“He said I shouldn’t trust you. He said you were dangerous.”
“Really? I mean, he’s right. Trusting anyone’s dangerous. Especially a carpet-munching gender traitor.”
“Gender Traitor” may have primarily referred to gay people in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, but in today’s world, which scarily resembles Gilead more and more each day, anybody that dares go against cis-hetero-patriarchal norms is suspect. One thing us queermos are good at is reclaiming the words used to hurt us, turn them into our own armour. Here are some gifts about the out and proud Gender Traitors of the world, to give to the Gender Traitors in your life — including yourself.
To ReadWhile the original Handmaid’s Tale is obvious, there are plenty of anthologies that explore the breaking of gender and sexual identity boundaries, both in fiction and in real life. Sisters of the Revolution opens up with a story where Margaret Atwood herself has become a political prisoner; meanwhile, Red Light recontextualises both fictional icons such as Wonder Woman and Barbie and real-world women such as Amelia Earhart and Florence Nightingale for modern-day feminism. PoMoSexuals, while published in 1997, is remarkably prescient of contemporary gender renegades, such as the sex workers writing frankly about their lives and jobs in Flesh for Fantasy or the artists and activists across forms and fields interviewed by Nia King for the Queer and Trans Artists of Color collections.
To ViewILU-486, a fantastic short story by Amanda Ching that’s the spiritual successor to Handmaid’s Tale, features a group of roving reproductive justice renegades that deliver medication and abortion services in stealth, leaving only a note that ends with “Every part of you belongs to you”. All proceeds of S. Evelyn Vincent’s adaptation of the note go towards Planned Parenthood, the real-world version of ILU-486. Queer artist and speculative writer of colour Likhain made To Live in response to an Australian cartoonist comparing LGBTQIA+ people to Nazis; her expressions of the sincerest desires of our community — just to survive, thrive, and love — are especially poignant in light of the marriage equality plebiscite. Part of the proceeds from Roan Boucher’s Queers Demand series and Kathleen Itch’s work will go towards the Trans Justice Funding Project and Leeds Action for Trans Health respectively. The womanist-oriented Diasporan Savant Press pays homage to QTIPOC ancestors and boosts brown and black femmes. If you can’t decide on just one item, or want a gift that keeps on giving, consider a box like Fabulously Feminist’s Feminist Subscription Box, filled every month with feminist stationery, notebooks, totebags, patches, and much more.
To WearOur very own Gender Traitor merch is available not just as a T-shirt, but also as a tank top, a sweatshirt and even an onesie for your gender traitors in training. The women-run ADaesthetic brings fun and feminist slogans to life with striking hand-lettering and sharp design. Trans-feminist hardcore band G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) have a good collection of T-shirts available to wear while you rock out to their kick-ass music. Blair Stapp’s T-shirt raises funds for Denver’s LGBTQ community while Rebirth’s Sky Cubacub is working on making their attire accessible for more queer youth with disabilities. Founder and designer Alysse Dalessandro made Ready to Stare to fight back against fat-shaming and harassment while Wildfang’s band of “modern day female Robin Hoods” reimagine menswear for tomboys and other women.
To ListenAgitprop! Records’s 2002 compilation features new work from bands in the Queercore movement, an off-shoot of punk that further explores and critiques societal responses to non-normative gender and sexuality. While queercore started in the 80s primarily rooted in punk and indie rock, many contemporary queer and trans artists are carrying on the spirit of queercore across genres. UK-based all-WOC Skinny Girl Diet brings together DIY ethos with feminist and anti-racist politics, making not just music but also zines and fashion collaborations. Puerto Rican singer and bandleader Taina Asili‘s work was described by Fight for the Future’s campaign director Evan Greer as “queer fronted afro-latin rock band fusing politics with music you HAVE to dance to”. Californian rapper and performance artist Mykki Blanco directly draws from punk and Riot Grrrl, as well as artists as diverse as GG Alin, Vaginal Davis, and Marylin Monroe. Northern Virginia metal band Cab Ride Home has their own Gender Traitor in politics: their lead singer Danica Roem is the first transgender member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Closing out this section is another compilation of Australian LGBTQIA+ artists supporting the YES campaign for the Australian marriage equality plebiscite; all proceeds go towards LGBTQIA+ youth organisations Minus18 and Twenty10.
To PlayVA-11 Hall-A, a visual novel/bartending simulator where your progress through the story is dictated by the drinks you choose to make based on customer orders, has been praised for its “celebration of complicated women”, featuring not just the complex story arc of bisexual bartender/player character Jill but also one of the better representations of sex workers in any media, the cheery and kind Dorothy. Both Ladykiller in a Bind and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider have received rave reviews from Autostraddle for their openly queer Gender Traitor-esque main characters. The “claymation noir” Dominique Pamplemoose, created by genderqueer game designer Mx. Dietrich Squinkifer, describes itself as a “stop motion animated detective adventure game about gender and the economy” where characters occasionally burst into song. If tabletop games are more your speed, Monsterhearts 2 has you covered, playing teen monsters exploring consent, sexuality, and interpersonal dynamics.
To SupportMargaret Atwood has stated that everything that happens in Handmaid’s Tale has happened somewhere in the real world — and there are many real-life Gender Traitors fighting against those atrocities. The Desert Flower Foundation, founded by Somali former model and human rights activist Waris Dirie, fights Female Genital Mutilation in Africa and elsewhere through economic projects aimed at empowering women. UK’s Abortion Support Network provides assistance for those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Island, and Isle of Man to England to access safe and legal abortions. Forward Together, particularly through its initiative Strong Families, advocates for reproductive justice particularly with a focus on LGBTQ, POC, and immigrant families, whose experiences and perspectives are often missing from other reproductive rights movements. SEED Foundation, particularly through Justice for Sisters, have been featured here on Autostraddle for their work in supporting trans rights in Malaysia. Arizona-based Mariposas Sin Fronteras works with LGBTQ people held in immigration detention through visits, letters, bond support, advocacy, and much more. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance advocates for Australian indigenous women, who face significant disadvantages compared to non-Indigenous Australians, including dramatically higher rates of domestic and family violence.
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