Bogi Takács PERSON Profile picture
Jul 11, 2018 41 tweets 11 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter

Introducing trans and/or intersex characters - some common and less common pitfalls!
(A note that here I also include all sorts of nonbinary, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming and other kinds of non-cis / gender-atypical characters too, even if they are not explicitly labeled trans; but that wouldn't fit into the word limit. Sorry about that!)
A few words about me before I get to the pitfalls:

I both edit and review a lot of trans-related fiction. I edited Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 (#Lammys winner) and the upcoming Transcendent 3 too. :)

So patterns stand out after a while!
Also a content notice that I will discuss anti-trans (and specifically transmisogynist) tropes, intersexism, physical violence, and more. :(
The best-known negative trope about introducing trans characters is the infamous

*naked trans reveal.*

I see this just as frequently re: intersex characters too, the trope is very similar; but I think there is less awareness of that. (Haven't heard of "naked intersex reveal")
This does what you assume. The trans person is shown naked in some way to demonstrate it to the audience that this person is trans. (Same with intersex.)

It can take multiple forms. The classic, very brutal form is when the character is forcibly disrobed. But there is more:
There is a kind of milder (?) version I see mostly cis writers do.

This is when the characters are not forcibly disrobed, but are staring at themselves naked, for some contrived reason.

Stories that start in the morning often have this scene in the bathroom with the mirror.
I always wonder how many people have a full-figure mirror in their bathroom because I never had a bathroom like that! But that just shows how contrived this situation is.
Now, there are multiple issues with the naked trans reveal.

It is usually done with very obvious voyeuristic intent.

But it also misunderstands both what it means to be trans, and what it means to be intersex.

One can be both with any set of genitals.
Being trans means you do not identify as your gender assignment at birth. You can be at any point of transition, or even not transitioning.

You can look any which way, and have any genitals. You can have a variety of surgeries (or not), with a variety of outcomes.
Being intersex means that you have inborn bodily characteristics which are neither 100% male or female.

This in itself means nothing about genitals, many intersex variations do not result in genital differences. They can be endocrine-related, internal-organ-related, etc.
I had an educational thread about intersex topics a while ago, and this would be a good time to link:

The Naked Reveal also reduces people to their genitals. Suddenly when their genitals are visible, they are more interesting.

This is really not a nice thing to perpetuate.

Generally trans #ownvoices narratives do the opposite and often elide descriptions of genitals.
It is possible to write even *erotica* (which often contains genitals) without being fetishizing about trans genitals. I suggest:

* Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic anthology, ed. Tobi Hill-Meyer
* Show Yourself To Me by @TGStoneButch

These are all #ownvoices stories.

Often discussions of introducing trans characters boil down to "Don't do the Naked Reveal", but there are more pitfalls that I see less frequently discussed.

Your work can fall into harmful tropes even if you didn't do a Naked Reveal.
One thing that I think happens with all QUILTBAG+ stories is that the introduction happens with a traditional, old-fashioned.... BASHING.

The character is literally being beaten up. Or if not beaten up, then on the verge of being beaten up, and the protag rescues them.
Let's be clear:
These situations happen. In real life. A lot. There are many ownvoices stories about them too. (I wrote one, too!)

But often in an outsider viewpoint narrative, showing a bashing serves a specific purpose: demonstrating that the protag is a Good Ally, while...
...showing a situation that many of your trans readers (this trope happens less frequently with intersex stories) HAVE experienced, and you will bring back those traumatic memories.

For the purpose of enabling the cis protagonist to do a Good Allying.
Milder versions of this involve the trans character being verbally harassed, with the cis protagonist stepping in and saving the day.

(Again, I see this particular trope with other letters of the QUILTBAG+ too, especially with cis gay men characters. Just read another...)
I am going to show this from a more generalized angle, too, because I think this is much less discussed than the Naked Reveal.

If authors ALWAYS introduce trans/intersex characters in a negative context, it's a problem.
For the past years, I have been trying to read literally all the SFF short stories with non-cis protagonists. (Regardless of author identity.)

I can read several in a row where the protagonist is introduced in a very negative context. Even if the story is nominally friendly.
Again, I am not saying people should never be introduced in a negative context. Sadly those contexts very much exist.

But when it is almost always a negative context, that takes an emotional toll.

(Even on me, and I'm EXPECTING it, after hundreds and hundreds of stories.)
Transmisogyny comes into this at least in part because trans women seem to fascinate cis writers. (See the related media trope of "all trans people are trans women")

Whereas trans men are more "invisible" in this context, too.

There has been a lot of discussion of this -
To put it bluntly, the naked reveal seems more "exciting" if a penis is involved. (Though I have seen the reveal with other bits, definitely.)

And with intersex characters, there is the related misconception that they should have 2 different sets of "regular" bits.
I feel like I should be saying this more sensitively, but the source material I react to is often very crude, yes, even in 2018.

(Of course trans women do not necessarily have a penis, see above. And intersex people generally do not have 2 different sets of genitals, also above)
It is basically a case of stereotypes heaped upon more stereotypes, where one builds on the other, until we have a complex trope that can be played out in many different, but similar and related ways. :(
These tropes and introductions are dehumanizing.

