zodiacal_light: I will tell the audient void... [fractal] (the audient void)
So I haven't been on the internet for a while, and yesterday, what with my roof collapsing and a sewer line breaking, I decided I needed a break. And so I come back to the internet, catch up on Mark Reads Tortall, and realize Tamora Pierce has been making comments there. And, once again, she's being crazy defensive over criticism, and once again she proves she doesn't understand what it means to be genderqueer.

So because I'm pissed off again, I'm writing a letter.

***

Dear Tamora Pierce,

Let me start by saying that I am coming at this from a place of profound love for your stories. You are one of about five authors whose books I buy sight unseen. Song of the Lioness in particular was hugely important to me growing up, and it still is; I may not like everything you've written, or every aspect of the things I do like, but I always have been a critical reader. (My lit teachers trained me well!) The messages you try to work into your stories are the messages I wish I'd found in more stories - that I wish I still find in more stories.

But recently, you've been worrying me. It's starting to feel like you're not content to just write really kickass feminist fantasy - it's starting to feel like you've got some list of underrepresented groups and are trying to work through that. It's getting preachy, and I say that as someone so liberal I find socialism conservative. If anything, it sits less comfortably for me, because these are messages I should like, should even find empowering.

And you're pretty clearly getting out of your depth. It's pretty clear you're moving beyond the limits of your knowledge - Bloodhound proved that, and while I could have chalked that up to just the strictly limited POV and the culture, every time you make additional comments about queerness, you prove that no, you really don't get it.

I'm queer. Specifically, I'm asexual and, for lack of any better term, I identify as third-gendered or simply genderqueer, despite knowing full well that doesn't help people "get" me. This line of yours, in SotL - "But you cannot change what the gods have made you. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be." - that line fucked me up good.

Not by itself, of course. But it was one more part of a constant drumbeat that told me that if I felt my body was wrong, it was all in my head, and I should just suck it up and pretend I'm female, and that doing so would somehow make me happy. Just like all of your characters needing some romantic/sexual plotline means there's no one I can identify with on that level.

I don't want to be too harsh, here. It's not like you singlehandedly gave me a gender-identity complex or something . . . but see, as a teen I really identified with Alanna. Not with her particular goals or her particular personality, but with her masquerade. Sure, I wasn't stupid. I knew she wasn't genderqueer - I didn't even know that word, then, but I knew she wasn't whatever I was. She was female and just playing at being male, really, so she could achieve a larger goal. She was still the closest I found to someone like me, though.

But that wasn't all I could identify with, when it came to how Alanna related to herself. I could - still can - relate very strongly with her strongly negative reactions towards her breasts and, especially, her period. Nothing makes me feel so alien in my own body as menstruating; nothing is quite so ... dissonant ... as being perpetually startled by my own breasts. Given the opportunity, my uterus and my breasts would be gone.

We can do that, these days. But there's still a constant judgment and even shame towards women who get elective surgery - and that's what people would see with me. Just a big-breasted woman getting elective surgery. And it'd be worse if I had the chance to get rid of my uterus - people don't trust people like me to know what we really want, to make up our own minds.

People act like I somehow owe it to them to remain what nature made me - female-bodied and potentially fertile.

You reinforced that.

You reinforced that, just like you reinforced the notion that I couldn't be a feminist and prefer skirts (seriously, Ms. Pierce, you've been wearing the wrong skirts), that I couldn't be someone who preferred beauty and silly things without being condescended to by snot-nosed teens. (and folks wonder why I hate Daine...)

You weren't the one who fucked me up, Ms. Pierce, but people like you certainly did. Some of us don't identify as feminists despite strongly resonating with the basic message because feminists drove us out.

And now you keep trying to be queer-positive, and I believe you mean it. You also clearly don't understand what you mean, not when you're making characters like Okha (is he a gay man who dresses in drag? or is she a transwoman, Ms. Pierce?) or comments like this: ::But you cannot change what the gods have made you. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be.”
Well, okay, so I imagine if you were trans* or genderqueer, that sentence is like being punched in the face?::

Where--anywhere--does it say the gods make us straight? Where does it say the **gods** forbid queerness or that the gods do not allow us to be queer? Do you think the gods really believe queerness is unnatural? After all the shenanigans that gods get up to?

In BLOODHOUND I explain that one god makes trans folk his express responsibility. Well, "responsibility" is too strong a word for the Trickster. He hates it. He isn't always a "he," either.


It's no secret I hate it when authors retcon their own work, which is probably the single biggest issue I have with your later Tortall canon. I understand that's a personal taste thing, but it becomes ... kind of offensive when you start retconning yourself to be immune to criticism, to make a hurtful line less hurtful because all of us who were hurt were, apparently, just reading it wrong.

And, like I said, you don't get it. Being genderqueer or trans* has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Mark rightly took you to task for sticking in a comment that borders on transphobic - you responded with a comment making it an issue of sexual orientation, which is not the same thing.

When you did this in Bloodhound, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I clearly shouldn't have. You clearly don't get the difference between being not-straight and being genderqueer or trans*, and given that this is hardly your first muddled post-Bloodhound comment, and given that I know your fans have talked about this, you clearly don't want to learn.

Yet you still want to write about us. Worse, you want to come off as an authority, spinning your feminist cred into broader progressive cred. You're trying to 'splain things to us, and when we call you on it you backpedal frantically so you don't lose face.

It's not working.

Please, please stop talking about me. Stop using my nature as fodder for your stories, as one more plank in your progressive pedestal.

It hurts. You're hurting me. If you can't understand what I am, can you at least understand that?

Sincerely,

Alix

P.S. - While we're at it, could you stop acting like you actually know shit about mythology? Your comments come off as insulting, ill-informed, and somewhat racist. And for what it's worth, you don't know shit about tricksters, the lwa, chthonic deities, or real Greek mythology. It might help if you read something other than bad Victoriana and Joseph Campbell.

Signed, a devotee of those "scary" tricksters, who finds your pathetic, half-assed Kyprioth so offensive I can barely speak about it.

(And no, I'm not going to be polite about this. I've been polite enough already.)
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Alix

October 2013

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