Review Blog

May 04 2016

Beyond magenta: transgender kids speak out by Susan Kuklin

cover image

Candlewick Press, 2014. ISBN 9780763673680
(Age: 12+) Recommended. LGBT, Transgender, Bullying, Coming out, Families. Interviews with six transgender and gender neutral teens are presented in this handsomely produced, well illustrated book. I found it most enlightening about some kids in our world who do not feel comfortable with the role given them at birth and so do something about it. Their bravery shines through as they go through the steps of changing or at least adapting themselves, some through surgery, others through drugs. Their bravery in taking these steps is doubly impressive in allowing their stories to be told, along with series of photographs which show their transformations. These will create interest but it is the stories of these young people that will captivate the reader.
All felt from an early age that they were not like others, and this often meant they were different at school, leading to exclusion and bullying from the rest of their cohort. Christina, in the second story tells of how she was always picked last for a team, how at her Catholic boy's school, she was teased and as a result told others that she was gay, not transgender. Even as an adult she has been picked out for derision by people who question her looks. She is saving for a vagina.
Mariah in the third story, the child of an Italian migrant whom she has never seen and a Black woman, was raised by her grandmother. Going to kindergarten and school raised people's ire from the start, as she only dressed as a girl. This resulted in unwelcome attention from government agencies and she was taken from her family and placed in care. Several placements later she developed problems which required medication but after her mother died she tried to stop. A placement in Philadelphia saw her being able to talk to a supportive therapist and for the first time was able to write down what she felt. With hormone therapy she was able to stop the male growth spurt when she turned sixteen and is now working out how to tell people about what she is.
Cameron the boy on the front cover tells his story next. He is transgender and takes testosterone, but revels in his male and femaleness. He discusses the whole issue of sexuality and gender from his perspective, concluding that life is an adventure that he is part of.
Each story is different and yet has similar characteristics. Each teen feels different from a young age and struggles to cope with how society sees them, including their parents. Each takes medication to help, but each story is also quite different in how people and family have reacted and certainly in how they feel in themselves. Cameron is cool abut his sexuality from the start, whereas Christina still goes through anxiety, and Mariah feels that she is at the beginning of her transition, and wants to help out other people in the same situation by telling her story.
A range of labels: trans, nonbinary, intersexual, transsexual, pan sexual, gender neutral, gay and queer used help underline the need some have for a label, but above all else, these kids need to be labelled brave, and treated just as everyone else, kids coming to terms with their sexuality.
Fran Knight

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