Monday, June 2, 2014

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

"A pronoun doesn't define who I am." Author and photographer Susan Kuklin lets transgender teens speak for themselves in Beyond Magenta. Six young Americans from diverse ethnic backgrounds share their experiences. Their stories are deeply personal.

Each voice is unique, despite shared qualities of strength, vulnerability, courage and hope. They talk about what transitioning is like for them, and their future plans. Kuklin respected their individual preferences in use of gender pronouns.

Jessy: "I really don't care about pronouns anymore. A pronoun doesn't define who I am. I have a male role in society. I'm proud to be transgender. It's an enriching experience and a big part of my life. But yet I can't get rid of the fact that I was born a biological female. [...] I still have a feminine side.

Cameron: "I started questioning my gender around my fourteenth birthday. And I probably started questioning the gender system around that time too. My first thought was that I was gender queer. Gender queer is not part of the gender binary, meaning somebody that's strictly a boy or strictly a girl. [...] I like to be recognized as not a boy and not a girl. I'm gender queer, gender fluid, and gender other."
"Testosterone is definitely a sexy hormone. My sex drive went way up once I started taking it."

Nat: "Usually I don't like to use labels, but if I did, I would say I was gender queer, gender neutral, or simply queer. Intersex is another way I can identify myself. [...] I'm a whole different gender, a third gender, so to speak, part of the transgender umbrella. [...] I want people to use the pronouns them and they when referring to me because I consider myself both male and female."
"I never looked at myself in the mirror. The moment I looked in the mirror, I would get depressed for a month."

Luke: "When you are questioning whether you are a boy or a girl, and someone comes right out and asks you, "Are you a boy or a girl?" it's like rubbing alcohol on a cut."
"It took about a year to convince my mom to use male pronouns. My dad was pretty against it until a couple of months ago. My dad still calls my hormones steroids rather than T, which I asked him not to do. He messes up with pronouns a lot and doesn't apologize for it. He uses my birth name a lot. But I don't actually care. It's definitely better than before. Now everything was out in the open."

Mariah: "My grandma was charged with abuse and neglect for me wearing girl clothes, and I was placed in Child Protective Services."
"I want people going through the same thing to know they are not alone. Transition? Everyone goes through one kind of transition or another. We go through transitions every day. Except mine is maybe a little more extreme."

Christina: "Transitioning is a very long process. We go through stages. First we look like a man. Then we go through gender bending. And eventually we look like a woman. Gender bending is when you don't look like a male and you don't look like a female. You're changing from one gender to another."

Christina attended an all-boys school. "I still hang out with boys from Mount Saint Michael. They're straight. I went to a house party recently where there were a lot of Mount boys. I came in and announced, 'Learn your pronouns because I don't want to have to slap somebody tonight.' They said 'hi,' and gave me kisses on the cheek. I was surprised. I was really happy."

Kuklin's photographs celebrate the individuality of her subjects. While Luke's face isn't shown, and Mariah requested that there be no photographs of herself at all, Christina flashes her smile while shopping for accessories, shy Nat is captured in moody black and white, and Cameron (who is also on the cover) models lots of different outfits.

Beyond Magenta is an important book with a visually attractive presentation. Highly recommended.

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