We’re so pleased to welcome author Matthew J. Metzger today as he tours the web to celebrate the release of his latest novel, Bump, from NineStar Press! Matthew is chatting a bit about representation with us today, and there’s also a giveaway so be sure to check out all those details at the end.
To Bi or Not To Bi?
Representation is a big deal in queer fiction, and rightly so. We’re really kind of bad at it as an industry, and we need to be better. We need to try harder not to just write cis white able gays doing cis white able gay things. But how do you handle it when two under-represented areas can work against each other?
I’m transgender. Trans fiction is—not in a good state. There’s very few good trans books out, and it’s all too common to see grossly misrepresented caricatures (and even downright transphobic portrayals) winning accolades and prizes. A lot of what I do as an author, a sensitivity reader, and a blogger is trying to combat that, and promote the few diamonds hidden in the rough. And it spills over into my work—of my 18 books, 10 feature transgender protagonists.
But how can that be balanced against sexuality?
Bisexuality, asexuality and pansexuality are all under-represented in queer fiction as well, and suffer the same problems. Many books featuring these orientations are downright bad, so there’s few and far between where good, nuanced portrayals can be found. But all three have a complicated relationship with being trans.
Please understand that I am not for a minute saying that asexuality, bisexuality or pansexuality can’t co-exist with being trans. That’s stupid. Of course they can. I am asexual myself, as is my partner. But there is what is logically correct, and what is emotionally going on inside, especially when you’re still new to self-acceptance about your gender. When you’re new to knowing who you are, your emotions may not be in line with what you know to be true.
I came out in 2014. At the time, I didn’t think it possible for gay guys to be attracted to me, so I ignored them on dating sites. I knew logically some trans men out there had gay boyfriends, but emotionally that wasn’t clicking for me. It wasn’t what I saw happening; it wasn’t what I heard from transphobic media that was all around me, sadly including the romance fiction community more often than not. My emotional reality was that it wasn’t going to happen. Bi, pan or ace people were my only option, right?
That push and pull still exists. Not for me anymore, but for people still discovering themselves. For people who’ve yet to figure it out. So many of us go through that period of wondering if other people will see us the way we feel, and when—if ever—it’s okay to stand our ground and say, “You know what, if you fancy me then you fancy guys. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.” If our prospective partner is bisexual, is that because of us? If they’re asexual, is that because of us? The world becomes something seen through this prism of who you are, and when everything around you is a transphobic mess, it can be very, very hard to separate your identity from your partner’s sexuality.
When it comes to writing, it always makes me hesitate. If I make the love interest monosexual, that’s a good thing to show my trans siblings. You can have gay boyfriends if you’re a trans man; your wife can be lesbian if you’re a trans woman. You are what you feel. Others will agree with you and love you. You don’t contradict their sexuality. I got an email from a reader of one of my earliest trans novels thanking me for making the love interest gay, because they wanted to believe that trans men could have gay boyfriends. That need is there.
But if I do that, my fellow aces slip further out of sight. My bi and pan friends don’t get to see themselves, and I know what that invisibility is like. I want them to be there. I want them to get their adventures and happy endings. I want them to be loved, too. I don’t want LGBT to just mean (L)G like it does now, so part of me doesn’t want to write gay men anymore.
But I don’t want my trans siblings to feel like their partner must be bi or pan if they’re with them. I don’t want asexuality to be twisted into something it’s not, where the love interest must be ace because hey, who wants a trans person, right? I don’t what that early feeling—those insidious thoughts that the cute gay guy at the local bar was never going to look at someone like me—to be found in my stories.
You see my dilemma?
My solution has been simply to write multiple stories. In Erik the Pink, Andreas muses on the challenges of having a pansexual partner who doesn’t understand why Andreas has issues with his body. In What It Looks Like, Rob was gay and had been from the word go. In Sharing Secrets, Adam was gay and mildly confused by his attraction to Charlie; in Big Man, Max shrugged and figured he had to be bisexual after all, because he fancied Cian whether Cian passed or not. In Life Underwater, Jamie says they’re an androphile, because they can’t be either straight or gay when they have no gender themself; Ashraf, for his part, is asexual and not remotely interested in experimenting about it. In Bump, Ryan is unabashedly bisexual, and figured it out long before David came on the scene. I’ve written different combinations, so both answers to the question can be seen.
