Hi friends! Just wanted to let everyone know how the book-making process is going. Fun facts follow!
- There are 70 pages total in the book.
- We have completed illustrations for 60 of them.
- We have (mostly) complete text for 52 of them.
- The pages left to color are the acknowledgments page, footnotes and further reading, the index, the two pages of glossary, and the inside front cover.
- The pages left to edit are the “Walk in our Shoes” pages I and II, How to Be an Ally, and this page.
- Meanwhile, we have a spreadsheet of short-run printers going that will make the first edition print for us (self-publishing), because
- We haven’t heard back from traditional publishers yet.
- On the plus side, thanks to Koomah we have a fabulous new video that might help with our kickstarter/other fundraiser to pay for that first round of printing.
We are super excited about how near to completion this book is and also entirely aware of how without big beautiful community support this project would go nowhere. Thank you, everyone who’s contributed so far, again, and if you see anywhere in the above where you could help, please get in touch and let’s collaborate together!
If you identify as a woman, you are a woman. It’s really as simple as that. Hopefully one day everyone will understand. Until then, we as a society must continue to deconstruct what our culture has historically defined “woman” to mean. And what that definition means to women across the world.
(above quote from Cease Silence)
To answer your question, I created this. My name is Mel. See? my email is in the original post. I’m a 26 year old white transmasculine person from Texas… Well, I didn’t create this alone, there are quite a few others who work on the project with me. But basically, we’re 3 gender variant folks donating our time to a pet project/labor of love. We aren’t a big organization, we aren’t funded, and you can learn more about the project at www.thegenderbook.com.
We put these pages on Tumblr for constructive feedback, and while I’m happy to see that it’s starting to get that, please note that disqus or emailing me directly is the best way to make sure your suggested changes get made. (The reason for this is that there are too many notes on reblogs for me to keep track of, and I haven’t yet found a way for tumblr to show me all of them shy of going through all the 1000’s of notes on all 89 posts. bummer. I really do want to see them all, but I’m just one person).
Finally, please forgive me if I sound defensive, I certainly don’t mean to.. It’s just my preference that folks approach critique with suggestions for improvement. Remember this is my art you’re talking about, and I’m a human who can have his feelings hurt like anyone else. :) It’s a vulnerable act to put your work out into the world. I think all of these critiques are very smart and valid, and worth responding to. So I’ll do my best to explain where I was coming from, and then open it up again for more feedback. I want to be held accountable when I make mistakes, and more important, I want to make this better and not make those mistakes in the future (or in the final draft). So, with all that in mind, lets start:
Is it necessary that your character be displayed on the right nearly nude?
We made the choice to purposely share more than most folks would be comfortable sharing, in the hopes of making it clear (a) that sharing personal medical information is at least as vulnerable and private as sharing one’s underwear, and (b) by satisfying their curiosity upon a (somewhat) fictional person, they may be inspired to not ask such questions to the next trans person they meet. Further, the depiction of (c) our trans bodies as not strange or even noteworthy I think is important to be made in a culture that is often sensational and wants to either vilify or sexualize them. If a good number of people write me asking me to change it, I’ll happily redraw the page. As DJ on the next page (I’ll post it this week, remember these pages are not standalone but part of a larger book) says, “I know folks are curious, so I hope by sharing some private medical facts here they won’t feel the need to ask me in person.”
Why is almost all of the content on the page about expensive body modification procedures?
Again, we’re trying to tackle the most frequently asked questions so you don’t have to. One of the first things clueless cis folks (and young trans folks themselves) ask is what procedures are available. Lets see.. I’d guess it takes about a quarter to a third of the page. If you feel this is too much, tell me more about why. I’m not committed to keeping it if it doesn’t serve the purposes of the project.
Why is there a “before picture”?
I didn’t intend for it to be a “before” picture.. she’s on the top row. Would it help if I circled her? I kind of don’t mind that it’s ambiguous, now that you mention it. Anything to fill out her story and make her more of a full character.
