Sleeping Beauties: Chapter 17

[Sleeping Beauties Content Note: Trans Exclusion and Erasure, Misogyny, Violence Against Women]

Sleeping Beauties Recap: When this book first popped up on my radar, I expressed some concerns about the content on Twitter. This week, I purchased the book and read through it. As I read, I live-tweeted my thoughts on Twitter. This is a compilation and expansion of my tweets. The live-read will be spread out over multiple posts.

Sleeping Beauties, Part One: The Auld Triangle. Chapter 17

We're 40% of the way through this book and 70% of the way through my friendships with you all. I'm sorry!

Me: ""Maybe I should stop the live-read, there's nothing more to say on transness here."

Chapter 17: "Trans women are men in drag."

The idea caused a flush of guilt to heat his face. A wild idea came to him: What if Evie Black was male? What if his wife had arrested a guy in drag? But no. When Lila arrested her, Evie had been buck naked. Presumably the female officers supervising her intake had seen her that way, too.

I. am. going. to. scream. We cannot claim "ignorance" at this point. We just fucking can't. They clearly know trans women exist. *deep breaths* I don't know where to start with this. I am so goddamn vexxed.

One. Why--when they have only known about this plague for 8 hours--are they assuming that one immune woman is special and rare? I mean, yes, it's noteworthy! Maybe she doesn't have a uterus, maybe she's had some obscure gene treatment, maybe she has a rare genetic quirk. She's been described as looking vaguely "foreign" and "Mediterranean tinted" with "almond" shaped eyes, so maybe there's a family immunity the others don't have.

Or, two, yeah, maybe she's a trans woman. Trans women aren't "guys in drag" and you can't always "tell" by looking at their buck nekkidness, King! But there's no reason to leap to "maybe her chromosomes are XY!" at this stage of the "huh, that's weird", unless Clint is working from the premises:

1. The disease affects all women.
2. Trans women aren't women.
3. Eve must not be a woman, therefore she must be trans.

#1 is only "correct" in the sense that the narrative incorrectly asserts it, so there's no earthly reason for Clint to assume it's true. #2 is transphobic garbage and Clint should get in a garbage bin.

*bangs hands on table* The human experience is that someone is always immune to a disease. Otherwise we wouldn't exist. It would not be strange at all for women--lots of women, many women--to be immune to the mothface flu. It would be normal. Clint has had enough medical training to know that! This is the character flaw of someone with high school biology and nothing else.

Also, for fuck's sake, is that why Eve was walking around nude? To "prove" she couldn't be a trans woman later and clear up that detail? I think I'm angry because we've gone from neglect of trans people in a "let's pretend they don't exist" sort of way to shitting on us. We can't pretend trans people don't exist in this world because Clint clearly knows of us, so how is this plague affecting us?

You can't just transphobically handwave that "meh, trans men got the flu and trans women didn't, because biology, deal with it". We would affect the events of this novel. You want trans men to get the mothface flu? Fine, there's gonna be (correct) reports of male victims and your men should be running scared. There are 7 billion people on earth. With 3.5 billion victims, no one has time to perform a genital/chromosome check on all male vics in the first 24 hours.

Similarly, no one will have the time to genital/chromosome check all the (out) trans women up and walking around. So your news reports are now affected when trans people exist in your world. We change the course of these events. You can't ignore us. Too many cis writers want to ignore us, but now your novel lacks realism. Because, here's the thing, I guarantee every word of criticism I make here will be dismissed by someone as the words of a Special Snowflake. "Oh, ickle baby boo-boo has a delusion and wants everyone to humor her that she's not a woman, so she gets to tell authors what to write."

Nope, you can write whatever you want, but trans people exist in the real world. So if you want to write realism, you have to remember us. Not because we'll crrrrrrrrry if you don't, but because your world looks confusing and wrong if you ignore us.

I told Bonnie not to go to sleep no matter how much she wanted to, because we might have an immune person in the prison, and that might mean there’s a cure! Or that it cures itself!”

Clint worries that news of Evie will cause a riot, but why would it cause a riot? These rumors would already exist!! False rumors would exist! I mean, the internet exists. Every cis dude who has been running a "lady" Twitter account would still be tweeting. It would be established "fact" in the minds of the populace that some women were immune. Even if it were (unprecedentedly!) untrue!

“I understand how you feel, but it is the right call. Do you want a bunch of people from town coming up to the prison like . . . like torch-carrying peasants storming the castle in an old Frankenstein movie?”

