Top Ten Settings I’d Like to See More of in YA Fiction

In the build up to the ebook re-release of Pantomime & Shadowplay next month (they are available for pre-order), I am reposting some of the articles I wrote in 2012/2013 for the initial blog tours. This one is a Top Ten Tuesday from January 2013.

I found this guest post very interesting to write, as settings in YA are something I’ve thought about but never fully articulated. Normally, I speak more about characters, but a setting brings a character to life. I’m enchanted by rich worldbuilding.

It also sparked some interesting Twitter discussions when I put out a call for what other people want to see more of in YA when I was stuck on the 10th setting.

  1. Asian-inspired fantasy. I recently read Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Mariott, which is a pseudo-medieval Japanese Cinderella and Count of Monte Cristo fantasy. Whew. But it was absolutely wonderful and one of my favourite reads of 2012. I also recently read Eon by Alison Goodman, which features dragons and a girl disguised as a boy, which I enjoyed. There’s Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, and the Tales of the Otori books by Lian Hearne, which I haven’t read. But there’s not all that much, and I’d like to see more as there’s such rich mythology in that corner of the world.
  2. African-inspired fantasy. I realized… I haven’t read any except for Frostfire by Zoe Mariott, and though that had a wonderful cast of (diverse!) characters, didn’t feel super African-inspired, perhaps because for that book the reader is in the isolated setting of the hill guard. I can’t believe there aren’t more. In adult fantasy, I’ve read Anansi Boys and there’s Zoo City. I put out a call on Twitter and had a couple of recommendations: Akata Witch and Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. So there’s a gap in the market. Any others out there?

Read the rest of the list on the Bookworm Dream blog!


Monthly Roundup: October 2015

Books Read:

  1. Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) – Leigh Bardugo

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

2. Sequel to the Potion Diaries – Amy Alward

This was a beta read, but since it’ll be out next year, I’m counting it. It’s just as fun as the first!

3. Zer0es – Chuck Wendig

Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as “the Lodge,” where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves “the Zeroes.”

But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist’s head spin. And soon they’re not just trying to serve their time, they’re also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they’ll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of “progress.”

4. The Girl with All the Gifts – M.R. Carey

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad

5. A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) – Megan Shepherd

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

6. Fevre Dream – George R.R. Martin

When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.

Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare…and mankind’s most impossible dream.
Here is the spellbinding tale of a vampire’s quest to unite his race with humanity, of a garrulous riverman’s dream of immortality, and of the undying legends of the steamboat era and a majestic, ancient river.

I also beta read a synopsis and fifty pages, a short story, and a novella for three friends.

Total: 59.


This month I finished the first draft of Shattered Minds, going from 85k to 93k. I then did the first read-through/preliminary edit, where it expanded to 97k. It’s now off with betas, and I’ve had a few sets of comments back. No big rewrite required at this stage, so that’s good. This month I also worked a fair amount on Shiny Project (first draft is around 1/5 done) and did a little more research on Betwixt Book. Lastly, I did proof pages for most of False Hearts. So pretty productive.

Events-wise, I had two workshops at the Central Library and one session at Robert Gordon’s College. I also went to a training workshop on creating creative partnerships, and have some leads I still need to follow up on.


This is the first month I didn’t travel anywhere in a few months. It’s been nice to stay at home.

Goals for next month:

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo. I was tempted, but it doesn’t really work with my schedule this time around. I’ve never been a super fast drafter, but consistently writing 20-25k a month adds up to 250-300k a year, so, ya know, that’s fine. My goal is to finish False Hearts proofs and integrate beta comments on Shattered Minds, hopefully either finishing or making good effort on the next draft. Then I want to keep working on Shiny Project and still keep doing my background research on Betwixt Book.

Pantomime & Shadowplay are Available for Pre-order & All Vestigial Tales are Free for 5 Days

Pantomime & Shadowplay

Yaay! After 10 months, Pantomime & Shadowplay are now back up for pre-order for the e-re-release (is that a word?) on December 3rd, 2015. The books also now have new, official blurbs. Some of the pre-order links are still percolating through the various systems, hence the slew of (TBAs).

Pantomime is only £2.99 on ebook on Amazon at the moment! Pre-orders would be very, very appreciated. You should be able to purchase them in any country. Strong ebook sales would mean bigger print paperback runs, more bookstore presence, and the hope of Micah Grey finding more readers. Thank you. :-)


In a land of lost wonders, the past is stirring once more.

Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.

The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom, not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?


