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Category: trans

An Open Letter With Respect to Reviews Published on Rocket Stack Rank

By now, many have heard criticisms of Rocket Stack Rank’s reviews of stories containing non-binary and/or trans characters. Reviews that misgender characters in a story, that misgender authors of stories, that focus heavily on genitals or delegitimizing non-binary pronouns. On the site, RSR explains that its criticisms are limited to stories and publications, but that its negative reviews shouldn’t be considered criticism of an author. And yet we find it hard to understand how a criticism of a character’s identity, especially when shared by the author, should not be considered a criticism of the author, or any reader that would share that identity.

The reviewer, who is not trans and/or non-binary, makes judgments about the validity of pronouns and identities, and decides which author “makes good use of [transness]” and which authors do not. This is problematic and hurtful. This is a way of saying “you do not belong.” A way of saying “stories about you don’t belong.” When reviews specifically cite pronouns of characters as justifications for rating a story down, a line is crossed. A line where not only writers but readers may find their identity questioned, belittled, and willfully misunderstood. A line that RSR crosses often and with seeming impunity.

Things get even more uncomfortable when we look at the way that non-traditional narratives are treated by the site. Especially for styles that come from outside a Western/European/White American tradition, the complaint of “this is not really a story” rears its ugly head. “This is not a story” type of sentiment seems to be disproportionately applied to stories by authors of color and/or non-Western authors. RSR reviews of stories from authors of color and/or non-Western authors frequently use dismissive and outright offensive language, such as calling some of these stories “exotic” and similar. Here, like with stories by non-binary/trans authors, RSR signals to marginalized authors: “you do not belong.” To us, this dismissive approach shows a complete refusal to engage with texts on their terms – which, in effect, disproportionately negatively impacts writers coming from outside the traditional inroads into SFF.

RSR and its main reviewer, Greg Hullender, have gained a considerable influence in the field, with a Hugo nomination, a third-party link on the Hugo website, and now a place on the Locus jury. RSR has positioned itself as an authority on short fiction, an objective source of reviews with an emphasis on numbers and ratings to aid in the selection of stories for awards. The deeply ingrained biases of the reviews (pointed above), are especially problematic considering RSR’s growing influence. RSR and Greg Hullender’s approach once again seeks to reaffirm the institutional inequalities of short SFF by dismissing undesirable “outsiders.”

When confronted with his biases, Greg Hullender often refuses to acknowledge he has an issue, pointing out that he is a gay man who engaged in GLBT activism in the past, and thus cannot be transphobic.

Greg Hullender also uses his identity as a gay man and former activist to police and pass judgment on the kinds of sex characters can have in stories – and the judgments go beyond the stories reviewed, to what kind of sex people can have. Here again, Greg Hullender often insists on his views being generic and objective, judging acts outside of his preferences as disturbing, abusive, and deviant. These judgments often go hand in hand with other issues – such as an anti-trans and an anti-NB stance – in his reviews. Thus, reviewing JY Yang’s novellas, Hullender equated sex with a nonbinary person with paedophilia.

We have repeatedly observed how RSR’s main reviewer, Greg Hullender, uses his identity as a gay man as a shield against legitimate criticisms. The assumption is that because the main reviewer is a gay man he has some sort of inability to be bigoted toward any other marginalized group or person. That this would excuse him calling stories with non-binary characters fads or arguing that singular they pronouns are somehow not correct unless they are tied to a specific genital state.

This Twitter thread by Bogi Takács contains a large number of screen-caps and commentary, including specific instances of the issues mentioned above:

We have been working to draw attention to this ongoing problem for almost as long as Rocket Stack Rank has operated – at first indirectly. But the amount of problematic reviews continues to grow just as RSR’s stature in the field continues to increase. The exclusionary reviews and their growing influence in the sphere of awards cast a long shadow in the field. It is worrying to see important institutions within SFF endorsing and promoting RSR over the objections and concerns of writers, readers, and other reviewers (including writers, readers and reviewers of color and trans writers, readers and reviewers).

We hope that our concern is acknowledged and that current promotion of problematic reviewing habits cease to be rewarded in SFF publishing.

