Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, a YA novel with a transgendered protagonist, is being published this October by Flux. (You can read my review here.) I asked the author, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, to guest blog about some of the issues the novel addresses.
People are always curious to know my motivation for writing Gabe, my trans man main character of Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.
Are you LGBT? Does it matter?
I have family and friends who identify as LGBT. I call myself an ally, or a straight queer.
Is it ok for someone like you to write someone like him?
Though people have disagreed (for good reasons), I’d say yes, provided I check my privilege, do my research, and stay respectful.
Did you plan to write a controversial book?
I’m never sure how to answer this question except to ask a question in return: Why is Gabe controversial?
Did you set out to write a trans character?
No. I wanted to write about the dying art form of live radio. I wanted to write about a kid who loves music, who dives in and drowns in it. I wanted to write a complicated love story—what happens when you fall in love with your best friend? What if there’s someone else on the side? I wanted to write about family, and how our family relationships can oscillate between love, indifference, and complete anger. I especially wanted to write a guy character, because I think there’s nothing funnier or more charming than a teenage dude. It just happened that Gabe was the guy who belonged to this story.
I’m really happy Gabe’s my protagonist. His life brought a new depth and dimension to my coming-of-age story, and there are teens like him in every state of the nation who might like to see themselves in a book. Once he showed up in the mix, I decided I also wanted to talk about how people are multi-dimensional, especially teenagers. As it turns out, Gabe’s status as a transsexual is only a part of his life. I’m not making light of the immense, intense challenges of transition, or the stupid, awful, potentially violent, and unfair obstacles that our society throws at trans individuals, but he really does have other stuff going on—like figuring out what music to play on his show, and deciding what to do with the love of his life who doubles as his best friend since kindergarten. If we could ask Gabe, I think he’d tell you he’s just a guy. A guy with a complicated life, but still. Just a guy.
I wanted to write about a funny, anxious teenager who likes music and live radio. Turns out that person is a trans man.