Double Review: Nonfiction about Trans girls

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Becoming Nicole
by Amy Ellis Nutt
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

In a way, it seems unfair to give this book a rating. Would I be evaluating Nicole’s life? Nutt’s writing? Both? Nicole’s life has been hard; much of the story is told through her mother’s struggles for her daughter, both with the world and with her husband, which was also hard to read about; Nutt’s writing is great. Nicole, more or less fully aware of the struggles and the victories her family went through because of her, seems to have an edge to her. Her story is told from an outsider’s perspective and has a matching edge.

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Being Jazz (picture book: I Am Jazz)
by Jazz Jennings
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

In comparison, Being Jazz is written by the girl herself, and a teenager at that, so has a much different voice. Jazz was also the youngest in a big family (four children total) and somewhat unaware of the fights her parents were fighting for her. With a healthy sense that her parents have always supported her, Jazz grew up with seemingly boundless enthusiasm and positivity, which gives her memoir an even more different feel than Nicole’s. Jazz is not completely oblivious, however, and recounts a few instances where she felt taken advantage of because of her high profile status, especially when it comes to dating. She also struggled to be allowed to play on the girls’ soccer team with her friends.

Both girls’ stories are inspiring and provoked lots of reflection from my fellow book clubbers – mostly older white women who are librarians who have in Massachusetts for all or most of their lives. Though it’s a liberal area, they were raised in the 50s and 60s, mostly in traditional Catholic families, and so their upbringing was utterly unlike what Nicole and Jazz went through, in rural Maine and south Florida in the 2000s. It was very interesting to hear these ladies speak about how times have changed. One recounted that she has a (very obviously, in retrospect) gay cousin, but no one talked about it at all when they were growing up. Another said her son thought we were basically almost to full equality for LGBTQ rights; recent events have me doubting that, but marriage equality was huge. Another said she thought we’d be fully there within 20 years. We’ll see – hope springs eternal, if not for my own friends and family, then for all the other kids like Nicole and Jazz, who should grow up knowing only love and acceptance.

One striking thing was how much more attention is paid to trans girls than trans boys. Such a big deal is made of keeping penises out of girls’ bathrooms! On one hand, I totally understand wanting to protect women and girls from sexual predators. On the other, that’s not what being trans is about, and denying people the ability to perform the most basic of human functions because of some disturbed individuals really denies their own humanity.It’s incredibly heartbreaking to hear a very small child express a desire to cut off part of their anatomy, as it seems is common, because that sense of discomfort in one’s own body is tough, especially in one so young. I was curious to see what the story sounds like when the genders are swapped but found very few books in my library catalog chronicling a girl who becomes a boy. Stay tuned for a review of the one I found, Raising Ryland.

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