Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman

In a series of essays, S. Bear Bergman, "a homesteader on the landscape of gender," celebrates and illuminates the realities of transfolk. A "tranny Jewboy" originally from New York and now living in Canada, Bergman is articulate, funny, charismatic and unapologetic. Ze answers very personal questions  - Have you had surgery? What does the 'S' in your name stand for? - while gently explaining why these questions are rude.

The spectrum of gender fluidity is a wondrous thing. In The Field Guide to Transmasculine Creatures, Bergman talks about the subtle differences between being a (female) butch and a transguy. In Passing the Word, ze makes a strong case that the concept of "passing" is not really viable for real people (who aren't actors) and suggests that any burden of identification should rather be placed on observers by using the verb "to read" instead. "Should" is the key word in that last sentence. In It's Always Easier If You Can Be Something They Recognize, Bergman admits that "you learn to be something that is a compromise, somewhere between reasonably acceptable to you and minimally acceptable to the world around you." "Whether we're twelve and wanting to be liked, or sixteen and wanting to get laid, or thirty and wanting to be employed (and also liked and also laid), we struggle to fit in." It's a struggle for everyone to a certain extent, but the genderqueer are leading the way for the rest of us.

Thoughtfulness about identity, evaluation of choices, recognizing at a young age that there's not just one right way, perseverance in the face of obstacles - these are some of the strengths of transpeople that are praised in the final essay, Sing If You're Glad to Be Trans. Hooray! Bear Bergman has joined authors Ivan Coyote and Leslie Feinberg on my transmasculine warriors bookshelf.

No comments: