Cover Image: To Be A Trans Man

To Be A Trans Man

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Ezra Woodger's To Be A Trans Man is a short collection of interviews with trans men and non-binary transmasculine people; while some of his interviewees are people of colour and/or disabled people, almost all of them identify as artists, social media influencers and/or activists, and most of them are relatively young. This uniformity, coupled with a lack of editorial control by Woodger, makes this a much less interesting book than it should have been. As Woodger makes clear, trans men's experiences are still rarely talked about, and myths about trans men abound; it's so important that we understand the particular kinds of oppression that trans men and transmasculine people face. 

And To Be A Trans Man is not devoid of interesting insights (honestly, I think you'd struggle to get nothing interesting out of long interviews with literally anybody, and Woodger's interviewees obviously have very different life experiences from most). Casper, one of the few older interviewees, also unusual in coming from the rural north of England, has the most to say about how being trans has affected his sense of secure adulthood, which I found fascinating. 'I'm ten years behind in other developmental, social ways... It's something I'm working on now - just feeling that I am an adult... because I didn't go through real, proper puberty until the age of 26 [when he transitioned].' 

One recurring theme is the idea of 'male femininity'; a number of Woodger's interviewees push back against the idea that being a trans man means conforming to stereotypical masculine norms, and yet they insightfully discuss how they often tried to fit into male stereotypes earlier in their transitions, believing this was the only way to be seen as a 'real man'. Kasper (a different one!) sums this up as the idea that if 'you're a trans man... you have to give up every single feminine thing about yourself' but emphasises the joy he feels when wearing elaborate makeup, arguing that his masculinity has always been flamboyant and camp. He also criticises 'passing tips': 'they were all things like "don't smile and don't move out of the way of people in the street". Be really mean to everybody and then everyone will think you're a man'. Ironically, he suggests, it can be harder for trans men to play with masculinity, because they still feel they have to prove themselves. Having said this, I would have loved to see this theme explored more deeply, as the same point is repeated throughout a number of the interviews without Woodger delving any further. (I'm thinking of texts such as Jack Halberstam's Female Masculinity and Finn Mackay's work on butch/queer masculinities - I'd love to see similar work on 'male femininity'.)

Unsurprisingly, the interviewees often have much to say about how gender expectations pigeonhole everyone, even people who are not trans. Leo, a disabled trans man, reflects that when they use their wheelchair, they are read as more gender ambiguous: 'The fact that I'm in a more passive physical pose is enough for them to add up what they're seeing to way over on the side of "probably a woman"'. Charlie reflects on the benefits and harms of being 'invisible' as a trans man: 'I am still very well aware of the fact that women get hassled on the street. When I have women friends talk to me about the kind of stuff that they have to put up with on a daily basis and it's like, well, I just exist. I walk outside my house and I exist outside my house, and that's the way it is.' Woodger comments: ''The invisibility that we experience has led to a significant disregard for our rights and the issues we face but is also a privilege in its own way.' This recognition, however, linked to one of my frustrations with the book; that it pushes the idea of a cis/trans dichotomy, rather than recognising how everyone struggles with performing gender and living up to gender expectations. This is not to say that trans men's particular experiences aren't valuable here, but that the book as a whole risked setting up a new binary while claiming to break down barriers.

A lot of the problems I had with this book, therefore, were with the way it was edited and compiled rather than the individual contributors themselves. The interviews are very repetitive, and this is often due to the questions Woodger asked and what/who he has chosen to include. This makes the book as a whole feel shallow. I also wondered who this book was aimed at. People who are more familiar with trans activism and trans writing probably won't need to be told a lot of this, but the book assumes a close familiarity with a lot of activist terms, so it isn't really accessible for people coming to this topic for the first time. I wanted the depth of experience I've found in memoirs like Thomas Page McBee's Amateur, and that wasn't present here. So while I appreciated the insights noted above, these were scattered through an unsatisfying text. 2.5 stars.
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This was a great and informative book discussing what it means to be a man and how trans men fit into this. The book is presented as a series of interviews and made for very interesting reading, particularly for this going through this experience or for those wanting to be a better ally to the trans community.
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A refreshing and riveting look into the lives of 8 Trans men as they go through the journey and story of their transitions.
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This was a wonderful novel full of experiences of vast trans men. There was a wide variety of life experiences and experiences of the trans journey, linear and non. Great LGBT read.
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To Be a Trans Man is a collection of interviews conducted by the author with a series of trans men and transmasculine people about the topic of masculinity. Described as containing "contributions from trans men from across the UK and US", I went in to this book expecting more of an essay format than an interview format. While the topics covered in this book are important and I deeply enjoyed hearing from people with radically different experiences discuss masculinity, the casual interview format didn't quite work for me. It felt like reading a very long podcast transcript, rather than a book. As a result, I'm giving To Be a Trans Man a 3 star rating. It deserves 4 or 5 stars for content and 2 stars for format, so I'm landing in the middle.