This makes no sense! And, again, back to the drum I'm supposed to be beating: Trans women would already be sources for these rumors! All the countries previously affected--Japan, Australia, etc--they will all have trans women up and walking around and awake. God, that really is why Eve was naked for the first half of the novel, so the officers could spread the rumor that a cis woman is awake. Because cis-ness can be determined once the nekkid is happening, supposedly.

*beats head gently against desk*

This was published in the same year as Playboy's first trans woman Playmate, just so we're on the same page.

Okay. *dives back in* Clint drives to the police station and is annoyed that Lila (32 hours awake) has taken speed and is all giggly. (Despite it being his suggestion that she do so.)


“Linny went on the Internet to see how long a person can go without sleep,” Lila said brightly. “The record is two hundred sixty-four hours, isn’t that interesting? Eleven days! It was set by a high school kid who was doing a science project. I’ll tell you, that record is going down. There are some very determined women out there.

Back in the prison... I... Look, I realize it's not a Stephen King book without religious hysteria, I've seen The Mist, but... The inmates are already forming a rich mythology around Evie, who is presumed to be a witch and possibly the cause of this plague.

Why is there only ever, like, one calm-headed male atheist to be like "no, that's silly" when the religious hysteria starts. The inmates are impressed that Evie "knew" about Angel's past--but Angel never confirmed anything she said, and they could be old pals! Eve's dime-store "I know you killed 5 men woooo" cold reading thing was less than an hour ago and they've decided she's a witch?

There's an old Dilbert episode where James Randi shows up to debunk a mystic and the audience decides to burn HIM as a witch. I'm reminded of that, because real people are not this credulous!

Maura had been in prison for decades. She had done a lot of reading, and even made her way through the Bible. It had seemed like a fairly worthless stack of paper at the time, men creating laws and women begetting beget-me-nots, but she remembered a compelling line: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

This is literally impossible. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" isn't even the most compelling line in Exodus 22, let alone the whole Bible. And you just... how does... who decides to become a Bible-based religious hysteric without a history with the Bible? Can you imagine yourself suddenly deciding that semester you read The Epic Of Gilgamesh is going to be your new moral core. Like, a terrorist attack happens (and it's so WEIRD that no one thinks this disease is a bio-weapon--it's not even been mentioned!) and you're like "god, remember that time I read the Book of Mormon because I was bored? That's my new thing now."

@epsalon I think the only logical conclusion is we're missing the prequel where all trans and intersex people have mysteriously disappeared.

"So long and thanks for all the fish." (Or would it be pickles?)

Anyway, a prisoner literally decides to kill Eve on the off chance that it will wake everyone up. I mean, they're all doped up on some kind of speed-concoction so... maybe that seems reasonable?

Hicks was examining the paperbacks Maura had culled from the shelves: Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Joe Hill. “These are all horror stories!” Hicks exclaimed. “We let inmates read this stuff?” “This and the romances is about all they do read, sir,”

We learn that the inmates all read horror and romance. Horror names are dropped; Romance names aren't. This is a bit of a sore spot; male authors like to jaw about how women read a lot of Romance, but they can't name us more often than not. He wouldn't even need to name current authors; the prison library is surely woefully out of date.

Maura wasn’t that surprised to see him here tonight, because Officer Wettermore was as gay as New Orleans on the first night of Mardi Gras. If he had any womenfolk at home, she’d be astounded.

*lays head on desk again, weeps*

Today I learned gay men float free from womanly associations, having no mothers, sisters, roommates, or daughters to think upon. If I was gonna do a novel like this (and I would not), here's where you note that trans men are affected: give Wettermore a trans boyfriend. You could have an educational bit for the cis people, even. "I thought only women were--" and Wettermore shutting them down with facts. I would not recommend writing that novel! But if you're bound and determined to and I can't stop you, this would be a place to educate.

Bonus observations while I make dinner:

1. There's some brass in a woman saying "if you did your job and paid attention, you'd know who we read" while not naming Romance authors.

2. That guard who wanted word to get out about Eve, so people would have hope for a cure? She's not trying to hail any doctors! Eve isn't going to generate a cure just sitting in lockup! Why isn't that guard driving her to a hospital and trying to raise a doctor? It's a transparent attempt to get the word out about Eve, while keeping her in safe lockup. I assume Clint will decide her Fate. ONE RATIONAL MAN AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS MASSES. Oh god, do you think there will be a trial scene. Will mankind be tried by Q, I mean, Eve?

3. If you were sick and going to die if you slept, and you had an immune woman right there, would you not drive her to the CDC or whatever? I know I'm trying to make this a thriller instead of a horror novel, but we've been handed the makings of a thriller, goddangit. You don't put a thriller in my lap and say "now wouldn't it be MORE interesting if bible toting rednecks got involved??" No! No, it would not!


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