Be­ing Gen­dered in the Twenty-first Cen­tury

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight University Press Nonfiction - LAURA LEAVITT

Tey Meadow, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press (AU­GUST) Soft­cover $29.95 (312pp), 978-0-520-27504-1

Tey Meadow’s sym­pa­thetic so­ci­o­log­i­cal study Trans Kids ex­plores the chang­ing so­cial dy­nam­ics for fam­i­lies of trans­gen­der chil­dren and other chil­dren

who bend or break gen­der norms. Com­pre­hen­sive in scope, its in­ter­views and ob­ser­va­tions fol­low fam­i­lies like Clau­dia and Rick, who are de­cid­ing whether to help their child med­i­cally tran­si­tion be­tween gen­ders be­fore pu­berty, or Yvonne, whose ex­tended fam­ily de­cided that poor par­ent­ing led to her child’s gen­der non­con­for­mity and re­fused to sup­port her choices.

To help trans chil­dren flour­ish, the book ar­gues, so­ci­ety needs to do more than strive to be open and ac­cept­ing; there are no such easy an­swers. In­ter­views re­veal the var­ied ef­fects of the par­ents’ ap­proaches to al­low­ing chil­dren to wear gen­der-non­con­form­ing cloth­ing, play with op­po­sitely gen­dered games and toys, and call them­selves by op­po­site-gen­der or non­gen­dered pro­nouns.

Though the text is of­ten tech­ni­cal, it re­mains ac­ces­si­ble to those with lim­ited prior knowl­edge. An ap­pen­dix on gen­der ter­mi­nol­ogy helps clar­ify new vo­cab­u­lary. Nar­ra­tive sec­tions avoid judg­ment and pri­or­i­tize de­scrib­ing peo­ple in their own terms.

Var­ied and pre­cise lan­guage helps main­tain a slow but steady pace through dense tech­ni­cal sec­tions on his­tor­i­cal trends in gen­der non­con­for­mity. Sharp dis­tinc­tions—“it may look like gen­der is be­com­ing more fluid, but in fact it is be­com­ing more highly dif­fer­en­ti­ated”—re­fine and con­sol­i­date the book’s many anec­dotes.

Trans Kids is ex­cel­lent work that com­bines com­pelling nar­ra­tives with ex­ten­sive ethno­graphic de­scrip­tions of par­ents’ and chil­dren’s ex­pe­ri­ences.

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