FAQ’s Answered #12: Who Is Cindy-Mei Winter?

Today in a series of replies to FAQ (frequently asked questions) sent to me by fans (and sometimes not so much), I answer the question:  “Who is Cindy-Mei Winter?” the first main character of the Quantum Series, and a transwoman.

“Who is Cindy-Mei Winter?” …or if you tripped over the first paragraph, and your head’s still spinning, you might also be wondering “What’s a transwoman?” Is it some kind of rock star? A new electronic component with a clever name?

Let’s put on our labcoats and protective glasses for a moment, and – come on follow me into the lab, yes you too, sir… and you, ma’am – let’s take a walk down Transgender Lane for a couple of paragraphs!

The Mechanics of Transness – A Brief Tour

A transwoman is a woman who was, for various reasons, assigned to the male gender at birth. That is to say they were assumed to be male on the appearance of their genitalia – by their parents, doctors, and well, society in general – without even consulting them in the process!

I would really think that society could at least bother to ask someone what gender they really are befoe just cramming them into a little pigeon hole and then bashing them over the head with holy books or outdated outlooks and ignorant views every time they try to extricate themselves from the cramped, claustrophobic little box they’ve been forced to occupy!

Honestly, it would save so many people so much fuss, bother and heartbreak – and annual suicide figures would look more cheerful! The trouble with this whole situation is that people who don’t know anything about LGBT people are guided by their fears and hatreds – which result directly from their ignorance… and educating all the ignoramuses out there who don’t know diddly-squat about biology, history or gender and sexuality, or sociology – and who couldn’t be arsed to just use Google – would save them all a lot of unneccessary drama as well.

After all, if they were educated and knew better, they wouldn’t be fooled by bigoted charlatans preaching lies and superstious tripe and inciting stochastic acts of terror against their own relatives, co-workers and neighbors. Nor would they feel pressured to use a so-called “gay panic defense” in court for killing their partner when they realized their partner/neighbor/person walking down the street was transgender… because a) they’d be adult and responsible enough to not feel threatened by them, b) be inspired to feel some empathy and compassion for that person’s situation, c) have developed enough mental capacity to realize that i) killing someone because you’re experiencing latent lingering feelings of prejudice is wrong ii) it’s really pretty hard to get away with murder, and iii) the only sort of people who would agree with what you’ve done – or who would extoll your “virtues” for doing it, tend to stand knee-high to pond-scum.

Woudn’t it be nice if people cared enough about themselves – and *gasp* other people – to actually fill in the gaps in their knowledge about the people they’ve been encouraged to hate, push aside and persecute? I’d think the world would be a better place for it, don’t you?

Transwomen – or in fact transgender women, to apply the full term – are women who are perceived outwardly, in terms of their appearance, genitalia, voice and so on – as males. Inwardly – that is mentally, psychologically and spiritually – these women are women, trapped in a nightmare of being imprisoned in the wrong physical gender – who at first did their best to blend in, to not stand out from the crowd, and to suppress their true nature. And why should they have to?

When science first became aware of transgender people – around the end of the nineteenth century, at first it made horrible mistakes – generally cheered and encouraged (and still perpetuated) by religious bigotry and general stupidity – and was misapplied towards “curing” transgender people by trying to “fix” whatever they thought was amiss in their heads. Gradually however, science and medicine came to realize that there was nothing in fact “broken” inside transgender people’s heads – the simple fact of the matter is, that transgender people are the result of biological factors – not conditioning or upbringing – and that the only, best way to treat transgender people is to apply whatever medical means are available to alter their bodies to match their brains.

“When we look at the transgender brain, we see that the brain resembles the gender that the person identifies as”

As a matter of interest, medicine and science have already (more than a decade ago) proved that the phyical structure of transgender women’s brains resemble the brains of cisgender women to the point where they typically cannot be told apart from each other!

Any sane, reasonable person would then, knowing this, conclude that transgender women are as much entitled to being treated as women – if not at least like human beings – but not everyone in our world is sane or reasonable – or even a nice person! Some people today still cling to outdated and inaccurate views, believing that whatever is between the thighs of an individual defines their gender – and that no form of medical intervention will ever change the physical gender of that person to match their gender identity …or do so enough remove their own bias, prejudice or stubborn willful ignorance towards transgender people!

Consequently, there is still a lot of prejudice and open hatred towards LGBT people and especially transwomen – and life as a trasgender individual is often very hard and difficult in its own right – but even more so, the hardship level depends on where in the world you happen to live. In many uncivilized places, it can be and often is, an automatic death-sentence, however, the West, and particularly America had been making bold strides in eliminating prejudice and hatred for transwomen, and I’d thought (until the end of 2016, when they put Orange Hitler in the White House) it was a country that had been leading the fight against discrimination and dominionist right wing insanity and powerlust.