Indiebound (TBA) / Amazon UK / Amazon US Barnes & Noble / Powells (TBA) / Booksamillion / Waterstones (TBA) / Fishpond


Old magics are waking. But will the world survive their return?

Micah Grey almost died when he fled the circus with Drystan – now he and the ex-clown seek to outrun disaster. Drystan persuades his old friend Jasper Maske, a once-renowned magician, to take them in. But when he agrees to teach them his trade, Maske is challenged to the ultimate high-stakes duel by his embittered arch-nemesis.

Micah must perfect his skills of illusion, while navigating a tender new love. An investigator is also hunting the person he once seemed to be – a noble family’s runaway daughter. As the duel draws near, Micah increasingly suffers from visions showing him real magic and future terrors. Events that broke the ancient world are being replayed. But can Micah’s latent powers influence this deadly pattern?


Indiebound (TBA) / Amazon UK / Amazon USBarnes & Noble / Powells (TBA) / Booksamillion (TBA) / Waterstones (TBA) / Fishpond


In celebration, I’ve updated all the Vestigial ebooks with the new Micah Grey covers and info and the back, and have made all of them free! The Card Sharp went live as free on Sunday and will be until the 29th, and the rest went free today and will be until Halloween. It took me a bit of faffing around to re-format them (after 10 months I’d gotten rusty–what do I zip again? Save it as webpage or webpage, filtered?), hence the slight delay on the others. So please consider downloading them off of Amazon. 60k of fantasy stories for free!


Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Snake Charm

“To most, Drystan was just another buffoon in the collective of clowns. But behind the inane grin, he saw everything, keeping the secrets he discovered close, like precious gems to barter.”

Mutiny is brewing in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic. When Linden, the leader of the clowns steals one of the ringmaster’s most prized possessions, Drystan, the white clown, finds himself caught in the middle. Tasked with retrieving the Lethe, he’s forced to betray Linden or risk his troubled past coming to light. But the Vestige artifact has its own history and its own power. Drystan will learn what it can really do, and who it can hurt.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…


Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon Canada / Amazon India / Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil / Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia


Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Fisherman’s Net

A humble fisherman in a village of the coast of the island of Linde buys a trinket at the market, which he discovers is Vestige. The poor man soon becomes the best fisherman in the village and marvels at his newfound wealth. One day, he ensnares a most unusual catch: a Chimaera sea maiden that isn’t meant to exist. And he’s not sure if he can let her go.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…


Amazon US / Amazon UK Amazon Canada / Amazon India / Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia


Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Tarot Reader

“Cyan didn’t want to read fortunes.”

Cyan Zhu is the best tarot reader Riley & Batheo’s Circus of Curiosities has ever seen. Too good, some say. She reads the cards, but she can also tell more about her customers than they could ever suspect. Two people walk into Cyan’s cart to have their fortunes told and change her life forever: Oliver, a sailor with a pretty grin, and a mysterious man with a blurred face, who sends her terrible visions that might come true.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…


Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon Canada / Amazon India /Amazon Germany/ Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil / Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia

TheCardSharpCoverUntold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…

The Card Sharp

“He always mourned that moment, when the high began to fade. It was like he moved from who he wanted to be to having to face the reality of who he was. He’d rather feel supernatural. More than Drystan Hornbeam, a seventeen-year-old-boy who had made a lot of foolish mistakes and didn’t seem to be changing his habits anytime soon.”

Before Drystan became the White Clown of R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, he was a Lerium addict struggling on the streets of Imachara. When a mysterious woman gives him a chance at a new life, he takes it, even if it means falling even deeper into the dark underbelly of the capital of Ellada. Drystan knows that selling Lerium to the powerful men and women who bet at the high stakes card tables is perilous, especially when he still battles his own addictions. Yet when he meets a man who can help him learn to cheat at cards and swindle them out of enough money to start a new life, he dives headfirst into more danger.

Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…


Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon Canada / Amazon India /Amazon Germany / Amazon France / Amazon Spain / Amazon Italy / Amazon Japan / Amazon Brazil / Amazon Mexico / Amazon Australia

Patron of Reading


I’m now available to become a Patron of Reading.

My short bio (which is also on the Patrons Available page): Laura Lam is a writer of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults with Tor/Macmillan. She’s the author of the award-winning Micah Grey series (Pantomime, Shadowplay & Masquerade) for teens and upcoming thrillers False Hearts & Shattered Minds for adults. She’s very interested writing diversity and making sure everyone can see themselves reflected in fiction. She’s available to be a patron for Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, or Edinburgh based schools.

