Shelf Love

064. Women in Pants: Unpacking Problematic Faves

Short Description

John Jacobson, freelance editor at Carina Press, joins me to trouble the binaries as we unpack a problematic favorite trope: women in pants in historical romance novels.


problematic favorite trope, queer romance, historical romance

Show Notes

John Jacobson, freelance editor at Carina Press, joins me to trouble the binaries as we unpack a problematic favorite trope: women in pants in historical romance novels.

Show Notes:

Guest: John Jacobson

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064 John Jacobson - Problematic Favorite Tropes

Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00]Hello. And welcome to episode 64 of Shelf Love, a podcast where we have thought provoking critical discussions about literature's most polarizing genre, romance novels. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci, and on this episode, we are diving into John Jacobson's problematic favorite trope. Thank you for diving into the deep end with me, John. What should people know about you before we begin?

John Jacobson: Hello, my name is John Jacobson. I use they/them pronouns, but I go by any pronouns really. By day I work as an instructional designer at a large university in upstate New York. And by night and weekend, I work as an acquisitions and content editor freelance at Harlequin's Carina, press.

Andrea Martucci: Very cool. And so we are here to talk about a problematic trope. Would you define it as a favorite problematic trope? And what is it, how would you define it?

John Jacobson: So the trope that we're discussing today is affectionately or non affectionately, depending on the person, I suppose, referred to as girl in pants, woman in pants, et cetera.

And I wouldn't define it as a favorite problematic trope, it's not a trope that I seek out to feed my id, per se, but it's a trope that defined by romance reading. The first romance novel that I can remember reading in its entirety is Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, which is a prominent feature of this trope.

And probably one of those popular historicals at the time that featured it, from what I would imagine.

Andrea Martucci: And so let's lay out what this trope usually looks like, because we should probably constrain this in particular to like historicals this particular discussion. I would posit that the reason this was really prominent in historical romances is because our understanding of clothing in historical eras is very gendered and binary and distinct and separate.

There's no spectrum of clothing, unlike modern people where, it is not abnormal for women to wear pants and, you know .

John Jacobson: Yeah, I would agree that I think clothing in history has a huge place in why this is so common in historicals. There's probably so many layers that go into it too, as well.

Like historicals, we usually see a more direct, cisgender binary  relationship. We have this idea of history, right? Like we have this falsified idea of it [00:02:30] being a straight line between no one having rights and then people gradually gaining them over time. So I think we like to look back and  it's this opportunity to create a large gendered relationship and in a lot of ways, it is very accurate and it's also a way of exploring that. And I would imagine that historicals in particular were a good way to explore that at a time when maybe, when especially discussions of sex were becoming really prominent, like post - I'm thinking like Flame and the Flower, right?

Like we have this space in romance where people wanted to have conversations about gendered relationships, but the conversations about gendered relationships, like in the modern day were just like, they were really messy. They were really complicated. They were being informed by second-wave feminism and by all of these movements. And romance was probably a place in which it could simultaneously be a fantasy for people, but also a place to work out some of those things. And I think that, especially in relationship to gender and gender presentation, it's a reason why historical romance is the home of this trope.

There's also just a lot of logistical reasons why, because of the clothing, that it would work. Like when you think about moderate interpretations, I don't know, like Amanda Bynes' She's The Man, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull off this trope in a traditional cisgender heterosexual way.

So I think that's also maybe why we see it there,

Andrea Martucci: By the way, I love that movie. And something that happens in that movie that I think sometimes happens in these romance novels is there's like this scene where the cis woman who is cross dressing, she's not assuming the identity of a man.

She is cross-dressing, wearing clothing that is gendered as male as a way to pass as a man, hide, gain some sort of freedom. There's something going on, where she must pass as a man. And there's usually this scene where she is trying to perform masculinity and it's usually played for laughs: "Oh, look at these like overt demonstrations and performances of hyper-masculinity as we understand them.

And I think that they're interesting because they usually  reinforce, in the vein of Judith Butler, how all gender is a performance.

