Sometimes, as a transgender person, one can feel isolated. For me, one of the most important parts of this journey was connecting with other supportive, empowering and like-minded individuals. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, a compilation of creative non-fiction (with some comics, photographs and a recipe for curry thrown in for good measure) by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman accomplishes just that.
“I think people are still being punished for being trans and being sexy, for wanting to be desirable. For having the temerity not to just be quietly grateful for anyone’s sexual attentions, but to insist that people learn about our bodies, learn how to touch us and talk about us. […] I love that transpeople are in a place, culturally, where we’re not just quietly grateful for for being allowed to live,” wrote Bergman.
Later ze says, “I never felt like being trans was The End Of The World. […] And there are a lot more people who agree with us than there used to be.”
The compilation consists of pieces from trans people of many different gender and sexual identities, view points, races, religions and ways of life. All are powerful in their own way, such as Gwedolyn Ann Smith’s “We’re All Someone’s Freak.” In this piece, Smith raises the all-too-well-known issue of finding the courage to be yourself despite the “hierarchical order of who is acceptable and who is not.” As someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time living in the gender binary, this piece spoke to me on a very personal level. From time to time I have come up against resistance from within the trans community when I, a self-identified female-to-male transsexual, decide to wear make up, or those fabulous pink sequined heals I couldn’t pass up. I’ve seen the transsexuals looks down on the cross-dressers and the cross-dressers scoff at the queens and everyone confused by those who identify as multiple genders, or no gender or any combination thereof.
Smith said “We can worry about who is this and who is that, we can argue about who does or doesn’t belong. We can talk about how much more legitimate one or another of us is. In the end, we’re all somebody’s freak – and basic human dignity is not a privilege of the lucky superior few, but a right of all or none.”
In another piece that effected me particularly strongly, “Transliteration” by Francisco Fernández, deals with the struggle to find words to describe one’s identity. It seems that sometimes we get so caught up in figuring out “what we are” that we forget to enjoy this journey. This piece made me feel beautiful just being myself.
“If my gender is ‘boy’ and my organs are ‘female’ and my pronouns are ‘male,’ then what am I? For me being aware of this chaos is freeing. I am capable of creating my own genderful mess, thank you very much…” said Fernández.
What we as trans people need is unity, and we need to grant each other the freedom to live ourselves. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation is full of people like you and I finding their own bliss, despite what others think they should or should not be doing, and thus, is an extremely empowering tool for trans and trans-supportive people. I think Kris Gebhardt said it best:
“Take comfort in creating chaos, and know that we thank you.”
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Seal Press for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review.
More online reviews of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation are available at:
- The New Civil Rights Movement – Feb 2011
- The F Word – Jan 2011
- Lambda Literary – Sept 2010
- The Bilerico Project – Sept 2010
- After Ellen – Sept 2010
- Riot Nrrd – Sept 2010 (A book review in comic strip format!)