7 thoughts on ““This Is a Letter to My Son” by KJ Kabza”

  1. I like this one because the family relationships are so messy and real. Kellsey’s parents are trying to do the right thing and sometimes screwing up. Who doesn’t? Her father really blundered giving her that bombshell news the way he did, but nothing unforgivable.

  2. A lot of people nowadays have left video messages for children they’ll never see. Of course they know (I hope they know) they won’t be able to predict what the child will be like or how they’ll react to the message. This is the first time I can recall it being depicted from the child’s point of view. And showing how such a posthumous relationship could have its uncomfortable aspects.

  3. Kellsey’s father seems to have fully and naturally accepted her being trans… but then his first thought, in medical discussions, is that maybe she shouldn’t take estrogen. Would he, would anyone, immediately jump to saying to a child with two X chromosomes, "Continuing automatically down the path of estrogen-influenced development puts you at an elevated risk of breast cancer, so maybe you should switch to a male body and get the Van Graff procedure to feel comfortable with it"? Ha.

  4. This was a very effective, very moving story with a completely different twist and a different ethical dilemma. The only real issue I had with it was that I found it hard to believe that parents would leave the decision to an 11-year-old. Particularly when we’re told that other parents simply made the decision for their children, even with no medical issues.

  5. I really like the theme of a loving, caring gesture also forming a constant frustration and unbridgeable chasm, of expectations and assumptions.

    This story got on my nerves, though. I’m trying to puzzle out why. I think it’s a combination of these things:
    – The protagonist is YOUNG. Particularly at the beginning, we’re talking a five-year-old where everybody around her has already had time to process and entirely accept Kellsey’s transition. I know it’s not *too* young, but it’s on the very earliest edge of what’s reasonable. And she’s so *articulate* about her gender and her frustration, at a level that doesn’t work for me for a 5-year-old at all.
    – The anger and frustration with the mother frustrates me really fast. I know it’s the focus of the story; I know it’s portraying the mother as understandable and not much at fault. But in-character, there’s no understanding, no acceptance. Which *makes sense* for a young girl, but… I have a hard time saying "let’s go wallow in that misery." This story is heavily invested in getting *me* invested in pain that’s explicitly juvenile. I… have some trouble with that.
    – The focus on Kellsey’s transexuality is relentless; I don’t feel like she has any character whatsoever beyond being trans, and her particular plot-oriented backstory (which is also intimately twined to the fact that she’s trans). She doesn’t seem to have any voice or thoughts or opinions that *don’t* relate to her gender identity. It’s not unusual for a short story to be hyper-focused, but this is a particular story where some richness may have really helped the story feel less like it’s relentlessly pounding a single note.

    Another, much more minor, quibble is this: in a society so aware of transexuality and a family so accepting as to help a girl transition before she can tie her own shoes, I have great difficulty believing that her mom went and recorded a video for "If you’re diagnosed" but not one for "If you’re trans," or AT LEAST "If you’re queer in some way whatsoever." Anything like that would have been likely to be an immense comfort to Kellsey.

    All that being said, I can appreciate that this story does some great SF-nal work. It takes the existing, very-real pain of trans people who feel that they’re not what their parents expected, not what their parents wanted, and finds a clear, vivid premise that brings that pain to the foreground.

  6. Random musings: The elements of this story I liked most are those of Kellsey loving her mother’s videos but constantly feeling the pain and anger at her mother talking to "Kevin," always reminding her that her mother never actually knew who she was.

    I actually don’t feel that the cancer-risk, Van Grasse thread adds much to the story. It gives Kellsey a Big Decision to make, but that’s basically reduced to "How much do you believe in the decision you’ve already made."

    (There’s also the question of "Are you still you if you artificially modify who you are," but we never see anybody Grassed, and this question stays on the "I dunno, maybe" level; it isn’t an SF-nal premise the story plays with beyond simply positing the question.)

    What do you feel the cancer-risk, Big Decision thread adds to the story? What would the story have been if it hadn’t been SF at all – just a trans girl watching videos from her dead mother? Is that the core, or is there more to it?

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