When I decided I wanted to create #Trans, a creative nonfiction anthology, I had one goal in mind: to find as many like-minded trans and nonbinary writers as I could.
I’d been working as a freelancer for about three years, focusing mostly in genre fiction, poetry, and nonfiction articles for feminist publications. I’d been accepted to some projects, received harsh rejections from others, and watched some magazines fall off the map before their first issue. I was happy with my writing — but also frustrated. I wanted to know if I was the only writer out there struggling to figure out the pronouns on my bio, whether or not I counted as a trans writer if I didn’t always write trans material, or if there was even an audience out there for trans writing. I’d found the memoir Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote, along with Kate Bornstein and Julia Serano’s critical and personal assessments of gender, but these writers always seemed so far away from me. They had already reached a professional level, while I was still struggling to figure out some of the basics.
So when an anthology project about trans and nonbinary identity online folded, and I was still left with my unpublished essay, I decided to produce #Trans myself. I put out a call for submissions on Lambda Literary, Tumblr, and several other online platforms, and then I waited for submissions to come in.
Only three did.
One of those three was by Ariel Estrella. It was a short piece on Facebook, coming out online, and the internet’s love of the word trash. I adored the piece — eagerly accepting it — and I soon realised Ariel and I had shared publication space in the first issue of TQ Review months earlier. I’d loved their essay when I first read it then, but I hadn’t put it together when I opened their email submissions that this Ariel and that Ariel were the same. In a way, we already “knew” one another online, but we also stayed strangers.
And of course, that was precisely why I needed this anthology project. It was difficult to know Ariel because we were both still “rising” trans writers. We were both still struggling and probably just as frustrated by a lack of connection. I needed their essay for more than just my table of contents; I needed it for recognition.
Over the next six months, as I gathered and edited more essays for #Trans, I made a point to pay attention to names. To bios. To past publications. And to random retweets of articles, I would have never considered before. Because of this, I found an entire world of trans and nonbinary people that I would have never known existed if I hadn’t paid attention to the connection between us all.
I’ve compiled a list of ten authors who spoke to me the most — starting off with the very outspoken and poetic Ariel Estrella.
1. Ariel Estrella
Their most recent essay is with the Zena Sharman edited collection The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Healthcare, which is a ground-breaking work. Arsenal Pulp Press, the publisher of the collection, is full of queer and trans writers — like Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote — so Ariel’s prose fits in quite well. Ariel’s other work echoes the same sentiments as their essay in #Trans: coming out, living queerly, and Latinx experience in the United States.
2. Gabrielle Bellot
I forget how I stumbled on Gabrielle’s article on mystic atheism — but it’s an essay that I’ve returned to again and again. When I dug deeper into Gabrielle’s work, I found her stunning summary of what qualifies as trans literature on the Lit Hub, a website where she writes regularly. To me, she also has one of the best trans-acceptance essays where she also discusses scuba diving.
3. Erika D. Price
When I stumbled on their Tumblr, they had written a tongue-and-cheek summary of how to save money in graduate school. When the list included “be a tree,” I knew I’d like them. I was astonished by their prolific output — they have two novels, a book of short stories, and a collected version of micro-memoirs to name a few — and then I was even more astonished by their honesty in writing about difficult topics like their dad’s death, their eating disorder, trigger warnings in academia, and of course, gender. Pay attention to Erika now because it won’t be long before they’re a superstar.
4. Maranda Elizabeth
5. Kim Kaletsky
I was blown away by Kim’s piece on modern love in the New York Times about asexuality and their queer identity. I’m even more blown away by how eloquently they speak about being an introvert and always being shrouded by an aura of silence. Speaking out about gender then becomes even more of a challenge — but Kim turns the typical adjective quiet into a verb, existing on their own terms in each one of their pieces.
6. mud howard
A slam poet and feature of a documentary, mud’s prose is eloquent with hints of Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts at its core. Their work is always changing and growing; sparse yet full of feeling and images. Each time I read their poems, I long to reread; each time I do, I feel as if I get another poem out of the experience.
7. Max Oliver Delsohn
Max’s writing career is still very new — but I see the promise in it already. His short flash fiction has appeared in Storm Cellar Quarterly and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine; each piece reminds me of an impressionist’s brush. The closer you get to the words, to the story underneath, the sharper I realise his observations are.
8. Daisy Cains
Like Ariel, it took me a moment to realise I’d “met” Daisy before — or at least, we’d shared publication space in Personal Pronouns, ImageOutWrite‘s anthology. She’d written about her own experiences as a trans woman, turning it into a short story called First Kiss. Her real life blends seamlessly with her writing, especially as she draws on her experience as a lawyer. Her prose is flowery, but with just the right amount of wit.
9. Harlow Figa
Harlow’s dedication to sharing knowledge has always astounded me. After completing their honours anthropology thesis on trans YouTubers, they then put it online for others to benefit from. As I devoured their work one night, I soon realised they had quoted my MA thesis, thus pulling us together through shared citations. Harlow’s output doesn’t end with academics, either; they regularly produce videos to help share and facilitate knowledge about the everyday interactions of technology, trans identity, and education.
10. Shawn Dorey
Their essay for #Trans documented their awakening as both an academic and a nonbinary person, seamlessly blending stark critical prose from Marshall McLuhan with a love story based in feminist praxis. Through Shawn I was also able to learn more about their work on video games, including the mid-range academic publication called First Person Scholar which actively encourages contributions from “people of color, queer folks, women, and non-binary individuals” as part of their mission statement. Shawn’s work, along with the head editor Alexandra Orlando, goes a long way into making video game space — and cyberspace — more inclusive for everyone.
Bonus: sari from Hoax Zine. I’ve adored Hoax since early 2011 when I realised it was a thing and I ordered all the back issues I could. As a collaborative zine, Hoax has offered a lot of different people from different perspectives a place to tell their stories and voice their criticisms. So while not exactly an up and coming new voice on trans issues, Hoax has featured many trans writers in the past. sari, the lead editorial director, has also spoken about their gender in a handful of issues — but mostly in their perzine, You’ve Got A Friend in Pennsylvania. Hoax & sari’s perzine is well worth reading, and following, for years to come.
Some of these authors have essays in the final edited collection of #Trans, but not all of them do. For those who do, #Trans is only a small stop in their literary careers. I’m excited to keep watching, reading, and re-tweeting as everyone’s careers only grow.
All images courtesy of the writers featured. Used with permission.