For me, that’s the answer. To show multiple relationships and ways in which people can find happiness in their relationship. To show multiple identities, and the intersections between them. But not everyone can binge-write the way I do. Some authors have years between stories. Years where there is only one story—one version—to be seen. What then? How do you decide which one goes first?
I don’t think there’s a right answer, but I do think it’s a win-win situation. If you write bisexual, pansexual and asexual folks, you contribute to their long-overdue visibility. If you write monosexual partners, you can produce affirmative love stories for trans people.
About the Book
Author: Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 5, 2018
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, trans, bisexual, established couple, interracial, veterinarian, disability/car accident, depression, family issues, homophobia, children, pregnancy, body dysphoria, #ownvoices
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Buy Links: NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
Blurb: David’s pregnant.
He’s always wanted to have children, and being a stepfather for the past two years has been a great adventure. There’d even been a plan to start looking into adoption and turn their family of three into four.
But now there’s a bump, and David doesn’t know what to do. He’s spent years escaping the grip of his own body and burying the past—but there’s no way he can hide from his history if he lets the bump get any bigger. It’s not just his baby; it’s also his breakdown.
He doesn’t know if he can do this.
“Thank you,” David said. “Yes. I’ll check my diary and make an appointment. Yes. Thank you. Goodbye.”
He hung up and—very calmly—dropped the phone out of the car window. Wound the window back up. Reversed a little to give himself room to wriggle out from behind the BMW in front.
And—just as calmly—made sure to run over the phone with the rear tyre as he drove off.
His palms were sweaty on the steering wheel. His heart was thundering low in his stomach. David hadn’t had a panic attack in nearly ten years, but the feeling was as familiar as ever—the creeping darkness at the edges of his vision, the hyperawareness of his own skin, the tightness across his ribs like he was having an asthma attack. He tightened his grip. He needed to get control of himself. He was thirty-two years old. He could—would—handle this like the responsible adult that he was.
He refused to break down screaming at the wheel of a car, for God’s sake.
Thankfully, the phone call had happened just around the corner from his usual parking spot. He slid the car into a free space and bent forward to rest his forehead on the wheel. He raked a deep breath in, held it for a count of ten, and let it out slowly.
So the test result was more or less his worst nightmare. And he’d probably be having nightmares too.
But it could have been worse. Practically speaking. It was a fixable nightmare. He could fix it. It didn’t matter right now. He didn’t have to deal with it this minute. He could talk to Ryan tonight, make an appointment in the morning—just not the one he’d promised the nurse on the results line—and fix everything.
Slowly, his heart rate started to come down out of the rafters. The tight band around his chest didn’t ease, but it got a little easier to breathe.
“Fix it tomorrow,” he mumbled.
He straightened, squared his shoulders, and opened the door.
David never bothered trying to park right near the school. It was always a melee of mums and Mitsubishis, and he was terrified of someone’s kid running into the road right under his bumper. It was cool outside, threatening rain. The short walk helped clear the rest of the panic out of his head, and refocus. Ava didn’t need to know about it. Everything was fine, all happy and normal, no problems whatsoever, nothing.
The school gates were crowded as always, but David had an advantage. In a sea of white mums, he stood out a mile. He leaned against the metal fence, peering through the railings, until he caught sight of two frizzy baubles of hair stuck out either side of a pair of wide, searching eyes.
He waved, and the eyes lit up.
“Sorry, excuse me, sorry, thanks, sorry—”
He wrestled his way to the front just in time to stoop and catch Ava as she hurled herself at his thighs. He hoisted her up and turned to carry her through the crowd. She babbled in his ear about finger painting, pizza, and a new gold star on her behaviour chart, and then clung obstinately when he dropped her to the pavement again.
“Only babies need carrying during the daytime,” David said. “You’re not a baby anymore, are you?”
It had been an infallible obedience tool ever since she started school. She let go with a sulky expression and jammed her sticky hand into his.
“Can we have pizza?” she repeated.
“We’ll ask Daddy.”
“Daddy never says yes to pizza,” Ava said mournfully, in the same tone of voice one might use to say someone had died.
“Daddy doesn’t eat pizza,” David corrected. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have pizza sometimes. You had pizza on your birthday, remember?”
She brightened up. “It was Jamie’s birthday today!”
