The Santa Hoax by Francis Gideon
Harmony Ink Press
Release: December 1 2016
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words would like to welcome Francis Gideon here today to talk about their latest release, The Santa Hoax. Welcome, Francis!
Hello everyone! My YA holiday romance The Santa Hoax came out with Harmony Ink Press on December 1st. The story contains several trans characters, including protagonist Julian, and documents some topical trans issues. Though I wrote the first draft of this book in the fall of 2013, the topics I covered seem more relevant than ever.
The story documents Julian’s coming out as he tells people about his identity. As I’ve talked about in other blog posts during this tour, coming out is never simple and often needs to happen more than once. Trans people in particular need to deal with the reality of depending on other people to get their names and pronouns right. Julian suffers with this–at first because he doesn’t tell anyone he’s trans–and then when he deals with transphobia. There’s not *too* much transphobic language in the story (because at its core, it’s really a sweet holiday romance that just happens to be about a trans guy), but the one thing that I wanted to focus on was the infamous bathroom problem.
Enough people here probably remember the bill H2 in North Carolina and how upset it made the trans community. If not, here’s a brief article on its history and what happened. The bathroom problem is something that’s followed trans people around for ages. If you’re trans, what bathroom do you use, and what will people say when you’re in that bathroom? The common theme in most of these debates is that trans women will come into women’s bathroom and attack other women (except that the opposite in real life is usually true). In Julian’s case, he’s a trans guy and only fifteen, so the same fear or judgement doesn’t exactly apply to him, but he’s still threatened and punished in some way for using the bathroom (I don’t want to give too much away about how/why/who) and this makes Julian, along with his friends, seek some kind of resolution and justice. In the story, I created a fake politician in Toronto (where the story is set) who made a similar ruling like North Carolina’s case, and a social media uprising from trans people that rallied against it.
Even though my take on this issue is fictional, there are far too many real-life examples of this kind of systemic transphobia. Even in Canada, yes. I know that Canada is often held up as the pinnacle of all things diverse, especially now after the US election, but we have diversity issues. Everywhere has diversity issues. The world doesn’t seem like it’s made for people who are different–so I’ve always seen my job as a writer to imagine something better. So while I talk a lot about transphobia in this post and it seems like a general downer, I assure you–the book has a happy ending. It’s also about falling in love and being a secret Santa and learning about your friends in a way that is healthy and safe and fun. I’ve included one of the happier holiday scenes of Julian and his friends looking at Christmas lights as an excerpt, so my post isn’t a total bummer. 😉
The Santa Hoax was a joy to write, so I hope it’s a joy to read. Thank you!
When Julian Gibson realizes he’s transgender, he doesn’t think anything has to change. His parents and friends still call him Julia and think he’s a girl, but so long as Julian can still hang out with his best friend Aiden and read sci-fi novels with his dad, life seems pretty good.
Then high school happens. Aiden ditches him, and a new girl, Maria, keeps cornering him in the girls’ bathroom. A full year after discovering he’s transgender, Julian realizes life changes whether you’re ready for it or not. So Julian makes a deal with himself: if he can tell his secret to three people, it is no longer a hoax. What happens during his slow process of coming out leads Julian down odd pathways of friendship, romance, Christmas shopping, random parties, bad movies, and a realization about why kids still believe in Santa—it’s sometimes better than discovering the truth.
“There you are!” Maria said, eagerly greeting him.
She wore jeggings that clung to her thighs and waist, along with a white coat Julian hadn’t seen before. Josie hung around at her side, wearing pretty much the exact same thing she had earlier, looking up from her phone every so often to verify where they were. She has GPS. How adorable. Davis was by her side, his baseball hat pulled down over his face. The collar of his dark jacket was flipped up in the slight wind and obscured his face.
“Sorry if I’m late,” Julian apologized. “Had to say good-bye to my dad.”
“Nah, you’re fine. Just on time.” Maria linked her arm with Julian’s as they moved toward the sidewalk. “Where are we going now, Josie?”
“Just to the left,” she said, then leaned close to Julian and whispered so only he could hear. “Davis is driving me crazy already. Help.”
“Just focus on the lights,” he said. “And maybe think of drawing a comic or two.”
“Come on,” Maria stated, keeping Julian’s attention on her. “Show me some houses.”
Josie walked ahead of the two of them, Davis by her side. They continued down the block two by two as the sun sank behind the trees. The chill set in almost immediately after, and though the wind whipped at their faces and blew Maria’s hair, she never once complained about being cold. Julian had no idea what he was supposed to do if she was. Do I give her my coat? That was what guys on dates did. But if this was a date—not that it was—then Maria probably saw him as a girl. So Julian was doubly confused and decided to not think about it at all. He pulled the group over into the next subdivision, where they were almost blinded by the first house they saw. Lights lined the roof, crisscrossing and in several different Christmas colors. There were also a few light-up Santas, snowmen, and Christmas stars hanging by the garage.
“Oh, wow. It’s like walking on the surface of the sun,” Josie exclaimed, using a hand to block some of the light.
“Total Griswolds,” Maria commented. “Like that movie Christmas Vacation, you know?”
“Yeah, I guess. Just like that.”
“Their electricity bills must be through the roof,” Josie stated. “No wonder there is global warming.”
“If there is, why is it still so cold?” Davis asked, rubbing his hands together.
Josie began to explain, only getting through a few complex statements before Davis put his hands up. “Okay, fine, fine. I’m wrong. I get it.”
Maria rolled her eyes and then tugged Julian forward. “So is this a house you like? You strike me as someone more subtle.”
“Yeah,” Julian said, grinning. “I walk around a lot, actually. Let me show you a better house.”
After a small walk, Julian stopped them in front of Mr. Stevenson’s house. His blue icicle lights hung over the garage and by his front windows. He also had a floodlight that displayed a small silhouette of a snowman on his garage.
“Okay,” Maria said. “Why do you like this one?”
“It’s not too garish, or even that Christmas or religious oriented.”
“And?” Maria asked, nudging him. “You’re holding out on me.”
“Well, if you think about it, this time of year is really about light, right? All the holidays celebrate light because it’s the darkest time.”
Everyone nodded, so Julian went on. “And this house is usually dark most of the time. Mr. Stevenson used to work at my elementary school, actually. He was the music teacher, but he got sick, and his kids have to take care of him now. But they still put up his lights, and I really like that. I don’t know. The whole thing reminds me of learning to play an instrument in his class. Probably dumb.”
“No, no,” Maria said, squeezing his arm. “Not dumb. What did you play?”
“Piano. I was never that good, though.”
“You probably were, but you’re just shy now. That’s okay,” Maria said, her eyes going back to the house. “I can appreciate this.”
Julian nodded. He wanted to add more about how he had first started playing, but realizing that would involve Aiden, he cut off the thought before it had a chance to catch hold. When Julian heard clicking from a phone, he turned to see Davis in the middle of writing a message, not even listening to what he had just said. That was okay, really. Julian hadn’t really been talking to Davis when he told the story. But as he looked back to find Josie, she was already across the street, taking a picture of a rabbit in the bushes. It had been Maria, and only Maria, who was listening intently to him. When he glanced back over to her, he found her staring at him.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said, smiling softly. “Just thanks for telling me. I wouldn’t have known any of that without you.”
“I got a million stories.”
“I’ll bet,” Maria said, then looked past him toward Josie with a sigh. “But we should probably catch up with the group. And I think this street is a dead end, right?”
Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal. Find him at francisgideon.wordpress.com.