Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Recommended Reading: Transparent by Cris Beam

In compassionate, honest and often times humorous prose, Cris Beam (a volunteer teacher at Eagles - a school for gay trans teens in L.A.) tells a compelling story of four fearless male-to-female transgender kids - Foxx, Christina, Ariel and Domineque - and shares with us their loves, heartbreaks, struggle to survive and their desire to find a sense of family and community in a society that consistently shuns them. Los Angeles is Mecca, the land of reinvention, of opportunity, where kids kids tossed out of their homes by unaccepting parents can flee.

Although highly informative (Beam details the disparate urban trans scenes, offers us statistics on trans kids, medical information, and risks associated - high doses of estrogen may lead to breast cancer, for example, but it's too early to see) the stories are the heart of the book and the characters - their need to fit in, to be comfortable in their own skin, to be accepted for who they are and the choices they've made - are utterly accessible.

From PW (starred review):

In this gripping, illuminating and deeply moving portrait of transgender teens in Los Angeles, the smallest incidents reverberate sharply. Beam, volunteering at a support center for trans teens, helps a young woman named Christina make changes on her driver's license: her name from Eduardo and the gender from male to female. The DMV clerk adamantly refuses to make the adjustment and only acquiesces after the humiliated Christina has a meltdown and Beam, pretending to be an ACLU lawyer, demands a supervisor. Christina is one of several, mostly minority, male-to-female transgender women to whom Beam becomes attached. Their group interactions—including fights, friendships and daily struggles to survive—form the center of the book. Though these women's lives are difficult—when Christina is beaten during an attempted rape, she has to lie to the police about being transgender—there are also moments of quick wit. As Beam morphs from parent to therapist, chum, cheerleader and legal adviser, she seamlessly blends memoir, reportage and advocacy. The result is a vivid and fiercely empathetic narrative that juxtaposes dead-on portraits of these young women with clearly articulated fury at a culture that's not only fearful of anyone who deviates from traditional gender roles but treats minorities and the poor with contempt.

I'm half-way through the book and am smitten. and proud. and honored to know Cris Beam. Buy her book, now!


At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I now know, after a lifetime in a darkened box of ignorance, friendless and fearfull of the repercussions of discovery that there are many like myself who are wrongly gender labeled.
Our sensibilities, our own natural feelings, our own awareness of ourselves, of what we seem to be but are not, our own punishment in a false and misguided upbringing into a world of uncomprehended sex is the penal sentence we serve for accident of birth.
Now I know. Now I am free. Now I am free.


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