McBee, Thomas Page. “Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man”, Scribner, 2018.
Written With Strength and Love
When I first heard that “Amateur” was being published, I knew that the name of the author was familiar to me. I had reviewed his earlier book, “Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man” and I was blown away by it. At the time that it came out, my niece was transitioning from female to male and since I had been out of the country for so long, I was totally unaware of this aspect of her life and I realized I was going to have to begin thinking in a completely new direction and that pronouns were going to change. I began to read every book about being transgender that I could get my hands on and McBee’s was one of the first as well as the first book on transgender issues that I ever reviewed but then again there were not that many. I was profoundly affected by the strength and the love that the first book was written and just as I expected the second book was written with the same two qualities.
Thomas Page McBee was the first transgender man to ever box in Madison Square Garden and e also happens to be a very fine writer and gives us a new look at masculinity, violence and society. It is through his experience as a boxer that he looks at both violence and masculinity and their relationship to each other. He “confronts the betrayals and strength of his own body” as he “examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, and the limitations of conventional masculinity.” What he finds is a new kind of masculinity. He first thought that men are drawn to boxing by what he calls bloodlust. Then he discovers mentorship among men overcoming weaknesses. It is in the vulnerability of guys that there is hope. Here is a man who examines his own masculinity and privilege. While this a story about boxing, it is also a trans narrative and a look at what makes a man. It is the honesty with which this is written that makes it such an amazing read. As we explore male-female power dynamics, we are treated to the story of someone who becomes a new man “in ways even he couldn’t anticipate.”
McBee gives us an honest look at the problems with masculinity and also adds hope, possibility and happiness. Yes there are fears but we can learn to face them in ways we had not considered. and joy, and possibility. There is no shame in asking the difficult questions and often the answers lie within each of us—we just need to probe. “Thomas Page McBee is a fighter—and not only in a ring in Madison Square Garden.” He is “a warrior of the human spirit, courageously investigating masculinity itself. His prose—both fierce and delicate—reveals a struggle to become a better man, and to create a better self.” McBee’s journey is our journey and now having taken I feel more of a man than ever. To liberate others we must first liberate ourselves and here we learn how.