I don’t know when I first heard of Trans/Love but I do know that at some point I got it into my head that it was a collection of beyond the binary erotica. Last week a friend met me for coffee and they lent me a copy for my train ride up to Vermont. I read the first story somewhere South of Brattleboro, Vermont, and went, “Meh.” As I plodded through the second story something clicked in my head and I went back to read the introduction. I was entirely wrong: These were not erotic stories but rather personal essays of, to quote the subtitle, “radical sex, love & relationships beyond the gender binary.” In that moment everything changed. I had been reading as if I was reading erotic stories designed to get me off and once I realized that these were non-fiction essays I found them intensely more engaging.
I’m not going to review every single essay in this anthology. Frankly I think that these essays work together to create a beautiful entity. I’m not saying that there aren’t any that can stand on their own but as a whole these essays weave tell stories from the East Coast to the West, from people of varied ethnic backgrounds, from privileged and not-privileged backgrounds, and from a variety of identities. There are 29 stories, the majority only a few pages long, and they touch upon almost any non-binary gender and sexual identities you can think of. From this highly enjoyable collection I’d like to showcase a few that I found to be particularly wonderful.
You know what we need more of in our progressive and positive communities? Acceptance and representation of “other” bodies. Joelle Ruby Ryan’s “Fat, Trans and Single: Some Thoughts from an ‘Othered’ Body on Control, Alientaion, and Liberation” talks about their experiences as a “fat, single, genderqueer, transfeminist, writer, teacher, [and] activist.” Beyond discussing the experiences of fat or otherwise differently bodied queers they also do an excellent job of addressing bi- and asexual erasure. For some this essay might be a wakeup and for others it might be a reminder but no matter what it’s a damn important essay.
Speaking of building inclusive communities- There’s a two-and-a-half page excerpt from Imani Henry’s play B4T (before testosterone) that tells of a non-binary sexual encounter between two people of color. Alright, it’s actually so much more complicated than that but I’m going to say that you need to read this piece to fully take it in. Jennie Kermode’s “Getting It Out In Public” tells the story of their discovery that they are intersexed. Their story is interesting as is but I highly appreciated their discussion of their intersex identity as I feel that this is an identity that is far too frequently left out.
It might be the fact that I’m baby/toddler crazy at the moment but I am in love with the two family-with-children focused essays in this anthology. “Milk, Please” by Patch Avery is a lovely meditation on fatherhood, queers in “traditional” family models, and being brown in America. “Out Loud and Pride Six Months Before Surgery” by Dee Ouellette is also lovely but focuses on her experiences as a “queer tranny […] mother” and her own process with adopting the labels that felt right to her.
“City Hall,” the story of Phyllis Pseudonym’s green-card marriage, gave me the warm-cuddlies all throughout my body. This snapshot of her life, the few hours in the morning that follow along with her wedding, was, well, well it gave me a hope for my own romance. Besides finding her writing to be enjoyable to read I also found myself envious of her relationship. Alright, maybe not envious since I’m happy with my life right now but it gave me comfort to know that there are other people in the world who are looking for the same sort of relationships that I am.
I don’t want to say that I had a favorite essay but, um, yeah, I’ve got two favorite essays. While I was touched and inspired and brought to tears and to laughter throughout this collection there were two that I found particularly relatable and significant. Don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet but I’m fascinated by the act of sex and how sex is important to us as individuals. “Made Real” by Sassafras Lowrey and “Resexing Trans” by Kai Kohlsdorf are both on this subject. Please just read them, they come highly recommended by me.
Look, I really think you should read Trans/Love. Buy it, borrow it, steal ( well, no, don’t steal it), do what you need to do to get your hands on it. This anthology is important, and not just for members of the queer community. There are so many topics and themes brought up that don’t receive enough attention from us, whether we’re queer or straight. For many of you this slim collection of the stories of people from a wide variety of marginalized sexual/gender identities will end up educating you and expose you to new ideas. Some people might be afraid of the words “radical sex” on the but if you can handle HBO or George RR Martin then you can easily handle Trans/Love.
Trans/Love; Morty Diamond, ed.; copyright 2011; Manic D Press, pub.