Avatar: the Legend of Korra
, sequel series to Avatar: the Last Airbender
, is now on episode 8. It's had its ups and downs, but I'm really enjoying it so far.
What I'm enjoying rather less is the fandom commentary. Unfortunately, people seem to have decided that one of the characters is trans* -- and a lot of the speculation and conversation around this topic seems to me ill-informed at best. (Obviously, I don't and can't speak for all trans* people.) Most of the points I'm making arise from blab
's essay on the topic
(spoilers up to and including ep 8), but this is mostly because that's how I first became aware of the conversation, and I don't feel up to seeking out more examples.
To be clear: I'm queer and trans*, and specifically I'm non-binary (see icon!). I would love
to contain trans* or queer characters. It would make my year. As a result, much of this mini-essay is deeply personal, which is why I've written it up in my own journal, rather than leaving at as a comment in a place that isn't "mine"; I'm happy for people to discuss the points I make in comments, but I ask you to respect the fact that I might not be able to engage in all threads myself.
There are two key areas I want to address in brief: the language being used in the discussion
, and the actual details leading people to speculate
.Point the first: language/framingThis section is a general primer and contains no spoilers.
A lot of the language
being used in this conversation is not language that trans* people tend to use about themselves. This is a pity; it would be awesome if the ongoing conversation were a little more sensitive. Particular examples include:
( Spoilers/speculation up to and including episode 8. )
- "transman", "transpeople", "transwomen", etc. Preferred terms are generally "trans man", "trans people", "trans women", as discussed by Transkitten and recommended by Press for Change.
- speculating over whether or not someone is trans* full stop is generally considered disrespectful and in poor taste. Yes, it's different (sort of) if it's a fictional character, but some of the conversation feels to me like it's edging into skeevy Erika Moen-style fetishisation, and people need to watch that.
Frankly, I would be absolutely astonished (though delightedly so) if even a show as generally non-faily as A:tLA/A:tLOK featured a trans* character without making it visible
, as they did Toph and Teo's disabilities; and I think (again, speaking only for myself) that in order to remain respectful of and safe for trans* fans, any speculation in this area needs to remain aware of that context.edit:
I've been asked (out of band) why (or whether) I am reacting so differently to this suggestion vs queering canonically heterosexual characters. I don't inherently object to fic (or other media!) containing trans* characters (I've written some
), because seeing representations of People Like Me is nice. What I do
object to is the are-they-aren't-they that's going on regarding canon: this kind of speculation is used to undermine trans* people's expressed identities every day
, directly and indirectly: among social circles when you're not there, as street harrassment -- if you can think of it, it happens. Consequently, seeing it done by my fandom
? Makes me pretty uncomfortable.