Books

: Decoding the Trans Generation :

Travers, A. (2018). The trans generation: how trans kids (and their parents) are creating a gender revolution. New York, New York University Press. Pp. 263. $18.95

Dr. Ann Travers (they/them) in their book “The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution”, covers a variety of topics regarding the lives of trans children and their families. Dr. Travers themself identifies as transgender, or trans, and uses they/them pronouns to refer to themself throughout the book. They briefly mention their own experience of being trans and then go on to describe how they went about writing this book. For this book they interviewed 19 transgender (and gender nonconforming) kids and young adults and 23 parents of transgender (and gender nonconforming) kids (5). They choose the subjects of their interview from both the United States and Canada.

Those interviewed told the stories of the struggles they faced, and Travers added in their own observations. They covered topics such as discrimination, bathroom laws, gender segregated spaces, family circumstances, transitioning, healthcare, and general safety. Travers presented various plans and how they are and are not effective for solving problems related to the lives of trans people, they support these statements with a combination of scientifically backed medical information, statistics, and the personal experiences of those they interviewed. While, clearly, Travers has a bias toward what would be considered more liberal views, they are very careful to refrain from giving emotion-based arguments to demonstrate their points. While they do rely partially on the personal testimonies of others, they back everything being said with data. They also report going back between months and years later to check upon the individuals interviewed and their families and note any changes to circumstances. They are also clear in that they will not give the real names of those interviewed for those individuals’ safeties. Their commitment to giving data and statistics and providing clear references for these makes this book worth reading for those with any form of political views for its informative value.

The book has a pleasing format that makes it easy to understand and read through. Travers uses blocks of quote with differing formatting from the rest of the text to give a visual break between ideas. They also separate sections in chapters and give specific headings to allow those reading to understand what is being said and addressed in each. The inclusion of extra resources at the back of the book is also quite helpful. The transitions between testimonials and other information are smooth as well.

One very important aspect addressed throughout the book is the concept of labelling, both how people choose to be labelled and how others label them (especially in the case of institutions). On this Travers notes, “Government identification often presents trans people with an insurmountable barrier to social transition. “M” or “F” sez markers on government identification play a fundamental role in imposing a binary based sex category on kids and in enabling or preventing freedom of movement” (27). Throughout the book Travers explains that this can easily out a trans person who was formerly stealth (meaning they are able to present as their gender in an affirming way and are not known to be trans). While they may be able to later petition to have these markers changed eventually, there are many who do not define themselves along the assumed binary (male vs. female) at all and as such these markers can be especially painful as there are rarely other options. Travers goes on throughout the book to suggest that there may be no real binary at all and that the spectrum of gender is much more complicated than what can be summed up using one of the three most common labels; male, female, and nonbinary (5).

This is the basis of the idea behind the “Gender Revolution” that Travers explains (1). While the title of the book may be confusing for some, it in many ways accurately portrays the overarching theme of the work. This book extensively discusses gender theory, gender identities, legislation regarding these, and the difficulties and challenged faced by transgender individuals and those closest to them. Travers makes sure to not only interview the parents of these kids, but the kids themselves to get the most accurate picture of their lives. They also look into the histories of events and the institutions that either helped or harmed these children and their parents. They included children of various ages, identities, races, backgrounds, etc. They interviewed many parents as well, including one parent who had lost their transgender child to suicide, to hear about the parents’ perspectives on what was happening in the lives of their children.

At the end of the book travers gives a four point action plan with the goal of helping transgender individuals, this includes pushing institutions to change their attitudes and behaviors towards those who are trans, making healthcare more accessible, tearing down gender separating systems, and making assisting trans kids and making their lives easier the main focus of new political actions. This is the conclusion that Travers brings to their book, giving their views, bias, and intentions explicitly to avoid any possibility of conclusion. This plan is what they spent over a hundred pages backing with research and testimonies.

