We at Just Love are absolutely thrilled to present Trans Book Month throughout July, elevating the voices of trans authors, readers, and allies in discussing trans representation in books. Today we’re honored to have author Jay Northcote on the blog, talking about the importance of trans visibility in fiction.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Jay!
Trans Visibility in Fiction: How a Story Changed my Life
By Jay Northcote
Thanks for inviting me to post on your blog during Trans Book Month. I love that you’re celebrating trans representation in fiction, because I know first hand how important transgender visibility in fiction can be.
I’m a transgender man. I finally came out last year (age forty-five), after a long and painful process of sloughing off layers of denial. But if it wasn’t for reading the right story, I might never have realised who I really was.
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. At that time most people had very little knowledge or understanding of gender variant people. I remember reading one or two newspaper articles about ‘transsexuals’ — the term used at the time — when I was a young teenager and being fascinated. Because as a child I had longed to be a boy, longed to the point of obsession. But those trans people I saw in the media were trans women, and the focus of the articles was about surgery rather than hormones or social transition. I remember assuming that it must not be possible to make a penis surgically, and therefore assumed that nobody ever transitioned from female to male.
As an adolescent I buried my childhood dreams of being a boy, and accepted that I would never grow into a man. I did the best I could with the hand I’d been dealt. But as an adult I never felt right. I never felt like a woman. There was always a fundamental disconnect that I didn’t understand and couldn’t articulate. In hindsight, I now know that I was living with gender dysphoria.
In November 2012 I read a Merlin fanfiction story, where Merlin was a transgender character (FTM). That story changed my life. As soon as I started reading I knew. I knew that was me, and it was terrifying. So I did what any happily married mother of two would do. I tried to ignore it. But I couldn’t. I was gripped with a fascination of all things FTM. I googled, I followed links, I watched trans YouTubers and I envied them. I wanted what they had. I wanted hormones, and chest surgery, and to be seen by the world as a man.
Eventually I dug through my fear and denial, and finally got to a point where I had to do something about it. I started coming out to family and friends in June 2016, and I began physical transition in February this year. It’s been incredibly hard, yet incredibly liberating to finally become the person I was always supposed to be.
I will always be grateful to the author of the story that gave me the map I needed to find my path.
This is why we need trans representation: In books, in TV shows, in movies, and in the media.
After I came out, I wrote my first queer romance with a trans main character. Ben’s story is part of a series of related titles set in the same universe, but it can also be read as a standalone.
Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.
Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.
Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.
It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.
One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.
Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.
Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.