Except--and this is the astonishing thing about Take Me There!--the cis authors don't all shut up. And I don't mind! My hackles go up fast when a cis person starts talking about trans sexuality. It was lovely to let them go down, sexy even, to hear cis writers talk about what is sexy and beautiful in us. It made me think--what is the line between glorifying the specific sexiness of trans bodies and fetishizing that sexiness? I think Take Me There has helped me answer this question.
In a fetishized context, trans people are not seen. In these stories, we are. And as it turns out, we have something that cis people don't.
I believe in the beauty of our difference. I believe that I am sexy, that all trans people are sexy, in a way cis people can never hope to be. What we must do is celebrate those differences without reducing ourselves those differences. When we're fetishized, the only hot thing about is is our difference--we are boys with cunts, or chicks with dicks, and otherwise uninteresting, even repulsive.
In the stories Taormino has anthologized, the trans lovers are hot because they are hot. In "Shoes Are Meant To Get You Somewhere" by Dean Scarborough, a trans Daddy doms his sissy sub in a way that will make any boy's panties wet. Other trans characters fuck with and within the archetypal hetero-myth of the sex-starved high school boy virgin in "Cocksure" by Gina de Vries. Nonetheless, our difference is not ignored. It is visible. As the lapsed Catholic femme in Kiki DeLovely's story says of her lover, "I enjoy eroticizing everything that makes her genderqueer." These trans people are seen by their lovers--and the lovers are often also trans, as with the lesbian couple in Rachel K. Zall's "The Visible Woman." And when we are seen, truly and completely seen, we cannot be fetishized.
Some stories in Take Me There present a guide to proper seeing. In Patrick Califia's "Big Gifts In Small Boxes: A Christmas Story," a cis bear tells about fucking a trans boy for the first time. Califia, a trans man, offers a guide for cisgender lovers: Here is how a trans body can be articulated, appreciated, spoken. Sinclair Sexsmith performs a difficult technical feat in "The Hitchhiker," telling a story from the perspective of a cisgender woman who never genders her lover in the text of the story--or at least not until its revelatory, liberating end.
There are slip-ups from the cis authors, of course, but they are brief. Helen Boyd's story is titled "All-Girl Action," but includes several trans guys. The main thread of the story, in which a queer cis woman brings a trans woman to her first play party, centers on the cis woman giving the trans woman "real girl guidance." Uncomfortable! Those shades of "Here, let the cis people teach you how to do gender!" are countered beautifully by Andre Zanin's "The Perfect Gentleman," in which a trans woman teaches a baby dyke a thing or two about hir own gender identity. (Through hot sex, naturally.) It's gorgeous, and indicative of the book as a whole--the cis person goes into the encounter thinking they'll need to accomodate the trans person's anxieties, but ends up learning that even their own gender is far more complex than they'd assumed.
I haven't namechecked half of what this book has to offer here. Most of all, I've neglected Kate Bornstein's "Dixie Bell," which manages to argue for a sex work-positive politics, queer Huck Finn until he turns into a trans girl named Sassy, and ape Mark Twain's style perfectly. As Taormino does in editing Take Me There, Bornstein manages to keep all the balls in the air.
So here's what I'm saying: Go get off to the dirty stories in Take Me There. In the process, you will learn to fuck more happily. Trans readers will be serviced. I certainly felt a little worshipped, a little adored, like I was being treasured for the creature I was alongside the anthology's trans characters. And for cis readers, there's not just a lesson in sexual allyship, but a heaping spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Except in this case, the sugar is the substance, with the learning as the bonus, and anyway when I say "sugar" what I really mean is "orgasms," so maybe this isn't the best analogy.
In my next book review, I'm back to straight-up--if you'll forgive the pun--politics. I'll be reviewing Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, a collection of anti-assimilation, anti-masculinist essays edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Just as sexy, but more filled with rage and glitter. I'll see you then.