Monday, June 3, 2019

Writing While Trans, Part 3: We Deserve to Be Heroes

Here is the evolution of trans representation in crime fiction created by cisgender people:

STEP ONE: Trans people? Do they really exist? Nah!

STEP TWO: Trans hookers, always good for a laugh (not) or awkward moment.

STEP THREE: Dead trans hookers. Oh how tragic. And still a little awkward. Oh well.

Beau Bridges as a trans cop on The Closer
STEP FOUR: Trans cop or lawyer reunites with former colleagues for awkward laughs. Usually played on TV by cis men with embarrassing dialogue and stumbling around on heels. Lots of misgendering and use of transphobic slurs.

STEP FIVE: Dead trans person, but not a hooker. Look how woke we are! Still lots of misgendering and focus on body parts.

STEP SIX: Wait, is there a step six yet?

And that's in the television arena. I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of times I've read a trans character in a crime novel written by a cisgender person in any of the above scenarios.

There is an assumption that because I'm transgender, I write transgender fiction. That my stories are written for trans people. Nope. Traditional publishers tried to stick me in that box and I walked away and started Dark Pariah Press instead.

I don't write coming out stories or transition stories or trans romance or trans erotica. I write gritty crime fiction, but from a trans point of view. Because we deserve to be represented as more than the tired tropes of sex workers and murder victims. We deserve to be heroes.

We deserve to be represented as people with agency, people with dignity, people who fight back against injustice. We deserve to be the lead detectives in police procedurals. The private eyes solving the crimes. And in the case of my Jinx Ballou series, the badass bounty hunters.

June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when queer people of all stripes (including trans women) fought back against years of police brutality. And while we have made some progress, so much has been pushed back since Trump took office.

I can't stop the horrific actions that Trump and his vile supporters are doing to actively and viciously make life even harder for queer people. Stripping away what few rights and protections we briefly enjoyed.

But I will continue to write exciting, balls-to-the-wall, hard-to-put-down thrillers from a transgender point of view. I write them not just for trans people, but for all fans of gritty crime fiction, to give them a glimpse of the realities faced by my community.

And I'm not alone in my quest for trans representation in crime fiction. I highly recommend Renee James's Bobbi Logan series (starting with Transition to Murder) and Jennifer Finney Boylan's recently released Long Black Veil.

And as proof that cisgender people can write fabulous trans protagonists, I also recommend Laurie Rockenbeck's Bound to Die.

So after all that, here is Step Six.

STEP SIX: We deserve to be heroes.

P.S. In honor of this historic LGBTQIA Pride Month, CHASER is on sale for only 99 cents until June 8. Get your copy now!

As one of the only transgender authors in crime fiction, Dharma Kelleher brings a unique voice to the genre, specializing in gritty thrillers with a feminist kick. She rides a motorcycle, picks locks, and has a dark past she’d rather forget.

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. You can learn more about Dharma and her work at

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