Patrons of Readings are writers who partner with a chosen school for at least one year. Essentially, I would work with a school to foster a love of reading for pleasure, as a sort of antidote to the constant pressure of tests within schools. I’d do occasional visits (most of which are paid), and also coordinate a few other activities (which are volunteer based), such as writing newsletters, making book quizzes, etc. More information can be found on the Patron of Reading website.

So, if you work for a school local to me or know someone who does, please consider getting in touch, either with me directly or via the Patron of Reading website.  If you’re not looking for a Patron of Reading but would still like to invite me for a visit, please see my Visits & Events page for more details.

Monthly Roundup: September 2015

Books Read:

    1. private-life-stately-homesPrivate Life in Britain’s Stately Homes: Masters and Servants in the Golden Age – Michael Paterson

The Victorian and Edwardian eras in the run-up to 1914 marked the golden age of the English country house, when opulence and formality attained a level that would never be matched again. The ease of these perfect settings for flirtation and relaxation was maintained by a large and well-trained staff of servants. Although those ‘in service’ worked very long hours and had little personal freedom, many were proud of their positions and grateful for the relative security these gave. Indeed, the strictly hierarchical world below stairs could be more snobbish than that of a house’s owners. Michael Paterson skilfully and entertainingly explores the myths and realities of this vanished world, both upstairs and down.

2. Lost Highlander – Cassidy Cayman

Grad student and cocktail waitress Evelyn Merkholtz has plenty to deal with. Too much to deal with. So, when her runaway best friend calls with a mysterious and urgent request to join her in Scotland, she is secretly more than happy to drop everything and oblige.

She’s faced with an ancient curse, an adorably hunky villager, and a super hot (but possibly murderous), Highland warrior from the 18th century – and realizes that getting burned at the stake is a really bad way to get out of writing her thesis.

3. Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson

After the Internet, what came next? Enter the Metaverse – cyberspace home to avatars and software daemons, where anything and just about everything goes. Newly available on the Street – the Metaverse’s main drag – is Snow Crash, a cyberdrug. Trouble is Snow Crash is also a computer virus – and something more. Because once taken it infects the person behind the avatar. Snow Crash bleeds into reality. Which is really bad news for Hiro – freelance hacker and the Metaverse’s best swordfighter (he wrote the code) – and Y.T. – skateboard kourier, street imp and mouthy teenage girl – because reality was shitty enough before someone started messing with it …Exploring linguistics, religion, computer science, politics, philosophy, cryptography and the future of pizza delivery, “Snow Crash” is a riveting, brake-neck adventure into the fast-approaching future.

4. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) – Leigh Bardugo (re-read)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

5. Seige and Storm (The Grisha #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

6. Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Chosorcerer-to-crown

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

7. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

I’ve also read about half of a manuscript for a friend and some of a screenplay.

Total: 53


The month started with me finishing up False Hearts copyedits. Then I had to take a few days off because I had LASIK surgery at the beginning of the month! It took me about 5 days to get back to full productivity. At the end of August, the draft of Shattered Minds stood at around 60k. This month my goal was to write at least 20k, and I beat that. The draft at the end of the month was just shy of 85,000 words, and now I’m nearly done (so close. So cloooose). I’m hoping to finish by mid-October at the latest, so I can let it breathe while I do False Hearts page proofs, then go back to edit it so it’s in decent enough shape for beta readers. I’m aiming to have an editor-worthy draft in December or January.

I did a tiny bit of planning of Betwixt Book, but not much. I also started a fun side project in the last week, but won’t say too much about it. This month also saw 2 writing workshops out of 4 at the local Central Library. I’m working with a group of 7 young adults, and I’m enjoying having the chance to develop linked lesson plans.

This month had a lot of admin as well–I emailed all the local Aberdeen schools, introducing myself and gently urging public schools to apply for Scottish Book Trust Live Literature funding, with the hope of additional workshop bookings in the new year. Several private schools have gotten in touch about visits earlier than that. I developed a brochure and flyer to send them. I also did 3 months of tax expenses, which is always so fun.


I spent a weekend in Edinburgh to see Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne. We were actually decently productive and did a mini writing retreat in Elizabeth’s flat.

Goals for next month:

Finish Shattered Minds! Proof False Hearts. Keep playing around with Shiny Project. Finally figure out what property law for castles in the Highlands in 1910 was so I can finish planning Betwixt Book. Do more yoga.

The Micah Grey Series Cover Reveal! Pantomime, Shadowplay & Masquerade

Good afternoon and happy Friday!

