Back in January I published a list of Six Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know. To my utter delight, it was a super popular post and to date has been viewed on my blog over 1700 times! Of course, after the post went up, I was like, aw, damn, I forgot that person, and that person, and then a few readers wrote things like, hey, have you heard of this person? It became obvious that my first post was only part one, if unintentionally. So please enjoy below six more Canadian trans women writers you should know.
I honestly don’t know why Trish Salah wasn’t the first person I thought of when brainstorming my original list. She’s a foremother of Canadian trans and queer writing, having first published her stunning book of poetry Wanting in Arabic back in 2002; the book’s second edition in 2014 won the Lambda Award for Transgender Fiction (uh, despite the fact it’s not fiction). Wanting in Arabic is the kind of poetry that somehow manages to make the most clichéd poetic images—like roses and the immortal beloved—brand new. Her second book of poetry, Lyric Sexology Vol 1 was released in 2014. Her writing is often about gender, sexual, racial, and cultural identities, but it’s also about beauty, sex, language, mythology, and more. Check out the ground-breaking anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics for more of Salah’s work. In addition to being a poet, Salah is an academic who studies trans literature (among other things) at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.
Zoey Leigh Peterson
Zoey Leigh Peterson is one author who I kind of can’t believe I haven’t heard of until now. Her first novel, true, only came out this year. But she’s also published fiction in The Walrus, EVENT, Grain, PRISM international, and had stories appear in the anthologies The Journey Prize Stories and Best Canadian Stories. Apparently she’s also a librarian in Vancouver! Where have I been?? Her debut novel, Next Year For Sure is about a long-term straight couple, Kathryn and Chris, who are the kind of people whose relationship others envy. Despite this, Kathryn and Chris have a shared loneliness that they can’t place. This leads them stumbling into polyamory, as Peterson tracks their relationship with incredible empathy, honesty, emotional realness, and plenty of generosity. I LOVED Next Year For Sure and recommend you all read it. If you’re a fan of Zoe Whittall, you’ll be interested to know she blurbed Peterson’s book, calling it “precise and patient … [and] absolutely impossible to put down.”
Morgan M Page
Morgan M Page is a multi-talented artist whose writing is only one mode of expression (she’s also an award-winning performance and video artist). At work on her first novel as we speak, Page has published work in Feministing, PrettyQueer.com, Plenitude, the anthologies Best Sex Writing of the Year and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse and more. Her fiction and non-fiction are often centred on trans, sex work, and HIV issues. She’s particularly known for BRAZEN: Trans Women’s Safer Sex Guide, available from CATIE. I especially love this interview she did with Trish Salah and Casey Plett for CWILA. I have one of her chapbooks called The Black Cube which is a deliciously spooky SF short story full of trans inside jokes like “Asher could tell a Red Durkin from an Imogen Binnie, no problem.” You can now find that story in a science fiction anthology. I also LOVE Page’s podcast on trans history called One From the Vaults. It’s one of the only podcasts whose new episodes I eagerly wait for.
I only recently came across Bridget Liang’s name for the first time when I heard ta was one of the Canadian contributors to Topside Press’s upcoming science fiction and fantasy anthology due out later this year. (I just got my ARC in the mail and it looks amazing!) I then realized Liang had a rad blog (linked above) and promptly spent a bunch of time reading about stuff like culturally specific pronouns—Liang uses they/them and ta/tade, which are gender-neutral Chinese pronouns—, fan fiction, and their identity journey in a piece called “Going From Fag to Hag: My Transition From Gay Boy to Trans Girl”. Originally from Hamilton, ON, Liang now lives and is a student in critical disability studies in Toronto. Ta is also involved with all sorts of other things, like community research, fan fic culture, workshop and group facilitation, and performance art, in addition to fiction and non-fiction writing. I can’t wait to read Liang’s story “Delicate Bodies” in the Topside Press anthology, and to see what else they get up to next!
Like Trish Salah, Viviane Namaste is an academic whose work deserves a readership outside of the university context. In fact, her two most well-known books, Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People and Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism are both written in language that seems intentionally accessible for non-academic readers. Invisible Lives, in fact, is an antidote to people steeped in academic queer theory, with a focus on the material realities of trans people’s lives. Sex Change, Social Change is a fantastic introduction to trans politics in a Canadian/Québecois context, touching on health care, sex work, feminism, human rights, and more. As a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Namaste’s work also often focuses on Francophone and Québecois perspectives. If you can read French, Namaste’s C’était du Spectacle!: L’histoire des Artistes Transsexuelles à Montréal, 1955-1985 is an intriguing historical study of trans Cabaret performers in Montreal.
How could I forget Antonette Rea, a Vancouver-based writer and performer whose work I was introduced to the 2012 queer issue of Poetry is Dead? In the essay “my tongue’s memory,” she talks about poetry as therapy and her writing as one of her most valuable possessions. You can also find her stuff in Geist, Megaphone, and V6A (an Arsenal Pulp Press anthology). Rea is also no stranger to the stage, having performed her work at the Vancouver Writer’s Festival, the V125 Poetry Conference, and most recently at Push Festival, where her show “Miss Understood” ran last year. She’s also a seasoned slam poet, experience you can taste in her incredible, funny poetry performances, like this video of a piece called “Laid to Rest.” Tackling topics like sex work, drug use, homelessness, disability, living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and being trans, one of her strategies is always humour. One of my favourite parts in “Laid to Rest” is when she says “the sex is free, it’s my charming personality and company that’s expensive.”
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