Fortunately in South Africa, we’ve had little of the sort of insanity our American cousins have had to face – a drastic increase in open hatred, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses being appointed to high goverment positions willy-nilly, a daily mass-shooting insanity by domestic terrorists, hostile lawmakers sabotaging non-discrimination and environmental protection laws – and violent killings of especially transgender women of color, since 2016! When I look closely at the situation, what I see is a country talking about colonizing Mars in our lifetime – and having the capacity to do it – that is still bogged down by a pair of ignorant Medievalist religious fanatic cement boots that are trying to drag it back into the Dark Ages! The sooner it sheds that senseless, useless parasitic science-denying dead-weight, the better!

Just because it’s happening over there, doesn’t mean we don’t worry it won’t happen here – after all, the life of all women is cheap here in South Africa – with senseless, misogynistic violent crime – rape, murder, assault and general abuses being directed against females at an all-time high while the government looks on with disinterest, giving tacit approval! It could easily be us too, and often is. Being a woman – and being a transwoman – is not for sissies.

What’s scary about being transgender is that we often find ourselves being misunderstood, hated and under attack from homophobes and transphobes in the shape of clergy, politicians, soldiers, governments – men, and also women – and sometimes even by our supposed allies in the LGBT movement. Often we are regarded as either “not man enough”, and in other times (usually where TERF’s are given undeserved legitimacy) “too much” – and we realize how alone we truly are.

For my own part, I think TERF’s have far too much to say about other women, and have been given far too much time and excessive space to say it. They’re scum, they’re trash – and I say this because they do as much harm to all women by venting misogynist views against transwomen, as do so-called “meninists” – champions of the patriarchy, which despises all women. TERF’s don’t belong on podiums, or writing columns for newspapers, or leading PRIDE marches in as much as Nazis don’t belong at celebrations of human rights – and for the very same reasons.

However, I think by now we’ve adequately covered the question of “what is a transwoman” and addressed, at least generally, a few of the present day issues faced by transwomen.

To sum up, the process of correcting a transwoman’s gender dysphoria is called ‘transition’, and this involves a number of medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and culminates in gender confirmation surgery (GCS). This is a process – and a journey – which I have undertaken myself, so when I write about matters transgender, I’m writing from personal experiece. As to why I write about being transgender, or why I write transgender characters, you might find these articles enlightening: “Why Do I Write About LGBT People?“, “Grief & Loss: A Writer’s Conduit To Creating Authentic Characters” and “What Does Being Transgender Bring To My Writing?“.

It’s no secret that I have a history as an LGBT rights activist, and that some of that activism appears to have leaked into my fiction writing as well! Readers who feel this portion of today’s article to be overly preachy needn’t fret – this is one of the few ones that is *wink*… and it’s over for now! However, now that we’ve dealt with the background of what a transwoman (and Cindy-Mei Winter) is, and what transwomen face in life, let’s get down to the real question:

Who is Cindy-Mei Winter?

Cindy-Mei Winter is the first main character of the Quantum Series. that readers get to meet, in “Black Sunrise”. She’s full of life, young – being around her mid thirties -and pretty in appearance, and as the story progresses, readers start to get the idea that there’s much more to her than meets the eye. For starters, it’s revealed that she’s an ex-Colonial Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent, and has much in her past she would prefer to forget and write off to having happened to someone else, instead of her.

The process of revealing her as being transgender is a gradual one in “Black Sunrise”, because I felt I wanted the reader to start to have feelings for the character – to relate tot hem – before just hitting them with the full impact of the truth. Most readers will know that they form a bond with the characters they meet in books, a bond which echoes how they relate to meeting real people in real life – and also how they might react to discovering that a friend they’ve just met happens to be transgender.

After dealing with her transgender nature for a long time, Cindy-Mei had reached a point where enough was enough – and change became the only way forward for her. By that time she’d already built a life and a career – as a male – and had risen to become one of the CIA’s most capable and reputable agents in the field. News of her change does not go down well at the Agency, and within a short time, Mei realizes how much her reputation, good standing, work relations and humanity mean to her coworkers – squat!

Her supervisor takes it upon himself to make her life hell. Having been a shrewd operator during her time with the CIA, Agent Winter had made a few very well-informed investments – and so finds herself in pretty good stead financially… which softens the blow when her tight-ass boss institutes dismissal procedures against her, and basically gets her fired. She is financially independent thanks to some wise investments she made during her clandestine career, and manages to live rather well off them.

Like me, Mei was always very close to her family, especially her mother. Unlike me however, Mei doesn’t find acceptace from her mother, and the two remain estranged and bitter and resentful of each other over the matter of her transition. Being part of a devoutly religious Christian sect/denomination that predominates cities on the Martian colony, most of Mei’s family have deserted her for fear of either being associated with her, or somehow contaminated by her. At family gatherings, she is the subject of gossip or the butt of derisive asides and transphobic jokes. Her mother blames Mei for lying to her, for the perceived shame and embarrassment brought upon her and her family, and for the act of “murdering” her son – her former self, an avatar if you will.

