image/svg+xml Hilary B.Bisenieks
April 07, 2022


honestly i’ve been sitting on this for a grip and just not quite knowing how to fit the words together, but i’m tired, y’all. so, visibility. of trans people, specifically.

it’s me. i’m trans people.

it took me a long time to understand that about myself, and i didn’t come to it on my own. i needed help. i needed to see that “trans” was a word that could describe me.

when i was little, i knew that i was weird. that i didn’t fit. that i didn’t act like the other little boys. that there were parts of me that i had to learn to hide to keep myself safe. that i couldn’t talk about with anyone because i didn’t have the language to capture it.

when i was in ninth grade, one of our history teachers came out as trans. we had an assembly where an administrator told us all that our teacher was a man now, that his pronouns were he/him, probably that misgendering him wouldn’t be tolerated. but he didn’t look like me.

i had a distant friend in high school who came out as trans. he didn’t look like me, either.

years before she came out as trans, my closest friend at school told me that she was bisexual. she was the first bi person i knew i knew. we would go to goth clubs and she would make out with people while i danced or stood against the wall and nodded my head along. even before we were really friends, i was drawn to her, wanted to be her friend more than anything. we went through a lot of hard times together, but she didn’t look like me.

she pierced my ears after high school. four holes i carry to this day, a little part of her with me all the time even though we haven’t seen each other in a decade.

in college, my friend asked that we use neopronouns for them, then they/them. the neopronouns were hard. we were young. i knew so many queer people in college, so many trans people. none of them looked like me.

that same friend came out to me and my spouse as genderqueer sometime before our wedding. i think that was the first time i’d heard the word. but i didn’t know it was something that could belong to me. not yet.

i “came out” to a friend one summer night while i was in college. we were driving to get snacks after a day of endless quaker committee meetings. i said that i’d only ever fallen for women before, but that i was open to the possibility that wouldn’t always be the case. i was in my first actual relationship then. years later, my ex came out as nonbinary. i didn’t think about that coming-out conversation again for a long time.

i came out as bi to my cat while i was driving her to the vet for dental surgery. she was upset because she was in the car, but i knew that she was someone i could trust with my “secret.” it wasn’t for another few weeks that i came out to my spouse and a few of my friends. i used to think of outness as a binary, even though it’s always been a spectrum. i’m out to some of my coworkers, mostly other queers, but not others. it’s not worth the discomfort. or it’s choosing the lesser of two levels of discomfort.

one time, my boss at the time said “everyone here is straight” in a meeting. he wore a rainbow strap on his apple watch in june. he’d like you to know that he’s an ally. i felt deeply uncomfortable about not saying anything, but also deeply uncomfortable about the idea of saying something. after i left that job, a former coworker confided in me that this boss pulled some classic cishet white dude stuff with them. i felt grateful that i hadn’t outed myself in that meeting long ago.

i found a copy of Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer at a bookstore the same summer that i left that job and bought it on the spot. i just thought it was neat. i knew that i needed it.

i read that book in a single sitting. i’ve re-read it more times than i can count since then.

Maia didn’t look like me, but i still saw myself in eir experiences in a way that i hadn’t experienced before. e was queer. queer as in weird. queer as in didn’t get social expectations for eir assigned gender. queer as in, well, queer.

a month or two later, i got a tattoo of a jackalope on my arm, but if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s a bunny wearing a pair of antlers that are tied on under their chin. when i designed the tattoo, i explained that that was about live-action roleplaying. maybe i believed it? but that’s not what it was really about, was it?

i had a gender crisis in 2020 at the start of the lockdown. if i’m being honest, i’d been having a gender crisis for years, quietly, tucked in the pages of journals hidden away where i didn’t have to look at them. but suddenly, it was just two adult humans and two cats all alone in a house, doing their grocery shopping at first light, uncomfortable with the idea of other people in a new way.

there was a lot of gender going around then.

i came out as genderqueer to my cat while i was driving her to another appointment. maybe you’re sensing a theme. she knows my secrets, but she’ll never talk.

i came out to my partner. it was easier, in some ways, and harder in others. “i’m attracted to more than one gender” is much more straightforward than “i’m genderqueer, but my pronouns are he/him, but my experience of gender is ????” i talked to my few close nonbinary friends about it. that really helped, because we had a shared vocabulary of “gender? what the fuck?”

i came out to my therapist.

