Q&A with Mx. Sly, author of “Transland”


Mx. Sly (they/them) is a non-binary writer, theatre creator, and producer who has lived in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. Their play Charisma Furs appears in Q2Q: Queer Canadian Performance Texts. Transland is their first book. Transland is a memoir of transformation and self-discovery that explores fetish communities from a gender diverse perspective.

ARSENAL PULP PRESS: Did you always know you were going to title the book Transland? Would you share how you chose this title and unpack it for us?

MX. SLY: I think about the concept of homelands a lot. Of all the identities I hold, being kinky and being trans non-binary are the most vital aspects of who I am, but these are also aspects I frequently have to justify and explain to others.

I long for a place where I can be my fullest self and be seen as innately normal and ordinary, even while I’m being peed on or while jerking off my silicone dick. I’m always looking for home. This memoir is about all the intimacy I’ve explored in pursuit of fulfilling an even deeper longing. I search for a Transland.

APP: The book opens with a note to readers that “Transland is a memoir and a work of creative non-fiction.” Why was it important to you to put the work in these two containers or frames?

SLY: I wanted to situate the book in these two containers to give myself more freedom.

The book is a memoir in the sense that all the fetish sessions, thoughts, and feelings happened IRL. However, instead of sharing events in linear order, I’ve reordered the events of my sex life in this book to follow the model of the Hero’s Journey. In this way, the book is creative non-fiction.

Through the freedom to meld true events into a creative structure, I’m able to derive meaning out of all the random sex and BDSM I’ve messed around with. It’s the synthesis of craft and fact that allows me to access genuine moments of catharsis—in this book, and as a masc-of-centre dude processing my life.

APP: What was your favourite scene or chapter in the book to write, and why?

SLY: My favourite person to write about in the book was my Aussie rope top and my friend with benefits, James. I love every moment he pops up in the narrative. If we come back to the Hero’s Journey, James is my supersexual Obi-Wan Kenobi, and meeting him forever changed what I ask for out of existence. He taught me the value of being untameable, ugly, and free.

James appears in the book’s final scene. In a story filled with the rise and fall of many S&M love affairs, it’s my bondage bromance with James and our friendship that’s my favourite part of the story, because the lessons our play taught me have only strengthened and become more impactful over time.

APP: Throughout Transland you provide definitions of types of play, fetish and kink terms, and toys and equipment. Was it one of your goals in the writing of Transland to provide a sort of intro or basic education to those who are curious about the scene?

SLY: My goal in Transland was to balance writing about kink in a way that would feel visceral and authentic to those in the scene without being too opaque or esoteric to be accessible to other readers.

The book isn’t intended to be an intro to fetish, but I do try to offer enough insight into BDSM that one can have nuanced understandings of concepts like submission, subspace, and postplay drop without having experienced them. In the book, I strive to make the play feel real but also relatable.

That said, I don’t always explain fetish terms the first time they’re used. For example, I use “little” as a noun early in the book, as an Easter egg for the kink community. Later on, I explain what a “little” is in a kink sense to broader readers.

In writing about fetish and how integral it is to my personhood, I feel a loyalty and a desire to do justice to my fellow kinksters first and to bring vanilla audiences along for the ride second.

APP: Transland is a memoir with a strong narrative throughline. Chapters build on each other, people recur, and relationships shift. It could almost be read as a much sexier non-fiction version of Tales of the City. Instead of an apartment building, it’s a Toronto sex club called Fountain where the reader first meets the narrator, Sam, James, and Evie. Was Fountain a clear structural device when you began writing these experiences, or did it reveal itself in the writing?

SLY: It’s funny that you mention Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, because Tales influenced the serialized storytelling about sex, shifting relationships, and coming-of-age journeys in this book.

That said, the Toronto sex club being a structural device … let’s say that revealed itself in the writing. Fountain is a place I used to have sex in a lot. So, it’s a structural device in the book because it was a structural vehicle in my life—for getting laid. It was an imperfect mainstay in which I’d worship my dominants, explore submission and public sex, and search for transcendence and understanding. Fountain wasn’t the homeland I was looking for, but for a time, it was closer to being a Transland than anything else I knew.

Coming back to the influence Tales has had on my writing though, I’m planning to work on continuations to Transland, much like Maupin did with Tales of the City. So, stay tuned.

APP: What other artists or art influenced the writing of Transland?

SLY: Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises had a big impact on Transland; it taught me to write in a journalistic fashion about my feelings and impulses, as well as the way my brain forms associations and impressions. A sort of hard-hitting reportage of one’s inner world.

Even more influential, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red taught me to trust swift shifts between naturalism and magic realism. As a result, Transland often moves from the naturalistic to the imagistic and surreal and back again. The way Carson writes Geryon to be both an angsty queer kid and simultaneously a red dragon inspired me to think of non-binary people as beings who flow between physical forms freely, because what we feel and what we know is too large to be contained in just one body.

For me, pain, bottoming, and BDSM are a catalyst for transformation, setting me free enough to suddenly become a dog, a lion cub, and sometimes, an alien in outer space. Carson made me feel comfortable in writing and sharing those experiences and gave me confidence that readers will come along for the weird ride, as long as the journey is grounded in universal emotional truths.

Pick up a copy of Transland: Consent, Kink, and Pleasure at your local bookstore, or order direct from ArsenalPulp.com

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