Often they hang together with the trope of the singular trans person: "there can be only one" in the narrative.

If you have more than one trans character (which is very realistic, because we stick together), they will interact.
This is very true of intersex characters too, and I had to struggle with my internalized oppression because it STILL feels unrealistic to me to see more than 1 intersex character

Yet I know MANY intersex people.

I talked abt this a bit here:…
And if you have more than one character (of a similar minority, in general), then they will probably have many positive interactions.

Including when they introduce themselves to one another.

Chat online? Meet at a trans event? Hang out in a coffeeshop? Idk?! :)
So we can see that by removing the trope of the singular person, we are already able to weaken the trope of the trans person introduced in a negative situation/through adversity.

These are just ideas and especially if you are writing your ownvoices story, you can do ANYthing! :)
If you are not a trans writer and have a book with substantial trans components, I hope the above also helped demonstrate why it is a good idea to hire a trans sensitivity reader.

The above patterns also come from me sensitivity reading many manuscripts :)
The thread is becoming very long and I think I made some basic points - but happy to discuss further. :)

So I will stop here, but there is always much more to be said.

I suggest my other theads too, like this one, about background characters:

Or this one about transness and shapeshifting:

Thank you for listening!!

If you enjoyed the thread, here are some ways you can show your support:


(I also have an Amazon wishlist, but not linking it in solidarity with the current strike.)

+RT always welcome :)
My usual disclosure at the end of educational threads!

So far I got $22 on Ko-fi and +$1 on Patreon. Thank you very much!!

I will head off to sleep, but will try to answer more questions tomorrow :) (IY"H)
I started responding, but I think the most frequent question is, where can I find good examples of trans characters?

I have resources! :)

@TGStoneButch's list of trans/nonbinary books reviewed by trans/nonbinary people is always a good place to start:…
For short fiction, especially SFF, I edited two trans year's bests:

Special ebook sale on Smashwords right now:…
(Until the end of the month!)

#Transcendent3, up for preorders:…
I also have a big list of trans recommendations, but it is so big that I haven't finished putting up all the parts yet:…

And I have a whole set of intersex reviews:…

+ALL the intersex ownvoices books:…
On my Patreon I also have trans book recommendation videos! (Subtitled!)

The next one is coming once I get to $350. (I went briefly over, but then it almost immediately dropped, I'm at $333 rn.)

Which brings me to the disclosure update. So far $40 Ko-fi, $3 on Patreon :) Tyyy
I didn't get to responding to everyone, but now I need to be away for Dayjobworkthings :)

In the meanwhile, my review of a great book by a trans woman author just went live (no explicitly trans characters, but v much trans approach), you can read it:

Back to respond to some more comments (there is a lot! :) Sorry if I don't get to yours!)

I got $1 more on Patreon while I was away. Thank you!!

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Bogi Takács PERSON

Bogi Takács PERSON Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @bogiperson

May 8, 2018
🖋️ Worldbuilding thread! 🖋️

Some pitfalls related to shapeshifting, gender, and trans people.
As usual for my worldbuilding threads, this is not to subtweet any specific story, but rather to point out larger trends / common issues.

(I read a lot of trans-related fiction and currently edit a trans anthology series, Transcendent: The Year's Best Transgender SFF.)
My previous trans-themed worldbuilding thread was here:

Read 32 tweets
Feb 26, 2018
🖋️ Worldbuilding thread! 🖋️

How (not) to include trans people as background characters - some common mistakes.
Just a note: this thread is not subtweeting the stories I am currently reading for #Transcendent3: Year's Best Transgender SFF

(submit here:… scroll down)

It was inspired by several books I recently read - what I'll say will be more relevant to long-form.
(Please don't try to guess the books from my Goodreads feed, I usually don't add the books I DNF within the first few chapters. ;) )

These are common issues that appear in many, many books - and increasingly so, as writers try to be more trans-inclusive (which is good)
Read 34 tweets
Jan 2, 2018
I want to do this too!! So many cool threads!

📚 1 like = 1 book in my TBR for 2018 📚
I will try to do it with Amazon links (US Amazon affiliate links as usual) so you can preempt me and read the books even faster :D
1: Juniper Leaves: The Otherworldly Tale of a Lonesome Magical Girl by @JazJoyner

* I love magical-girl stories
* Black nonbinary author
* Fabulous-looking cover!!
* I just got a copy
Read 104 tweets
Jan 1, 2018
Today on #diversestories: You Will Never Know What Opens by @mari_ness, @LightspeedMag Dec 2017.…

2100 words, contemporary portal fantasy deconstruction + sense of wonder + feels!

(Content warning for physical injury + threat of death.)
Choice quote :) :
"Up until then, you’d just assumed that most people couldn’t even see the doors, let alone go through them; you’d had plumbers in to fix the bathroom after the cheetah incident, and they hadn’t seen anything."
I really liked the feelings the protagonist had about the portals and how this conflicted with everyday life, the need to pay bills, etc.

I also enjoyed the second person narration! I only realized halfway through the story was in second person, it's done very smoothly -
Read 8 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!