he just didn’t get it. he was an older cishet white man. in one of our last sessions, he said that we should talk more about my gender. with my spouse’s help, i broke up with him and found a new therapist before i had to go through that ordeal. my new therapist is queer. she asked me what pronouns to use for me in our first session and told me to tell her if that changed. i started using he/they, then they/he, then just they/them pronouns within a couple months. not everywhere at first, but most places.

bigots started challenging Gender Queer earlier this year, or maybe at the end of last year. who knows when? time is fake. they call it pornographic. they call it smut.

i call it lifechanging.

it wasn’t until i was in my 30s that i started to see queer people who looked like me. it wasn’t until i read a memoir by a person whose early life experiences mirrored my own that i really learned language to talk about myself.

i like where i am in my life. yes, i’m anxious, and we’re all still out here with this pandemic and a global rise in fascism, but i know a lot more about myself, understand a lot more about myself at 35 than i did at 30, at 25, at 20. but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what my life might have looked like if i’d seen people like me when i was growing up.

i can’t change my past, but i can be visible for today’s kids. maybe some weird little boy will see me in the grocery store and gain some understanding that he didn’t have before. maybe a nonbinary teen will feel safer just existing knowing that they’re not alone. that’s what we mean when we talk about “trans visibility.” that’s why it’s important. because trans visibility produces trans adults, but trans invisibility produces miserable people, miserable kids. or dead ones.

trans visibility, queer visibility, is lifesaving.

Tags: LGBTQUIA transness

January 13, 2022

Awards Eligibility for 2021

It’s awards nomination season once again in the SFF world, so I’m breaking the long silence on this site (not necessarily intentional so much as, well, have you seen the world lately?) to make a text post of my awards eligibility.

My podcast, Tales from the Trunk, is eligible for the Best Fancast category in the Hugos and the Best Audio Original - Nonfiction category in r/Fantasy’s Stabby Awards. (It’s also eligible for various other podcast awards probably, but those are basically the only podcast awards in the genre space specifically.)

I appreciate your consideration, and I’d be honored to have a space on your ballots.

Tags: awards

March 01, 2019

Tales from the Trunk Podcast Launch

Image of an antique trunk. The lid is open, revealing the pages of a book. The words 'Tales from the TRUNK' frame the trunk.

My podcast, Tales from the Trunk: Reading the stories that didn’t make it, is launching its first full episode on Friday, March 15th, 2019, and to get listeners ready, a trailer episode has gone live today.

Tales from the Trunk is a show about the times when the fiction that we’ve written just doesn’t quite hit the mark for whatever reason. Regular episodes feature a reading from and interview with a guest spec-fic author.

Tales from the Trunk releases monthly on the third Friday of the month.

You can support the show on Patreon.

Listen on Google Play Music

Tags: podcast

August 16, 2018

Where to Find Me: Worldcon 76 in San Jose

Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention (gasp!), is happening right now in San Jose, CA, and I will be there Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday.

If you have a copy of Skies of Wonder with you, I will happily sign it (and I have it on good authority that the other contributors who will be there will also do so). If you don’t have a copy but you want one, there will be a limited number in the SFWA Book Depot. I am also likely to have some bookmarks and badge ribbons, and I’ll happily give you one!

Some notes on the care and feeding of a Hilary:

  • I’m not great with faces/names. If we know each other from somewhere, please tell me where!
  • I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you.
  • I’ll have business cards with me. If you have a card, too, I’d love to get one; I’ll have a better chance of remembering I met you that way.

As far as finding me goes, I’ll be carrying a black messenger bag with a Hufflepuff crest on it. That’s about all I know, but I am pretty tall, so that may help as well.

Tags: worldcon conventions

June 05, 2018

Skies of Wonder Pre-orders Open!

Image of a sailing ship flying through clouds in the background. In the foreground, a grinning pirate captain, in profile, raises their flintlock, and in front of them, a brown-skinned female wizard swings a censer in one hand, while her other hand is outstretched, radiating light. The text on the image reads: Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger, an Isle of Write Anthology, Edited by John Appel, Jo Miles, and Mary Alexandra Agner.

Elaine just wants to get some formal training as a mage and get a better job, but everything goes wrong during a routine job when the airship she’s on is highjacked by pirates.

Skies of Wonder is now available for pre-order on the following platforms:

This page will be updated as the remaining pre-order links become available.

Tags: news

May 15, 2018

Airships and Pirates and Wizards, Oh My!

Image of a sailing ship flying through clouds in the background. In the foreground, a grinning pirate captain, in profile, raises their flintlock, and in front of them, a brown-skinned female wizard swings a censer in one hand, while her other hand is outstretched, radiating light. The text on the image reads: Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger, an Isle of Write Anthology, Edited by John Appel, Jo Miles, and Mary Alexandra Agner.

