Trans Voices

Despite its flaws, this work is accessible for both scholars and readers interested in trans rights; a candid memoir that belongs on the shelves of all libraries; this thoughtful study centers the lives and experiences of trans men in the millennial cohort and will be of interest to trans and cis readers alike

Lester, CN. Trans Like Me: Conversations for All of Us. Da Capo. Jun. 2018. 240p. notes. ISBN 9781580057851. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781580057844. SOC SCI

In their debut work, composer Lester sets out to answer many questions about the trans experience and how society accepts or rejects trans individuals. From how and whether to treat transgender children to the impact of trans celebrities and the press’s treatment of trans people, Lester provides arguments using research that ranges from social to hard science. Lester is consistently empathetic and therefore sometimes seems less than confident as they both defend their point and concede that other, conflicting experiences are equally valid. As a result, plenty of the discussions are left open to debate. In one instance, regarding the concept of sex vs. gender, Lester contradicts themselves in a later chapter. Still, they cover a significant amount of material, making this a great sampler for broader study. While the subject is an important one and Lester writes with sensitivity, this work struggles to take a firm stand, except in the notion of the importance of acknowledging the plurality of transgender experiences. VERDICT Despite its flaws, this work is accessible for both scholars and readers interested in trans rights and a useful companion to Charlie Craggs’s To My Trans ­Sisters.—Abby Hargreaves, Dist. of Columbia P.L.

Schwenke, Chloe. Self-Ish: A Transgender Awakening. Red Hen. May 2018. 260p. ISBN 9781597096089. $17.95. BIOG

In her debut book, Schwenke takes readers on a journey from her childhood in a marine corps family, where she felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, to her work as a senior advisor on democracy, human rights, and governance for Africa under the Obama administration. Although presented in narrative format, the writing at times comes across as a series of essays detailing the reality, and often struggles, of transitioning one’s gender presentation in American society while simultaneously reflecting on the author’s former life with her ex-wife and two children along with her spiritual journey as a Quaker. “In my distress I owned that authenticity, together with the satisfaction of having brought such a person into the lives of family and friends. For me, Chloe is worth it. For others, the arrival of Chloe is not always welcomed.” Schwenke’s story provides a personal perspective into the life of a person who transitioned in order to be true to herself. In many ways, her story raises questions and generates discussion regarding the future of gender definitions and norms. VERDICT A candid memoir that belongs on the shelves of all libraries.—Mattie Cook, Flat River ­Community Lib., MI

Stein, Arlene. Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity. Pantheon. Jun. 2018. 336p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781524747459. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101972502. SOC SCI

Sociologist Stein (Rutgers Univ.; The Stranger Next Door) invites readers to learn about the experience of those on the transmasculine spectrum. The story of Ben—a wakeboarder, sports photographer, and political organizer from Maine—structures the narrative. Readers also meet Parker, Lucas, and Nadia: three other individuals who underwent chest masculinization surgery on the same day and at the same clinic as Ben. Stein’s decision to find her research participants in a clinic waiting room does mean the book is structured around transition. However, Stein allows each subject room to define for themselves what that journey has meant. While three of the four main figures identify on the transmasculine spectrum, the fourth participant, Nadia, is comfortable as a butch lesbian, who also has her breasts removed. Stein provides context for these stories by drawing on interviews with clinicians and a range of secondary literature. Unlike many outsider examinations of trans lives, Stein attends to the material vulnerabilities of her research participants rather than treating them as a subject of abstract debate. VERDICT This thoughtful study centers the lives and experiences of trans men in the millennial cohort. It will be of interest to trans and cis readers alike.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

 

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