John Jacobson: I would agree. I think Judith Butler is a good person to bring into this conversation when gender is performance, as it is true, reinforces the idea while also - it's interesting because I think the reason why this trope has such a difficult place in romance history, but also in the history of [00:05:00] media, is that it simultaneously is like trying to say something subversive while also defaulting to a place where it doesn't fully embrace it, right? Like gender is performative, but then ultimately the plot of the story always goes back to some sort of gender essentialism, right?

Like I'm thinking of, for instance, in Gentle Rogue, from what I remember of the book, I will confess, I haven't reread it recently, is that the hero really early on knows that the heroine is a biological, cisgender, assigned female at birth woman. He has this ability of detecting it, that's somehow based on her biology.

And it's a very construed like, Oh, because she's so dainty or because of the curves that show through her bindings and all of that shit. It becomes this space of immediate biological detection, which is very nonsensical. And then, often the heroine, even if she's discovered early, continues to go through that process to some extent as like - it's a performance, but it's also humorous because the reader is supposed to have this expectation that ultimately everything will be righted at the end.  It's Shakespearian in that way, this idea of it's a very prolonged joke as much as it is like a journey of gender exploration.

Andrea Martucci: And you said Shakespearian. So She's the Man is based on Twelth Night.

John Jacobson: Yes.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. and in Twelth Night there is one sibling, passing as the other sibling. Honestly, I've never read Tweltch Night. I don't know.

John Jacobson: It's been a long time since I've seen the play, but I believe that's about the case. And I think part of why that came to mind as another book that like is it, which is a very ridiculous historical by Virginia Henley called Seduced, uses a similar kind of structure where the heroine masquerades as her brother, but for a very long time, like for hundreds of pages, because it's like a very kind of epic historical romance, I'd say more along the lines of Bertrice Small than I would say, maybe like a Johanna Lindsey, where it was like fairly linear.

And like that one always stuck out in my mind because like the deception was actually quite long and the heroine really is able to play as a man for quite a long period of time and caused like a degree of gay panic in the hero as a result of it. Right ?

Andrea Martucci: Yeah

John Jacobson: so you have these two separate camps of you either have the camp of the hero knows very early for some reason or another, and it plays out either in public, but then in private they have a very like burning heterosexual passion  or it is a total deception. And then the hero has some moments in [00:07:30] which he must face this demon of potentially being queer, but then is blessed with the fact that she has breasts and a vagina and is going to continue to live as a woman after the end of the novel.

Andrea Martucci: Which actually then - it's the gay panic, as you mentioned, but then also reassuringly reasserting. Oh, there was nothing wrong with me after all. I just, somehow inherently knew, the feminine energy or something. Like it's a magic heterosexual hand-waving.

John Jacobson: Exactly right. and it's a heterosexual cisgender hand-waving right, that totally - it erases the possibility of reading it as a trans narrative because like it so often relies on biology as a way of navigating the challenges that bring it up. Because it's not even just the challenge of the fact that the hero could be gay. And I doubt the writers were thinking of this at the time, but it's also the challenge of but like whatever the character is also trans, right?

So then like it blows the binary of gay and hetero out of the water. And then suddenly the hero has to contend with something, in a lot of ways, like so much larger than just, Oh, like I may be gay. Which I think is something that particularly stands out, especially about these, the older books that have used this trope, is that it really has that baked in, but because it wasn't quite as much of a conversation at the time. I don't think people really thought about that implication because in a lot of ways it's like, how could the heroine possibly escape her biological destiny to be a woman?

Whereas like now we may actually ask the question of Oh, but are you trans?

Andrea Martucci: And I think when we think about what the - I keep saying, like the "purest version of this trope," because I think the purest version of this trope, I don't know if there's a better way of saying that, is assumed heterosexuality, assumed cissexism. The characters very much believe in this binary, this gender binary of, there are masculine traits, there are feminine traits and, people who are masculine are men, people who are feminine are women, there's nothing in between. There's no spectrum of gender expression or gender identity.

And as I said, it is assumed that the cis woman who is dressing as a man does not identify as a man at all. It is it's purely a costume, right?