“So we can have pizza for Jamie!”
“I don’t think it works like that.”
Her buoyant mood was calming, even if Ava was more of a hurricane than anything else. She was five and three-quarters (never just five) and brimming over with energy. She didn’t even have the decency to get tired by seven o’clock like normal five-year-olds. She went to bed at the same time as her parents—and usually rocketed back out of it again by six o’clock the next morning.
Still, her effusive enthusiasm helped. There was nothing to panic about. He could fix things, and everything would be back to normal next month anyway.
“Tell me about your new gold star,” he said as she scrambled up into the back seat. “Do you need help with your seatbelt?”
“No,” she said, giving him a look definitely inherited from her mum. “I’m five. And three-quarters. I can do my own seatbelt.”
“Show me,” David said.
To be fair, she could. Albeit with a lot of faffing about. Once he heard the click, he promised a new star for her chart at home and closed the door. In the short time it took him to walk around the car and get into the driver’s seat, she’d started a whole new deluge of noise masquerading as conversation, all about how rainbows were made.
David’s chest slowly unlocked as he drove home to the background noise of a five-year-old on rainbows and a fifty-year-old on the radio. He could hand her off to Ryan once they were back, lock himself in the bathroom, and have a cry in the shower under the pretence of a long, hard day at work. Maybe even have a soak in the bath. He felt bad palming Ava off on her dad, especially on a Thursday, but—
He just didn’t have the energy. Not after that phone call.
Home was a roomy bungalow with a long, narrow back garden, a decent view over some fields, and the ugliest bay windows in the front David had ever seen. According to the locals, it was in a village near Wakefield. According to everyone else—including David, who wasn’t even from Yorkshire and was therefore regarded as an immigrant—it was in Wakefield. The rest of the street was occupied by elderly white people called Gerald and Betty whose lives revolved around gardening, Antiques Roadshow, and Women’s Institute bake sales.
Ryan and Ava had been acceptable when they first moved in. Cute toddlers were tickets to acceptance in these sorts of villages, David suspected. And he’d found out the other week that half of them thought Ryan was ex-army, which meant all the old blokes liked him by default. But when David moved in, that popularity had taken a definite dive.
David didn’t really care. He was from Salford. He could think of a lot worse than some tuts and disapproving scowls from ninety-six-year-old Pamela next door. She was there, peering out from behind her lace curtains, as he pulled into the drive. He waved, and the curtain dropped.
“We’re going to be nice and quiet,” he told Ava as he opened the door to let her out of the car. “Daddy went to see Nathan this morning, so he might still be tired.”
Ava nodded, dragging her bag out after her.
“If Daddy’s asleep, can we have pizza before he wakes up?” she chirped as David unlocked the front door.
“Nope, Daddy will want dinner too.”
Ryan’s booming voice bounced down the hall towards them as David opened the door. Ava squealed and shot into the kitchen, jumping up at her dad like she hadn’t seen him in a thousand years rather than eight hours.
“Hello, my little star!” He planted a loud kiss on her cheek and grinned up at David. “What’s this? Two stars! Well, well, well. What have I done to deserve this, eh?”
Then he smiled, a brilliant flash of white streaking across his face like torchlight. And David—relaxed.
That was all it took sometimes. Just for Ryan to flash him that megawatt grin, and all the fight seemed to drain out of David’s body. Even the internal fight. Ryan had that—that air about him. When he smiled, when he laughed, when he was happy, it was like the whole world had to be happy as well. It was like everything faded away and was replaced with a warm contentment, a feeling of security, the sense that no matter what happened, he had Ryan with him.
He hadn’t fallen in love with Ryan at first. He’d fallen in love with that smile.
In a lot of ways, Ryan was a ball-ache of a boyfriend. Complete slob. Rap fan. Thought curries every night were compatible with a sex life. David had become a de facto stepdad not three months into their relationship from the sheer number of times Ryan simply forgot which weekend he was supposed to have Ava, and had had to ring David on his way home to swing by the school and pick her up.
But Ryan made him feel—
And David could use warm. Unceremoniously, he hoisted Ava up by the armpits, plonked her on the kitchen tiles, and sat in Ryan’s lap looping both arms around his shoulders and burrowing his face shamelessly into that thick neck.
About the Author
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.
When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.
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