Where’s the “T” in GLBT Romance?

The recent nomination for my ménage erotic romance, Platinum Passion, as Best Book of 2011 in GLBT Fantasy Romance, got me thinking.

What about the “T” in that GLBT tag? Where are all the transgender/transsexual romances?

I googled transsexual romance heroines and found only a handful of books that I would class as a romance (there are several in the straight erotica/porn field, but I write erotic romance so that’s what I’m discussing today). Why so few?

Is the issue of transgender (and its sub-category transsexualism) too removed from the wider experience to be a topic of choice for romance authors? Is it something that people feel they can’t relate to, and therefore they don’t want to tackle such a subject – either as author, publisher or reader?

The recent interest in Canadian transsexual beauty queen, Jenna Talackova, and her bid to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, has perhaps brought this topic more directly into the media spotlight in recent days. Yet I would argue it is still an extremely marginalized and misunderstood topic.

I wrote about ménage a trois and bisexuality in Platinum Passion (Gods of Love #1), yet in real life I’m not interested one bit in sharing my guy with anyone else! Hands off, ladies and gents! The book was nominated for an award, so I must have done something right in the telling of that story, even though the topic is outside my own personal experience.

Could I do the same with a transsexual (post-op) romance heroine? Could I possibly do justice to such a story and create a believable and engaging romance, when I have no direct experience of this myself?

I had already written most of Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2), but the story wasn’t grabbing me the way it should. I sat down to rewrite it, and with the LGBT label floating in the back of my thoughts, my beautiful and courageous transsexual heroine, Gina, came to life in my head. I knew she deserved no less a hero than an amazing Greek god like Himeros – someone who could accept her for who she is, as well as who she was – and help her to understand it is possible to be accepted even if you don’t fit into the mainstream idea of “the norm”.

So a bit of a rewrite for Aphrodite Calling has become a unique challenge and a whole new story, and my first transsexual romance heroine, Gina, is fast becoming one of my favorite characters.

What do you think about transgender or transsexual romance stories? Why are there so few? Is this something an author who labels herself as LGBT could be venturing into on a more regular basis? And is it something readers would enjoy? Please leave a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Here’s a taste of what is to come when Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) is released:

He’d just told everyone in the room he was taking her upstairs to fuck her brains out. Only he’d said it slightly more poetically than that. She reached up and rubbed her temples. “That’s the last school reunion I’ll ever be able to attend!”

Himeros pouted, looking slightly put out by her response. “Would you have wanted to attend another?”

“Well, no, but that’s not the point, really, is it?”

“Why not?”

“Well, because…I don’t know, it just isn’t!”

“Aha! So you don’t have an answer, then.” His triumphant smile made her laugh again.

“Who are you, Himeros, and why are you doing this? Helping me escape, I mean. Though,” she paused and looked at the numbers flashing as they ascended in the elevator, “maybe I’m not escaping out of here, as such. Am I going from the frying pan into the fire?”

He shifted a little, and the confined space suddenly seemed a lot smaller than it had a few seconds ago. She had the impression of vibrating energy, reaching out to encompass her, and if she hadn’t known better, she would have said his tanned skin held a strange shimmer that made him seem lit from within.

“I am Himeros, god of sexual desire, and I am here to answer your call to Aphrodite,” he said. “You are most certainly heading into the fire, but this is one fire you won’t want to extinguish, once you’ve felt the heat of these flames.”

“My call to Aphrodite? What does that mean?” It’s certainly getting hot in here, she thought. Why am I so…aware of him? I’ve been around men before. Sexy men. But it’s never felt like…like my body is finally waking up…

“Gina.” When had he moved closer? Why was he now standing directly in front of her, his arms raised to press a hand against the elevator wall each side of her head? “We will wake you up…together.”

Her breath caught. He was now leaning forward, almost…almost…touching her, his face so close to hers she could see the flecks of green in the blue of his irises, so close that if she raised her hand, she’d be able to trace the angled shadows cast by those gorgeous cheekbones…

“We’re here.” His words whispered in a puff of warmth across her lips and she parted them involuntarily.

“Are we?” How she was managing to keep talking was beyond her. She wanted to close the few centimeters of distance between them and explore that mouth again, to feel the firmness of his body up against hers, to enjoy the heat of a hard cock that wasn’t her own pressing up against the soft curve of her stomach.

“You have a choice, now, Gina,” he said. “Join me here, tonight, and I promise you will not regret your decision. But if you don’t want that… tell me now, before we step over the threshold…”

“Himeros,” she whispered, knowing what she needed to say. “I want to, so much, but there are things about me you don’t know…”

“I know everything, Gina. I told you, I heard your call and I am here to answer it, if you wish.”

She shook her head. “I’m afraid.” She closed her eyes to avoid seeing the revulsion and started when she felt the touch of his fingertips on her cheek. A touch that sent shockwaves right through her body, unfamiliar shockwaves in places that had been numb for too long. She’d been wrong. She wasn’t strong enough to handle everything. She wasn’t strong enough to handle this.

“Himeros.” She took a deep breath and pressed back as far as she could against the wall. “I’m not…well…I wasn’t…” Just say the damn words. Get it over with. “I wasn’t always a woman. I used to be—”

“You were born a man, and you used to be Gerry. Now you are Gina. I know, gorgeous one. I told you, I already know. Open your eyes and see how much I want you right now.”

Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) will be out soon. The first novella in the Gods of Love trilogy, Platinum Passion, is available now from Amazon and All Romance ebooks.

17 thoughts on “Where’s the “T” in GLBT Romance?

  1. Hi Sandra, thanks so much for commenting. I’m glad you felt there was something about the excerpt with which you could identify – my aim with this story is to show that all of us crave acceptance and love, regardless of our personal circumstances. Hopefully Aphrodite Calling will be seen in that wider context, too.

