Sensitivity Reading Services

I am available for Sensitivity Reads for authors working on manuscripts with LGBTQIA+ characters, with a speciality in analyzing books with trans and nonbinary representation. Here are the basics about sensitivity reading and what it entails. Please read that before continuing!

Who I Am:

My name’s Vee! I am 19 years old, bisexual, nonbinary, and trans. I am the admin of GayYA.Org, a website dedicated to promoting and discussing LGBTQIA+ representation in Young Adult literature. I’ve spent the past four years reading and analyzing narratives in LGBTQIA+ YA fiction. In particular, I have published several pieces analyzing the representation of transgender characters. You can find samples of my work here and here.

 

How much does this cost?

That depends on the service!

Manuscript (60,000-100,000 words): $350 will get a writer a high level read focusing on narrative, as well as a notes page detailing what is working and what problems I saw, and specific problems highlighted within the text. This is NOT a structural edit, and the critique is focused on representation only.

Short stories: Between $10-$75, depending on the length

Synopsis critique: $50. Since one of my strengths is narrative analysis, I can often identify potential large problematic tropes from a thorough synopsis.

Cover copy critique: $30. Figuring out the wording of a summary can be hard, especially for books with trans and bi characters. I can read and give specific critique on whether the summary contains trans or biphobic language. (Note: this is NOT a general edit. I only critique language that is specific to the identities represented in the book.)

If you have another service in mind, please email me! I’m happy to consider other possibilities.

If these prices do not work for you, I sometimes consider price reductions or exchange of services. Email me with information about your project and circumstances and we may be able to work something out.

Turnaround time:

My life is very hectic right now, so my current estimated turnaround time is two months. If you need a quicker turnaround, please feel free to email, and we can discuss.

Final note:

Please do not include me in your acknowledgements without my consent! I’m happy and honored to be asked, but there are times when I’m comfortable with it and times when I’m not, and I prefer to be asked beforehand. 🙂

How to get in touch:

Email me at rausiroo@gmail.com. Please include a brief description of your novel/short story, where you are at in the publication process, what kind of service you are looking for, if you or your publisher are able to pay full price, or if you’d like me to consider special circumstances.

Thanks for stopping by! If you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an email.

 

 

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How to Review a Trans Book as a Cis Person

I have seen countless reviews written by cisgender people that as a trans person make my stomach turn. In the majority of reviews written by cisgender readers, the trans characters are misgendered, transness itself is sensationalized, and the cisgender author is commonly called “brave” for writing about “such a controversial issue.” To top it off, most of these reviews contain the phrase: “this book opened my eyes so much!” It hurts to see these. It makes me feel so helpless to see people who care about trans people accidentally spread harmful misconceptions that contribute to transphobia.

Most of these harmful reviewing methods come from confusion and misinformation, not ill intent. The layers of complexity around transness can be incredibly difficult to understand. Learning about and understanding transness is a process—I’m trans, and I’m still confused about some things, and learning lots of stuff! So I am not here to point fingers or blame anyone. My intention is only to educate.

I think that a major source of misinformation for readers can come from the book’s blurb and marketing material. Whichever way the blurb/marketing material describes transness is often (understandably) seen by many readers as an appropriate way to talk about it. Unfortunately, most blurbs of trans books are written by cis people and are often transphobic (for an extreme example, a transphobic slur is used in one of the recs on the jacket copy of I Am J). So the fact that problematic reviews have become commonplace is understandable.

Why is it important that reviews get better? Because trans books do not exist in a vacuum and neither do reviews. If a cis person reads a book with a trans character and it opens their eyes—great. But that’s not enough. That newfound inner understanding and empathy needs to be translated into outward actions. A really big part of treating trans people right has to do with the language you use. If you don’t do things as simple as referring to trans people by the correct pronouns, and by their chosen name, you are not treating trans people with respect.

