of Trans People In Narrative” by A. Merc Rustad and has been lightly edited for clarity.

K.M. Szpara is the author of “Nothing is Pixels Here”, published in June 2015 (Issue 61), Lightspeed Magazine.

In response to the article “Why We Need Trans Romance” by E.E. Ottoman, K.M. Szpara (@KMSzpara) writes:

I want to speak more to how important this is. I’m a gay transmale [female-to-male] SFF writer who is heavy on [writing] romance and erotica. For a long time growing up, I read m/m [male/male] romance where I could find it (mostly fanfic and Anne Rice book — thanks, Anne!).

I didn’t yet understand what that meant for me. I started writing m/m. I knew that was how I processed love, too. I remember discovering I didn’t have all the parts to make sex happen for me the way I wanted it — jarring but not the end.

I continued writing all male protagonists because that was the headspace I enjoyed.

Even more so from a first-person POV. I got to “be there” in my fiction, [but] still didn’t even realize people could transition [from one gender to another] because I had no idea what transgender was at that point. Once I did and decided to transition socially and medically, I was told by JHU doctors no gay men would want to sleep with me.

“Who would date you?”, was the question I got from everyone.

It’s hard to be 100% confident about medically transitioning because some of the changes are permanent and you’re told you will BE WEIRD… but I did it anyway. All this time I continued writing cis m/m characters because that’s how I saw myself.

That’s how I wish I’d been born.

I already have body issues so please, everyone else, emphasize my worries of never being loved or having sex with a caring person again [1].

This year I wrote my first transgender character. It was published and I had a ducking hard time doing that. I had to re-find myself as “sexy” and — **spoilers** there is no transgender sex in the story but **end spoilers** — BUT! I am finally ready to write one, an erotic cis/trans science fiction/fantasy story.

It has taken me years, and I’m still nervous no one will buy it for their m/m anthology.

“Do you accept transmen?” If ‘yes’, do they really?

The moral of this story is, I feel bad writing cis and/or wanting to be cis because I also want people to honor transgender bodies. If you want to help and are an editor/agent/respected writer, make it explicitly known that you accept and desire transgender bodies in the writing you seek.

Enable us.

Sunny Moraine (@dynamicsymmetry) responds:
Something pretty gross that happened a while back was a major M/M review site rejecting reviewing books that featured explicit sex scenes along those lines because of genitalia.

Got called the FUCK out but it was a major look at transphobia in the genre.

K.M. Szpara (@KMSzpara)
:( THIS SHIT. I keep considering querying in advance: do you accept transgender characters? But I probably shouldn’t. I should just bombard the fuck out of the market.

Now if I could just write faster… Lol

Sunny Moraine
Yeah, I feel like the best response to that is to write the hell out of it. So go you. :D

Benjanun Sriduangkaew (@benjanun_s)
Huge difference between stating that they seek that writing versus actually, well, publishing it though. :/

A. Merc Rustad (@Merc_Rustad)
Agreed, the follow-through on PUBLISHING is a big step that needs to happen.

no ordinary fishtrap (@afishtrap)
Really, multiple gateways need to get on the ball: agent, editor, distributors, bookstores, and customers.

The problem is that it ends up being a massive multi-gate disconnect, because readers want/need it, absolutely. The only way to overcome each gateway in turn is if stories exist. :)

K.M. Szpara
True. And if we self-reject first because we’re not “invited”, then we’ll never know. I think transgender people self-reject a LOT because others don’t even think to include us, and we know it.

A. Merc Rustad
I’m plotting a novel now, which has a transgender guy as the main character, and I want to add explicit sex scenes when he dates other guys, for that reason. I want it to be very positive, because I CRAVE positive portrayals and need to see them in fiction.

K.M. Szpara
YES YES YES PLS. Would read. The only thing I ever run into is what transgenderism looks like outside the modern medical and social system. You have to get creative; can’t just have a person with a flat chest, and vagina, and be like “they’re trans!” Because it’s also a social, internal and sometimes medical experience/personal history. Creative! Writing! SFF! Lol

A. Merc Rustad
We need ALL THE STORIES in ALL THE GENRES with many types of transgender experience and positivity about transgender people and bodies.

Further Reading:

Rustad, A. Merc. (2015, August 13). The Importance of Trans People In Narrative. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://storify.com/Merc_Rustad/the-importance-of-trans-people-in-narrative.

Queer Dictionary. [n.d.] Cisgender (adj.). [Web page]. Retrieved from http://queerdictionary.tumblr.com/post/9264228131/cisgender-adj.

Szpara, K.M. (2015, June). Nothing is Pixels Here [Short story]. Retrieved from http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/nothing-is-pixels-here/.

Ottoman, E.E. (2014, October 31). Why We Need Trans Romance. [Personal account]. Retrieved from http://www.queerromancemonth.com/ee-ottoman/.

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