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Before I can explain my impression of Morty Diamond’s latest release, Trans/Love (Manic D Press), I first must admit something.
I did not want to read this book.
This would not always have been true. In fact, after the first naïve years following my coming out as trans, I read every single trans-related book, blog, and scholarly article that I could set my eyes on. Buoyant, freed, and scared shitless in my new identity, I scoured every single bit of media for information and reflection. At the time, Diamond’s first book, From The Inside-Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond, was a crucial text for me, one of the most comprehensive, validating, and liberating that I read. Isolated as I was in a tiny Southern town, these books constituted my connection to a community I deeply hoped to someday find.
Those days are long over. Disillusioned now, jaded and bereft of my former fantasies of solidarity on the mere basis of shared identity, I’ve become the person that asks famous transgender writers, aren’t you sick of talking about trans content? Whenever I begrudgingly slip into the chafing skin of “trans writer,” my first questions to editors typically is, do I have to write about trans stuff? To my partner– incidentally, also trans– I frequently moan, after yet another trans 101 session with my kid’s principal, the gas station attendant, my CNA instructor– I am so sick of trans crap.
When I was asked to read this book, my shoulders sagged. Sure, one reviewer claimed that readers were wrong to think they knew what was in Trans/Love. But I figured he said that because he was dating a contributor.
As it turns out, he was. But he was also right: I didn’t know what was in Trans/Love.
I mean, yes, it does contain what many similarly jaded would immediately denote “trans crap.” People talk about their bodies, their identities, and how they have sex with their bodies and identities. Some people describe their coming out. But, there is a wonderful saving grace to Trans/Love, even for cranks like me.
Laugh out loud funny.
And it is dead on.
To see what I mean, start with Shawna Virago’s Jolly Jumper. Nothing else I’ve read touches so eloquently on the potential disappointment of mixing fantasy with assumption. Expecting to get thoroughly topped, the protagonist is instead, well, shall we say– surprised. Very, very surprised. (There is a baby bonnet involved. Need I say more?)
Continue on to Amos Mac’s Daddy Issues. For those trans/gender variant readers who have worked or considered working in sex trade, this story will reflect some of the finer dilemmas of deciding which gender to hawk. For readers who haven’t, read on to find out what it’s like to get paid to pose as a woman and piss on someone.
Phyllis Pseudonym’s City Hall is also seriously lol-worthy.
Trans/Love is a book that goes beyond asking “oh my god I’m transgender how will I ever find love” to revealing the answers: Craigslist. Poorly lit bars. The theater. The basement floor of a Sunday school. Craigslist.
Beyond the sharp humor, a variety of identities are spoken to in Trans/Love, including those that frequently go unacknowledged. So if you are searching for more relates on how fat informs queer community currency (Fat, Trans, and Single: Some Thoughts from an “Othered” Body on Control, Alienation, and Liberation, Joelle Ruby Ryan); how racism structures a transition from “just a girl that nobody noticed” to “a stain in a sea of white men”, “a terrorist” (Milk, Please, Patch Avery); further reflections on the stay-at-home trans dad life; balance, bravery, and bliss in a serodiscordant couple (Fifty Reasons I Love My Man, Bryn Kelly); or the complexities of being a trans parent, much of that is here, and more. Even I found bits of myself across the book that had never been reflected before, and was surprised by the warmth it brought to my crusty, dried-up heart.
That being said, I found that I mostly enjoyed the parts of the book where trans identities and trans-narratives were related to the story, but not the central theme. I preferred the stories where I laughed with that delicious mix of delight and disbelief- oh no they didn’t!– not merely because of content, but because the author is a bitching good writer, snarky and vicious and expertly touching the low catty heart of us all. I delighted in the stories where unusual turns of phrases, lyrical language, bold sexy rhythms, and experimentation turned the too-familiar fresh again. (In particular, check out Believing is Seeing, by Silas Howard; B4T, by Imani Henry; In This Dungeon All of the Prisoners Are Free to Leave, by Cooper Lee Bombardier, and the exquisite On Not Fucking or Running in Hue, by Aren Z. Aizura.) I moved with the writers, carried along by the stories where trans protagonists connected to wider universal truths, like confusion, isolation, the struggles of parents to overcome generational pain to care for their own children, or the disappointment of finding your fantasy butch Daddy in a diaper.
I turned the pages on these stories proud to be a trans writer, proud to be part of a witty, nasty, brilliant community of poetic perverts and wicked wordsmiths, wall-walkers who simultaneous manage to celebrate the peculiarities of our kind while sensuously stroking the taut chord of common humanity.
More of that, y’all, please. More of that.
Trans/Love:Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary
Edited by Morty Diamond
Manic D Press, Inc.