by Theodore Niretac Tinker
A common question or conversation piece I hear around the trans identity is “When did you know?”
“When did you know you didn’t identify as the gender you were assigned at birth?”
“When did you know you were [insert preferred gender here]?”
“When did you know you were transgender?”
I have heard answers that range anywhere from childhood to late in life. I have heard people talk about their discomfort in their own bodies, their desire to live as another gender, their claiming of pronouns that were not allowed them in the beginning.
Yet when the question gets posed to me, I flounder. Because I didn’t accept myself as trans until I was about thirty and preparing for my wedding and my now-wife (who is also trans) and I decided that we wanted to get married as ourselves, with me in a suit and her in a dress. It was only within that two-year period of wedding planning that I accepted that, yes, I am a man.
But is that really when I knew?
As I explore my inner self and get more comfortable with who I truly am, I’ve come to realize that the knowledge was there long before I acknowledged it. Long before I had the words with which to acknowledge it.
I knew when I was twenty-five. I preferred men’s clothing over women’s—and not just because of the pockets, which are an entire issue all their own with which I fully commiserate. With plans to go to both my cousin’s wedding and a fancy writing event all in one weekend in California, I splurged on an entirely new outfit: gray pinstripe pants, matching gray pinstripe fedora, white button-down shirt, nice tie, and fancy black wingtip shoes. And for the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in fancy clothing. I might not have had the words to claim I was a man, but in that outfit, I knew.
I knew when I was eighteen. When another student gave a single presentation on how to tie a tie—on how to tie a tie!—I became so enthralled, my daily outfit for at least a semester became jeans, a t-shirt, and a tie—in a full Windsor knot, to boot. And not just any tie, but one that I matched with the t-shirt—the first time in my life I bothered to color-coordinate my clothing. I had to deal with questions, from classmates and family. I might have had difficulty explaining, might not have had the words to say who I really was, but in those ties, I knew.
I knew when I was twelve. When I first read Tamora Pierce’s The Lioness series, I grew so enamored of the concept of a girl pretending to be a boy that so many of my future story ideas were based around such characters. Eventually, I settled on Peace of Evon as the one such concept that I would nurture into a full series. And I might not have had the understanding to recognize myself in the anonymous king as much as, if not more than, the girl pretending to be a boy. But in the secrecy and dread of the true self being revealed and rejected, I knew.
I knew when I was seven. That was the first time I got my hair cut short—boyishly short. I remember wanting to look like my dad and being somewhat disappointed when the short haircut was still shaped as a girl’s cut. I would spend the next twenty or so years switching back and forth between long and short hair without really understanding why or being about to put words to the struggle. But in the image my father presented me, I knew.
So despite not understanding and accepting myself as trans until I was thirty, I’ve known for most of my life.
This is one reason I’m insistent on presenting my true self as an author and in the stories I write. Because even if people—children or adults—don’t have the words to understand or communicate who they are, they can still know. And the more representation of who they might be that they see in the world—in stories and in the authors who write them—the easier it becomes to accept and discuss.
Theodore Niretac Tinker is a worldbuilder. Words and worlds are his passion; quality and consistency, his goal. A three-time award-winning fantasy author, he has been through such a winding journey as an author that he wishes to help as many other writers and authors navigate the journey with ease and quality as possible. With a certificate in editing from the University of Chicago (home of The Chicago Manual of Style), Tod has spent the last few years achieving this goal by providing editing services for his fellow writers. His bachelor’s degree in mathematics gives him an eye for details, as well as the big picture, enhancing his worldbuilding skills. Tod supports his many literary endeavors with an endless supply of chocolate, which he hoards in his library alongside his books like any good dragon. You can follow Tod on Facebook and Twitter at @TNTinkerEditing for daily discussions under the hashtag #EditingTidbit. Check out TheodoreNTinker.com for more information on Tod’s editing services and available publications. Many of his previous fiction publications, including his Evon series and eleven short stories, can be found under his former pen name, Dorothy Tinker.
The starting idea for a story may come easily, but many writers get lost when plunging into specifics. Which details should you seek on your quest to create a convincing world that enchants your readers? How do you keep from getting lost down the proverbial rabbit hole?
With his friendly and down-to-earth approach, Theodore Niretac Tinker-three-time award-winning author and seasoned developmental editor-will guide you through your journey to connect the dots, tie up loose ends, and gain new insights into your world.
by D. Ynes Freeman
by Dr. Nyri Bakkalian
In Grey Dawn, we meet two transgender men from central Pennsylvania, Caldwell Simmons and Nate Yoder, who are Chloë Stanton’s bunkmates in the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Just as Chloë learns, modern language on gender identity and sexual orientation is not the same as the language that existed in the 1860s, but that doesn’t mean that people with those identities didn’t exist.
So this week, readers, I’d like you to learn about a man named Albert D.J. Cashier (pictured, 1843-1915). He was from Ireland, and immigrated to Illinois with his parents at a young age. In 1862, he enlisted in Company G of the 95th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and served through the end of the war, discharged as a private and a veteran of many battles, including the fighting at Vicksburg, Mississippi. And it wasn’t until a car accident, and then committal to a state institution because of dementia, that Cashier’s assigned sex was discovered, when he was 71. Modern language on gender identity and sexual orientation did not exist yet in Cashier’s time, certainly. But when we consider that there were more than a few women who—like Chloë does in Grey Dawn—briefly assumed male guise in order to fight as Union soldiers, it becomes all the more noteworthy that Cashier simply went on with his life as a man. This was not a game or an expedient means to him—it was an identity.
Some may think this surprising. But to me as a queer person, it is not so surprising. Language has changed, it has evolved. But as long as there have been people, we have been here.
We always will be.
Dr. Nyri A. Bakkalian is an Armenian American queer woman by birth and a military historian by training. She is proud to have called both the American and Japanese northeasts her home. She has produced nonfiction, fiction, and photography content for more than a dozen publications, as well as for Eisner Award-nominated author Magdalene Visaggio’s Kim & Kim. What’s her secret, you ask? Garlic and Turkish coffee (but really, mostly Turkish coffee). Come say hi to her on Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon at riversidewings.
Grey Dawn is a tale of war, abolition, union, and women who forge ties that carry them from one life into the next. When the grey dawn breaks on a new era and a new cause, who can you trust to fight beside you?