  2. As a reader a “T” romance isn’t one I would usually pick up – mostly because when I read romance I often like to imagine myself inthe heroine’s place and to do that I need to be able to identify with the heroine and I didn’t think I would with a transgender heroine. However, having read you excerpt I don’t think it will a problem after all. Thanks for opening up a new field for me.

  3. Hi Kate, thanks for commenting, and glad you enjoyed the article. I will have to add Dragon’s Bar to my TBR list. Even though my story contains a transsexual heroine, your story with a transgender hero sounds interesting. How to create a transgender hero with that quintessential maleness readers expect in a romance hero – I look forward to seeing how you tackled that.

  4. @Roz, thanks so much for stopping by! Love is universal, isn’t it, and we all have our own love stories to tell – some with happy endings, some not. Just hope I can do justice to this one :)

  5. Hi Cherie, from your comments, I know that you “get it”. Thank you for that! It’s about that journey we all make to try and find out who we really are inside, and the tears and heartache along the way, that I think would be so much harder for someone trapped inside a body that doesn’t match their knowledge of self. Yes, I totally agree – everyone needs love and understanding, and each of us has our own unique story to tell in that regard.

  6. @Natalie, glad you loved the excerpt! I agree, that as long as it is romance, it doesn’t matter so much who the key characters are. The romance is key for me, too.

    @G. Thanks for sharing your story idea. It sounds lovely – and good luck with writing it. Difficult when you are still writing one story and the next is already making itself felt in your mind, isn’t it?

  7. Excellent article and I really enjoyed the excerpt!

    You’re right about there not being many transgender romances out there. My recently published novella, Dragon’s Bar, features a transgender hero and I’ve written several gender fluid characters. I’m also working on a new series that features another transgender man. Transgender heroes in romances seem to be even less common than transgender heroines.

    I love transgender and gender fluid characters. Many of us can relate to those characters and it’s nice to see them in romances.

    Thank you for the great article!

  8. Great post, Jennifer! I applaud your pioneer efforts on this front. Love is universal, so why shouldn’t romance writers go down this road. Best of luck with the new book. Judging from the excerpt, it’s going to be sexy and fabulously well written – not that I would expect anything less from you!

  9. Being a writer of erotica, I’m always curious about how people feel inside about themselves and the trail of tears they follow to be the person they feel they should be. Whe Chaz Bono went public I was astonished at his candor. I’ve seen several programs on TV about gender clarification and I ache for those who have been raised as one gender and inside they KNOW they are another.
    I think as the other women stated you have hit on a new niche and, yes, it is going to be controversial and it’s going to be difficult to write, but I think the stories need to come out. Transgender/transsexuals are people too with hearts and souls full of torment and fear. Will anyone love them? Will they truely be happy when all the painful surgeries are done?
    All I can say is the excerpt was wonderful and you have a real heart-wrenching story to finish. Sooo, you go girl. There isn’t one person in this world who doesn’t need love and understanding.

  10. I have a story knocking around in my head about a man who has felt he should have been born a woman. He is looking for a doctor who can provide “sex reassignment surgery” when he meets a pair of physicans who have helped others change from men to women and women to men. He quickly learns two doctors are lesbians but rather than having a negative reaction, sees their love as beautiful; thus begins a close friendship between the two doctors and the man who wants to be a woman. The story is pretty complete in my mind; however, I’m in the middle of writing a follow up to my vampire romance book. so it is on the back burner..

  11. Wow what an amazing excerpt! I really want to read that now :P
    I have a wild imagination, but I don’t think I would ever be able to write transgender/transsexual romances, just as I would never be able to write a romance book with two men. I don’t think I have it in me really.
    I do, however, LOVE reading these kind of books. I doesn’t really matter to me. It’s romance and I am a huge sucker for it :P

  12. @Rue, thanks for dropping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt :)

    @Nya, thanks for your comment! I think the no-middle-ground is kind of scary but exciting at the same time. I’m going to add your book to my TBR list.

    @Lynda, thanks for your comment – and very happy you loved the excerpt! The topic certainly has been a “token” comic one in many ways, but I am hoping the times are a-changing :) I’m happy exploring this wonderful genre called erotic romance in all its glory – both as reader and writer. And I think you’re right that there is perhaps more flexibility in story taste.

  13. Jennifer~

    Totally hot excerpt! I think romance readers – particularly erotic romance readers – are more…flexible in their story tastes. :)

    As far as the lack of *T* romances goes, the whole topic of transgender/transsexual has been more of a punchline for comics than anything else. (Remember Chis O’Donnell on Two and a Half Men? Or Chaz Bono on DWTS?) But at least the topic is getting out there unlike ten or even five years ago.

    Right now *T* romances are definitely a niche market–Isn’t that how menages or erotic romance in general started? But with stories like APHRODITE CALLING, I doubt they’ll stay *niche* for very long.

  14. I would agree that this is definitely a niche market. My novel Acid Jazz Singer deals with this question from a male-to-female perspective. I’ve noticed that readers either ‘get it’ or they feel quite uncomfortable with the concept. Not much middle ground there. But as you say: a good story is a good story.

  15. Hi Sharon, thanks for your comment. I think you might be right in terms of a niche market, but when there is a particular story in your head that needs to be told, it is hard to write something else, isn’t it? This one feels right to me, and I hope I can do it justice as a romance as well as an erotic story :)

  16. Whew! Great excerpt, Jen! I think you have hit on a “niche” market, one that others probably have been reluctant to dive into due to low numbers for potential readers. However, a good story is a good story and I think you have the skills to (ahem) tastefully explore. Go you!

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