I first encountered ‘Almost Perfect’ in the summer of 2013. I was surfing on YouTube and I came across a transgender girl who was gushing tearfully over a book written by Brian Katcher. I have to admit, I had never heard of either the novel or the author but the YouTube review sparked my interest. I went over to Amazon and bought the kindle version of Almost Perfect and happily read it. I enjoyed the story very much but as I read it, I had no idea of the significance of the story. I didn’t realize that the story was not just about the characters in the book but it was also about the author. The book was fantastic and I do recommend it. However, the real story is the author because he is a normal straight guy who expanded his view of the world in ways that took a simple boy meets girl story and added a deeper relevance to the book.
How does a regular guy decide to write a story with a transgender main character? If you think about that question, it doesn’t seem like it should even be asked. Honestly, before Brian Katcher, I would have assumed that it wasn’t something that would happen. This book was published before transgender awareness hit main stream which makes it even more incredible. Of course to write this article with the respect this book and author deserve, I needed to know Brian’s take on that. Of course, I asked him.
Why did I create a transgender character? Well, I wanted to write a ‘boy meets girl’ story that hadn’t been done a thousand times. Kicking around plot ideas, I hit upon the concept of a heterosexual guy and a transgender girl falling it love. Could it work? I tried it as a short story and my writers’ group told me there was no way I could pull it off in eighty pages. Do it as a novel, or don’t do it.
This obviously required a lot of research on my part, being a cisgender straight guy. Thank god for the internet, where I was able to interview many real-life Sages about their stories. And the more stories I heard, the more I wanted to write a book about a transgender person. At the time, there was almost no YA books featuring trans* characters.
The beautiful thing about the experience of writing ‘Almost Perfect’ for Brian Katcher is that it changed him. It is hard to get inside a transgender person’s mind without walking away changed in some way. The man who hatched an idea to write with a transgender character is not the man who came out on the other side of the experience. What has happened to Brian Katcher is one of the main objectives of our-trans-mission.
The book received a lot of attention and rightfully so. What happened after the book also continued to bring more awareness to Brian and his readers. I don’t think Brian had any idea of exactly what he had started with ‘Almost Perfect.’ The transgender community at the time was looking for focus, the need for the awareness wave was growing and ‘Almost Perfect’ became part of that. Brian soon began to understand some of the significance of what was happening and here is what he had to say about that.
I was absolutely shocked at how popular the book turned out to be, especially when I won the ALA’s Stonewall Book Award (for LGBT literature) in 2011. I mean, I was up against big name LGBT authors like David Levithan, Jim Klise, and Cheryl Rainfield. It was very humbling that the ALS chose a book by a straight guy that year, and I try to live up to that honor.
It’s certainly been interesting, going from a guy who was only vaguely aware that transgender people existed, to someone who discusses the issue on an almost daily basis. One reader, when she chose her new female name after transitioning, selected ‘Sage’ as her middle name. I was floored.
Today, Brian is still turning out great books and I urge you to check out some of his other works as he is good at what he does. Brian is also a strong ally of the transgender community and he participates in our discussions and issues and he really cares about us. As a writer myself, I know that when you create a character a little part of them lives on inside of you, forever. Sage is a strong trans girl and she lives on in Brian and I know she is proud of him and his importance in the transgender community and his part in the current awareness wave. Brian underestimates his importance but yet in doing that his words still make the community proud of him.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself an ‘important voice in the transgender community.’ I’m still just a straight guy from Missouri, who has never known the struggles and hardships so many in the LGBTQ community face. All I can do is speak out against prejudice where I see it, help educate people when I can, and smile at the community’s victories.
If you have not read ‘Almost Perfect,’ buy yourself a copy and curl up with a good read in your favorite reading spot. The story is engaging as you meet Logan, just a regular high school student who falls for the new girl, a feisty spirited girl named Sage who just happens to be transgender. The story takes you on an emotional ride as Logan navigates the truths that are revealed along the way and he learns to adapt to his feelings and Sage’s uniqueness. The story will make you experience it all as you cheer for Logan and Sage and their connection.