            Before Travers begins, they go through explaining the various definitions they will be using. This makes the text in and of itself much easier to read and understand. They also pause to explain specific circumstances and meanings throughout the chapters to give the readers a chance to fully understand the information they are being given. This educational formatting is furthered by the inclusions in the back of the book, such as three appendixes offering various information, a glossary full of definitions for terms used in the book, several pages of notes for clarification, an extensive bibliography that gives many options for further research, and an index. All of this added together, along with the books style, makes it ideal for use as a teaching tool. One could begin reading with virtually no knowledge on the subject and still be able to understand the book’s content. That is not to say the book is best for all audiences, the book does cover such topics as sexual assault, physical assault, abuse, hate crimes, self-harm, suicide and suicide attempts, and other sensitive topics, as such, audiences who may be triggered or are not in a good mental or emotional state to read about such things should most likely not attempt to read this book. This book would be ideal for one wishing to learn more about the life experiences of those who are in the LGBTQ+ Community (not just transgender individuals), gender theory, or legislation regarding such topics and its effects on society.

            Overall, this book is worth reading for almost anyone who wishes to learn more about the diverse experiences of others. It is worthwhile as an educational tool as well and cites many other research tools that the author used. The amount of information they provide and the way in which they conducted their research are excellent. A negative would be their inability to cover certain topics in depth, go farther in explaining the situations regarding certain events, and that while they did a lot to address the diversity among the LGBTQ+ community, they could have done more to address the history behind certain views and events. While they did give a very comprehensive explanation of terms used, they were unable to address many other aspects of what it means to be a member of the community. Despite these downsides, one positive was that they were able to, with grace and dignity, discuss the tragic death by suicide of one child. This child’s mother was interviewed, and Travers worked to make clear the struggles the both the child and his mother went through and did not dishonor his life or legacy. In conclusion, this book is well worth reading and potentially using in a classroom setting to educate students and teachers alike on an aspect of diversity in the world that is often unaddressed or addressed poorly in today’s society.  

Reviewed by Finch Pierson

Citation Style: APA

Please support Dr. Ann Travers (they/them) if you can, the link to buy their book is: https://nyupress.org/9781479885794/

They have many lectures available on YouTube and there are many more reviews of their book available there. If you cannot purchase their book I hope you are able find it at a library near you. They have also written several other books that I look forward to reading soon.

Prequel or something to everything I said

            I chose this book because it was important to me to be able to read some more queer literature. As a trans person I am super interested in literature on people in my community. It was difficult to find this book as it was not in the system for the college I went to. I was manually wandering the aisles for anything queer related that was even mildly positive and scientific. I finally found a section with titles such as “Gay is Good” and “Gay is Bad” sitting almost next to each other. This held all the books that wouldn’t come up in my search of the system. I was so excited that I took out a ridiculous amount of books from the library and carried them to class (lowkey probably outing myself to everyone with all the rainbow covers).

            Here is where I finally found the book “The trans generation: how trans kids (and their parents) are creating a gender revolution” by Dr. Ann Travers. This paper was my final for the required class I was taking at this college. It was my way of subtlety outing myself to my professor. I enjoyed writing this paper though I have made some edits and plan to make a revised version once I have access to the book again. Full respect to Dr. Travers for all their work in writing this book. It was a hard read that was painful at points though it was comforting to find some queer literature somewhere on the campus.

            As someone who has also dealt with being suicidal and attempts, it was difficult to read about other trans people (especially kids) and their battles with suicidal thoughts. It was especially difficult to hear about the child who was given a name the same as mine who ended up dying.

            So I guess this is my introduction to you all. My name is Finch Pierson I am a trans man and I use He/Him and They/Them pronouns. I am bisexual. I will be guest writing on occasion. Most of what I will be writing will be on topics such as queer culture and literature and stuff like that. There will be a lot of other stuff as well. Not sure what will happen yet.

If you have any questions feel free to ask me. My email is Finchpierson@gmail.com. I will try to respond as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Finch Pierson

He/they

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