John Jacobson: Yeah. What's interesting about historicals too, right? And I think it's interesting that this trope came up at a time, at that juncture between second wave feminism, and then also the backlash.  For lack of a better word, I'm thinking of like [00:10:00] the Susan Faludi book Backlash . I think it's interesting that we see this trope coming up in historicals at that time as well, because it's often a conversation about the heroine trying to gain, a right that she believes that she has. And even if it's played out, even if it's considered to be comedic or something that is showing her lack of maturity like nonetheless, she is often trying to do something that she does not have the ability to do, whether it's serve in an army or travel on a ship unattended, or, what have you, right?

Like you have this access to rights and. And it's interesting because at the time we know that happened historically, we know that women were temporarily identifying as men for different things, but we also don't often have that conversation of but did that have an impact on their gender identity? Or was that in part something of their gender identity? Was it something that was in this messy middle space.

It's interesting because I think that focus on rights, like on cis het feminist,  ability to do a thing, it allows historicals the ability to not address those other topics because it's instead focused on a very kind of clear but limited feminist approach or concept.

I shouldn't always say it's feminist cause like I doubt every author that wrote that trope had a feminist interpretation of it, but, generally-

Andrea Martucci: or identified as a feminist themselves.

John Jacobson: Yeah, no, lots of complicated things there, but I think you'd probably get the idea.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah, totally. And I'm trying to unpack, there's so much in there because part of it too, is this idea that in order to have access to certain rights, you have to align with, maleness, or, this idea of, male agency and power. I suppose there's a part of that, that in a historical, depending on what era we're talking about, is that historically accurate that, cis women who are like, yeah, I'm a woman, they don't identify as trans. Even if that was not really a thing that they would have the language to identify as at the time.

I think where I'm trying to go is like that idea of like rights, instead of being like, women should have the ability to have freedom of movement and wear pants or, women should have the right to vote. Or let's break down this idea that only people who can pass as men should have these things.

John Jacobson: Yeah, no, it's a complicated topic to delve into, but I think I have maybe somewhat of a sense of what you're getting at. Like for instance, the story was not here is a heroine who is going to do [00:12:30] something to actively fight for her right to do X, Y, Z, or she's going to do this in protest or to change the hero's mind.  Instead it becomes Oh, to have access to that, I need to take on the traits of that thing. And then I will have access to the space and the ability. So it's, it's a very individualist approach, right?

Whereas I think in modern historical romance and in modern romance in general, I think we're seeing a desire from both writers and readers that heroines and heroes, move away, at least to some degree, from individualism in terms of how they're having these conversations in the text, to like some form of benefiting their community or the collective, right?

Like we see more overt converstations about it rather than trying to access it through the space, which was probably, I would imagine that's also a product of the conversations of the time and these ideas that people were trying to parse out.

But. Then it also feeds into these larger - especially like narratives around transness are really complicated for this, right? Like I just watched the Netflix documentary Disclosure, which is about trans representatation in film.

Andrea Martucci: That's on my to watch list.

John Jacobson: it's so good. I will just say that if anyone has not watched it, it is phenomenal.

It made my partner and I cry like numerous times, but I think what that documentary does, that I think like you're trying to do in your podcast and what a lot of people, I think hope to do with media analysis, is that it it's a brilliant showing of many visual instances of something thing happening over and over again in media, in such a way that you cannot deny that it's attached to like a system of oppression.

It's not just here's a couple disparate examples that we're going to analyze. It's like you see the visual nature, And a lot of criticisms like, for instance, around trans women are that trans women are cis men dressing up to access a space that is intended for women. So it's like reversal of that.

And it's a reversal that we don't see in this trope. I don't want to say we never saw it because I have not read every romance in the world, but certainly less common and less sellable. Because there's so much to unpack there around if the approach of it being is like, I need to access certain things in a space, what would that mean for a hero? Would that make him creepy or would that make him not just queer but trans right?

Like that the conversation goes from some sort of falsely assumed flexibility because she's lacking these rights to the conversation would then go to like, well, you know, you're not lacking being read as this way, it has to be identity, or at least there's [00:15:00] something in there that's more personal and complex.

so I think  it's interesting how all those things tie together like that, this idea of rights and accessing a space, is often used against trans people of all kinds of walks of life.

