By Mitch Kellaway
Originally published on Advocate.com June 19 2014 11:58 AM ET
Last Friday, 70 people packed into the Wooden Shoe, a small independent bookstore in South Philadelphia. The enthusiastic audience was all there, despite the heat and the standing-room only crowd, to listen as eight transgender writers read their fiction and poetry.
At right: Casey Plett
As one stop on Topside Press’ Trans Women Writers Summer Tour, the event was held in conjunction with the Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference, the world’s largest trans-focused gathering. Although Friday’s reading featured both trans-masculine and trans-feminine writers, the tour itself focuses on trans women and is scheduled for 11 stops throughout the Northeast this month, including New York City, Montreal, Brattleboro, Vt., Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn.
At left: Imogen Binnie
Topside Press, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has worked tirelessly since 2011 to promote “authentic transgender narratives” by publishing trans-identified authors writing trans characters — an approach unheard of elsewhere in LGBT publishing. Topside's first two releases, short story anthology The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard and Nevada by Imogen Binnie, have received much critical acclaim, including a Lambda Literary Award win and nomination, respectively.
At right: Jeanne Thornton
During the Philadelphia reading, Tom Leger, one of the event’s organizers and cofounder of Topside Press, drew attention to how special this moment is in transgender art history, recalling a story from his own mother’s youth in which one of her professors had told her that “no woman had written anything worth reading.”
At left: Sybil Lamb
Leger pointed out how thinking has clearly progressed since then, and that while many readers and queer studies scholars may say the same about trans writers today, the enthusiasm surrounding events like the Trans Women’s Writers Summer Tour shows that minds are opening to the presence and importance of transgender voices beyond the nonfiction and memoir genres.
In Philadelphia, readers included both Leger and Binnie reading from their latest novels-in-progress, as well as the authors of Topside’s newest releases: Casey Plett’s short story collection A Safe Girl to Love and Sybil Lamb’s novel I’ve Got A Time Bomb.
At right: Red Durkin
Red Durkin, a trans comedian and author whose first novel will be released next year by Topside Press, closed the event by echoing Leger’s statement, drawing particular attention to how transgender women’s work and viewpoints are often marginalized within both LGBT communities and artistic communities. She also explained that there is work left to do, pointing out that no trans writers of color were represented at the Philadelphia event.
The tour runs throughout June, with this week's stops scheduled for Baltimore, Md., Cambridge, Mass., Washington, D.C., and New York City. Topside Press invites any local self-identified trans women writers to join the tour. Visit the press' website for more information on locations and on how to support the tour’s fundraiser.