This FAQ was compiled originally in April 2008 in the form of a post.
Here are some questions and answers about this blog and the novel it discusses, for first-time visitors.
What is this blog about?
It discusses my novel-in-progress, Perfect Girl, which will be in the form of the memoir of a fictional transgender woman named Sarah Radcliffe. In the meantime, I also try to discuss issues relevant to the novel's topics, including the transgender community, Unitarian Universalism, the aviation industry, and so forth.
Who is Sarah Radcliffe?
She will be the protagonist of the novel. She's a completely fictional character, not based on anyone in particular. Born in 1977, and having lived as a woman since 1995, she comes in contact with the world, as a flight attendant working for United Airlines.
Originally, the story was to be about Kirsten, Sarah's best friend and my alter ego. Sarah was a mere supporting character. But Sarah's story proved to be more compelling for me to tell, and she took over.
Describe Sarah's physical characteristics and their significance.
As I tried to come up with Sarah, I wanted to give her an appearance that is attractive and stunning, yet does give away her trans background and causes her discomfort and/or misery.
One of my first decisions was to make Sarah taller than an average woman, but not so tall as to be implausible. I settled for 6' even (183 cm), a towering height that will stand out among other women, but not unheard of, and also qualifying her to be a flight attendant, as the maximum height allowed is 6' 2".
Turning her into a redhead was another key decision, to ensure more miserable teenage years. Though once I turned Sarah lesbian, this decision had the unintended side effect of connoting a "red carpet treatment" - and as her airline calls its passenger lounge the Red Carpet Club, that name has become a double entendre of sorts.
For a writing class exercise, Sarah was to be given a scar that makes her unique. I ended up giving her some athletic cleat scars on her left scalp - the result of a severe high school trans-bashing incident. This will prevent Sarah from ever sporting a very short haircut. Post-surgery, Sarah will have a few additional scars, including skin graft scars from her derriere.
Additional misery would come from a very large male anatomy, which would make tucking and flat tummy near-impossible exercises, and cause severe self-image issues. But as Sarah progresses on her self-discovery and develops her identity as a woman, she will learn to love her body, large male anatomy and all. Since the penis and the clitoris develop from the same erectile tissue, Sarah will simply refer to her penis as "the big clit," and also noting the penile inversion vaginoplasty, she will see "the big clit" as ample raw material for creating her future vagina. In fact, I started using "the big clit" terminology outside the novel context myself, shortly after having Sarah coin it.
Why did you make Sarah a flight attendant, and send her to United?
I've known for a long time that most major US airlines welcome transgender workers, and given my own knowledge of the aviation industry, I thought it wouldn't hurt to write about a flight attendant. Besides, I've actually seen a few transgender flight attendants working for United Airlines, a company I have also repeatedly noted for its lesbian-friendliness. From the very conception, I designed Sarah as a flight attendant right away.
Another reason for choosing United over other airlines was my own familiarity with the company. I've been a loyal customer since my first-ever flight in 1988, and have been a member of the Mileage Plus frequent flier program since 1991. I do about 90% of my flying with United, and am a low-level elite customer (Premier) for 2009 and 2010. Perfect Girl is in a way a nod to all the travel that I have done on United planes.
A fictional airline would've worked well too, but I didn't feel up to the task. Moreover, United's financial woes and bankruptcy of early 2000's weave into the storyline pretty well. In fact, my initial idea for the story involved Sarah's layoff, and the resulting suicidal thoughts, to a large degree.
Any significance to Sarah's name?
I needed a common name preferred by many transwomen. Sarah fit the bill well enough.
Her middle name, Allyson, is a reference to one of my favorite TV shows, Ally McBeal, especially since the original timeline had called for Sarah to start living as a woman in 1998, the first year of Ally.
The family name, Radcliffe, has no significance, beyond it being the name of Harvard University's female undergraduate division. And no, neither Sarah nor I have links to Harvard in any way.
Now, tell me about Sarah's love flame, Kirsten.
She was the originally intended protagonist. She is my alter ego and shares many traits with me, and I wanted to re-tell the story of my stint in San Francisco in a slightly different way. But Sarah took over - and after having Kirsten languish with little purpose, I re-promoted her to Sarah's love interest.
Kirsten is a bit different from me - she has half Anglo genes and has a few Anglo physical features to match, and she is a biological female. However, she does share many traits with me - very disturbingly so in some cases; she is as hot-headed as I am at times, and she is also into expensive cars and peculiar fashion statements I'm known for.
Why is Sarah a lesbian? Aren't lesbian transwomen rare - or even an oxymoron?
It is believed that over half of white transwomen are lesbians, while they are rarer in heteronormative nonwhite communities. Sarah was supposed to be completely boycrazy at first, but it didn't work out, as I had nothing to write authentically about. After all, in the trans community, I am notorious for my lesbianism, and for putting it before my trans identity. Also, I strongly believe that trans lesbians need their stories told more.
When will the novel be published?
I haven't even completed the novel, much less looked for publishers and agents. In fact, I threw out most of what I've written, to focus the story more on Sarah's adulthood and work. But I feel that I have a moral obligation to get this story published eventually. I had planned on having most of the novel done by the end of 2008, but life got in the way.
What do you want to get out of this project?
I won't make money off of this novel, for sure. I've spent too much on my flashback trips to San Francisco as well as novel classes. For me, what's important is that I am able to re-connect with the trans community, and contribute something to it - objectives that have been very difficult for me to achieve, living in a reactionary suburb. And for the trans community, this novel will hopefully be of benefit, as it tells the story of the lesbian transwoman experience, and hopefully enlighten people enough to prevent a hate crime or a suicide. If I can improve or save even one life with this novel, then I will be happy.
Also even outside the trans community, I have come across a loving community of passionate writers, and it is priceless to be able to at least try to become a part of them.
Feel free to leave comments if you have any other questions.