Short story collection about trans women, by trans author

A Safe Girl to Love is a collection of eleven pieces of writing–fiction, satire, bittersweet humor–centering on the contemporary transfeminine experience. So readers go in knowing what to expect: the fiction is thick on scenes and vignettes rather than plot, although I did enjoy one of the more plottish stories, “Not Bleak”, the most. This is a book that contains f/f and m/f pairings for its trans women leads, so if you’re looking specifically for one of these, you’re in luck (although romance is not usually the focus of the story.)

A menu:

“Other Women” has both f/f and m/f, although the f/f ends up in a dark place that the m/f then goes and pulls the protagonist (and reader) out of. This one also explores layers of familial rejection that are more insidious than an obvious shunning.

“Twenty Hot Tips to Shopping Success” is a wry vignette, written in the form of a guide, about exploring women’s clothing and identity for the first time.

“How Old Are You, Anyway?” is about a camgirl whose solitary night-owl work situation has her drifting away from humanity until, well, it ends with f/f in-person D/s (btw, not a client.)

“How to Stay Friends” is not the only piece in this book explaining why cis women can make themselves difficult for trans women to maintain relationships with–friendships or romances–but it’s the most focused specifically on the topic.

“Lizzy & Annie” is the most straightforwardly romance piece in the collection. I liked how intimate and cozy the two women’s relationship felt. It’s not easy to take a relationship from its very first encounter up through feeling truly comfortable together within the confines of a short story, so that it no longer feels nervous from newness any more, and this pulled that off. There isn’t so much a plot as there are a series of little slice of life scenes from the lives of an interracial trans f/f couple living in NYC–in separate apartments, because neither one is really sure that she girlfriends well

“Real Equality (A Manifesto)” is satire that in some cases kinda went over my head but plays on cis queer activists holding annoying “radical” viewpoints that don’t actually make any sense at all.

“Portland, Oregon” is… I guess we’re supposed to call this kind of thing urban fantasy? Magical realism? No idea. Anyway, the main character has a talking cat, and the erratic nature of her employment — chauffeur for an escort service — means that her life is a little bit of a mess and she often forgets to feed him. Is he settling, at the end, by staying with her, or is he compromising/making allowances for someone he’s grown to love? I like cats so I liked this one. I also want to lean towards the idea that he’s making allowances, because I find the idea of flawed individuals working around each other’s flaws to form relationships very beautiful (obviously, to a point.)

“Not Bleak” has a real plot (yay!) and m/f with a trans man (even more yay!) The protagonist makes a new friend when one of her boyfriend’s rescue projects comes out as trans, but she comes with a lot of unexpected baggage including a deeply religious grandfather. She eventually asks the protagonist to pose as her girlfriend when she goes home to visit him in her old persona. The protagonist is specifically described as fat several times, which was cool.

“A Carried Ocean Breeze” is a seaside vignette which contains this quote, from a passage where the MC is thinking about her friend who is also a trans woman, who has walked by in boy-clothing with her family fresh from church:

I just wish the people who put on the we-pity-you act and say but things are getting better would also say to families like hers: No. Stop.

“Winning” also has a somewhat-plot, although, due to the literary nature of this collection it doesn’t resolve a plot thread the author was really hooking me on (though ending on a hopeful note.) The MC of this one is straight and dealing with rejection by various cis men. Her mom is also trans, so it was interesting to read about the generational difference.

I don’t think the MC of “Youth” knows she’s trans yet. There’s just a line about how looking in the mirror feels alien. So it’s probably f/f but since the MC never actually said they were anything but male I’m not sure? In any case it was very short and they are teenagers.

Some of the stories make reference to characters in the other stories, but not in a “you have to read them first” kind of way, more like, “Oh! That’s the lady from that other story forty pages back, being mentioned in one line of this new story.”

I also loved the various Canada vs. America jokes and am eager to share them with my Quebecois writing buddies.

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About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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