Shon Faye on writing her book: ‘It was too urgent not to do’

The broadcaster, campaigner and author of The Transgender Issue speaks to the Penguin Podcast about the challenges of writing about marginalisation.

A close up photo of Shon Faye's face.
Image: Stuart Simpson/Penguin

With her debut book, The Transgender Issue, Shon Faye has offered a vital book on trans rights and how they came to dominate the headlines. But, she tells the Penguin Podcast, she is still fighting to be seen as an author, rather than as a person defined by her gender.

Faye tells Nihal Arthanayake that she hadn’t originally planned to write a book about trans rights but realised that “it was too urgent to not do”. Nevertheless, she says, the process took time due to the impact it would have on her existence as a private citizen.

‘I think any writer from a minority has that tension’

“I knew that [writing the book] was going to forever make me known for being trans, and as much as I am proud to be trans, the reality now will be is anyone who ever Googles my name will see ‘trans, trans, trans’”, she says. “One aspect of my life, which is not the whole of me, and certainly not the whole of my creativity or writing, is something I’m going to be very well-known for.”

“I think any writer from a minority has that tension,” Faye continued. “You want to just be a writer, you don’t want to be a Black writer, you don’t want to be a trans writer. But I think what ultimately what changed my mind, in the end, was a feeling that it was frankly, too urgent not to do.”

Listen to Shon Faye on the Penguin Podcast

Faye added that she had already been “framed as a trans writer” and “dragged in” to media outlets that “felt like [her] life was some kind of debate”, and that by writing a book she “could set the terms of the conversation, so it was a more empowered position to be in.”

The Transgender Issue, which was released in September and became an instant Sunday Times Bestseller, has given Faye “a text in the world” that she can encourage people to engage with, rather than attack her directly.

Listen to the full conversation, and subscribe for future episodes, here.

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