By Any Other Name: Why I am an Out and Proud Transgender Author
By E. Chris Garrison
When I first started putting myself out there as an author, I used my first name, Eric, although I hadn’t gone by it since 1999, using my middle name instead. Why did I drop Eric in 1999? Well, as the title of this article implies, I am transgender. Which means, I have felt for most of my life that I should have been born a girl. A fact I hid as a very close secret for decades, because the world wasn’t very friendly toward people like me. It still isn’t, but it’s gotten much better in the past 10 years.
So if I was going by Chris, why did my books say Eric? Well, I’d published articles in college as Eric, when I was part of the staff of the Purdue Engineer Magazine. That’s not a very good reason, though, since that was in 1987-1990. I guess I used Eric Garrison because it sounded more authorly to me, or more official sounding, since it was my given name. I don’t remember why now, but I self-published my first book in 2007, and then another each year for the next few years, and since they were all linked together, I kept the same author name on it. I told myself it was like a pen name.
Then, in 2013, Hydra Publications published Reality Check, and I had another chance to change my byline, but it felt like a bad time to change, what with four books out already, why make this one stand alone?
And later that year, Seventh Star Press began to publish my Road Ghosts books, I could easily have changed then. I had a few hints that it might be a good idea, since I had begun to make friends at conventions, authors and publishers who’d meet me standing next to my books, and would call me Eric. I’d put a lot of effort into getting people to call me Chris in 1999 and 2000, but it seemed like I’d made a mistake using that old name as my byline, because it was undoing that work. I was becoming Eric again to many people.
And it felt uncomfortable. Chris is a nice androgynous name. I had gotten used to it. Hearing people call me Eric again reminded me why I’d changed. The problem gnawed at me, a vague imbalance, a minor trigger of my gender dysphoria. I didn’t want to be called an obviously male name. I’d struck a balance over the years to cope with my gender identity issues by straddling the fence, being as androgynous in presentation as possible. This upset that balance. It took having a good friend point this out in early 2014 for me to think to act on it. She asked me if it caused me cognitive dissonance to sell books with my male given name on them. I answered yes.
Also at that time, I was in the process of outing myself. My closest friends had known I was trans since the 90s, and the feelings I’d had during a couple of Transgender Days of Remembrance in November 2012 and 2013 had driven me to not want to keep secrets anymore. If I did nothing else for other transfolks, I could at least be a visible, positive ambassador for people like us, since most people don’t know any trans people. Or don’t realize they do. By being out like that, I thought, I could help change transgender from an abstract condition to an actual human for everyone I encountered.
I went on an epic trip to New Jersey (how often does anyone say that?) to take part in the Steampunk World’s Fair with K.A. DaVur, Katina French, and Thomas Lamkin, Jr. I spent the whole time dressed in skirts and a corset, and a rather silly steampunk hat. I interacted with all the customers as a woman, despite my books saying Eric on them. I had to explain to some that it was my pen name. People still treated me with courtesy and people still bought my books. It was a thrill to get to be myself and not one person treated me oddly, no one gave me funny looks, no one said anything mean to me. It was as if it was perfectly normal, at least within that space.
Since then, I’ve been attending more social events and events as an author presenting as myself. Sometimes I hide behind feminine costumes at conventions or shows, and sometimes it’s just ordinary circumstances. I make sure to surround myself with friends, and as long as I smile, it seems like I get very little friction from anyone else. And from the stories my trans sisters and brothers tell online, it seems like I have lived a very charmed transgender life.
So to continue this, I am spending the whole of Imaginarium as a woman. I’m packing a steampunk costume for the Masquerade, sure, but I’m also not packing any specifically male clothes. This is sort of a test; I’m inching my way toward transition to living full-time as a woman, and while this is another convention with anti-harassment policies, I want to see how it feels mingling with friends and new acquaintances, and the general public, for three days, as myself.
And meanwhile, if people realize I’m trans, then I hope my friendly smile and sense of humor will help show them that transgender people aren’t as strange as they might have guessed. And maybe they’ll take a chance on my books, whether they say Eric Garrison like my Road Ghosts Trilogy, or E. Chris Garrison like on Blue Spirit and Girl in the Gears!
If you’re going to Imaginarium, I hope to see you there! And if you don’t mind, my preferred gender pronouns will be she, her, and hers.
About the Author: E. Chris Garrison (who also writes as Eric Garrison) is active in the writing community in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in the Circle City with his wife, step-daughter and a cabal of cats. He also enjoys gaming, home brewing beer, and finding innovative uses for duct tape.
Chris’ novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. Reality Check reached #1 in Science Fiction on Amazon.com during a promotion in July 2013.
Seventh Star Press is the home of Chris’ supernatural fantasy series, Road Ghosts, including Four ‘til Late, Sinking Down, and Me and the Devil.
Book Synopsis for Blue Spirit: Gamer girl Skye MacLeod can see fairies, but only when she’s tipsy. More Grimm than enchanting, some of these fairies are out to ruin her life, wreaking havoc with her job, her home, and her relationships.
With the help of her tiny fairy friend Minnie, Skye has to protect her vampire wannabe gamer friends from all-too-real supernatural threats only she can see. Can she keep it together and hold fast against a wicked fairy Queen’s plot?
Blue Spirit is the first book of A Tipsy Fairy Tale series!
eBook and Print Links for Blue Spirit
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