I’m pleased to unveil ALL THREE covers for the Micah Grey series. The full cover reveal on Tor UK’s site is right here.

Pantomime & Shadowplay have previously had some very, very gorgeous Tom Bagshaw covers from when they were published by Strange Chemistry. New publisher means new covers. While I’m sad to say goodbye to the older covers, I really adore these new ones designed by Neil Lang as well. Here they are!




I love the two trapeze artists reaching for each other over the circus tent in Pantomime. Shadowplay‘s cover is like the back of a playing card, with occult details, tying nicely into the seances of that book. And Masquerade gets its first cover! Obviously, you might have guessed there’s a masquerade somewhere in that book, and so the mask fits perfectly. I like the fire colour palette of yellow, red, and orange against the dark background. They look very smart, and also tie in some design elements to the UK cover of False Hearts, which should be going live soonish as well.

I can also share the ebook release date for Pantomime & Shadowplay–December 3rd! It’ll be so great to have them available for people to read again in the UK. Hard copy will follow later. Still a bit of a wait until 2017 for Masquerade, but it’ll be here before you know it. I don’t have pre-order links yet, but when I do I’ll update the book pages on my website.

Thanks to everyone who’s said nice things about them–I’m very pleased!

Trans Women Don’t “Owe” Allyship

Alice Domurat Dreger has been one of my favourite non-fiction authors for years. I credit her books on intersex people and conjoined twins as big influences on my work (my Micah Grey series has an intersex protagonist and False Hearts stars formerly conjoined twins) and she always came across as sympathetic to me in her work about people with atypical anatomies. When I saw this post she wrote on “How to be an Ally to Cis-Women,” my heart dropped.

I’m cis (she/her pronouns). I don’t feel trans women “owe” me any sort of allyship. In this article, Dreger is not speaking for me. I don’t need trans women to do these points for me. I’m going to respond to each of her points from the view of a cis woman. I have also reached out and have included quotes from Snow, a trans woman, and Sarah, who is genderfluid. My thanks to them and the other people who read this post.

  1. Don’t make us refer to ourselves as “cis-gendered” if it is irrelevant to what we are talking about. In other words, don’t require us to always label ourselves in opposition to your identity.*

Laura: No one makes people refer to themselves as cis-gendered, do they? It’s an easy way to differentiate from being trans. Some women seem to bristle at it and see cis as some sort of insult when it’s not. It’s a shorthand. It’s like saying straight woman and lesbian woman. It’s a descriptor, not opposition.

Snow: I’ve never made anyone refer to themselves as cis. I’ll ask what pronouns someone prefers, but that’s it. For me, I am a woman first, trans second. It’s how I’d actually prefer it to be listed. It seems less ‘othering’ that way, to me at least.

  1. Allow us to talk about our vaginas, vulvas, clitorises, breasts, periods, menstrual blood, birth experiences, hysterectomies, etc. without claiming that we are oppressing you because you weren’t born with the bodies we were. Allow us, without harassment, to write and perform plays, make jokes, sing songs, and work for clinics that are about women like us.

Laura: This is a hard point to respond to. Not many people do this, at least in my experience. I’ve never had a trans woman try to stop me from discussing my own body. I would think that they don’t want their experiences and their bodies to be discounted, ignored, or excluded. I wouldn’t call that harassment. Example: say I make a post talking about women and periods. If someone says to me: “hey, when you mention periods, just remember that not only women get periods. Trans men who haven’t had hysterectomies or aren’t on T can have periods too, but they’re not women.” then I remember that and try to keep it in mind. It’s not difficult for me to do so. There can be an emphasis of womanhood as being defined by motherhood. There was a transphobic piece about Caitlyn Jenner that popped up in my Facebook feed a few times. The entire article said she could never truly be a woman because she hadn’t experienced periods or physically given birth. That I take issue with; there’s more to being a woman than just giving birth and having periods. There are so many ways to be a woman and being trans is one of them.

Snow: Talk about your body all you want. It’s not oppressing me. In fact, I can probably empathise with some of the things you go through. One of my co-workers was talking about how she hated her period, and said I was lucky I didn’t have to suffer through having one. I started laughing, and told her that although I didn’t get the messy part, I still got the bad skin/acne breakouts, junk food cravings, and foul mood that seem to go hand-in-hand with having your period.

