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It is nothing new that trans voices have often been pushed aside, forgotten, and oppressed in societies across the globe. The fact that they confuse societal norms about gender binaries and gender-stasis make them terrifying to those who do not understand or prescribe to gender fluidity. This, paired with the flip side of people using trans identities simply as fetishes makes them both fearful, taboo, and objectified. I believe the only way we can learn about trans identities and understand the struggles of trans and gender fluid identities is to learn from those willing to share their stories. Sarah McBride is one such trans woman paving the way in politics, healthcare, and human rights for LGBTQAI+ people.
What struck me the most about Sarah’s story, and this is actually something that I think is common in all trans stories, is that her trans identity is just one small part of the amazing woman she is. The idea that someone’s trans or gender fluid identity should be their whole identity is again, leaning too close towards a fetishised interpretation of trans people. That their ‘trans-ness’ is all they have to offer. In reality, trans people love, live, work, sleep, have favourite foods, run, play, drink, party, read, cry, and feel just like everyone else. Stories, like McBride’s, show trans people for who they really are: people.
The love and loss in this book is heartbreaking. Sarah losing her husband to cancer devastated me in a way that I think only other people who have lost loved ones to cancer can understand. I cried a lot reading this book for both the triumphs and the bittersweet sadness, which shows that this book is, at its core, a story about human experiences.
Trans rights in the U.S. and around the globe are not where they should be. I think this is due to a mixture of fear, misunderstanding, and a lack of empathy. For any woman who performs femininity outside of societal norms, there is always a price to pay. I know myself, as someone who is tall and strong that these characteristics are not seen as ideal for women (trans or cis). The punishments and taunts I received for being outside of the ‘feminine box’ were harsh, unrelenting, and cruel. While I can never truly understand what it is like to be trans, I can understand and empathise with the struggles through approximation and with my own experiences of womanhood. And womanhood is hard. I believe that by sharing our own stories of trans and cis womanhood, can we begin to understand, empathise, help, and protect each other legally, socially, and politically.
McBride’s memoir is a great insight into the types of laws that have been passed in the U.S. for and against trans people, and what still needs to be done. It is political, yet not too heavy or bogged down like other political stories can be. There is a real honesty and rawness to this memoir that is rare and beautiful.
No matter how or when you find your womanhood, know that it is yours to keep and shape and celebrate as you see fit.
What trans authors have you read? I would love to get some more recommendations. As always, share the reading love.