Mei wasn’t a very gregarious person even before her transition, and so while she had many acquaintances, she had very few friends in life. She had a best friend whom she’s known from her school days – and who can’t handle her transition. He’d always been in competition with Mei’s former male self, and Mei always did well in everything she set out to do, being naturally talented. Although it was a kind of friendly one-sided competition, her friend took it well that at least it was another male he’d been lagging behind – but when Mei came out as a woman – and an effeminate one at that, it was too much for his competitive (and misogynistic) streak to handle! What made it even worse, was her friend and her mother teaming up against Mei in their efforts to dissuade her from transitioning, using emotional assaults and emotional blackmail. Best friend break-ups might not seem as theatrical or intense as romantic relationship break-ups, but her best friend turning his back on her – especially when she needed him most – really hurt… and as painful as that was, it wasn’t as painful as having the vast majority of her extended family turning against her as well!

Cindy-Mei essentially overcomes all these obstacles on her own, relying on nobody but herself to get through it. She feels isolated and alone, abandoned by all the people she knew, essentially an exile. Nevertheless, she still holds onto a thread of hope that one day they might come round and welcome her back as part of the family. Meanwhile, instead of allowing it to break her down, she fights back. At first, like most transwomen, she appears “obvious”, feeling and resembling a “man in a dress”, but under the care of an excellent and professional physician, her treatments rapidly cause that obstacle to melt away. Her reputation though – as a “freak” doesn’t fade so easily on Mars. Colleagues and former co-workers who indulge their bullying streak, come unexpectedly short. Cindy-Mei has a razor sharp tongue, a lifetime of combat and Agency training – and precious little to lose. Consquently, bullies who shout slurs or spit at her in the street, or who try any rough stuff, don’t fare very well.

At loose ends after her unfair and discriminatory dismissal from the Agency, and following her transition and final surgeries, Mei wants to start over in life and is just looking for her own little share of happiness – but the rest of the universe just keeps getting in her way. As a man, she was a go-getter, ambitious and effective in her work. Now she prefers to live and let live, preferring to remain anonymous and live under the radar.

Part of Cindy-Mei’s fresh new start in life involves treating herself to a vacation away from home and everything she found familiar and distressing. She decides to take a long quiet ride on a Loderunner to a distant new tourist destination: a strange little world called Deanna, where there is a Hawaian themed holiday resort, beautiful beaches, amazing alien wildlife, stunning scenery – and as it turns out, adventure!

Her journey is a life-changing experience – onboard the loderunner Duval, Mei meets Fred who is an alien, not exactly part of the ship’s crew, but who is good company to while away the hours between stops making great conversation. They become friends, and that friendship is a lasting one.

On Deanna, as time goes by, Cindy-Mei learns that being a woman doesn’t mean living in an ivory tower, never saying “damn”, or never getting her hands dirty. Being a woman isn’t defined by stereotypes or sterotypical gender roles – or limited by archaic convention or culture – and least of all by internalized transphobia, peer pressure or religious bigotry. A woman can be whatever she wants.

There she also meets her future beau – famous bounty hunter Beck the Badfeller, who turns out to be a really sweet guy called Gary. You can read his back-story (free download) here.

Cindy-Mei Winter is to a large degree based on the person I was during my own transition period in the mid 2000’s. At the time I wrote “Black Sunrise” (2005) her feelings were pretty much my own. She’s not the first transgender character I’ve written incidentally, she’s in fact the second. The first was a character in a short story from 1993 – “Beyond“, which deals with a successful career officer, the captain of Earth’s first starship about to go on the first interstellar voyage. The mission has been getting a lot of media attention and the crew are household names and faces – when on the eve of their departure, information comes to light that the Captain of the ship – Lisa Barnes, was transsexual…. in a frenzy the chiefs in charge of the mission try to pull the plug, and the story explores various outcomes. Few people know that at the time I wrote “Beyond“, I was a closeted, frightened 20 year old kid wearing an army uniform with two stripes on it, speculating about my own future!

Mei also isn’t the last transwoman I’ve written about – there are others in both Galaxii (Marsha) and Quantum (Danielle Grauffis), and they surely won’t be the last.

To close, I think I’ve fairly adequately presented a rounded-off picture of the character of Cindy-Mei Winter!

If you want a taste of Cindy-Mei and other characters in the Quantum Series, “Going Quantum” is a free sample short story that includes material not seen in the rest of the series:


You can get to know her better for yourself! 😉

Where can you get “the Quantum Series“? Right here!

The Quantum Series


You can find my books all over the place – on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords, PayHip, and a stack of others around the world! You can also find them on my website’s Shop page.

For South African readers, Kobo lists all available titles in South African currency!

I hope this answers this question to your satisfaction!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!



If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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