Because it's like only performative when the performance idea benefits the cisgender people around us.

  Andrea Martucci: And so I mentioned to you earlier that I read a couple things, like a couple of, scholarly works on romance novels where there, is this trope and one of them actually did speak about a novel where both characters in a heterosexual pairing, were dressing as an identity that was not their own.

And, it was like a super interesting analysis, but one of the things that came up in that analysis and I think comes up in every analysis, is this problematic to have characters do this, or is this not problematic? Is, we've been talking a lot about, gender essentialism, right?

Like the idea that the sex you were born with, the gender you were assigned at birth, this assumption that because of that, you have certain characteristics, that you should behave and dress and act a certain way. And identify a certain way.

And it's also talking about a binary where there are only two genders. There are men and there are women and there is nothing in between. And these are polar opposites as opposed to points on a spectrum. And talking about this idea of, are you troubling the binary? Are you confounding or disrupting the culture that tells us these things or are you really just reinforcing those things?

John Jacobson: I think it's a good question. And I think it's why I find this trope so endlessly interesting. Because I think there's a both / and there, right? There's definitely some troubling of the binary, but also a lot of reinforcement. And I think it may be an unpopular opinion, I don't know, but I feel like most romance really does reinforce more than it troubles. And I think that's not just romance. I think that's most media that we produce, especially media that is liked on a mass scale, because I think that's actually something that a lot of people respond well to, is people respond well to something that troubles your ideas of something, but also comes back to center and reinforces something at the end as well.

Andrea Martucci: And comforts you maybe.

John Jacobson: Yeah. Cause for most people it is comforting. We live in a society that is extremely cis-centric. This isn't like a space where we're talking like, Oh, [00:17:30] a third to a half of people identify as queer, like for trans people, especially like, you know, much, much smaller population.

So for these stories, especially like the audience was predominantly cis women and would have wanted that reinforcement comforting, in part, because I think cis women who experience sexism and are trying to navigate that experience through perhaps the fantasy of this trope, would want - in some ways, like it's comforting to have this idea that you cannot escape that experience. Or that, you can't trouble that experience because I think it can feel affirming. But then once you bring the trans discourse into it, in the sense of that can be true, and also like a trans experience of this could also occur that would trouble it even further  . It brings in some complications.

And I don't think inherently the trope by itself, like is any trope going to be terrible, no, but it's really the fact that we have not had trans people writing this in any context. And if they have, it has not gone noticed really in the same space and I think trans people writing it would probably take several different approaches, right? Like we could see approaches where the heroine or the hero, or like whoever the main character is that is doing this, discovers that they have body dysmorphia that they can move away from at different points or discovers that they want to be called by a different name.

You also could have the relationship come to a place where like the other partner doesn't see it as the deception and instead sees it as a growth opportunity of who they are.

Whereas like the traditional, right? Like the purest version of this often involves like if the hero doesn't know that the heroine is doing this, there often is like a feeling of deception and then relief, right? Which is replicated in people's experiences with navigating transness. Which is there's like a relief because it's like, Oh, this person is not who I thought they were. Or, Oh, like they're abnormal, but also deception of like, why didn't I know if you've passed, Like, why didn't I know?

So it's, I think it's that's why there's so much intrigue there for me is that it, in some weird ways, it reflects the experience, but also in so many ways it doesn't trouble it or really like call attention to it because  it needs cis sexism to work. Like it really needs that to function in the way that we saw it throughout these books. Gentle Rogue is definitely just one of them, but I think it comes to mind because I don't know why I enjoyed it considering it was so ridiculously like that. But yeah, it's also say that even with all of those [00:20:00] problematic elements, I'm sure that my teenage self saw that book and felt some sort of freedom in seeing a heroine who I identify with, masquerading in clothing that's labeled for men, right?

Which is something that it often feels like I still do in my own life. And in some capacity, have her come out of that story and then have her femininity be the hallmark of her existence, could have a trans reading for me right. On the other hand, like if I'm a trans masculine person, I may not identify with that experience and it may feel very frustrating and violating,

Andrea Martucci: To have  that be coded as like wearing a costume as opposed to your identity.