Sarah: Literally the only way this is an attack is if you think that asking to be part of a discussion is taking away your own voice. Which is gross, when you’re the louder party. It’s only an attack if you believe there’s only room for your story. Wanting to be a part of a narrative when you’ve fought – in varying ways and degrees – for the space to do that, as a transwoman (um, I’m obviously extrapolating here, but I think I’m safe to apply it) is natural. And yeah, sometimes other groups adding their ‘but this is my experience’ testimonies to a discussion feels like coopting, but transwomen are women, end of, and their experience is just as valid as any cis experience. And telling a less-heard person/ group to shut up is privileged grossness.

  1. Don’t keep telling us how we are failing specifically to work to further your rights when we are working on advancing the rights of some other group, including our own. We don’t want to oppress you, but we’re also not always working on your issues.

Laura: Feminism should be intersectional. It should not be exclusionary. To be a feminist, you should support all women, trans or cis, from all races, from all educational backgrounds, all abilities. It’s very telling that the phrasing in this has “including our own,” or “we’re not always working on your issues.” It’s distancing and divisive. In the first point it says “don’t require us to label ourselves in opposition” and yet that’s exactly what this point does (Snow & Sarah agree here).

  1. Don’t get upset with straight, bi, and lesbian cis-women who tell stories of having been gender nonconforming as children, and don’t suggest when we tell these stories that we would have turned out transgender if only society had been more accommodating.

Laura: I haven’t come across this before, so I won’t touch on it too much. But it happens the other way, too. People explain away “tomboys,” even if it is trans men early identifying. Or they’re told “you’ll grow out of it” or “it’s just a phase.” It’s a familiar refrain. Sometimes people do, and sometimes they don’t because they are trans. In my opinion, if society were more accommodating, then clothes won’t be as gendered, and people can express how they feel the most comfortable whether they are trans or cis (or nonbinary!). (Snow hasn’t encountered this)

Sarah (in response to the statement about being told they may grow out of being a tomboy etc): Yuuup. All. The. Time. I haven’t seen much of this happening the way that it’s used above (except in very specific conversations) but I’ve definitely experienced the inverse. Also been told that I must be a girl because I do X, or must be a lesbian because of Y. There are so many reasons that people do or don’t conform, and again, one experience doesn’t negate the other.

  1. If you hit on us and we’re not interested, don’t tell us we are transphobic. Who a person is or is not attracted to is generally not under her control. Also know that the absence of attraction may have nothing to do with your bodily history or body type.

Laura: If a trans man or woman hit on me, and I wasn’t feeling it, it wouldn’t be because they were trans but just because I wasn’t attracted to them. If I smile and say “I’m flattered but no thank you,” then I can’t really see them turning around and going “you transphobic hussy!” And even if they do, there are many reasons they may respond that way. It’s not always about me. (Snow and Sarah agree here).

  1. If you start a romantic/sexual relationship with one of us, with you identifying as straight men, and then you come out as lesbian women, don’t tell us that if we leave the relationships, we are transphobic. A cis-gendered woman’s self-identity as a straight woman deserves as much respect as anyone’s self-identity.

Laura: Again, this is a tricky thing that a lot of the time comes down to the individuals. Many relationships do survive transition, some change to become less sexual but still very close (as described in the memoir She’s Not There), or sometimes the relationship ends. Sometimes, it’s transphobic, sometimes it’s not (the relationship might already have been on the outs). It’s a large and complicated issue.

Snow: Was technically in this situation. Started to medically transition a few months after we got together. My partner stayed with me for nearly two years. She was there for me through all of the rough parts of my transition. There were many reasons why it ended, and none of them were transphobic. In fact, she is in a happy relationship with a trans guy now. Each case has to be treated individually. No two couples are ever alike.

  1. If you want advice on make-up, nail polish, or any other typically feminine-identified accoutrement, pick a woman who is into the same stuff as you. Don’t ask those of us who aren’t into those things to get into them.

Laura: I can’t really imagine a trans woman going up to someone who’s not into “feminine” things and going “let’s go get a mani-pedi!” I mean, is this a thing? And honestly, if I had a close friend who was transitioning and wanting to try out these things, even if I wasn’t into it, I’d probably give it a whirl to support them, and I think seeing their joy in discovering who they are would be worth a bit of nail polish or makeup I could wipe off later.

Snow: Why would we ask our friends who we know aren’t into makeup for help? We jump on social media and make a post about needing help with makeup, and get help from those who answer.

Sarah (on my point that I’d go to a salon to support a trans friend): It’s probably the only reason I would ever ever enter a salon for those things, but I totally would.

