Fierce Femmes & Notorious Liars
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom is special to me.
This is the first book I ever won in a giveaway. Despite all my efforts on Instagram, I finally won a book and it was from Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Shortly after, I have been on a crazy winning spree and have been winning copies of books left and right. So in my mind, this book is truly magical and full of luck and good positive vibes.
When I won the copy of Fierce Femmes I was super excited, but didn’t quite have the time to read it when I first received the book in the mail. I think, to some extent, I had also already decided that I would save this book for Pride Month.
Though I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I consider myself an ally. Reading this book during Pride felt like a good way to celebrate. And though there are more LBGTQ+ authors now than I remember growing up, the Trans community, (T), is the part of the community I know the least about.
I don’t want to ignore all the work that has been done over half a century for LGBTQ+ rights, because I know these changes didn’t happen overnight, and definitely weren’t the result simply of the work done during my lifetime. However, it was my personal experience growing up, that I wasn’t exposed to very many conversations about the community. Words got thrown around about acceptance and being an ally, but there weren’t very many conversations about the history, and even fewer conversations were about the Trans experience. In terms of mainstream media, what I would have been most exposed to, representation was little to none, and I somewhat imagine what representation there was, would not have been the most accurate.
Even this year, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, despite knowing of them, I’m reminded of how little I actually know about them. I know there are tons of resources out there available now. I know I have a lot of information that I could read. But when you have so much you don’t know, so many groups who you have yet to understand or even gain the slightest insight into their experiences, where do you start?
That’s why I use the various history months to help me manage devoting time to diverse experiences. So when I received this book, I knew it was perfect for Pride.
I have read some magic realism before and found that it didn’t quite meet my expectations. With this, I felt that the genre was perfect for the story being told.
The book is about a young trans girl, finding her way in this world on the Street of Miracles. The moments that were surreal, where the protagonist’s imagination seemed to take control of the story, gave me this reminder of how young the protagonist was. These moments sprinkled through out this less than 200 page semi-memoir, gave me this small reminder that this was a child, a teenager. When you're young, experiences can seem so much bigger than they are. Not to say the moments in this story weren't meaningful, but the style of writing reminded me of how as a teenager everything is more dramatic. It helped me keep in mind that this was a young adult who has their whole life ahead of them. Except for that they don’t.
The book told the story of a vigilante girl gang, who decide that they will stand up for themselves and their trans sisters and refuse to let another trans woman be killed and forgotten. That they will hold the city accountable for these deaths. That these women will no longer be used and disposed of at someone else’s whim.
The story was powerful and empowering, but it was also sad. Even today, in 2019, exactly 50 years from the Stonewall Riots which began by a black trans woman who was tired of the way the world was treating her, trans women, and especially trans women of color, are in danger. The life expectancy of a trans woman of color is a little over 30.
I’ll be 30 soon, and I’m feeling like my life is only just starting, and that I still have so much to do.
I can’t imagine nearing my 30th birthday and feeling the dread of knowing that statistically I might not have much longer to live. Knowing that you’re more susceptible to being attacked, and not only attacked, but killed, and that justice might never come. Your loved ones may never find a sense of closure as your case could be simply dismissed.
This book reminded me of that. It made me feel that hopelessness, as well as the hope and sense of camaraderie these women shared. It made me remember how dangerous it is to be trans, and made me smile at the joy of your first pair of heels all in one sitting.
The heels in particular made me smile, because I could think back to how much I loved wearing heels. How tall and strong and powerful I would feel. I don't wear them much now, because of back pain and because I guess I've gotten old and all I can ever think about is comfort. But as I read that chapter, I knew what feeling the author was talking about, and I wanted more than anything for everyone to have that feeling, and not be denied the confidence you feel when you wear something you like, simply because of their gender.
This book wasn’t overly depressing or sugar coated and cute. The book had those ups and downs that feel natural and true to life. It felt like I had the opportunity to hear the experience of a trans woman in an authentic way.
The Street of Miracles may not be real, and the story of the vigilante girl gang may not be real. But the feelings and experiences communicated felt real, honest, and as if they could be true for many trans women.
I’m not an expert. I could be blowing this book out of proportion. I could be completely misinterpreting so much of this story and the intentions of the author. But that's part of reading. Sometimes we feel things as an individual that the author may not have intended for a general audience.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I think it was a well written introduction to a trans experience, keeping in mind that not all trans experiences are the same. For anyone looking to understand more about what the Trans community faces, I think this is a fairly short read, that is not too technical in history and facts to get a sense of what a day in the life of a trans woman might look like.
For anyone interested in supporting the Trans Community, I suggest looking into nearby shelters for trans teens who may have been kicked out of their homes, or providing needed donations for women's shelters that are accepting of trans women. These are organizations that you can find in your area, reach out to find out their needs, and literally, help your neighbor.
You can also check out this list from Bitch Media, which includes 10 organizations working for Trans Advocacy, from education and information to suicide prevention and peer support.
Last but not least, to support the Trans community, and larger LGBTQ+ community, you can be an ally. Be open and welcoming, and accepting of people as they are. Give a listening ear and help create a space where people can be their most authentic selves without fear.