It’s also about changing the culture of the YA community, and ensuring that it is a respectful and safe place for trans people. Because, right now, it’s not. I and so many other trans people can barely stomach reading the reviews of trans books by cis readers, and don’t even want to touch discussions of trans representation that are led by cis people. Transphobic reviews and language make us uncomfortable in a place that should first and foremost be for us. That just shouldn’t be the case, not in an area that’s full of people claiming to understand and support us.

So, this is my guide to reviewing trans books as a cis person. I’m not the only trans person out there, obviously, and there are for sure many other trans people whose opinions differ from my own. So I offer this guide as a starting point to shifting the conversation to a trans person’s perspective, and encourage you to listen to the perspectives of other trans people as well.  

 

1) Use the right pronouns. Even if it is never explicitly discussed in the book. For example, in Gracefully Grayson, Grayson never specifically she says that she wants she/her pronouns. But it is clear that she is a trans girl, and while there are certainly cases of trans people not wanting to change pronouns until they’ve transitioned, that is a personal choice and not an OK method of referring to trans people as a whole.

I cannot overstate the importance of this. Using “he” for someone whose pronoun is “she” or vice versa is saying that you don’t see them as the gender they are, which is one of the major catalysts of transphobia.

If the character is genderfluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, or a similar identity and hasn’t stated a pronoun preference, use they/them, other gender neutral pronouns, or simply the character’s name.

2) Use the right name. This is as important as using the right pronouns. Never use a character’s birth name (often referred to by trans people as their dead name) to refer to them, unless they have not picked a different name. So, for example, it’s okay to refer to the trans girl in Gracefully Grayson as Grayson— she never talks about a different name that she’d like to use. But referring to Gabe in Beautiful Music for Ugly Children as Elizabeth, or Luna in Luna as Liam is not ok: those characters have stated a new name for themselves.  

3) How do you describe a character being trans?

Here’s a brief guide from GLAAD that should help. After you read that (and seriously—read it. Especially the “Terms To Avoid” section. It’s short, yet very very important) here are my own additions:

My general thoughts on language—the simpler the better. It’s not necessary to be flowery when explaining that a character is trans. You can simply say “This character is [a trans girl/a trans boy/nonbinary]” or “she is a girl that the rest of the world sees as a boy.” Trans people are trans people—it’s not necessary to use flowery language to describe them being trans, like “when Grayson looks in the mirror and spins around, he sees a girl looking back at him.” Simply say that the character is trans!

In particular, please stay away from phrases like these (in the case of describing a trans girl): “Believed he was meant to be a girl,” “he wants to be a girl,” “a boy who is transgender”. These are not appropriate ways to explain that someone is trans. When someone is trans, it means they are the gender they feel they are. Grayson (from Gracefully Grayson) does not want to be a girl—she is a girl!

The phrase “born in the wrong body” is a highly contested phrase in the trans community. Some feel that it’s a completely inappropriate way to characterize being trans, some identify heavily with it. It’s fine for trans people to define themselves that way. I don’t think, however, that it’s an OK way to characterize transness in whole, and I think it’s inappropriate for cis reviewers to describe transness in that way.

4) Lots of reviewers will talk about how “brave” the cis author is for writing about “such a controversial issue.” (I just love being called a “controversial issue”!) Why is it brave for a cis author to write about a trans character? Being trans is not something they’ve experienced. When I see this in reviews, it makes me feel like the reviewer sees trans people as an issue, a topic, a taboo, and not as real people. It dehumanizes trans people, positions them as something to be talked around. It assumes that trans people won’t be reading the review. And it positions the cis person as doing trans people a favor, of somehow finding it in themselves to write about these freakish people.

5) Put a “cisclaimer” at the beginning of your review! Something along the lines of “Cisclaimer: I am cis! I know/don’t know [x amount] about trans issues.” This doesn’t alleviate your responsibility to refer to the character respectfully, but I believe it is an important step to show that your opinion on the book, as a cis person, is not the most important one.

