Reviewed by: Jessie
I read your story! I enjoyed it; the core is strong and compelling and Lihill's story is definitely worth hearing. [ . . . ]
[I]t almost feels more like an essay than a narrative. Lihill's got a key point she wants to express: to tell her story and explain herself. I see why she would write it this way herself, but I think that if you took out some of the direct explanations of what she is thinking and feeling, those feelings would resonate more with the reader, not less.
You do a really fantastic job of putting us in Lihill's situation and letting us experience the hostility from her father, the anxiety of her mother, the ridicule of her classmates, and the wary and unreliable acceptance of Mymei and Cyani, that I think any reader -- maybe even one resistant to the idea that gender is about how one identifies inside -- will fall into her thoughts and begin to empathize. Indeed, having Lihill interject explanation and protest pulled me out of the experience, and that's what I mean when I say it becomes an essay rather than a narrative story. (Essays are definitely worthwhile on this issue too, but that's not what this means to be, is it?)
And I will say as someone already mostly accepting, the story even got me to rethink some of my ideas. I consider it an injustice and, frankly, an error for trans people not to be seen as what they ask to be seen as; but as you know, I do also think that some of what makes our identity IS external and out of our control and defined by how other people see us. To some extent, or in some situations, albeit rare and limited ones in this case. I say that here only to point out that you directly addressed this in the story, and I was ready to concede even more on this point when I was just *feeling* the story.
On the other hand, one point where I might have argued with Lihill a bit was when she was upset with her mother had to try to hard and only pretended to accept her at the end. I imagine the point here was to honestly represent how Lihill felt. If you're going for total truth of Lihill's experience, then that part is necessary. If you're going for emotional resonance and increased awareness of trans people's experience, then that part might be counterproductive for some readers. You're probably already aware of this and chose to include it anyway, and I'd respect that, but thought I'd still point it out.
But yeah, the power of Lihill's story to convince us that it is in fact an injustice not to respect someone like her as she knows herself to be...it comes from *feeling* Lihill's experience. And you do the feeling segments more powerfully than I think you might even be aware. My suggestion would be to trust the reader to vicariously experience and understand the important stuff, even while knowing they won't pick up everything Lihill is experiencing. [ . . . ]
I hope you do more with this story. It was moving and Lihill was a very easy character to cheer for.
Reviewed by: R.
*When Lihill and Mymei are playing grown-ups, that scene does capture what trans kids or trans girls go through, that they wanna play the mommy and not the daddy, the feminine not the masculine. Have read articles about trans-women who said that when they were young they got jealous cause their girl siblings got treated the way they wanted to and people kept telling them they were a boy and they had to do things a certain way because of it.
*Also when Lihill says ďShe doesnít understand. Itís not really that I wish I was a girl. Itís that I donít understand why the world sees a boy when they look at me.Ē - I loved this part, it captures the thought of trans people too. I think you have a real and true understanding of the trans feelings and mind and that is really heartwarming.
*It was a beautiful moment when Lihill was allowed to dress in girl clothes and get longer hair etc cause of Teinan. I think all trans kids should have a Teinan in their life!
*I liked the part where the preistess is telling her about the different types of non-gender conforming people she's seen, when the parents talk it's like 'Noone does this' etc like Lihill is just crazy but it goes to show they are uninformed and there are others out there who don't think and do what everyone else wants them to, even if they are not the same as Lihill.
*The only thing I didn't much like was the names of the characters, like 'Cyani' and 'Suhi' and 'Haliya' kind of found those names hard to get past and follow, but that's not a stab at your writing and there's nothing actually wrong with those names, it's just a personal feeling really that I don't like names like that, but nothing I'm saying you should change or anything, actually I think in the context of the story they're all quite fitting cause they sound like tribal names.
But, brilliant story, I enjoyed it a lot. And liked that you didn't sugarcoat the ending that everything was going to be perfect from now on, like Lihill still had problems with her father and doubting her grandmother, Cyani crying etc, it's good you showed that life doesn't just suddenly become a fairytale just cause someone transitions.
Reviewed by: The Author Herself
Obviously this story does not reflect the experience modern-day transgender people have in countries where SRS is available, because a) trans people are generally known to exist, and b) counseling services to acknowledge their experience and procedures by which they can physically transition exist. In this story, Lihill is in a totally different situation, having to prove that the concept of being transgender is even possible. I don't use the word "transgender" (or even the word "gender") in the story, but despite that, a lot of what trans people experience happens to her in her world too. The very strict gender roles outlined in the story might be a little much, but I think I needed them to create the environment that surrounded her. Also, in many Pagan traditions Air and Fire are male elements and Earth and Water are female elements, but I don't think there's any hierarchy for them like there is in this story (e.g., Water isn't considered "more" feminine than Earth, etc.). I also think I did a pretty good job explaining why Lihill isn't "a boy who wants to be a girl," and I think there was a lot of realism in the way Lihill fought for her identity but felt beaten down and sullen before she was even a teenager. I also think it was the right choice to avoid having her decide to dedicate her life to becoming a poster child for trans and non-binary people. I think in most stories that tends to happen--the character becomes an example, and embraces it--but even though I created Lihill and her story to make a point, she certainly doesn't feel like she owes anybody anything, and I like that about her. ;)