I like this guy. Who wouldn’t?
He turned countless apathetic preteen boys (and girls) into enthusiastic readers. He’s sold millions (upon MILLIONS) of fun, action-packed novels with a foolproof formula of relatable characters, classic plot elements and details, and high hilarity. His earlier novels, especially, were an admirable balance of humor and emotion with more than enough story muscle to grip a reader and keep him turning pages so fast they almost blur.
Even the Texas State Legislature likes this guy.
But Rick Riodan, Texas born and bred (like me!) has his problems with the Texas State Legislature even though they are anxious to honor him. He won’t have it, not with Senate Bill 6 in the way. SB6 is another of those pesky “bathroom bills” that reflect some of the consternation the general public is having with the notion of fluid gender identification (roughly corresponding to the T and the Q in the LGBTQ anagram) and how to respond to it. To Riordan, SB6 is nonsense. That’s what he said in a tweet:
“Just turned down an invite to be honored by TX state legislature as a Texas author. If they want to honor me, they could stop this nonsense.”
I’ll admit, I sympathize with Jason Villabilla, R-Dallas: “I saw his tweet and it was like, Darn, that’s a bummer.”
Yeah, it is. I’m sympathetic to transgender people also, but the issue has nothing to do with the Texas Legislature wanting to honor a Texas-born author. Bills like SB6 are what they do: somebody proposes a law that they think is necessary or needful, the whole body debates it, they amend it, they vote on it, and the governor signs it, or not. I take it Rick Riodan doesn’t have much faith in the process for this particular issue. There are other ways to go about it (see below) but given the overwhelming R-coloration of the Texas government right now, I understand why.
But here’s the thing about gender fluidity, a social phenomenon Riordan has begun to feature in his latest mythology series. We don’t know enough.
I’ll say it again: we don’t know enough.
The issue is complex and over-politicized and, in spite of claims from certain quarters, not backed up by science. Even if gender dysphoria is found to be a scientific phenomenon with a biological basis, we have to figure out how to deal with it in the meantime. Bathroom bills may not be the way to go about it and I think some of the fears from the other side are overstated. But this is deep stuff, man. Underneath the shouts and sneers, we’re talking about the basic nature of humanity, and if there is such a thing as a basic nature. It’s frustrating and infuriating and confusing, but it’s not “nonsense.”
I don’t believe Rick Riordan is grandstanding; he’s operating out of his sincerely-held beliefs. Maybe some members of the TX Legislature are operating out of their sincerely-held beliefs, too. What if, instead of an “if they want to honor me” statement from the Twitter heights, he offered to go to the event in return for face-time with the sponsors of the bill, in order to present his views and make a plea for the transgender kids in his reading audience? I’ll bet the legislators would listen. And even if they don’t change their minds about the bill, they’d might be open to thinking about it further.