Hi friends! A few weeks ago Mercy emailed ALBTALBS about reviewing her book, and I invited her to write a guest post for us – you know, as I do. 😛 I was thrilled that she agreed. (And I expect a review of her book to be forthcoming. I uh 😅 am also realistic about the timeliness ~problem we have here so … you know. It’ll happen though! Our review crew is small but dogged! … Other than Babs. Babs is a rockstar.)
ANYWAY! Transpire Together looks really interesting and sweet, so I hope you read on. Mercy sent us a really lovely post, and I hope you give her a warm welcome. <3
Fear fed my words
Back in 2016, my spouse and I revealed to our friends and family that I was a woman with a husband, not a man with a wife as previously assumed. Unsure of myself and afraid, it was difficult to gather the courage to reveal that part of myself. Mostly, my family supported us, though I lost and gained family and friends seemingly overnight. Fearful, I continued to keep those parts of my life separate from all but my inner circle, keeping my life partitioned in the ways I’d kept my online presence for decades. To be open about myself seemed unthinkable, even as I raced toward inevitability where I could no longer hide the changes.
In the novel Transpire Together, I write about someone else; on the opposite side of that bridge, but with the same fear. Keith is stealth; he passes perfectly and keeps his past secret. For now, he has returned to the town he grew up in, before he transitioned. He has habits of secrecy, like me, that are of no help when the time comes to not be secretive anymore—like when meeting his high school sweetheart again, who he regrets losing touch with.
Lynn picked up the old picture I had missed, the one of me and my parents, and looked at it. “Is this your family?”
“Oh, yeah. That’s pretty old.”
She nodded, smiling as she looked it over. “That’s Julia. We went to school together. She’s your little sister? I don’t remember seeing you at school.” She studied my face a moment. “You look pretty young.”
I rubbed my nose a bit. “Mmh.” Non-committal; let her come up with her own story. I wanted to say something, but the fear was crushing me again. I felt like a knife was at my throat. Don’t say anything or what happened before will happen again. I knew the fear wasn’t completely reasonable, but fear, as a sensation and a threat, is real. “I don’t have many pictures of my parents. We left on unbelievably bad terms, and they never bothered trying to mend things. Then they died and left me this place. They were so awful to us, I didn’t even show up at the funeral. Didn’t want to accidentally crack a smile. They just weren’t…family, anymore.”
She nodded, walking back and showing it to me. “I miss Julia. You remind me of her.” She frowned a bit, like something was nagging at her.
“I’d hope so. We…we had the same parents, after all.” That came out about twice as defensive and twice as loud as I intended. I hoped she didn’t find it odd.
Wait, no. I hoped she found it odd enough to realize who I was. If she would just confront me, I was sure it would let me open up.
Months later, I learned that a hate group was gathering signatures to put a “Bathroom Bill” on the ballot. For those unaware, bathroom bills—like the one passed in North Carolina—are laws that try to micromanage what bathroom people can use based on legal criteria, usually their birth certificate. This is supposedly done for some mythical “safety,” though the only real effect is to terrorize transgender people. People would have to carry a copy of their birth certificate anywhere they went, just in case some busybody chose to involve the police.
The Anchorage bill added the wording “original birth certificate.” Like Keith, the only birth certificate I can get says that it has been amended. Would I be able to legally present it? My fear had found new justification to bind me.
The unsupportive branches of my family have known me for my entire life. One day, a full year after the last time anyone had called me anything other than “Ma’am”, a male security guard harassed me in a women’s bathroom, not even in Anchorage. As I walked away, I thought I saw one of those family members in the distance.
I’m not the only one to have been shocked by the bill. I remembered, and later placed it on the page.
I looked over the menu, debating what I wanted to eat while standing alone in the crowded room. Like the TV had casually mentioned my name, I heard a couple of words that were familiar and called to me. Trying not to visibly react, my eyes snapped to the screen, holding my breath so not to drown out the words.
“…transgender bathroom bill will be added to the Anchorage ballot this year. The proposition would restrict access to municipal bathrooms, locker rooms, and other spaces by biological sex at birth as found on an original birth certificate. The bill also defines gender as fixed by sex at birth and allows employers and businesses to restrict access in a similar way.”
The sick feeling of liquid doom hit me in the center of my chest.
Lynn wanted to move there, and Anchorage was the only city in America that technically has no suburbs. I would have to travel for almost an hour to get to a town outside of the area of that law. It blocked the main airport. It blocked the main hospitals.