Thank you for your time,

Brooke Bolander
Indrapramit Das
Ada Hoffmann
Keffy R.M. Kehrli
Rose Lemberg
Sunny Moraine
Suzanne Palmer
Charles Payseur
A. Merc Rustad
K.M. Szpara
Bogi Takács
JY Yang

Note: The above signers collaborated in drafting the letter, additional people who wish to cosign have commented below.

Edited to add: Statement by Locus:

The Potty Post: Gender-free restrooms at SF&F Conventions

I’ve been to (and peed at) a large number of science fiction and fantasy conventions in the past ten years (oh god, ten???).

I will say that there are two main reasons for “failures” on the part of conventions in this area. One is that society in general is extremely cis-binary, and thus, most hotels, convention centers, etc, are set up with a strict MALE/FEMALE toilet situation. The second is a combination of ignorance and not having thought about whether or not someone who is neither male nor female is going to need to take a piss at some point over a long weekend.

Besides the situation in which someone is not male or female, and thus neither room “fits,” there are also a lot of binary trans people who either don’t pass, or pass weirdly, or pass sometimes, or aren’t sure if they pass, or etc, who are made nervous by the notion of going into one room or the other.

I’m short, fat, and up until last May, had an extremely large chest that I tried unsuccessfully to flatten with binders — and oh, do I have a binder rant, but I’ll get to that later, and won’t be paid for it.

Anyway, even after three, five, seven… years on testosterone, it was questionable as to whether or not I would be perceived as male or female. I got a random smattering of he or she in public, even from people who had known me for years and should have known better. However, I almost never got a non-binary pronoun, since presumably anyone who knows the option exists to just not gender people if you don’t know, also are aware enough to know my pronouns. So, even when I didn’t bind, my hairline marked me as other, and even if my massive chest was clearly unbound and visible, I would still get Suspicious Eyes in women’s restrooms at times. Typically men’s rooms don’t involve making eye contact (that could make you GAY, I guess), but occasionally some cheerful cis man would explain to me where the women’s room was, since I was quite obviously lost.

Gender neutral restrooms would have been much more comfortable if they were available, but if they weren’t, I would frequently make the journey back to my hotel room to use the toilet, sometimes even if it was in a different hotel, if I didn’t feel like dealing with the potential awkward situation.

In any case, some conventions are coming on board with being more welcoming to non-binary people by making gender-neutral toilets available. Some. More would be nice. Add this to your to-do list, along with making sure that your harassment policy is on board, that you have guests who aren’t all white and male, or all white, or all male, and remembering to ask the hotel for fucking ramps for your motherfucking stages.

(Also, I just want to throw it out there that although I’m non-binary, I still use male pronouns and I am not the appointed leader of the non-binary contingent, so others may and will have their own opinions about this stuff.)


The naming of the names.

This is not an exhaustive list of the gender-neutral toilet situation at every science fiction convention. Nor is it exhaustive for the ones I’ve been to. Overwhelmingly, though, most of the conventions are in the first category.

Norwescon/Orycon/Most conventions I’ve attended: No public gender-neutral restrooms at all. If you’re not comfortable in either a MEN’s or WOMEN’s room, you better plan on running to your hotel room every time you have to go… which sucks if you’re cheap like me and stay in a different hotel altogether.

Worldcon 75(Helsinki): I did see a gender-neutral toilet. Unfortunately, the one that I saw also seemed to be an accessible toilet, by which I mean, the only accessible toilet? I think? I spoke to several non-binary people who were a bit uncomfortable taking up an accessible toilet, but I spent so much time not figuring out the layout of Messukeskus that I could be wrong, in which case, I apologize.

Wiscon: There is always a gender-neutral toilet on the second floor of the convention, which is not officially a public restroom, but is in one of the meeting rooms/hotel rooms that is rented by the convention. It’s centrally located… but really insufficient in quantity for the number of non-binary people who attend Wiscon. Good, solid effort, but we need more toilets.

