Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Francis Gideon for stopping by today. Please give them a warm welcome.
Title: The Santa Hoax
Author: Francis Gideon
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Alex Corza
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 12/01/2016
When Julian Gibson realizes he’s transgender, he doesn’t think anything has to change. His parents and friends still call him Julia and think he’s a girl, but so long as Julian can still hang out with his best friend Aiden and read sci-fi novels with his dad, life seems pretty good.
Then high school happens. Aiden ditches him, and a new girl, Maria, keeps cornering him in the girls’ bathroom. A full year after discovering he’s transgender, Julian realizes life changes whether you’re ready for it or not. So Julian makes a deal with himself: if he can tell his secret to three people, it is no longer a hoax. What happens during his slow process of coming out leads Julian down odd pathways of friendship, romance, Christmas shopping, random parties, bad movies, and a realization about why kids still believe in Santa—it’s sometimes better than discovering the truth.
The Santa Hoax: Writing Bi and Trans Teens
My YA novel entitled The Santa Hoax came out with Harmony Ink Press yesterday, and I’m super excited to share with you an excerpt from the book, along with a couple thoughts I had while writing it. Julian, the protagonist, is a young trans man trying to figure out the best way to come out. He concocts a plan to tell at least three people in his life, but quickly gets consumed by a Secret Santa Exchange, which zaps all of his energy and seems to only cause more problems.
In addition to being trans, Julian is also bisexual–just like me! And from what I’ve experienced, there is a lot of confusion in both of these identities. I wrote The Santa Hoax from a place of need; when I was in high school, there was enough literature about LGB people that I could find the words “bisexual” and know it fit what I was going through, but I never found the word trans. Like Julian in the book, I fell for my best friend when I was quite young, only to find a queer friend group later on so I could start to explore that side of my identity. I came out as bi at fifteen–but I also quickly went back in the closet because of the lack of understanding surrounding gender identity.
I’ve seen people describe sexuality as “who you fall in love with” and gender identity described as “who you fall in love as.” That’s the closest approximation I can make to how these identities seem similar on the surface (both are often described as having “the best of both worlds”) but are fundamentally different at their core. For Julian, he can fall in love with Aiden or Maria, but those relationships fall apart at first because both Aiden and Maria see Julian as Julia, a girl, and not a boy. When Julian first meets Maria, he agonizes over how much she flirts with him because it means she reads him as a lesbian, not as a boy. There is nothing wrong with lesbians, obviously, as he goes on to state in the book–but he’s not one, and being consistently mistaken for something you’re not is utterly frustrating. Julian wants to be in love–he’s okay with being bisexual–but he realizes that in order to actually fall in love with Maria, he needs to tell her who he is. That coming out scene to Maria is what I’ve included today as an excerpt.
There are other bi characters in the story, too. Maria’s bi, along with her friend Hannah, and there is the potential for more characters to be queer as the story goes along. When I created these kids, I suppose I wanted to replicate my own friend group in school while also allowing for a more diverse expression of gender, something of which I lacked. I probably also made these kids much funnier than I was in high school, but who knows?
Either way, if you pick up The Santa Hoax, I hope my random jokes make you laugh at the same time as you root for Julian to get the girl and become her boyfriend by the end of the book.
“What? Did I do something wrong?”
Yes, Julian thought. But it wasn’t her fault. He bit his lip, wanting to kiss her but not knowing how to start it up again. He had been a fool to let it go this far. He untangled their bodies from one another and shifted down the other side of the bed, leaning with his back against the bedroom wall. Maria sat up, pulling her shirt down. Her eyebrows were furrowed deeply.
“What the hell just happened?” she asked, voice thin and angry. “What did I do?”
“Nothing, nothing. I’m sorry. I just….” Julian ran a hand through his hair. “I shouldn’t have done that. I—”
“Yes you should! You were so into it, Julia. You were so there, and we were having fun. Don’t feel guilty! It was so good, and now I’m worked up.”
“I’m sorry. I just….”
“Is it because we’re gay? You’re gay? Honey, it’s fine. Half the girls at school are gay if they just really admit it and think about it. I won’t tell anyone. I don’t kiss and tell.”
“Ugh,” Julian said. It’s not because we’re gay. It’s because this is straight and you don’t even know. “No, I can’t. I don’t want to.”
“Is it because it’s your first?”
Julian paused; he wanted to say yes, but that was only a half-truth. His silence for a moment let her know enough.
“That doesn’t matter,” she said. “We can figure it out. Sex is really awkward the first time, but you get used to it. Like riding a bike. It’s fine! I still like you. Always have.”
“No, it’s not that. I like you, but not like this.”
Maria’s face twisted. The lines under her eyes grew deep, and she pressed her mouth together as if she’d burst.
Then, she did.
“Fuck you. What do you mean, not like this? Is my house not good enough for you?”
“Oh. No, no, no.” Julian held up his hands as if to brace himself from her words. “No, it has nothing to do with your house.”
“Then what? What’s wrong with me?”
“Everyone likes me,” she stated again. “That’s half the point. That’s why this is so hard.”
“Liking you. You like no one, it seems. You’re too into yourself.”
Julian sighed. He didn’t know what to say to that, mostly because it was true. He had stopped something that was so good, that was so much fun, all because she couldn’t see him as a guy. And you didn’t even tell her! You’re depending on her being a mind reader. Just because someone wants you doesn’t mean they understand you. He ran a hand through his hair, feeling the quiet embrace of her anger. He was about to open his mouth to apologize again, when Maria flopped down on the bed.
“Why does this always happen to me?”
“This. Rejection. When I want something, it’s always taken away. And when I don’t want something, it’s always there and annoying.”
She blinked, and Julian saw tears gather in the corners of her eyes. He shuffled closer to her on the bed, reaching out a tentative hand to her shoulder. She let him touch her, soothe her, and eventually, when Julian thought her sadness had passed, he tried again.
“Maria. I’m trans.”
“Transgender. It means I’m really a guy. Everyone sees a girl, but I feel like a guy. I am one. I want to be called Julian.”
Maria sat up, leaning against the bedpost. “Are you just saying this so you don’t have to like me?”
“No, not at all. I like you a lot. A lot. But I need you to like me as a guy.”
“Ugh,” she said, sighing hard. “I hate guys. I hate them all. They’re just all effing jerks.”
Julian sighed. “I hate guys too. So much because I want to be them so badly, and yet it seems so impossible.”
She furrowed her brows as she processed this, making Julian ball his hands. The seconds passed between them, until she finally rolled her eyes.
“I get that… I think. I just…. Why would you want to be like that? All guys are dicks.”
Julian laughed. “Maybe, but if it matters, I probably won’t ever have a dick.”
“The surgery for that is too expensive. And looks really painful. A lot of trans guys transition without getting that surgery.”
“Wow. Well. That’s just….” She trailed off, running her hands through her hair. “I know I’m being insensitive and shit, but that’s so damn weird.”
“I know. Trust me. I’ve read it all in the comments page on YouTube. I know what the world thinks. But I just… want to be a guy. I was never a woman. Except that now my body is doing all this stuff, and I just don’t know what to do with it.”
“You still like women?”
“Yes,” Julian said. “But only as a guy.”
“Do you like guys too?”
Julian considered this. “Maybe.”
Julian nodded. “But I don’t like him anymore. Maybe when I was a kid, but there’s no point in liking him.”
“Because he left.”
“Guys always leave. They always hurt people,” Maria said. She grabbed a pillow from her bed and folded it across her middle. “And hey, look. You’re already off to a great start.”
Thank you for reading!
About the Author
Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal. Find him at francisgideon.wordpress.com.
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