John Jacobson: Yeah. And then, and having it encoded that your, your quote unquote "essential femininity" is going to come out and that it will make you happier.

Which is very messed up. It's interesting. There's all these layers that kind of ended up coming up from the conversation around it.

Andrea Martucci: And we touched on this earlier, but there's also that assumed heterosexuality of the hero in these situations where, the thing that happens a lot is this Oh, he just, he looks at her and he just knows.

Like he has like CIS woman-Dar.

John Jacobson: Yeah. there is like this, yeah, there's a radar or that he has a sixth sense, like some sort of nonsensical idea that he can just know, because of course his attraction must mean that she is a cis woman, that couldn't be anything else? It's very strange and it, I think to a larger problem that I think a lot of romances still struggle with even today is the assumed cis-ness and heterosexuality of the hero is actually a really, a really hard thing for romance to break out of because like women are often like falsely assumed to be more sexually, or I think even in terms of gender performance, fluid then cis men because of these natures around how we define sex and gender, and sexuality. No one's having a better experience from it. It's just a different experience.

Whereas for cis men oftentimes being queer or not being a cis man, it's considered like a very deep and immediate violation if you move outside of the confines of cis hetero masculinity and I think romance actually has really struggled to kind of trouble that element of it particularly, because I think it would be harder for the reader and the author themselves to escape from the consequences of what that conversation would be.

Whereas in some ways, like having it all mostly placed on the heroine in this trope, it allows the hero to have this reinforced [00:22:30] cis het masculinity. It allows any doubts of that to be thrown into like a gay panic or even if it's in a modern context and maybe the hero identifies as bisexual, like it still ends up being a relationship with a cis woman who maybe is gender fluid in her presentation, if she continues down that path and it's you know, it's still troubling, but it doesn't fully turn the system on its head. It just nudges it a little bit.

Andrea Martucci: and as you were saying that, you were talking about like, why is this maybe perceived as more threatening, particularly to romance readers and writers? This idea of, the hero being perceived as being attracted to another man and therefore, being queer and, or, somebody assigned male at birth, identifying as woman. Or non binary, honestly. And are you familiar at all with Helene Cixous the French, I don't know, literary theorist?

John Jacobson: no, not at this moment.

Andrea Martucci: Okay. let me tell you, I haven't read this in a million years, so I hope I don't bungle it, but, she has this theory about binary oppositions, where, there's a hierarchy of these binary oppositions. On one side, there is man / on one  side thereias woman. On one side there is power / on the other side, there is weakness. On one side, there is masculinity / on the other side, there's femininity.

And it's this idea that all of these binaries on one side, it's something that you want, a positive thing. And on the other side, there is something negative and something you want to move away from.

And I wonder what this, where having a heroine, who is coded as being of the weaker sex (I say this disdainfully) , who then is seeking agency and power. That's like, well, duh, sure. Why wouldn't she want that? However, if you then go the other way in this hierarchical system that our society has acculturated us to, we live in the words that we're given, all ofthe  messages that we are sitting in every single day are telling us like woman = bad, femininity = bad, like why - you don't want that? You don't have power over there. Like why would you go in that direction? So I wonder how much of it is connected to that sort of, cultural coding.

John Jacobson: I would say there has to be some connection there and it's a connection that makes things difficult for really all trans people that like that's part of the binary gender and sex constructs that we exist in.

Because if you're, let's say you are assigned female at birth, or you grew up with some gender presentation that's feminine and you want to move away from that, right? Like  you still experience and you still [00:25:00] have experience like, this coding of femininity being bad, and part of being expected to become more masculine or androgynous is that this idea that you're supposed to shed your femininity, right?

Like this idea that you have to get rid of that to be considered more valuable. You have to take on a mantle of, often what is coded as toxic masculinity in order to be able to access that space, which is incredibly messed up because gender is very complicated and most people existing in that non-binary space are really interrogating those things and finding healthy ways of intermixing those binaries. And making new things and making new balances.