Arisia: I attended Arisia for the first time in… uh…I think 2017? I honestly can’t remember if I went this year or last year, though I’m pretty sure it was this year. That just shows you how busy I’ve been. In any case, they solved the problem in the hotel by just labeling both rooms as gender-neutral. This worked fine. I never knew if I was going to end up walking past people using the urinals, but overall, it worked fine. Nobody spontaneously combusted.

I haven’t attended a convention that did this, but apparently at least one person has seen restrooms labeled “urinals” or “no urinals”, which is mostly a good plan, I guess, although I would prefer an explicit gender-neutral tag on the sign as well, otherwise I, personally, would get caught up in assuming cis biological essentialism and guessing that urinals = men’s room. (TFW you don’t agree with a cis-normative line of thought, but fall back on it frequently in a desperate attempt to guess what others are thinking.)


Thoughts and suggestions and whatever.

1.) Single-use rooms should always be non-gendered. Gendering these rooms is fucking stupid anyway, because what happens when there’s a line for the arbitrarily-marked women’s room? Cis women will just piss in the other room, anyway, in an attempt to shorten the line, which is only logical. Just. Come on.

2.) Single-use accessible restrooms should be non-gendered, because, hey! People who use wheelchairs come in all the genders of people who don’t. But, the single-use accessible restrooms should not be the only non-gendered restrooms.

3.) Assume that non-gendered restrooms will be used by more than one person. It’s really not just a theoretical exercise. Non-binary (or binary people who don’t “pass” and feel more comfortable not worrying about it) people do come to conventions.

4.) If at all possible, just make all the toilets non-gendered.

5.) Regardless of gender, I want everyone to just stop pissing on the floor, for fuck’s sake.



Finally, if you must gender your fucking restrooms, (which is stupid), can everyone stop using cutesy-ass weird words to denote male and female? I DON’T KNOW, WHICH ROOM IS PRESUMABLY FOR MEN IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A MOOSE AND AN ELK? IS THIS SOMETHING I WOULD KNOW IF I WAS CIS??? WHY DO YOU FUCKERS HAVE TO MAKE IT SO HARD.


People in Switzerland Want to Know Who Is Clogging Their Toilets With Wads of Cash

No, Jaden Smith wearing women’s clothing is not bad for trans people, wtf is wrong with you.

What the fuck is this?

Here I go, arguing with people who are more important than me and really wouldn’t care what I thought even if they saw this…

A trans writer and editor who writes about trans issues for the Independent wrote a piece that is so unbelievably wrong-headed that I’m having trouble determining if it’s satire or not. Because… um.

“Male-to-female transgender people rely on props like clothes, shoes, make-up and hairstyles to create the gender identity they want to portray to the world because most of the time their bodies alone are unable to do that.  There are a few lucky ones who don’t have to do a thing to put across a female persona, but most trans women have to work hard at it.

The danger for trans women is that if wearing what are traditionally women’s clothes becomes the norm for men too, then trans women will no longer be able to rely on these props to help them display a female gender identity – and for many, that could be a serious problem.”


Okay, first of all, if “wearing a dress is the only way I can tell the world I’m female” is your biggest trans problem, I fucking envy you. But I’m also really exhausted with the notion that the only trans people who exist or matter are trans women. So, my first response was honestly the least helpful, but here goes:

Oh, fuck off. As a trans man who is always wearing masculine-coded clothing, most of which comes from the dude’s section, join the crowd. I sometimes “pass” (regardless of if I bind my breasts, which is interesting) but that has literally nothing to do with clothing and everything to do with male pattern balding and six years of testosterone. Because, it turns out, the “masculine” clothing is coded as “mostly unisex” or “more powerful” so people don’t expect ONLY MEN to wear them.

There’s literally no way in which my clothing signals “actually male,” because feminism has at least done a decent job of letting women choose between feminine clothing or more masculine options. Hooray.

Also, I am trans? But I’m trans male? But I also would be fine cross-dressing now that I’ve divorced clothing from my gender ID? SO if I am trans, but not female, but might want to wear a dress, but don’t necessarily ID as a crossdresser am I or am I not harming trans people? This feels like one of those obnoxious logic puzzles.


