Today I am so pleased to welcome Matthew J. Metzger to Joyfully Jay. Matthew has come to talk to us about his latest release, Bump. He has also brought along a great giveaway! Please join me in giving Matthew a big welcome!
Trans People Count
My latest novel is an mpreg.
There’s no shifters. It’s not a fantasy. There’s no magic spells or potions. It’s just an ordinary guy, living in the ordinary world, getting pregnant by his ordinary partner, and having an ordinary baby. As happens all over the world, all of the time.
But you’d never know that, to look at the romance community.
Now, mpreg is not my thing. Without any of the politics, I’m simply not interested in pregnancy or children. I’ve had my own spawning toolkit removed, and when colleagues bring the new baby to the office, I’m nowhere to be seen. I’ll pull faces at a curious baby in a pram while I’m waiting for my coffee at Starbucks, and I suppose they can be quite cute when they’re quiet, but that’s about it. I’m not interested in real life, and I’m not interested in fiction unless it’s about how demonic and hilarious children can be when they’re not your responsibility and you don’t have to care.
But with the politics, mpreg becomes even less of my thing. Mpreg, as a trope and subgenre, is riddled with transphobia. I have never read an mpreg that actually engaged with what it’s like to be a man and pregnant. I’ve never read an mpreg that paid any respect to trans people, or the simple fact that some men do, have, can, and will get pregnant. Usually they’re packed instead with how strange, exotic and miraculous a pregnant man is, how difficult a pregnancy is, and—that’s it. Very rarely is there any acknowledgement whatsoever that trans people exist. I’ve never seen one that actually engaged with that struggle between being a man and being pregnant, because that’s a mental and emotional struggle, not just oh-shit-my-ankles-are-swollen-and-I-have-weird-cravings.
Added on top is a defensiveness within the community. It’s not really permitted to say you find mpreg problematic. To give an example, Bump—and another family story I wrote a while ago, Erik the Pink—were fuelled by a thread in a Facebook group for people writing queer fiction. Someone asked people’s thoughts on mpreg, and several trans and non-binary folks replied that they didn’t like it for a variety of reasons, including the ones I’ve highlighted above. The backlash was swift. We had made this space unsafe. We had made people afraid to give their opinions. How dare negative opinions be the response to “what’s your thoughts?” We were reader-shaming. And anyway, mpreg doesn’t count if the pregnant guy is trans, so our opinions were irrelevant.
It’s that last point that really infuriated me, and gave rise to Erik the Pink and Bump. The idea that it somehow doesn’t count.
Let me be very, very clear: that’s bullshit.
A trans man is a man. If your romance is between a cis guy and a trans guy, it’s M/M. Your gay hero can fall for a trans love interest and still be gay. If your story has a trans man who is pregnant, then it has a man who is pregnant.
Because trans men are men.
When you say that mpreg only counts for a cis pregnancy, then what you’re really doing is saying that trans men aren’t men. What you’re doing is denying trans people their identity, and their right to that identity. You are being transphobic, and believe me, we can see it. We know what’s being said when you go, “Yeah, but, you know, it’s not really mpreg, is it?”
Yes. It is.
I used to wonder why there was such a lack of trans representation in the mpreg subgenre. And from the perspective of a trans author, I can see why in a less problematic way. It’s not something that’s necessarily easy or even possible to write about. For some men, it’s digging into an open wound. Bump is a deeply emotional story, and it was very, very difficult to write—and that’s said by a guy who never wanted kids and is never going to be dealing with any of the shit that David has to deal with in the story.
But from a reader’s perspective? Where there is an entire subgenre that dramatically applies to and affects a group of people that are never actually seen in that genre—and then to see a backlash from fans of the subgenre when the problem is raised? To be told that who are you are isn’t man enough for the queer romance community?
Yeah, it feels pretty much how you think it feels.
Bump is, in many ways, the story I didn’t want to tell. It’s not my area. It’s not my interest. It’s laying out some deeply personal injuries without any of the emotional pay-off. It tells an emotional struggle at a time when what I needed to write—personally—was something lighter, happier, and more inclined to laughter than tears. I didn’t want to show suffering. I didn’t want to write struggle. And I paid the price for doing it.
But when we are always being told we don’t count, I needed to write something that says we do.
He’s always wanted to have children, and being a stepfather for the past two years has been a great adventure. There’d even been a plan to start looking into adoption and turn their family of three into four.
But now there’s a bump, and David doesn’t know what to do. He’s spent years escaping the grip of his own body and burying the past—but there’s no way he can hide from his history if he lets the bump get any bigger. It’s not just his baby; it’s also his breakdown.
He doesn’t know if he can do this.
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.
When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.
Matthew has brought a $10 NineStar Press gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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