For my pre-transition self, it would include the books below. I’m several years into transition, and few decades into what most of society would consider “manhood.” Unfortunately, actual manhood, by which I mean self-aware maturity of one’s position in society as a man and its effects, doesn’t come just by gaining some years or hormones. And I’m not going to say that justreadingthese books is enough to grow in maturity. I’ve grown personally through interaction with other people socially in addition to reading. But. In some ways, I wish that before I was handed my first vial of testosterone, I was also handed this stack of books:
1. On the science and sociology of gender.
I still don’t know what causes “transsexuality” or even if there is a single thing that can be identified as “being transgender” or “being transsexual.” And while it’s easy to explain to people with the analogy of “male brain, female body,” the problem is that science just doesn’t give us any straightforward answers having to do with brain structures, hormones, or etc. This doesn’t mean that deciding to transition is an unfounded or bad decision, just that the line drawn between the social and the medical is a really fucking fuzzy one, even in scientific studies themselves. So while I personally prefer a broadly “medical model” of my own identity, I don’t get to stand on a stack of peer-reviewed articles shouting at anyone who disagrees with me or thinks gender works differently. Oh, and lots of Foucault should be on that list, too.
2. On being a feminist, adult man.
Frankly, a lot of what I’ve learned about being a feminist man comes from listening to the voices of women* who 1) are theorists of feminism and 2) are telling me what it’s like to be a woman in a patriarchal society. Learning to really listen and consider that my perspective isn’t the only or ultimate one has been the key for me, and the catalyst has been interpersonal relationships. I read blogs like
and try to locate myself in the stories, so that I learn ahead of time what possible minefields I may need to navigate interpersonally. It also helps me to see what women are experiencing constantly, so that I have more context to see why what to me might seem like a small mistake is may be frightening and a warning sign to a woman.
3. On communicating and understanding emotions.
Finding myself with a lot of new emotions, or at least new ways of responding to situations, I struggled with how to express myself and keep from being frustrated. The NVC book was, in all honesty, life-changing, even though I’m still working on implementing its tools (and will be for the rest of my life). Coupled with my Buddhist practices (I’ve linked to one of Pema Chödron’s texts), I’m learning how to observe my emotions first, rather than just react; how to identify them and give them a label; how to communicate them to others paired with an explanation about how they arise and what I’d like from the person I’m speaking with. This isn’t necessarily transition-specific, but I think if I’d had this vocabulary and tools earlier, it might have spared a lot of pain in my relationships.
*There are more than just men and women, for fucking sure. This post is directly primarily at the dichotomized gender space that presumed-as-cis-men navigate. I have learned a lot about queer experience as well, but am not at all well read in that area.