There is literally no way in which “cis men might wear feminine clothing, ruining the gender-specific nature of that gender uniform” is a bad thing for the majority of trans women.

Let’s imagine that this somehow manages to usher in a world in which cis men merrily wear feminine clothing without feeling the need to violently defend their fragile masculinity.

That could mean…

Trans women who are not out yet could experiment with wearing more traditionally feminine clothing without necessarily being outed for doing so.

Children assigned male at birth would be more free to experiment with how they want to present themselves to the rest of the world.

Trans women who don’t “pass” would be physically safer in public.

Maybe it would push us more in the direction of “the body parts that are or are not underneath said clothing are 100% none of your fucking business.”

Fewer transmisogynist jokes that center around what different genders are allowed to wear.

I could go on.


“But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory.  They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion. All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?”

Much better off in almost every way.

That said, I do want to address “encroaching” because there are legitimate concerns that come out of that arena. I admit it concerns me, too, since I still see a ton of fiction about trans/non-binary people primarily written or created by cis people, and I have that gut worry that there’s something of a creative gold-rush going on with our stories to be used and then discarded once we’re boring again.

Encroaching on transgender territory is doing things like, making sure that the only people who play trans men are cis women, and the only people who play trans women are cis men. Encroaching is doing things like making an entire film about a trans woman and not bothering to pay the trans consultants.


Trans ™: how the trans movement got sold out

That linked piece is basically a discussion of how some aspects of trans-ness are worth money now, so capitalism is merrily mining that for all it’s worth. No surprise there, same shit, different minority.

A cynical side-eye at a major brand and a celebrity joining forces to mess with the gender binary is not out of line. But…

The other thing about getting pissy about people who have not declared themselves to be trans dressing in ways we identify with trans people is that it’s relying on making the exact assumptions we have been fighting against.

  • Not all trans people are, can be, or want to be out. Period. This is the biggest problem I have with the notion that trans experiences are being co-opted, because in a lot of cases, we’re just assuming that the person we’re talking about is cis and has never questioned things. If someone is trans and feels like that is a private part of their history or identity, then it’s none of your god-damned business.
  • Jesus fucking hell, don’t police other people’s gender identities just to shore up your own. I mean, seriously? This is the huge problem that gets in the way of trans people being respected. Cis people don’t like hearing that gender is fluid, that gender doesn’t match what is assigned at birth in all cases, because the question then becomes “how do I prove that I’M a man/woman?”
  • Trans people shouldn’t be the only people who get to experiment with their gender and how they’d like to be perceived. I am all for normalizing the notion of gender fluidity, and people actually thinking about their genders, rather than just going with what they’ve been told unless it’s too painful to do so.
  • If there IS, and it’s somehow “amab wearing feminine clothing,” wow, you just defined me and a ton of others right out of our trans identities, thanks.
  • Excuse you, there are people with genderqueer and non-binary identities who DO NOT also identify as transgender, and they should not be required to do so just to meet the necessary qualifications to put on a dress sometimes.
  • Nobody should be required by their perceived gender to act out any version of the gender binary. Ever.

The tl;dr takeaway is: No, it’s NOT harmful to trans people for “I think that person looks like a man in a dress” to be socially OK and NOT an incitement to attack the person in question.

Most likely all that will come of this are some pretty pictures of Jaden Smith and a smattering of “wow this is so great for humanity” and “this is the destruction of civilization” articles. Louis Vuitton will sell some more overpriced designer goods that most trans people can’t even think about affording.

(Hopefully some teens get some drool material out of the photo shoot, too. Somewhere out there is a 15 year old who wants to see fancy photos of a cute boy in a dress, and I hope nobody gets on their case when they pin them on their walls.)

But if, for some reason, this is the start of a revolution in which feminine clothing is no-longer seen as “only for women, those terrifying and inexplicable creatures” hey, I welcome it.

And yeah, I’m still chafing a bit at yet another article about trans people that starts and ends with the assumption that the only trans people who matter are trans women who pass.

I understand about the scissors.