And then of course, for trans feminine people, people who maybe were assigned male at birth, but identify as trans or non binary,  it is seen as very troubling because how could you possibly know we want to be in that space.

Which is often why would we get criticisms about it, like we have people saying that we must be predatory. Like we must want something evil out of this idea because how could we possibly identify with femininity, right? Like how could we possibly want to move to a space in which that is a prominent part of our identities?

And I think that shows up in romance all the time. It's interesting how even today and the romance publishing industry, for instance, I think we're seeing many more bisexual characters for instance, which is fabulous. And so many people are writing them really well.

You don't know, but I can remember a particular book that came out fairly recently where people talked about the hero being bisexual, but there was also a subplot that involved, I think like a former paramore or something who became like the villain of the narrative of the hero. And it's still interesting that for all that romance is believing that it's entered this modern space of understanding these things, we're still seeing where, Oh, in order for the hero's bisexuality to be accepted by the author or the reader or both, or the market or whatever it is, right, we have to code it as being, a bisexuality that is somewhat connected to villainy on the end that would be coded as more feminine, right? Like on the end where the hero would have had a relationship with another man. And instead like that has to be put in this context in order for it to be somewhat accepted into this narrative.

Andrea Martucci: That's so close to the evil ex lover - like a lot of historicals, there's this archetype of the promiscuous woman who used to have a sexual relationship with the hero who then is like somehow out to kill the heroine so that she can get her man back.

Yeah. And it's it's not getting past the point, problematic nature of that trope [00:27:30] to have it be a gay male lover. Like nope, we're still there. We're still in it.

John Jacobson: And it's interesting, cause like I know exactly the trope that you're talking about. Cause it shows up in so many, especially, historical romances. And often regardless of the gender of the character that's portrayed in that situation, they're often displaying behaviors that are coded as feminine, but in a villainous way. So like they were sexual with the hero,  they engaged often in some sort of sex work relationship with him, or they were like friends, but they were friends in a way that wouldn't lead to a romantic situation or, there's this possession because their sexual relationship was - so there's just all of these elements that we associate with like negative, femininity right? Like with this concept of like femininity going from being this pure virginal like

Andrea Martucci: yeah.

John Jacobson: A good person to being like, Oh,  you were the person who uses these things against other people, because there can only be that binary. There's never this idea of -not never, but like where we need to find and continually seek that idea that's in the middle of heroines being able to be as pure or as impure as they, they want and not seeing that as like a deception, Or like a villainy.

Andrea Martucci: And I think with all of these things that we're talking about, yes, we as romance, readers have read and enjoyed many things that are problematic and, I think that if the romance as a genre, if individual books in the genre want to sort of transcend past some of these damaging patterns, I think particularly with this trope, a lot of it is separating those associations between gender and sex and behavior and things that are coded as belonging to any of those things, right? Like the way you dress, the way you act, the way your body is shaped, just really like a separation of all of those things and removing those associations and the hierarchy and the, this it's this or that it's black or white, it's pure or soiled, it's good or bad, just breaking that apart. let people just be a collection of whatever those things are and not code them and define them: if you're this, then you're also all these other things.

John Jacobson: Exactly. I think moving beyond binary coding for everybody and every place is like a really good North star to ascribed to, and I also think that this is a trope in particular, it's not one that we see much [00:30:00] in the modern day. So it's interesting to have that conversation about it, knowing that at least  in my submissions, like not that I get like an abundance of historicals because of the market now, but I don't really get this sort of story very often. I don't see it.

I think some people are trying to interrogate it in the modern day, but it has become more complicated for our understanding of gender and sexuality. And I think that one thing that would be really wonderful would be to see romance embrace trans and nonbinary writers more fully in a way where we could see trans and non binary people playing with these tropes from  an individual perspective.

I think that what we would see rather than ascribing one into the binary or the other, like we would see people that would say, Yeah, neither of these things, what happens if this is a moment of like exploration and transcendence for these characters, right? What if these characters are actually moving into a new place, as opposed to finding comfort in the old binary that exists?