Why is the page almost entirely about her body, period?
Well, that’s kind of the only thing that distinguishes women of a trans experience from their cisgendered peers. If I didn’t talk about body parts, I’m not sure what I’d say, except that women are women, and there are as many ways to be a trans women as there are to be a cis woman. Which we say elsewhere in the book already… How would you suggest we change it?
Why is it emphasized that Christina “dresses conservatively”? Why does she have a designer dog?
No reason, just because several of the real-life women I based her off of dressed conservatively and one of them happened to have a cute little chihuahua that I thought would be fun to draw. No ulterior motive there, except to flesh out a character and make it about more than her body. :)
If you’re going to present this work as a meaningful primer on gender, you have to dig a little bit deeper on this stuff. :|
Sorry to disappoint My team is doing the best we can to fill a need. If you want to help me make it better, please do. If you know of something else out there already that is better, please point me to that. I am constantly striving to dig deeper and learn more. I’m the first to admit I’m no expert, just basing this on research and surveying folks.
re: “a female identity so strong that they desire to live, work, and love full-time as women”
The operative word here was meant to be “desire,” not “so strong.” It’s clear to me that one doesn’t need to actually be living in the world full-time (or even at all) as a woman to be a woman; that was kind of the point. The innate identity is the important part. It just usually results in a desire to present and be perceived in alignment with that interior identity. That’s what I was trying to say. If it isn’t being communicated effectively yet, please help me make it better. I’m not the greatest with words. That’s why I draw pictures. :)
Sorry if I missed some of the comments; it wasn’t intentional. Just gotta get back to my other job. Again, feel free to email me (mel@thegenderbook) to continue this dialogue or we could make a task force that works on it together on a google doc or something. Let’s make it better, if you think this project is worthwhile. If not, apologies for wasting your time and just keep scrolling.
Finally… remember this is a first draft/in progress snapshot, put here specifically with the intention of making it better. So lets do that, eh? I’m listening for helpful advice or tips to make it better, and so far I’m not hearing a lot of that. When I get strictly negative feedback, it makes me want to just crumple up the page and give up. Maybe I’m not the best for this job. Maybe I’m not skilled enough. Who am I to teach about this? I don’t have any gender theory degrees to my name. I’m just a person. When I get in my head about this, I try to go through the voicemails in my inbox from grateful teary-eyed gender diverse youth who used this project to help find themselves, I try to focus on the letters of encouragement and hope I hear about how in some small way this project is getting out there and making some positive difference in GSAs and workplaces… I’m sure we won’t get everything right, I’m sure we’ll make tons of mistakes (hell, we already have!), but all I can do is the best I can, and I hope overall it is a net good to the world.
Thanks again for your comments, hope to continue these conversations.
[original commentary follows. please note there’s some strong language.]
The GENDER book is in the process of making a video that will be used for an upcoming kickstarter and for a grant application. If you want to be in it, we’d love to have you. Here’s how you submit a shoutout:
Make a brief video of you saying how a resource like the GENDER book could make positive change in your life, family, home community. Who do you know that could use some gender education?
Bonus points if you show off your copy, hand-printed or found at an event, or include a shot of your favorite page(s).
Every contributor will get a shoutout in the final hardcover GENDER book and here on our website, and our heartfelt thanks.
Send us an email to creators at the genderbook dot com with Video Shoutout in the subject line, and a link to your blog or youtube or whatever you’d like us to promote for you. But hurry, they’re due by Wednesday Feb 20th if you want to be included.
Much love and community,
Mel, Jay, and Robin
co-creators of the GENDER book
I would probably avoid gendered pronouns as long as possible until I could politely ascertain what that person would prefer me to use in that moment.
But if forced to choose I usually lean more towards someone’s presentation (like the way they dress) than perceived biology, since the person has more control over that.
Does this make sense? Hope this helps!