6) Try to find a review of the trans YA book you’re reviewing from a trans person. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, or understand it, having the perspective is vitally important. (If you can’t find one, it doesn’t mean you can’t review the book! But please remain aware that your perspective on a trans book is not as important as a trans person’s. ☺)

Please, leave me a comment or tweet me @findmereading if you have any questions! Also, if any trans readers have thoughts to add, or disagree with something I said, let me know! I want to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Thanks for listening!

 

Thank you so fricking much

Hi everyone,

I wanted to say thank you.

A few weeks ago I made the decision to set up a GoFundMe to help fund my trip for BEA. This was… a really, really hard decision. I’ve never liked asking for help, especially not financial help.

When I set up my GoFundMe, I was scared. Scared that people would think I was asking for too much when I didn’t deserve it, that I was lazy and needed to make the money myself if I wanted to go. (I’m certain that anyone who’s ever set up a fundraiser for themselves has had similar fears.)

Well, turns out some people did think that.

When I first saw Those Tweets, I immediately thought “they’re right.” What was I thinking asking for this? I should be working harder at finding a job, I shouldn’t go, I should find a way to give the money back to the people who gave it to me, I shouldn’t have ever thought that people would want to donate to me, I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve anything. 20 minutes after meeting my fundraising goal I didn’t think I could possibly go to BEA now that I knew a bunch of people who knew who I was hated how I got there.

And then???????????? An amazing thing happened.

My friends and colleagues started sharing my GoFundMe, explaining the work I do on GayYA, and saying So Many Ridiculously Kind things about me and So Many Smart Things about poverty-shaming, making sure the YA community is a safe space for teens, and how making diversity flourish often requires financial support.

People I’ve never spoken to before donated, tweeted me support, followed me. People going to BEA (including amazing amazing authors and editors and agents?) said they hoped they’d see me there. I gained 350 Twitter followers in a day and a half.With every tweet, every donation, this is what I heard:

You do belong. You are deserving. You have done work of value.

Which is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

This year I’ve felt like a useless lump. Some of you know that my mom has been on chemo for stage 4 cancer this past year, and that I have basically been her primary caretaker. That means dropping everything else in my life for days on end when she’s having a bad week (which, incidentally, is why I haven’t been able to get a job until literally this week). It means extreme emotional drainage at all times. It’s scary and it’s hard and it’s made time move so slowly and so fast at the same time. I’ve had emails sit in GayYA’s inbox for months on end. Some of them I STILL haven’t responded to. I’ve tried to do what I can, but it’s been hard, and I’ve felt I & everything on GayYA has been incredibly worthless this year. I’ve felt like a failure.

But. Yesterday. Yesterday, I learned people still see the work that I do manage to do. That it’s appreciated. That it’s valued. And that… that means the world to me. That is more than I could ask for, and to have my trip for BEA surpass its funding goal by so much on top of that? To be approached by people I’ve never spoken to just to tell me they support me and are glad I’m going to BEA? It means so incredibly much to me. I cried a lot yesterday, and none of it was over the negative tweets. It could’ve been. But instead it was tears of gratitude and joy about how damn kind people are.

I’ve ended up raising $2,271, from my goal of $486. I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with the overage. I may use it to attend other professional conferences so I have more opportunities to grow GayYA & further the ❤ for LGBTQIA+ YA. Or I may use it for things like GayYA’s site hosting. But I’m going to make sure that it goes into something that somehow gives back to the community. Because wow, y’all. You were there for me. I’ll never forget it. And now I want to make sure I’m there for you.

One last thing– what upsets me the most about all this, is that I’m a teen and most of the people who’ve been shaming my decision are adults. I have an awesome support network around me, so I’m OK, but what if this had happened to a teen who didn’t have that? It’s not worth saying much more than this, because I know the majority of adults in the YA community value and support and defend young people. But it still makes me sad and scared that it’s a thing that can happen. Most importantly, I want to say this to my fellow teens: if adults are ever doing Not Okay things in your direction, let me know. I want to know, and I have lots of friends who want to know. Like Wes said: