Trans Bodies Trans Selves

Erickson-Schroth, Laura (Editor). (2014). Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a long-awaited medical and cultural resource, inspired by the radical 1970s Our Bodies, Ourselves but focusing on transgender and gender nonconforming folks’ health and lives. Featuring a wide-range of topical chapters written by scholars, activists, and providers, and personal anecdotes from hundreds of contributors, this text is comprehensive and offers health and policy information as well as opinions and advice from experts and “regular” people alike.

That said, this book is not the final word on trans lives and needs, nor does it attempt to be. Although the editor sought out diverse voices, it’s impossible to capture every viewpoint, and the forward makes it clear that many voices are not represented. I appreciate the transparency and the goal to continue seeking different perspectives for future editions.

Chapters are organized into topical sections. Section 1, “Who We Are,” explores identities: race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, dis/ability, religion, and sex and gender development. Section 2, “Living as Ourselves,” discusses coming out and social transition, including employment and legal issues. In section 3, “Health and Wellness,” medical and surgical transition are covered, as well as sexual, reproductive, and mental health. Relationships of all kinds are explored in section 4, “Our Relationships and Families,” while section 5, “Life Stages,” focuses on children and the elderly. Finally, section 6, “Claiming Our Power,” includes discussion of history, culture, and activism.

Besides these topical chapters, there is also a robust glossary (with cross-references!) a very comprehensive index, and brief bios on each contributor. This text is very well put-together in terms of ease of navigation and attractiveness; it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and the text is interwoven with illustrations, quotes, and suggested resources.

As a non-binary identified person just beginning my professional career, I found the employment chapter especially useful; there is a great deal of practical advice about networking, office politics, job protections, transitioning on the job, and communicating with Human Resources. There is also non-binary identity-specific information throughout the book, including discussion of pronouns, transitioning, and parenting. Other people will likely find different sections more relevant for them. This book is packed with information and meant to be browsed and flipped through rather than read from front to back.

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About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, Librarian, Legend Tripper, and Queer Activist
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