Beyond Magenta

Kuklin, Susan. (2014). Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

In this thoughtful book, Susan Kuklin shares the personal stories of six transgender youth. Each teen has a chapter in narrative format, mostly in their own voice, through extended interviews. Kuklin inserts herself in to clarify confusing points, ask questions, and provide descriptive detail. The break between authorial addition and personal narrative is made explicit. The narratives are very compelling; mainstream America has mostly accepted the idea of binary transition, but many of the stories in this book are about genderqueer youth, or youth who are binary but perhaps not in the “standard” way that people expect.

Beyond Magenta includes breathtaking photographs taken by Susan Kuklin as well as some family photographs from childhood. Kuklin was respectful of requests for specific kinds of photographs; one person did not want any photos taken and another person did not want their face included. Participants vary widely in terms of gender identity, gender expression, pronouns, sexual orientation, and biology. One trans intersex person is included, which is rare to see represented in literature or photography.

Susan Kuklin is a prolific writer and photographer whose work focuses on social issues. Her photographs have appeared in documentaries and major magazines. Although she is presumably cisgender, her work for this project was stellar; the interviews were participant-directed and she sought out organizations and educational resources to help her understand gender diversity. Notes and resources in the back of the book are helpful, particularly for folks new to the idea of non-cisgender identities.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the gender spectrum, and especially to trans and gender-nonconforming youth just beginning to explore their identities. Plus, the photographs are gorgeous.

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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