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A look back at Maine LitFest: Trans voices represented

On Oct. 5, The online panel “Trans Voices, Trans Futures” discussed the development of trans narratives in literature. People could register for the event for free and ask questions during the talk. Rylan Hynes, Maine Lit Fest fellow, and Maya Williams from MaineTransNet facilitated the discussion. The event featured three authors, including Charlie Jane Anders, Isaac Fitzsimons, and Leigh Ellis.

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of the science fiction Victories Greater Than Death and a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Lambda Literary, Crawford, and Locus awards. 

She was obsessed with films at a young age and inspired by the fluidity of genders in Shakespeare’s plays. 

“I wrote lots of fiction about characters trying to figure out gender issues in my childhood. When I read those stories, though some are pretty embarrassing, [others] still speak to me,” Anders said.

Besides her interest in exploring issues related to gender, Anders uses her writing to help others struggling with their gender identities.

“I try to write when I feel hopeless. So I hope my writing can also encourage other trans people [facing issues] like me.”

“I want my readers to feel that they are seen in my book.” She added.

Leigh Ellis, the Maine Literary Award winner and author of the young adult magical realism novel Bach in the Barn, had a similar motivation for writing their stories.

“I struggled to find representatives [of trans people] when I was young, so I decided to write more of them myself,” Ellis explained.

Ellis also saw writing as a way of self-expression.

“Because I struggled with verbal speaking, writing is my way to figure out my feelings,” they said. “I sometimes write about trans characters and project myself into them even before I realize it.”

Ellis navigated their identity more smoothly than most trans people, and they said that writing about “positive queer stories” is also valuable.

Recalling their experiences, Ellis said, “I struggled to write at first [because] I tried to tell stories that cisgender people want to hear.” 

“But now I realize that I should write what I want to write,” Ellis added.

Isaac Fitzsimons, a 2022 Lambda Literary Award Finalist and author of The Passing Playbook, echoed Ellis’s view.

He gave suggestions to people interested in writing, saying that “do not compare yourself to other writers. You should follow your own pace.”

Concluding the event, all three writers mentioned the importance of communicating with others and establishing a sense of community.


~ Kristen Shen `24


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