  1. Don’t tell us you know what it is like to be subject to a lifetime of sexism because you may be experiencing sexism since your transition. While we appreciate you testifying to the reality of sexism, we also feel like we should be believed when we talk about it without you having to add your testimony.

Laura: I think it must be hard for trans women to suddenly confront sexism when they hadn’t had it before in the same way (though they wouldn’t have been oblivious to misogyny then, either–sexism is pervasive). Women should be believed, including trans women. In many arguments, I think it would add validity to discussions of the harmful aspects of the patriarchy for a trans woman to say “I did this thing before my transition, then I did the exact same thing after and had a very different result thanks to sexism.” Women should be believed when they talk about sexism, and they should also be believed when they talk about transphobia and transmisogyny (Sarah agrees).

Snow: You make a very good point here, about the whole “I did this thing before my transition, then I did the exact same thing after and had a very different result thanks to sexism.” I may use that in the future.

  1. If we express confusion when you say “I have always felt female” because we haven’t“always felt female,” understand we may have different concepts of what it means to “feel female,” or we may just have had very different experiences.

Laura: Of the list, this is not terribly controversial to me. Some women haven’t always felt female. Some have, including trans people. Everyone has different experiences. It’s also not a trans woman’s duty to educate cis people about what it’s like for them to be trans; if they’re telling you, it’s because they want you to understand.

Snow: The last time someone asked if I had always felt like I was female, I told them no, that I had always been female. This seemed to answer their question, because they didn’t ask me to clarify anything. I think most of the ‘I have always felt female’ stems from what we have to tell Dr’s in order to get access to HRT and the like. I know in my city, when we find out someone is going to a certain Dr for the first time, we coach them on what to say, so they don’t encounter any issues, or get told no. So when people ask, we trot out the same lines, so they don’t ask awkward questions, or judge us as not being trans enough if we said that we felt like we were female when we were 25, as opposed to 5.

Sarah: I think it’s maybe less controversial/less of an issue (because obviously everyone experiences gender differently, and the original comment is simply asking for understanding of that rather than anything…more excluding/gross). But that ‘I have always felt female’ (or not) is often used as a key determining factor in a person’s transition or in having their ID otherwise recognised, and in working it out on a personal level. Which makes it feel really important/ like something you have to defend.

I’ve had to stop myself defending random parts of myself a lot lately, and I think it’s because there’s this animal-brain part of me that fiercely wants to assert the newly-public parts of my identity now that they have a name. It’s weird. And I imagine it’s a whole lot stronger for some people.

  1. Stop labeling as “TERF”s (“trans-exclusionary radical feminists”) every cis-woman who asks for these kinds of things.

Laura: Well, if people are consistently doing TERFy things, they might be called a TERF. Perhaps, instead of telling trans women not to call them TERFs, cis women could examine what they’re doing and see if there are ways to be more welcoming.

Snow: If you are going to do dumb things, I’ll call you and idiot, and tell you why you shouldn’t do them, so you know not to do them. If you are going to do TERFy things, I’ll call you a TERF, so you (hopefully) realise, and stop doing them.

Sarah: Also, maybe instead of being on the offensive all the time, cis folks should stop and think about how transfolks are treated a lot of the time and like, create the (safe, open) space for them to be part of conversations, and maybe some of the having-to-assert-ourselves stuff would lessen… why do transwomen have to understand the cis perspective here, but it isn’t extended the other way in return?

All in all, this is a lot of “do nots.” Altogether it reads like the only way to be a “cis ally” as a trans woman is to shut up and sit down. Another cis reader I sent this to said, “What really bothered me personally about the list was that it felt like a ‘how not to be an asshole’ list but directed solely at trans people, which in turn felt like the assumption was that *trans people are assholes.* The framing is insulting.”

As a cis woman, I have a lot more privilege than trans people. My chances of getting beaten or murdered are lower. As a cis woman I have a high risk of being sexually assaulted or raped, but it’s still higher for trans people. I’m at a lower risk of suicide. Let’s say this together: cis women are not oppressed by trans women.

Once more for the people in the back: cis women are not oppressed by trans women.

So no, trans women don’t owe me allyship. I owe them allyship far more, and will keep doing my best to support them and listen to what they are telling me.

Another good article:

Let’s Stop Exercising our Gender Anxieties on the Backs of Trans People by Stephanie Zvan (this specifically makes good responses to some of the issues raised in the original points. A particularly good quote: ‘“People are being silenced!” Yes, trans activists are silencing cis people just like black activists are silencing white people just like feminists are silencing men’).