“Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity” by Arlene Stein— A New Generation

Stein, Arlene. “Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity”, Pantheon Books, 2018.

A New Generation

Amos Lassen

It seems to me that for the first time I have seen a large number of transmasculine individuals and I often wonder if I just never noticed before or that there is great deal more visibility than ever before. Probably both reasons are true. Admittedly, I have a difficult time understanding all that FTM trans people have to deal with and what has made this interesting to me is that my niece transitioned to become my nephew about eight years ago at the age of nearly 40.

Award-winning sociologist Arlene Stein takes us into the lives of four strangers who happened to be together at a surgeon’s office in Florida. They had traveled from across this country in order to have, what is commonly known as top surgery, or in the words of the book to masculinize their chests. We meet Ben, Lucas, Parker, Nadia who, along with their friends and family, “hope that the surgery, along with hormone treatments, will make them more comfortable in their bodies and more masculine in appearance.” 

 Transgender men make up a large, growing proportion of the trans population, yet they remain largely invisible (Perhaps they seem more visible to me because of Boston’s freedoms). Stein has done extensive research here including dozens of interviews with transgender people and with medical and psychological experts and activists and what we see is that a younger generation of trans men are challenging our assumptions about gender and they do so despite personal costs. We now much change the way that we understand the concepts of make and female in this country.

I have noticed that here in Boston when I attend meetings within the LGBT community, we begin by introducing ourselves and state the pronouns we want to use regarding our gender. This has helped me to better understand how we see ourselves and how we want the world to see us.

Our four transpeople are patients of Dr. Charles Garramone and they are preparing for the surgery that he is to perform on them. Once it was over, they and many others spoke to Stein about how they see themselves and their sexuality, how they decided to transition and how they were accepted by their families and communities. We can be sure that they have faced skepticism, ignorance, confusion and sadly, violence. Yes, the world has changed a great deal yet transpeople live at risk of violence and hate.

We read in intimate and raw detail about the lives of transgender people and we understand that as a group they were invisible in the past but are now coming into their own. They have also changed the way we, as a country, see gender, sex and identity. This is a book that will be especially welcome to those who are considering or in the process of transitioning and it is a great resource for parents, teachers and friends. Found answers to the questions I have been unable to answer and hopefully, I will become a better uncle to my nephew.

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