The Helicon Themes: Gender Bending

I’ve got a character in the Helicon books named Sawyer Snow. I imagine he looks something like this.

He likes to wear skirts and dresses. I picture him with longish blond hair, and unsettling grace and poise.

Sawyer is an androgyne. Essentially, this means that he doesn’t fully identify with one gender or another. He does not feel male, even though that is his biological gender, but he also isn’t transgendered. That is, he would not be happy to change his gender and be female.

I decided I wanted to explore gender bending because I’m intrigued by it and also because I figure I’ve already offended half of Amazon, and so I should really push the envelope here. I’m glad I did, though, because Sawyer has become so much more to me than a stereotype or a hot-button issue. He’s probably my favorite character in the series.

I think he’s sexy. This could be because boys looked like this when I was going through puberty.

But beyond whether or not he’s a viable romantic interest for anyone or not, he’s a very complex character. He feels completely alone and different than everyone else in Helicon, and he doesn’t know how to be himself, because he isn’t sure what being himself is.

I think that’s universal. Most of us are lucky enough to fit into society well enough that we can blend into the crowd, and keep our confusion to ourselves and our close friends. But Sawyer can’t even answer a question most of us find fundamental. Am I a boy or a girl?

Our society has become more and more accepting of homosexuality and transgendered individuals, but I think that there is still a lot of iffy-ness about people who don’t fit into categories. We like to think that people should be either gay or straight or male or female. If someone doesn’t quite fit into any of those categories, I think they feel pressure to try to conform.

I’ve had conversations with friends (gay and straight) who don’t believe there are actually bisexual people. They think that bis are either gays who are too frightened to completely admit that they are gay, or curious straight people. And while I do believe that people can use the label of bisexuality to “test the waters,”I think we need to be careful not to get too strict with people. Not everyone fits in boxes.

Sawyer sure doesn’t. He’s funny, he’s adventurous, he occasionally gets fall-down drunk, he’s fiercely loyal, he’s brave, and… he hasn’t quite grown into himself yet.

So, anyway, maybe I’m crazy, because near as I can tell, the only gender-bending characters for a YA audience appear in super realistic books. I know Sawyer’s going to ruffle some feathers. But I think people need to give him a chance. He’s a good person, even if he does wear skirts.

Book One: Dancing Days, $2.99

Book Two: Goodbye Blue Sky, $3.99