Thursday, January 29, 2015

Geek Out Collection Tour: Sext Based Adventures by Francis Gideon (genderqueer)

Title: On Avatars and Gender Identity

Hi there! I'm Francis Gideon and Smoocher's Voice has been kind enough to host my guest post for my story Sext Based Adventures. This story was released yesterday on Less Than Three Press with their collection called Geek Out!: A Collectionof Trans and Genderqueer Romance. The title is fairly self-explanatory; these are all romances involving trans nerds in some way or another. In my story, Chris is a genderqueer protagonist who spends most of his time online playing World of Warcraft until he meets Jessica, another player who interests him. As the two start up a relationship, Chris must confront the fact that he's been playing as a woman, and now must negotiate who he is as he steps out from behind the screen to meet Jessica in real life.

For my guest post, I want to talk about where this story idea came from. I'm in a film adaptations class right now, and we just had a week on films which are "based on a true story"; I sort of see Sext Based Adventures as one of those narratives. It's true—something like this really happened--but I've taken a lot of liberties, like any good adaptation usually does. What happens between Chris and Jessica didn’t happen to me, but another researcher in games studies at my school. While he was studying the game Second Life in more detail, he interviewed a player who had posed as a woman online and met another woman. I won't give away too many of the details of that “real life” story, but I will say that in my version, with Chris and Jessica, everything ends happily.

I could have told this story without talking about gender identity at all—but I knew I didn’t want to. To me, these characters needed to be trans, because there so much subversive potential for transgender identity in online spaces. In his autobiography, Chaz Bono speaks about his love of video games precisely because he got to choose his avatar. He could be a man in the video game world before he was really aware of what his desire meant in the 'real world.' The avatar, in a lot of ways, always becomes an extension of ourselves. Just think of anytime your character gets injured in a game—you often say "ow!" aloud, as though the pain were tangibly felt. Even when we're doing something like driving a car, we still assume the machine (car) as part of ourselves. When someone hits our car, we don't say, "you hit my car" but instead "you hit me."  This eclipsing of space between cyber bodies, real bodies, and the hybrid identity we form with our avatars I've always found really interesting, and I was so happy to be able to explore that via these characters.

On that note, I made Chris genderqueer in this story for a very particular reason. It's extremely important to have nonbinary representation, because as Cecil Wilde has already stated in
their blog post, nonbinary people become invisible very easily. When I look at my story as an author, Chris is a nonbinary or genderqueer protagonist, but I don't actually use that language (nonbinary, genderqueer) or even neutral pronouns in the story. This is not a gap in my knowledge, but a conscious decision. After a lot of thought, I ultimately decided I wouldn't use these terms in this particular story (I've used it in others) because not everyone is going to have access to that language or know how to use it. But their stories still matter and deserve representation. 

In Sext Based Adventures, Chris' sister understands his gender and sexuality through the lens of her science degree; Chris, as he starts to articulate his difference, still defaults to the language of video games and the avatar. It doesn't matter what we have to help us understand who we are, only that we have something. For Chris and many nonbinary people, all we can do is show up, explain ourselves the best we can, and hope it all goes okay. 

To win a free copy of Sext Based Adventures, leave a comment and your email. 

Find more by Francis, including other books, here:

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a great and thought-provoking premise!

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