I went to Worldcon last weekend. It was good, I guess, I don't know, I was pretty sick. I spent a lot of time sitting around feeling miserable for myself. On the Thursday, though, I managed to drag myself along to two panels: queer themes in SF; and trans representations in YA SF.
A word on going to panels: I avoid panels on race! Because usually they make me angry! Dr S has, for example, a write up of a panel she went to that devolved into lots of excuses for Joss, what a fucking surprise. It was just like another panel we did that one time, about representations of 'the other' in SF, that devolved into lots of excuses for Joss (from our audience, not from any of the panelists). Anyway now I only go to panels on race and ethnicity in closed safe spaces.
Trans panels are probably going to be the same, I think (not that I, as a cis person, would necessarily or automatically be welcome in a safe space, depending on the requirements of that space), but I'd never even seen trans issues on a panel description for an SF con before, so I thought, why not? See what it is like.
It was like this:
At the queer themes in SF panel, I had to walk out. It was almost as if (and this is a bigger issue I had with Worldcon overall), the panelists were on the panel because they were queer, rather than because they had any intellectual, authorial or otherwise reason for being on there. To my knowledge, all of the panelists were cis. There was talk of sexuality, and then any time they tried to talk about issues of gender or, specifically, trans things, it would come back around to sexuality. Gender and sexuality were constantly conflated, and I came away feeling as if they were trying to talk about trans issues, but completely and totally lacked the language to do so. Better trans-related discussion came from the audience; in fact one of the panelists kept sensationalising the descriptions of trans reveals in stories. I don't know how better to describe this (and my notes at the time didn't elaborate further) - it was all just very odd.
As a cissie, I cannot make this call, but I sort of felt like, if they weren't going to do it with any sort of competance, maybe they should have just talked about sexuality and left the trans issues out of it.
The second panel I attended, on trans representations, was a much more (for me) positive experience. The chair was Cheryl Morgan, a trans academic. The panel was composed of two cis authors, both of whom have written well-received trans characters (Alison Goodman, the author of 'Eon,' and Hazel Edwards, who co-wrote 'f2m: the boy within,' with Ryan Kennedy but who coincidentally also wrote 'There is a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake,'). Cheryl Morgan was really great about flagging whether there needed to be a quick trans 101, and then went in to defining sex and gender terms, just to be clear.
Some things I wrote down in the panel: often in SFF, 'trans' isn't used, instead some other term is used; Hazel Edwards highlighted how people always wanted to see a picture of Ryan Kennedy if he wasn't present (what a fucking surprise, people want to know if he's masculine enough urrggghhh); lots of SFF assumes that in the future, 'changing' gender will be easy (I am reminded of that Neil Gaiman short story, with the rebooting); heavy emphasis on collaboration/talking to people (this comes from a cis perspective, I think, and a clarification that there is no one trans experience).
Anyway, what a surprise that the panel that I felt dealt better with trans stuff (using my arbitrary measurements of better) was the one that centred (or referenced) actual trans experiences and voices. I know that wasn't the point of the queer issues panel, but it just felt so kind of hack job that...yeah.
books or stories (not necessarily SFF) that ended up on my 'check out sometime' list due to these panels:
'Luna' - Julie Anne Peters
'Questors' - Joan Lennon
'Eon' - Alison Goodman (I understand that there might be some cultural appropriation issues)
'f2m: the boy within' - Ryan Kennedy + Hazel Edwards (which actually was already on my toread list)