Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Recently Read: Beyond Magenta

Author: Susan Kuklin
Genre: Nonfiction- Memoir Style
Page Count: 192
Publication Date: 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

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Beyond Magenta shares the stories of six transgender teens in their own words. 

I really loved the idea of this book; young people need opportunities to tell their stories. Everyone interviewed in this novel was so honest and embraced themselves and others unconditionally. One story in particular was quite harrowing and stayed with me after finishing the novel. These teens have been through so much at such a young age. Overall, this collection had a positive and honest tone. The author made a conscious effort to include a range of different experiences and people, and I really appreciated that. I'm very glad this book exists for those who may need it, for any reason. 

Now as you may or may not know, I am fascinated by gender topics, particularly in literature and the media, so I found this book to be very interesting. Here is a book full of young people defying the gender normative set by society and rejecting the connection between sex and gender. Yet, gender stereotypes were very much present in the thinking of these teens. Gender and sexuality are both scales that cannot accurately be labeled by human beings, yet we insist on trying to do so. Many accounts from trans women that I have read or heard, value traditional "female" traits and ideas such as makeup, shopping, clothes, attention from men, etc. The idea of these items solidifying your womanhood would clash with the ideas of a lot of ciswomen. It's interesting to see these gender stereotypes existing in these circumstances. Other teens in this novel spoke about gender stereotypes as well. A trans man spoke of enjoying his new male privileges, such as taking up as much space as he wants on public transport, and getting other men to leave his girlfriend alone. It's interesting that when these young people transitioned, they embodied the gender stereotypes of the gender they identified with despite not being born into that gender. That just goes to show how deeply rooted gender stereotypes are in our society; young people are aware of the "correct" behavior of both genders and believe that in order to be that gender, they must adhere to that unwritten code of gender stereotypes. 

One quote I found particularly interesting and that illustrates these ideas is the following said by one of the trans women;
"When the going gets tough, what do tough girls do? We go shopping!" 

These ideas on gender also helped me to realize how young these kids really are. They are learning about themselves and the world everyday and forging their own path in the world of gender. I would never criticize these teens for their thoughts on gender or their wish to fulfill gender stereotypes, I am merely adding these thoughts to my 'gender bank' so to speak because gender truly fascinates me and is something I love to explore in my academic writing.

I think this book is important and I'm glad it exists. We need to continue to offer young people to tell their stories and spread their individuality and enthusiasm. I'm looking to pick up a lot of nonfiction this year, and I'm glad I started the year off with this read. Often times, teenagers are overlooked by society and written off, but as someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, I know this is unfair as they are capable of so much.

Let me know if you have any nonfiction recommendations for me!  

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