So I think that's really like the thing, I would always encourage people when writing romance or really anything to do, Is like when you think in your head while like, Oh, this is where things have to end up. Or these are my only binary options.  Sometimes the most radical thing to do is think about, what actually are the other options that are outside of that, that I can't even conceive of, or at least that I don't want to do it directly right.

As much as it's nice to feed our id and accept that, like we're all gonna love problematic shit and that's just gonna be a thing that we all have to navigate. It's nice to do that. And it's also important to consider, when is feeding your id something that's going to not cause harm versus like when can it be used to really push things forward?

So I hope that we'll see that, I would love to see some trans folks in historical, just really take this trope on and just give it some really beautiful, modern context and ideas.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And if anybody knows of a book that fits the bill, please let us know.

John Jacobson: I would love to read it.

Andrea Martucci: I think we cracked this nut wide open. I am a hundred percent committed to that as the sign off for this. John, where can people find you online and connect with you? And, what are some recent projects people can check out?

John Jacobson: I would love to tell you about it. So for anybody that needs to find any, you can find me on Twitter @femme_trash. I'm very professional. And if you're an author or a writer and you want to talk about Carina, books, etcetera, you can always feel free to contact me individually. My DMS are open on Twitter and you can also find me at [00:32:30] [email protected].

And then for what I would like to promote, with my editorial work, I've had a lot of things come out over the past couple of years that I'm very proud about. Two of the most recent releases that I'd love for folks to pick up:

Ella Stainton's Best Laid Plaids which is a 1920s historical gay Scottish romance about two academics who just try to figure out if ghosts are real or not and fall into bed and boning along the way. The other one is May Peterson's The Immortal City, which is a really breathtaking fantasy romance between, it's also gay and it's also cis male.

And for folks who are looking for more of a trans reading, check out her debut, the Lord of the Last Heartbeat, which I have a very deep fondness for. So I would love for people to support those.

But in general, just support trans people in general. And I think that would also be a wonderful takeaway if anybody wants that from this.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. I hope so as well. And speaking of, May Peterson does a lot of work on Twitter talking about her identity and her experience in romance, writing romance as a trans woman. And, so definitely check out May Peterson. I believe she's @maidensblade on Twitter.

John Jacobson: Yes. She's @Maidensblade.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. So I'll put the link in the show notes and thank you so much for being here today. As I said, I think we covered everything. I don't think there's anything more to say about this. (John laughs) Just, yeah,  just laugh.

John Jacobson: Yeah.  it's funny. Cause like on the one hand there's always something more to say on the other hand, you're right. We're not going to magically uncover the solutions to like cis heterosexism in like one evening. I think we started a good conversation.

Andrea Martucci: Agreed.  Marker [00:34:13]  And that's all for episode 64. Thank you so much, John, for joining me. Make sure you check out the links in the show notes to find all the references made in this episode.

I am also including links to some academic work that I consulted to prepare for this episode, including a thesis by Dr. Mallory Jagodzinksi from 2010, called On Bustles and Breeches: cross-dressing, romance novel heroines and the performance of gender ideology.

And I also read an article from 2016 called "You and I are humans, and there is something complicated between us": Untamed and queering the heterosexual historical romance, which is by Dr. Jodi McAlister and was published in the journal of Popular Romance Studies.

Coming up next week, Dr. Eric Selinger is back to talk about Glitterland [00:35:00] by Alexis Hall. And then to round out October, I have a duology of episodes on Black witches. First religious studies scholar Dr. Margarita Guillory shares her fascinating research on African diaspora conjuring practices and how they're represented in pop culture.

Dr. Maria DeBlassie joins me to speak with Dr. Guillory. And then in the followup episode, Maria and I incorporate what we learned from Margarita to talk about the theme of witchcraft practiced by Black women in contemporary romance, using texts Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon, A Taste of Her Own Medicine by Tasha L. Harrison, and Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.

Thanks for joining me today. If you have any thoughts on the show, I would love for you to reach out to me. You can send an email to [email protected]. This episode is produced by me, Andrea Martucci. Thank you to Shelf Love's editorial advisory board members, Katrina Jackson and Tasha L Harrison, who frequently stopped me from saying things I shouldn't.

Black lives matter.

Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.