“I don’t want to be representative”
From Boston Review:
Spencer Quong: Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is set during the peak of the AIDS crisis, and is full of deep-cut references to 1990s pop culture. It’s a story about a very specific moment in the history of queerness, but also a narrative that regularly steps out of time with the fairytale chapters. Perhaps we can begin there. You’ve said elsewhere that you chose to include these “retellings of shapeshifter stories” because they “allow for the unreasonable, appearing to offer explanations while actually just adding more mystery to the universe.” I love that formulation: the illusion of giving more information.
Andrew Lawlor: I really wanted to challenge the idea of an origin story for Paul and for Paul’s ability to transform his body into any human shape (or sex) he wishes. I think a lot of queer and trans people resent constantly being forced to come up with a cohesive narrative. For example, there is this by-the-book trans narrative I could give: “I always felt like I was a boy,” or “When I was four years old. . . .” All that may be true, but it is also more complicated.
How do you know what you know? I was made to question easy narratives or explanations and I see the importance of that to this day. It feels really important to me to question the idea that there would be a simple explanation for somebody’s gender or sexuality. It does not feel true to lived experience. In my observation, gender and sexuality are things that are both fluid and deeply felt.
The filmmaker Jules Rosskam has a documentary called—I love the title of it so much—against a trans narrative (2008). I have always felt like I am against the trans narrative. I don’t want to be representative. I don’t want to be the one voice. I don’t want to be pinned down. I also don’t want to speak for people. I don’t want to write some anthem. I am happy if other people do that—as long as there are lots of them. I want to be one book among many. Let Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl be just one voice. With Paul’s abilities, it’s the same thing: what could be more boring than a single answer to why he can do what he can do?
Image from against a trans narrative, Jules Rosskam, 2008