Every novel I have written has some LGBT characters in it. In most cases they play a central role or are the main character.
LGBT people have always played a large role in my life. Long before I personally had the courage to come out as transgender and transition to living as a woman, I had many LGBT friends. I have an openly lesbian sister. I have had many close friends that are virtually everywhere on the spectrum, gay, lesbian, bi, you name it.
As a writer, we write what we know. A story that doesn’t contain some LGBT people, doesn’t seem realistic to me.
LGBT Main Characters Versus Side Characters
My first published novel was Run, Clarissa, Run. The main character of that novel is a transgender teen. She starts the story as Clarke, a confused “boy” who knows nothing about transgender people or transition. As soon as she finds out that there is “real help, not crappy doesn’t-really-help psychological help,” to quote her, she is all about coming out and transitioning.
Living in a small town in Iowa, this is easier said than accomplished. There are bullies to be overcome, computers to be hacked and before all is said and done, a sexual predator to stop.
At the time I had two goals with Run, Clarissa, Run. As a transgender woman myself and a writer, I felt uniquely qualified to take the readers inside the head of a transperson. I hope this novel gives the average reader a small taste of what it actually feels like to be trans.
For the trans youth, I hoped to the transcend the other novels I have seen in this genre. Coming out and dealing with being transgender is a monumental task at times, but trans people are capable of more than just this. I wanted to book to be an action story with the trans character as the heroine.
Being inside the head of the trans character for almost the entire novel had its advantages and it’s disadvantages. There are moments that show what it feels like to look out of a trans person’s eyes. You get to come along for the whirlwind of emotions as the character grapples with their gender.
The disadvantage, especially in a YA novel, is the limitations of the characters own perspective. Clarissa spends most of the novel in a very dark place. She is bullied relentlessly by a gang of four boys. Her mother doesn’t understand, doesn’t understand how bad the bullying is, doesn’t understand what Clarissa’s gender identity means to her. The first man to reach out to Clarissa turns out to be something other than he appears.
The astute reader can read between the lines and see that this isn’t the whole story. The bullies are only a small gang and many other kids at school like her. Her mother does love her, even if she can’t understand all of it. Clarissa struggles. She can’t see any of this because that’s what being a victim of bullying does. It forces blinders on you. You see only the torment being inflicted. You interpret every silence, every failed attempt to help, as approval for the bullies.
I wrote The Best Boy Ever Made shortly after I completed Run, Clarissa, Run. Due to various circumstances it only came out recently. When I started drafting this novel, I wanted to take a different approach. I wanted to show a more balanced view of being LGBT. To do that I opted not to use the trans character as the main character, but to tell the entire story through the eyes of the best friend.
As Sam makes the transition from Samantha to Samuel, we get to see how Alecia’s view of her best friend changes. There is bullying. A lot of people don’t approve of what Sam is contemplating. But there are also a lot of people who stand up for Sam, support him in his decision.
Alecia never fully “gets” what it means to Sam to be transgender. But she understands that Sam is serious, dead serious. Alecia has to go through her own transition, not as deep as the one Sam is going through, but a transition nonetheless.
As a writer you are faced with tough choices about how to approach a story or an issue. Choosing the point of view character can drastically alter how the story turns out for the reader. This is true of all stories, but especially important with YA novels and with LGBT characters. Coming out may have a sense of inevitability for an LGBT character, they’ve struggled with issues surrounding their gender or sexuality for years sometime before admitting it. For the individual on the receiving end, it’s all new. The confession may lead to unexpected emotional reactions, a sense they are running to catch up to where the LGBT person is in terms of acceptance. Which point of view best serves the story is individual and often personal.
Rachel Eliason is a transgender woman and writer living in the Midwest. She writes contemporary YA stories under her given name and fantasy/science fiction under the name R. J. Eliason.
Her contemporary YA novels published as Rachel Eliason include Run, Clarissa, Run, The Case of Nikki Pagan, and The Best Boy Ever Made. Rosie and the Slenderman is expected to be released in the summer of 2014. Her fantasy novels published as R. J. Eliason include the Bear Naked saga, Bear Naked, Bear Naked 2: Wolf Camp. Bear Naked 3: The Hunter and the Hunted is slated for fall of 2014.
Rachel is active on many social media and can be found on twitter @racheleliason, Facebook, Google + and Pinterest, to name a few.
Life in a small town can be tough when you’re a little different, but for a fifteen year old transgender kid it can truly be hell. Clark is harassed daily at school for his effeminate behavior and appearance. He has no friends and a brother that is as likely to be on the teasing as to prevent it.
When Clark is offered a job babysitting for the Pirella family, it seems like a godsend. The money is good. He bonds with the girls almost instantly. The father, Tony, works in computer security. Tony and Clark strike up a friendship based on a mutual love of computers and hacking.
As Tony becomes aware of Clark’s transsexuality and his growing feminine alter ego, Clarissa, things become incredibly complicated. Will Tony be Clarissa’s salvation, or her undoing?
Alecia Mueller, a conservative country girl, knows how her life is going to turn out. She is going to grow up, meet “the one,” get married and live in the country. When her best friends Sam comes out as a Female to Male Transgender, she chooses personal loyalty and friendship over politics. But what if the boy that Sam is becoming is “the one?”