Publisher: UBC Press
Release Date: November 21, 2019
Received From: NetGalley
Leading figures from the trans and non-binary community discuss the realities and practicalities of sex and intimacy.
In the follow-up to Queer Sex, her radical guide to sex, desire and dating in the trans and non-binary community, Juno Roche pushes the boundaries of trans representation even further by moving beyond themes of intimacy, pleasure and relationships and focusing on the mechanics of sex itself. A collection of interviews with leading figures from the trans and non-binary community, they talk about the practicalities of sex as a trans person. They discuss how trans bodies can inherently bring a range of practical issues to the bedroom and explore the wonder and potential of sex when the bodies involved are not cis. Reframing the discussion of trans sex in terms of empowerment and autonomy, this is a deeply personal, honest and instructive book.
GENDER: trans, trangender, nonbinary, genderqueer, queer
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: queer
TAGS: nonfiction, adult, ownvoices, queer people, disabled person, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, Iraqi person
WARNINGS: anti-trans hatred/transphobia, internalized transphobia, binary language, dysphoria, slurs, gendered slurs, sexual content, gender roles, misogyny, toxic masculinity, sex work, cancer mention, ableism, HIV/AIDS, racism, anti-ace language, hate crime, surgery, hospitalization, kink, master/slave dynamics mention, suicide mention, rape, addiction, cultural appropriation, mental illness (depression, anxiety), seizures, drug usage, animal death, racial fetishization, religion (Islam)
Thank fuck that we are finally beginning to realize that we control and own gender rather than it controlling and owning us. If gender has a place, its place is to please us, and it’s not for us to be spending our lives trying to please or placate it. Without us acting or performing gender, it is inert and meaningless.
Generally, I don’t read a lot of nonfiction because it can be difficult to immerse myself. Especially when it’s something that could potentially be psychologically stressful. But, the title of this book snagged my attention from the moment I saw it and I immediately requested it on NetGalley.
Trans Power? Hell yeah. We’re powerful and amazing as fuck, and I was thrilled to be able to read a book that would work to uplift us in multiple aspects of life.
There’s really no perfect way to review this because it’s essentially a collection of interviews with trans, transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer people reflecting on their lives and experiences, so I’m just going to talk a bit about aspects I liked and then a few comments on what I’d have liked to see done differently.
One aspect that I liked was that the book discusses intersectionality as Roche interviews a few people of color for the book. Which worked well with the interview format, because it allowed the interviewees to to speak for themselves and their experiences, without having a white person talk over and explain. And it goes into detail about how, while life is difficult for all trans people, it’s often even more so for people who aren’t white, because racism and other aggressions (micro or otherwise) are often layered into the hatred they receive. It was great to see that the book actively tried to shed light on these differences and how we, as white people, need to actively support and backup people of color. Similarly, Roche interviews a couple disabled people, and it was also really great to be able to read their words and how their own lives have been affected. It was eye opening to read the concerns that the interviewees had about not being believed and how their disabilities often make them seem lesser and more easily dismissed. And again, it just reiterates how able bodied people need to support disabled people.
Also, I liked that they discussed and respected that there are gray areas to gender, that it’s not just binary. Cisgender woman/man and transgender woman/man are not the only two sides to gender, and to spread this information is harmful to all who don’t fit into these strict labels. And as far as labels go, I liked that the book acknowledges that certain labels work for some people but not other. Because while one term can be positive and fit perfectly for another, it could also have negative and/or dysphoric connotations for others.
Additionally, within the book, Roche compares the idea of transition as a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. I found this concept to be really interesting. Passing, having surgery, doing all the things necessary to make yourself less obvious and One of Them is, in a way, molding yourself to make your gender more palatable to cisgender people, if you look at in the way the of assimilation. And while I don’t necessarily agree completely with what they said–because these systems are often lifesaving for trans and nonbinary people and are often essential for combating dysphoria–it’s an interesting concept to think about and ponder for one’s own life.
Finally, I liked the fact that Roche acknowledges that trans men very often get the short end of the stick and need more support. Most people are willing to accept and welcome trans women (with the exception of bigots, of course) into life and society, but they very rarely do so for trans men. For one thing, because they are then lumped into the category of “all men” and there’s frequently little to no recognition of the fact that trans men and cis men are not socialized in the same way and shouldn’t always be grouped together. There are different circumstances that color their experiences and actions. And for another, as Roche points out, cis men tend to find trans women less threatening to their masculinity than trans men.
This textual conversation, though, is also where I had the biggest issue. Because, for the most part, the people interviewed for the book were AMAB. There were very few people who were AFAB, and there were no intersex people (none that were specified at least). It would’ve been nice to see more diversity to that end amongst the interviewees.
But overall, I found this book to be very concise and it gives a lot of food for thought, both in general and towards one’s personal life.
Juno Roche is a writer and campaigner whose work around gender, sexuality and trans lives has been funded by the likes of The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and described as ‘provocative, cutting edge and innovative’. She studied Fine Art and Philosophy at Brighton and English Literature at Sussex, and writes for a wide range of publications including Bitch Magazine, Dazed, Vice, Broadly, Cosmopolitan, The i, i-D, The Independent, The Tate Magazine and Refinery29. She was born a boy in Peckham and is now a woman living in the mountains of Andalusia.
Juno’s first book, Queer Sex, was published in 2018. Her second book, Trans Power, will be published in November 2019.