Alex is about fourteen and has decided that she can no longer live as a male. Alex enrols in a new school and starts to experiment with her new gender. Her exploration is hampered by her parents, and in particular her mother, who is having difficulty coping with Alex’s decision.
Alex struggles because her idea of self is different from how she is seen by others. There is friction between Alex and her parents, because her parents had a vision of how Alex would be – how she was raised, and Alex is choosing to be something else. Every discussion becomes oppositional to the point where Alex and her parents see insult in everything the other says.
Aren’t these the same arguments that every teen has with their parents?
I write realistic novels with a genuine compassion for, and interest in, young people who might be struggling in their various ways (even if they are imaginary). All of my books so far have had friction between generations. Friction and struggling and injustices. Alex as Well is friction, struggling and injustice too, except with an intersex character.
Individuals who experiment with, who identify as neither or both gender in various ways, are not much discussed in young adult fiction, which seems very odd when gender, sexual awareness and identity make up so much of the rest of young adult fiction. Why aren’t there more YA books about transgendered, cross-dressing or intersex teens? I don’t know the answer, but there aren’t, so I wrote one.
This is not my experience. Maybe I don’t have the right to tell it. But I make stuff up. That’s my job. I endeavoured to write Alex with respect and affection. I aimed to make her authentic – sometimes bratty and obnoxious.
It’s possible that in the future, readers will be offered so much variety that they can decide to only read books about intersex characters by intersex writers.
While I believe society in general is making life easier than it used to be for people who identify as LGBTI, it still appears to be too common an experience to have the family/loved ones of these people to say, “I will love you again when you decide to stop being LGBTI”.
As if that’s some kind of choice.
My editor and I had a long discussion about how we were going to end this novel. We wanted it to be hopeful and triumphant, at the same time reflecting the sometimes harsh reality for adolescents like Alex.
I hope that young people (or old people) who in some way identify with Alex’s plight, for whatever reason, will find some comfort in her company.
© Alyssa Brugman
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