TAKE ME THERE

Take-Me-There-Taormino-Tristan-9781573447201-206x300Take Me There is an anthology of trans and genderqueer erotica edited by Tristan Taormino, and it is good porn. I'd like to say that before anything. But I imagine you've heard that. So mostly I want to talk about something less visible about Take Me There: it is the product of successful allyship.

This is an anthology of dirty stories about trans people, and it's edited by a cis woman. That could go from zero to creepy fetishization in thirty seconds. But it doesn't. Instead, Taormino manages the balancing act of privilege with grace. She directs the attention of her privileged peers to oppressed voices, allowing some cisgender voices in, but refusing to let them dominate. Taormino has learned what I would argue is both the hardest and most important skill for an ally: shutting up.

 

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.

Stephen Ira

Stephen Ira is a (gay) (trans) (Southern-by-extraction) writer.  His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, Spot Lit Mag, Specter Magazine, and The St. Sebastian Review; he has poems forthcoming in EOAGH: A Journal of the Arts. On his WordPress blog, Super Mattachine, he writes about trans politics.  In his apartment, he cries about James Schuyler. Stephen attends Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY.

Website: supermattachine.wordpress.com/

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8 comments

  • justin

    I bought this book in SF. I had a chance to have a few of the authors and the editor sign it for me. Great book.

    justin Comment Link
  • JJ

    Made me pick up a copy! thanks!

    JJ Comment Link
  • chaz

    I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading this anthology. I did however go to the G-Spot Orgasm class Tristan Taormino put on in Portland in which she said she didn’t know if Transmen were physically capable of having G-Spot ejaculating orgasms and that she’d need to take a poll. With a thankful heart Tristan, the answer is yes! I hope some helpful FTM is clearing that up for you somewhere steamy right now. Maybe it’ll make the next anthology and the next class.

    chaz Comment Link
  • Kyle

    Looks like we reacted very similarly to this anthology. I was hopeful about finding myself somewhere in those pages, characters I could relate too. I was not disappointed, and I discovered more than I’d hoped for. In my review, I said “I could relate to all of them in some way, regardless of our differences, they are all members of my tribe. In a way, reading this book and getting to know these artfully created characters, showed me, even more than I felt it before, that I have a tribe. There is a place where ‘one of these things doesn’t belong here’ doesn’t apply, and that’s among other gender benders, stretchers and breakers like me.”

    I enjoyed the honesty, the matter-of-fact way bio bits and gender are discussed. There was good artful writing, hot sexy writing, great stories and characters. As a writer, I felt like I’d gone to a great trans and genderqueer writing workshop. As a fan of erotica, I had severely wet briefs and a big tent pole.

    Kyle Comment Link
  • Lisa

    Mostly, I agree with you. Something that I find very difficult to overlook though is the editor’s fetishization of trans bodies right on the heals of claiming to want to put together a compilation that avoids just that by writing in the introduction: “there is something deliciously dissonant about reading about his clit, her dick, his tits and her scrotum.”

    That isn’t deliciously dissonant. That’s my life. Sometimes it’s hot, and sometimes it’s dysphoric, but not deliciously dissonant.

    Lisa Comment Link
  • Trew Boisvert

    Dean Scarborough is my boyfriend! Shameless plug, I know, but I love him to pieces! He is also an amazing illustrator, on top of his writing skills. And pretty much the cutest thing since kittens.

    Trew Boisvert Comment Link
  • Kyle

    In response to Lisa, I guess in my delight over seeing my experience echoed so often in those pages (being a him and a her, with all of the parts mentioned with various gender overlays depending on the situation), made me less sensitive and aware of how it would come across to someone else. Thank you for sharing and helping others become more aware.

    Kyle Comment Link
  • KW

    If you want to read something really hot check out Amos Mac’s piece in the anthology Trans/Love. I loved every word!

    KW Comment Link

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