Monday, February 26, 2018

On Being a Trans Woman in the Horror Genre: A Guest Post By Larissa Glasser


Good Morning, Everyone:

Today I'm sitting down to have a chat with Larissa Glasser, and I desperately wish we were able to do this in person because I could definitely use some coffee and lovely conversation right now. Larissa and I haven't actually met in person yet, but that's something that I hope changes soon because she is a writer (and super cool chick) who has been on my to-read list for quite some time now, and I'm very excited to be sharing a TOC with her in the Tragedy Queens Anthology recently released from Clash Books. She's a lovely, passionate woman, and I really admire her transparency and strength, and like I said, I'm really looking forward to reading her work soon. 

But yes, so far this month, we've covered a lot of topics ranging from race to sexuality in the horror genre, and today, we're going to tackle issues with gender, and Larissa has so beautifully composed the essay below to talk about her experience with being a trans woman working in the horror genre. 

On Being a Trans Woman in the Horror Genre
By Larissa Glasser

I can only speak from personal experience. Women in Horror Month elicits mixed emotions from me. While I appreciate recognition of our work, the gesture also feels like “othering” to some degree, a small little tent we might stumble into at the risk of being tokenized. However--with the bright sparkling kernel of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley invented our genre when she was only nineteen years old. Her mom Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the first feminist philosophers. It would therefore be nice to be seen and treated on equal merit with our male peers, but I am also realistic about our modern, universally gendered divides and the struggle of not just the creative process, but of bodily autonomy and equal rights.

Another element of this wariness I have for WIHM is that I am not even seen nor treated by many as a woman, because I was assigned male sex at birth. I can only bottom line this for y’all—after decades of navigating a struggle of incongruity between mind and body that much of humanity does not experience (or admit to doing so), I finally took steps to better my situation by taking action.

Being trans is something that happens randomly, seemingly to anyone, as being born left-handed or having green eyes rather than blue. It's like the rain of frogs in "Magnolia"--it's just something that happens. But the global perception of trans people has a long way to go, because post-colonial western society has been conditioned so very many of us to only understand a binary system in gender and sexuality: male or female, straight or queer. Many refuse to admit to the fact this way of thought is antiquated as those who believe the earth is flat. In fact, there are ambiguities in life that directly contradict the flat-earthers and for me, the characteristics of horror fit nicely into that perpetual uncertainty. I’ve lived with constant anxiety for most of my life, and that’s why I’ve always been drawn to the horror genre.

I don’t feel qualified to give a 101 on this topic (I recommend Julia Serrano’s Whipping Girl as a seminal text, and like I said earlier, I can only speak from personal experience), I can paraphrase an excellent distinction I’ve heard: sexuality is about who you go to bed with, and gender is about who you go to bed as.

I didn’t address trans issues in my writing until quite recently, when I attended a summer workshop with other trans writers and many of us bonded over that common experience. It wasn’t as if I needed express permission to address trans issues in my own fiction, but the encouragement certainly helped. 

I set to work last year, as I was recovering from a major health scare that also woke me up to a sense of purpose in my writing. As I crafted “The Mouse,” I wanted to address the “bathroom bills” that were being introduced nationwide in response to increased trans visibility (the radical right has to target someone in the wake of the historic SCOUTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage). The submission call for the Wicked Haunted anthology (New England Horror Writers Press) solicited ghost stories. I managed to channel and purge a lot of my sadness into the narrative, while also poking holes in the anti-trans sentiment I saw growing with the ascension of Trump.  

I wanted to try my hand at writing a love story with “Ritual of Gorgons,” which found its way into Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath (Clash Books). Another common misconception about trans people is that we are out to trick or deceive non-trans people in the dating scene. “Ritual” is the story of two trans women, both high-profile children of celebrities, who fall in love and exact supernatural revenge upon the paparazzi who stalk them and endanger their privacy.

I combined a few ideas I’d had cooking into my first novella, F4 (Eraserhead Press). More irreverent and hardcore than my previous two stories, I still pitch the book as a trans porn version of “Die Hard” on a cruise ship that is surgically grafted into a giant monster’s body. I combined my struggle with internalized transphobia and sexual yearning into the main character, Carol Stratham. Carol is also an unwilling celebrity, and when she becomes the target of an internet hate campaign, her life goes through upheaval and she flees to work on the cruise ship. Embittered by her loss, she is ultimately called to duty when disaster strikes and must save the other passengers from a malevolent supernatural force. The monster also plays a major role in the development of her character, but no spoilers. Suffice it to say that I wrote F4 as a paean to the bad 1980’s, hyper-masculinized action movies I had devoured as a young boy, wondering what the heck was going on with her internal contradictions.

So there is more to come. My next project is like “River’s Edge” and “Stranger Things” only with trans kids. Literature can address social issues, and I’m thankful to have realized this close to when I had decided to become serious about writing. I think there’s a long way to go (especially in terms of honing my craft), but suffice it to say that I hope more trans people will assert their right to exist, whether it is through their art, trade, and especially politics.

Trans women also deserve to be celebrated during WIHM, especially since we can offer a unique perspective in genre fiction. If you’d like to contact me and ask about other trans writers who have inspired me, totally hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. And always remember Mary Shelley.

Author Bio: Larissa Glasser is a librarian, genre writer, and queer trans woman from Boston. Her short fiction has appeared in Wicked Haunted (New England Horror Writers), Tragedy Queens: stories inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath (Clash Books), Procyon Science Fiction Anthology 2016 (Tayen Lane Publishing), and The Healing Monsters Volume One (Despumation Press). In 2017, Larissa co-edited Resilience: a collection of stories by trans writers (Heartspark Press), which helped launch a new touring media collective of trans women's and (C)AMAB trans writers. Her debut novella F4 is available from Eraserhead Press as part of its 2018 New Bizarro Author Series. Larissa is a Member at Large of Broad Universe, and she is on Twitter @larissaeglasser.