Scene: a windowless room at West Hollywood City Hall. A map of West Hollywood—-which, interestingly, is shaped like a gun, hence the city’s cop cars sport big rainbow gun logos—-hangs on the wall. Bookish types are gathered around a conference table.
City of West Hollywood Employee Lady: Our transgender advisory committee wants to sponsor a panel at this year’s book fair, but we’re not really sure where to start.
Me: I could suggest some writers.
Flash forward six months. Guess who’s moderating a panel titled “The Many Genres of Gender” at the 9th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair? Although I’m always a little amused by how volunteering to help automatically turns into volunteering to help a lot, I don’t mean to imply that I’m in any way reluctant to moderate. I think this will be a totally interesting panel with some stellar writers: Ryka Aoki de la Cruz, Morty Diamond, Max Wolf Valerio. But I do feel the need to explain why I’m moderating a panel that centers around an identity I don’t have.
When I learned that men are 26 times more likely to have the type of hernia I had, I did secretly wonder for a minute if I were intersex, but mostly my girl-ness has been one of the few things about myself I haven’t questioned. So I don’t want to be a big nosy poseur. It would be kind of weird if a white person moderated a panel about Asian American writing, right? I feel reasonably well-versed in the trans literary canon, but maybe that’s like saying, “Well, I read a lot of manga.”
But enough with the PC second-guessing. To moderate, all you have to do is ask questions, which is the best way to learn about any experience that’s foreign to you. Also, in certain photos, I feel like my neck and jaw line could totally pass for MTF.
Come join the fun on September 26!
What: “The Many Genres of Gender” panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair
When: Sunday, Sept. 26 at noon
Where: Good Reads Pavilion, West Hollywood Park, 647 N San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA
What else: Oh, so much else! Noel Alumit, Michael Jaime Becerra, Aimee Bender, Marilyn Chin, Mark Doty, Tim Z. Hernandez, Steven Reigns, Pam Ward, the Butchlalis…I could go on.