The plank in my own eye.Posted: December 7, 2015
Photo: Hijras getting dressed in Bangladesh. Source: Al Jazeera.
Spoilers for The Girl in the Road.
Last week, a reader named named S. Qiouyi Lu finished The Girl in the Road and tweeted about it. They loved it, for the most part, but were upset by the treatment of the character Mohini, a trans woman hijra. I responded by saying I understood that it was upsetting, and that I’d be happy to share my narrative reasoning. Lu responded that my reasoning was beside the point. It wasn’t a problem that Mohini was trans, or even that she was the victim of violence. It’s that violence was the narrative of the only trans person in the book.
As Lu pointed out, I could have made any of the other characters in the books trans—Lucia, Arjuna, even Meena herself—and then, trans people would have more than a “single story,” as Adichie famously put it. The fact that I didn’t was the result of my failing to fully examine how I’ve been conditioned.
Part of a creator’s job is to be aware of, and account for, their negative cultural conditioning. That includes racism, homophobia, colorism, sexism, transphobia, ableism—everything. If we’re aware of that conditioning, and recognize it as harmful, we then have a choice of whether to (1) replicate it in the narratives we create, with commentary; or (2) to create new narratives in which all people see themselves reflected and, therefore, valued. That valuation then translates directly into the real world. (This is one of the best pieces I know connecting those dots.)
So, I’m grateful to Lu for saying that to me, and grateful that social media allows authors and readers to have this kind of dialogue. Check out their web site—they’re a pretty damn cool artist, too.