Elaine just wants to get some formal training as a mage and get a better job, but everything goes wrong during a routine job when the airship she’s on is highjacked by pirates.

If you follow my Twitter, you may already know, but I have a new story forthcoming in Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger: Stories of Airships, Pirates, and Wizards, which is expected to release on June 14th as an ebook on all major platforms and as a print-on-demand paperback.

Skies of Wonder contains 13 stories of airships, pirates, and wizards (oh my!), including my story, “A Step Out Into the Blue.”

Watch this space and my twitter for more details as the release date approaches!

Tags: news

December 18, 2017

2017 Year in Review

It’s the middle of December, and I don’t know if I’m going to get anything new out the door or get anything that’s out back in time to send it out again, so I guess this is as good a time as any for a year-in-review post.

2017 in submissions:

  • 47 story submissions sent (down from 54 in 2016)
  • 1 sale (!!!)
  • 37 form rejections (down from 39 in 2016)
  • 9 personal rejections (down from 14 in 2016)
  • 1 story published
  • 1 new story in circulation (and one more that’d been sitting out pending a heavy revision)

I was hoping to meet my average of one submission a week again this year, but missing that mark by 5 isn’t bad by any stretch, and this is still my second best year for raw submission numbers (and absolute best year for paid sales) since I started this hustle back in 2006, and that ain’t bad.

Considering how rough 2017 was in general, I’m counting everything as a victory, and there are still a few weeks left in the year.

As far as writing goes, I didn’t end up producing that much new stuff this year that actually went out into the world. One new story, and one more that hadn’t been on sub since its first outing in 2016, where it came back with a very nice, helpful personal rejection that I didn’t know at the time how to act on. In addition to those stories, there were a couple more pieces that are finishing out the year at various states of drafting, so hopefully I’ll get some of those out the door early in 2018. Maybe.

As far as surprises for the year go, I’m a little shocked that November didn’t come in as my lowest-submission month, given that I was traveling for half the month. In fact, November came in second, with 6 submissions, while August led the way with 8 subs. However, the biggest surprise for me was my sale, which came in in March. Obviously, we always hope that the things we write and send out will sell, but the wording of my acceptance letter started out so similarly to all the rejections I’ve gotten (225 lifetime rejections as of this writing), that I had to go back and re-read the thing a couple times for it to get through.

My goal, again, for 2018 is to hit 52 submissions for the year, which means I’ll have to put some more things in circulation, so my other 2018 goal is to get up to 10 stories into the rotation. Wish me luck.

Tags: review statistics submissions

December 18, 2017

Mandatory Awards Post, 2017

Hello! Everyone is doing their Awards Eligibility Post™ right now, so I guess I’ll join in, yeah?

Short Stories:

“The Air Gap,” published in the June issue of LampLight Magazine

And that’s it. I like my one credit this year a lot, and I’d be staggered if any of y’all put it on your ballot. If you read it and liked it, regardless of any awards consideration, thank you.

Tags: Awards published stories nomination season

November 01, 2017

NaNoWriMo Tech Tips

It’s NaNoWriMo! I’m not participating, because I know full well that I’m doing too many things this month, and trying to write fifty thousand words on top of all that is unrealistic.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t. Because you can! You can do the thing! And if you, like me, would like to over-complicate an already difficult endeavor, maybe you want to have a way to update your wordcount from the command line. (I mean, if you’re trying to keep yourself from getting distracted while you’re trying to do your daily 1800-ish words, then opening a browser to update your word count is likely to lead you off-track. It does for me, anyway.)

So, for you, you wonderful dork, a Gist. May it serve you well.

In case you’re wondering how I use this script, I usually do my NaNoWriMo projects in plain text, writing in chunks every day, usually named something like “chunk_20171101.txt,” with all those chunks in a project folder. Since my main writing machine uses Xmonad as its window manager, I can just program a custom keyboard shortcut to invoke this script whenever I want.

So, with my blessing, take this terrible bit of bodged-together code, and if you find it useful, I don’t know, tweet at me or something.

Tags: NaNoWriMo Linux

October 13, 2017

New Print in the Shop!

As some folks may have guessed from my semi-recent blog post, I’ve got a new print up in my Etsy shop!

(Honestly, I could’ve posted this print a month ago, but life just kept happening, as it often does. So it’s here now, and that’s the important part.)

Anyhow, if you want some Cthulhu postcards, or other postcards or prints, I’m not picky, head on over there.

Tags: news