Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Published by One World on January 12, 2021
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg: 4.00 (as of 2022-08-31)
[…] her life as a woman arrived with pain; pain that had to be endured, withstood, pain that was the same as being alive, and so was without end.
This was really incredible. Torrey Peters is an incredible writer and I was constantly awed by how clever this was. ‘A whipsmart debut’ indeed. Reese is a trans woman living in New York who is figuring out herself and how to get what she wants in life. Ames is her ex-girlfriend, now detransitioned but not quite a cis man, trying to live a ‘normal’ life. Ames has gotten his current partner, his boss, pregnant and is frantically trying to decide what to do.
Before I knew this was authored by a trans women, the inclusion of detransition concerns me. I mean, we’re surrounded with right-wing rhetoric about how allowing trans children to be themselves will lead to all these horrible things, and how soo many people detransition. But Peters is trans and I felt that she handled this topic gracefully, emphasizing how so many trans folks are forced to detransition because it is so difficult to live in such a transphobic world.
While I am not a trans woman, as a member of the queer community I did find a lot of comfort and familiarity in this book. I’m also polyamorous and seeing the development of this triad warmed my heart — even if they have far to go when it comes to communication. But this book deals with a lot of dark topics, things that I don’t think could have been left out of a story like this. There is an interesting commentary about various forms of colonization and oppression; Ames’ partner Katrina is a cis woman but is biracial. Reese is used to viewing all cis women as privileged, but has to confront the fact that not all cis women are cis white women.
I also appreciated that Peters didn’t pause the story to introduce concepts of Gender 101; she used in-group language without explanation in a way that I found immersive and important. I appreciate when authors do this for any kind of culture — sprinkling in definitions often feels forced or pulls a reader out of the story. We all have access to Google and are able to look up anything we don’t understand from prior knowledge or context alone.
There were so many fascinating explorations of misogyny and transmisogyny and I’m excited to come back to this someday to pick up on more than can be processed via a first read. I feel like each page could spawn dozens of essays. Peters brought a remarkable book into this world and I’m looking forward to picking up her next one.