Lynn’s dream job was in the heart of Anchorage, and I couldn’t be there with her if that bill passed. Not without endangering myself every day, and all for something I couldn’t control and wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I swallowed hard, and tracked my eyes over the patrons casually, as if looking for a friend. Inwardly, my ears were on alert, picking through the conversations around me.
Like Keith, I don’t live in Anchorage. I couldn’t vote on the issue. But Anchorage is the source of much of the state’s media, so I witnessed the fight playing out on the radio and in the news. Horrifying comments started to surface, emboldened by the monstrosity being taken seriously. Plus, I live near Anchorage, and have to commute there regularly.
We mobilized immediately; what else could we do? While the rhetoric was the same as it was before—the same, in fact, as was used to justify Jim Crow laws—this was the first time the question would go before voters, and in an Australian style mail in ballot at that.
In one survey, more people reported having seen a ghost than knowing a transgender person. With knowledge comes understanding. The best indicator of not being transphobic is to get to know someone who is trans..
The community in Anchorage went door to door, introducing themselves to everyone they could find, coming out over and over. They answered questions. They weathered insults. They froze their feet in the Alaska winter. One boy and his family outed themselves on television to tell their story.
About this time, I was involved in a superhero roleplay community, and became disillusioned with it. After all, compared to my real life friends, the superheroes were cowards! Where fictional superheroes with amazing powers huddled for safety from hate, the people I looked up to were out and proud and facing it head on.
I lived too far to help directly. What could I do?
I could write.
I could teach people what it was like to be in our shoes.
At first, I responded to insults in writing. Then, the idea of writing stories emerged. First came my Christmas themed short story (Unveiling Ms. Claus), then, the idea for Transpire Together. It would be a love letter to my community, a monument to all of the fear and frustration from the fight against those who chose hate over respect.
More novels are in the works, different stories, written to different people. Transpire Together was to the frightened woman I was, and to the brave people in Anchorage who showed that we could fight back and win the hearts and minds of the people. Now, people around the world can get to know a transgender person, and learn what it is like to face the laws people so casually suggest out of “caution.” To all the people facing fights like the one we weathered—this book is for you.
After a long, hard struggle, both I and Keith stood in the same room, waiting for the results…
The room was silent, awaiting word, tensions high. “Out of almost fifty thousand ballots that they’ve received, fifty-three point nine percent have voted ‘No’ on Proposition One.” She paused. “That means we won! The Municipality of Anchorage is now the first place in the country to prove that this kind of discrimination does not have the support of the people!”
Cheers erupted around the room. As for me, my eyes were suddenly blurry, throat aching.
And then there were arms around me from all sides, holding me tight and close and warm as a choked sob escaped my lips.
Enveloped by my allies—the people who had fought by my side and protected me when I thought nobody ever would—I was warm, and for once, I felt like I wasn’t alone against the world. Soon, the embrace loosened, and there was Lynn, dabbing my eyes with a tissue.
“Sweetie? You hear that? We won.” She smiled at me, cradling my face softly. “You look tired. You can rest now; it’s over. Let’s go home. You’re safe.”
Now, both I and Keith share a chapter—the last in the book, and the beginning of a long life as of yet unwritten.
“Transpire Together”, a low heat sweet romance between a transgender man and a cisgender woman, is available for a limited time through Amazon Unlimited before wider distribution.
Her intimately familiar voice whispered softly in his ear, “Pretend you know me.”
Lynn Hall has a formula for success. As a child in the rural island town of Selaruk, Alaska, she ate ramen; now, she’s an aspiring accountant. The last step of her plan: Liquidate her family’s Selaruk assets for her mother, then leave those memories behind for good.
Keith Kendall’s parents threw him away years ago. Now they are gone, and Keith is back to forge a new life…surrounded by painful memories. But his favorite memory—his high school sweetheart, Lynn—just walked back into his life….Too bad she doesn’t recognize her high school girlfriend.
Transpire Together is a sweet, clean contemporary second chance romance novel of 50,000-55,000 words with hidden identity elements, set in small town Southeastern Alaska in 2018 during the Anchorage bathroom bill fight. It offers low heat, no cheating or cliffhangers, ownvoice representation, and a happy ending with a trans male and cis female couple.
Mercy Zephyr (she/her) is an Athabaskan transgender woman living in Alaska with her husband of over a decade. She enjoys exploring parts of town with no traditional tourist qualities, coddling her husband and grandchild, and occasionally rolls her eyes at accusations that she “drives like a grandma”. She currently has one novel and one novelette available for sale, with more in the works.
Thanks so much for this post, Mercy! So what do you think, y’all? I’m so glad the “bathroom bill” didn’t pass in Anchorage. You can buy a copy of Transpire Together here.