If you follow me on Twitter or pay attention to news about trans people, you’ve probably heard about CeCe McDonald.

If not, go read this: and this: and this: There’s more, but I’m going to trust your Google abilities.

Last month, CeCe took a plea bargain (manslaughter) rather than going to trial for murder, and yesterday she was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $6,000 in restitution. There is a lot fucked up about the situation. A lot. Including the fact that since she is incarcerated, the state of Minnesota will make its own determination of her gender to decide where to imprison her.

Everett Maroon quoted the judge in his most recent blog post on the subject: In his words to Ms. McDonald at her plea bargain, Judge Daniel Moreno stated that in introducing scissors into the altercation–which was not the first weapon brought into play, as she’d already been lacerated with a broken beer mug–“You realize. . . you endangered other lives.”

Other lives. Yes. Because as long as it was only her life being endangered, that was acceptable. Because, hey, she was trans and black and that made some drunken assholes angry, and we all know how that’s supposed to end.


Let me tell you a story.

This was either early last year, or late 2010. I could probably figure out the exact date, but I’d have to dig through Twitter and I don’t feel much like it since I have more than 14,000 tweets. (Holy shit.) I’d been on testosterone for about a year at the time, but I still did (and still do) go to work female. If you’re curious, it’s because even though I bind my breasts for cons and other pro SF things it hurts and I can’t do it every day.

One night, this entitled, somewhat off-kilter asshole was aggressively hitting on three Asian, female, college students in the back of the bus. They were giving him every indication that they were so very uninterested, but he didn’t care. I would have said something sooner, but nobody had an escape route while the bus was moving and I am a Seattle-ite to my deep and rotten core. Direct confrontation? Oh, shit no.

When we got to the Northgate Transit Center, he tried to give one of the women his phone number, which she refused. The entitled asshole then turned to me.

“How do you like that? I talk to her the WHOLE RIDE and then she says she doesn’t want my number! What do you think of that?”

So, I admit that my next move was not incredibly smart. In fact, with my 20-20 hindsight, it was pretty fucking stupid. What did I do? I answered his question honestly. I told him that he’d been harassing those women. See… before transitioning I’d always been the unattractive girl. Unattractive cis girl. The type of unattractive that gave me the magical cloaking power of Straight Guys Don’t Want To Fuck Me, So As Far As They’re Concerned I Don’t Exist.

Except that testosterone had given me a more masculine face and my voice had already dropped. I’d just stepped onto the curb when the entitled asshole noticed.


I crossed the bus lanes to the sidewalk, and I didn’t look back until I had some distance between us. He was still cussing. Cussing and explaining what I “deserved.” He hurried to get in front of me and head me off at the crosswalk that was between me and my car. Then he stopped there and stared at me.

And I thought:

This is it. The odds finally tipped against me. After a lifetime of being lucky, I’m going to die in a mall parking lot.

It felt like everything I’d ever wanted for myself was collapsing down into a number. Trans person #whatever dead for the year. Another name for someone to read the next November 20th. I wondered if he had a weapon on him.

I wondered if I had anything on me that could possibly be used as a weapon. The only thing I knew was that if he came after me, I was going to fight back. Because here’s the thing: when people attack trans people, especially trans women, I have absolutely no reason to believe that they’re not aiming to kill. Because I’ve read the stories. Because I’ve seen the numbers. And right then, it didn’t matter who or what I was, he thought I was trans female.

But I was lucky, and this particular asshole decided that verbal abuse was enough for the evening. I got in my car and locked my doors and watched all the entrances to that floor of the parking garage until I stopped shaking enough that I could drive home.

I was lucky.

But if I’d had scissors or a knife on me and that guy had attacked me? I wouldn’t have hesitated to defend myself. There’s no question.

And here’s the other thing — from the moment this started, the fact that I’m white provided protection. On the bus, I didn’t look “exotic” to this guy, so he didn’t harass me. Afterward, when we were off the bus, it may have factored into his decision to leave me alone after all. And if shit had gone down, it would have made it that much more likely that people would believe me that I acted in self-defense.

So that’s some of what I think about when I hear about CeCe.

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