A genderqueer young adult and adult debut science fiction and fantasy author, Dill Werner writes for The Knight Agency under president and senior agent, NYT bestselling author Deidre Knight. They focus on diverse, nonbinary and/or trans* characters that validate the identities, sexualities, and genders of both teens and adults a like.
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Cisgaze and Nonbinary Exclusion
Yesterday, I saw a re-post of a chalkboard sign that was taken outside of a bookstore. It listed “Women + Books News,” which included a list of female authors in SFF. I was thrilled. One of my favorite authors scored a well-earned seven-figure deal with TOR. An author from my agency won her second Hugo back-to-back. But then…my heart sank and I heard that evil dysphoric voice whispering in my ear:
This will never include you. You’re non-binary trans*.
I don’t fit.
It would be easy to have lists say “Female and Non-Binary Authors.” However, the cisgaze means cis people don't think about these things. They don't think about us, the third genders. I'm not saying this solely for my comfort. More young people are identifying under the non-binary umbrella. We need to set an example for teens and young adults and provide a safe environment where they can express their gender without fear of exclusion. I personally want to set an example for my younger readers. It's a challenge to be out and proud as a non-binary person and to use gender neutral pronouns, but it is worth it. The freedom that comes from embracing your true self...I can't put it into words.
Why is it such a big deal? Put your name on the women's list, Dill.
I shouldn’t be included on lists that are allocated only to women or men because I am neither. I refuse to adhere to the privileges my assigned binary birth would give me in these regards. And being binary, whether trans or cis, is a privilege. “But it would be so much easier.” Not for me. I could fake being allocishet (allosexual/alloromantic cisgender heterosexual) until I was dead inside and my books were on the bestseller lists. But I won’t. I spent too long hiding because I was afraid and didn’t want people to hurt me physically or emotionally.
It’s harder for queer and trans* (trans-inclusive) people to find and keep jobs, get published, date, do any little thing because we don’t fit into the binary. I see the changes being made, the waves of feminism, and am glad. Throw your fists in the air, wear pink hats, march on cities for change, but remember there are others who face oppression in the shadows, too terrified to speak out or dealing with crippling dysphoria from these symbols of “freedom.” We’re struggling to be published and tell our OWN stories while cis people write transphobic pieces riddles with inacuracies.
Trans* and nonbinary people are called burdens and dismissed as excessive. We only want to live and be free from prejudice. In being ourselves, we make allocishets “uncomfortable.” That’s often seen as our fault. It’s not. We’re not to blame. Allocishets don’t know how to address us or treat us, and often feel as if they have to make an extra effort to accommodate our existence (i.e. learning to use new pronouns).
Some people don’t want to deal with our changes. So, they ignore them. This has happened to me. I’ve been repeatedly misgendered without apology. I am not a woman. Please stop thinking of me as such. Gendered or feminine language makes me uncomfortable and gives me huge spells of dysphoria.
I’ve yet to go on a job interview since coming out, but I know it’s not going to be a fun time. Doing it as a disabled person and willingly talking about my disabilities was…not great. Spoilers: They weren’t interested. I can only imagine what’ll happen next time:
Hi, my name is Dill. Like the pickle, yes. My pronouns are they/them. I don’t care if you use singular or plural. The they is the important part.
I'm most known for the unreleased "circus book," pitched as Cirque du Soleil with magic and an all-queer, international cast. I also make it a point to include at least three pronouns and genders in each book and actively include disabled characters like myself.
The list also includes Mia Sieger, author of Jerkbait, who is my agency sibling and bigender. We've become CP (critique partners) and fast friends since I signed. My agent is her agent's agent. See how that works?
Thank you to Cultress, article author Ceillie Simkiss, and everyone involved with Nonbinary November #nbnovember for spreading some nonbinary love!
Now that I'm out as a genderqueer person, I'm revisiting my review of BAD BOY by Elliot Wake to give content and trigger warnings for other folks. This is a trans book that contains detailed descriptions of what it means to transition from female to male written by someone who has undergone the process. If you aren't comfortable reading about these details, walk away. If you feel this might be too voyeuristic for you, walk away. If it will bring up to many thoughts or feelings of dysphoria, walk away. If hearing about TERFs and non-trans acceptance by family and friends is harmful to you, walk away. This book was influential in my life, but that's because I was in the right mindset to read it. I'm usually the one doing the vetting for others. I can handle a lot. I can handle dark and angry. If you can't, there's no problem in that. Take care of yourself and put this one aside.
If you have issues with any of the following, please reconsider reading this book …
Dear Reader, if you’re searching for a story about a down-and-out little queer girl coming-of-age and blossoming as she discovers her sexuality in college, then look somewhere else. This is not the candy-coated New Adult love story for you. BLACK IRIS isn’t a love story. It’s a revenge story. And it’s about the girl who took charge and got exactly what she wanted. But maybe what she wanted just wasn’t enough.
BLACK IRIS takes place over alternating timelines, which are meticulously crafted to the point of perfection. They switch between Laney Keating’s senior year of high school to her freshman year of college. At college, she meets Blythe McKinney and Armin Farhoudi, two upperclassmen who know the ins and outs of the club scene at Umbra. We see how the trio first meets and how the relationship boundaries are drawn. You’re left questioning throughout the novel if the relationships are real or empty. Do these people care about each other…