Trans* Lives

Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices, by Kristin Cronn-Mills, (Twenty-First Century Books, Lerner Publishing Group), 88 pages

Transgender Lives is a small, but ground-breaking book. Written with junior high and high school readers in mind, it alternates stories from trans* individuals’ live with chapters on topics like transgender health and transgender life challenges. [Note that this book primarily uses the term trans*, rather than transgendered because the identity is much more complex than the term “gender,” which still implies the binary male/female dichotomy, allows.] Opening materials explain that “Transgender Lives helps you understand what it means to be trans* in America while learning more about transgender history, the broad spectrum of transgender identities, and the transition process.”

The book is written to inform and to generate respect. The language is at a seventh grade level, which makes it accessible to a great many readers. The author uses analogies and hypothetical situations to put readers into the kinds of situations trans* individuals face daily:

Awsome! It’s the day you get to apply for a driver’s license. As you fill out the form, you realize you have to choose between the boxes labeled “male” and “female.” But what do you do if you feel neither box fits you? Today you’re dressed like a guy. Tomorrow you might wear a skirt…. Sometimes you identify with both boxes, some days with neither, and someday you might transition from one gender to another. But what do you do now? Do you make a new box? Do you lie?

The brevity of this Transgender Lives means that it won’t provide a definitive understanding of trans* life, history, and culture. It will, however, provide a vocabulary and structure for considering trans* identity—an issue of particular importance to its readers, who may be becoming aware of their own trans* selves or who may be encountering trans* peers for the first time.

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