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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Author Cody Stanford on Being Genderqueer

I spent my entire childhood and teen years trying to decide if I was more girl than boy.

Back then, it wasn't easy. In the Midwest, in the 1970s, there were no role models for the kind of boy I was: basically, a boy who didn't want to be a boy, not how boyhood was seen to be in an overly stodgy and conservative culture. You simply were what you were born, and if you varied from that, you were considered odd. I've written about my experiences as a gay girly-boy in my piece for the website I'm from Driftwood.

A lot of my past experience helps fuel the character of anthrotiger transgirl Nikki Ivanov in my novel, Sinews of the Heart, now available through the Budding Moon imprint of Storm Moon Press. It doesn't help that, for Nikki and her family, what was once called civilization has collapsed. Nikki is like I was, in a way. Back when I grew up, there simply were no role models for genderqueer or trans youth; you were either a girl or a boy and you behaved the way you should, or you endured the hate of being different from the dominant culture. Nikki knows who she is, but she has no model for fighting against the opposition from her father, who refuses to accept that the biological boy Nicholas is really a girl named Nikki.

As Nikki works to resolve these issues, she first meets Kane Buckman and his family. Kane is a human boy whom Nikki falls for, but he rejects her both because she's an anthro and because he knows she's a transgirl. But another boy, Rory Lusco, makes Kane confront a fact that Kane doesn't want to face: he really does like other boys. Kane confesses to Nikki that he might love her if she behaved more like a boy. Nikki decides Kane is worth it, and begins to squash her identity in order to please Kane.

But as Nikki tries harder and harder to be a boy, she feels as if she's betraying herself. She pushes away the thoughts in her head trying to tell her that's just what she's doing; she's too in love to listen. When Kane's own fears cause him to make the same mistake Nikki is making—to bury who he really is to please someone else—Nikki finally realizes she has no choice but to be herself, regardless of who objects. She also learns that it's not so bad to be a boy sometimes, especially when you find someone who accepts you exactly as you are, genderqueerness and all.

Nikki and Kane both experience the tension between identity and acceptance, when the person you really are contrasts wildly with society and family, and even sometimes with someone you love. Both of them eventually make decisions that they feel are right for themselves, but only one remains true to the person they know they really are. If anything, I hope young people who read Sinews of the Heart come away from it knowing that they can never fully run away from who they are, and I hope they find the courage to fight anyone who opposes them for trying to be themselves.

Cody Stanford is a fan of both opera and Shakespeare, which inclines him toward fiction with strong plots and lots of thrills. He is fascinated by the arts, history, mythology, sexuality, and other elements that shape the forces and foibles of human nature. In his own work, Cody strives to combine compelling tales with interesting characters that reflect his ideas and his pointed opinions. Above all, he wants his fiction to entertain, but also to leave the reader with a feeling of satisfaction—that the valuable time a person has spent with his writing has been spent well. His latest novel, Sinews of the Heart, can be found at the Budding Moon imprint of Storm Moon Press.

Connect with Cody Stanford on Facebook or visit Cody's website:

Now Available from Cody Stanford:

Sinews of the Heart

Nikki was never meant to exist.

It started with the genchangers, human-made genetic viruses designed to meld animal features into humans for fun, fashion, or fetish. The viruses mutated, became airborne, began changing people at random. Then came the fear, and the war. The normal humans were quickly outnumbered and outclassed, hunted to the brink of extinction, and huddled in small, fortified settlements. Their only hope for survival was that the mutants would eventually die out. But the viruses mutated again, and many of those infected found themselves able to breed. Fur-borns like anthrotiger Nikki were the first of a new generation of life on Earth, homo superior. The world belonged to the anthros.

All of Nikki's life, she was taught to hate and revile humans. But that was before she met the Buckmans, a human family trying to make it to a safe zone, nothing at all like the bloodthirsty monsters her father told her of. And in particular, the Buckman's young son Kane, who stirs feelings in Nikki she doesn't understand. Kane, though, wants nothing to do with her, and Nikki doesn't know if it's because she's an anthrotiger, or because her father insists on calling her by her birth name—Nicholas.

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