** Thanks so much to NetGalley, Ezra Woodger, and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for this ARC! To Be a Trans Man is out now! **
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While the interviews are fascinating and obviously well moderated, I needed more from this book. It felt disjointed because there was no transition or pause for emphasis or analysis between each section, and therefore it became really easy to lose interest. I think this book is perfect for someone who wants a good primary source for a paper they’re writing tho!
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The Los Gatos Library received a copy of this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to our friends at NetGalley!

An insightful look at masculinity in today's society. I really enjoyed the perspective and honesty of all the people who were interviewed. This is a topic where not a lot of voices are shown in mainstream media and I felt like the author did a great job of addressing the different identities within this text. I do wish that some standard interview questions were asked throughout all the chapters, I think it would feel like a more cohesive work and better educate the reader in this case. I also found that a lot of the voices were from non-binary individuals which made me reconsider the title and my perceptions of the binary when using words like "man". I went into this book expecting mostly male voices and of course, that is not how gender works. 

I think Woodger did a fantastic job of reminding me that there really are no binary terms to encapture the human experience.
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The topic of the book is very interesting. It just isn't fully developed. The book is not so much stories as it is interviews. Each is very important, but the interviews aren't edited very well. There's a flow that is missing. The interviews then feel a bit choppy; I appreciated each one, nonetheless. The introduction is wonderful and it would have been great if the rest of the book was similar. The book just isn't what I expected.
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4 stars

**HUGE thank you to Jessica Kingsley Publishers for granting me an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

Ezra Woodger, a trans man, interviews other transmasculine people about their experiences, hopes, and ideas. Topics include representation in the media, unnecessarily gendered items, cis/heteronormativity, toxic masculinity, allyship, expression through makeup/hair/clothes, recovery from addiction, exploring sexuality, importance of community, privilege, acceptance, joy, disability, masculine femininity, feminism, intersectionality with race, fitness, financial insecurity in the LGBTQIA+ community, body positivity, burnout, dealing with transphobia, role models, theatre as a means for gender exploration, what it means to "pass," anger, mental health, tokenism, and prevalence of queer stories that only center suffering.

Rep: Edited by a queer trans man. Interviewees include trans men and transmasculine non-binary people. One interviewee is Asian and neurodivergent, one is Black, one self-identifies as a white-passing person of color, one self-identifies as Brown, and another uses a wheelchair.

Content warnings: Dysphoria, transphobia (including internalized), cyber bullying, toxic masculinity, addiction, divorce, childhood trauma, COVID-19 pandemic, racism, poverty/homelessness, surgery, depression and anxiety, brief references to hate crimes and violence against trans people

I loved this little anthology of trans joy! So many nonfiction works about being trans are written by cis people and/or created with a cis audience in mind. Instead, this one is entirely trans created and reads as a love letter to the trans community at large. But that's not to say that cisgender readers would feel alienated; in fact, I think everyone who identifies as cis needs to read this. It's both educational and fun. I'm glad that resources and footnotes are listed at the back!
Woodger interviews a makeup artist, musician/actor, writer/scientific researcher, poet/artist, personal trainer/nonprofit owner, artist/author/filmmaker, composer/theatre director, and activist. They were all so thoughtful, funny, and intelligent! I would have liked to read about a few more people who aren't in some form of the spotlight, but other than that, I don't have any critiques.
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Never before have I read a collection quite like this, full of stories and anecdotes from transmasculine nonbinary people and men. All of the entries and interviews were heartfelt and relatable, and the writing was approachable and engaging. This is an incredibly important collection for all ages teen and up.
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This book felt really honest and vulnerable in a way that I've not seen before. It was nice to hear from so many transmasculine voices and the tone of the book was really authentic.
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A well put together and informative collection of interviews on how trans-masculinity and what it's like to exist as a trans man. Woodger did a great job with the questions asked and the contributors all came from different backgrounds so you got a wide array of opinions from people with different kinds of hardships and privilege's. It's well written and attention grabbing so I was able to finish it in one sitting!

As a trans man, this was a pretty affirming read in terms of my gender expression and definitely will be with others! A good read and informative for anyone, trans or cis alike! Woodger does only focus on trans individuals living in the UK so some things may only be applicable to those living in that area.
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I really enjoyed this book so much so I read it all in one sitting. I believe it is important to have more books covering range of transgender experiences which this book did really well. .I liked the interview style and the range of issues and experiences it covered. I do believe though that my enjoyment might have been greater because I was following about half of the people that were interviewed in this book prior to me reading it with meant I had background knowledge and was already invested in there lives. Generally my biggest critique with the book was the formatting (which I believe would be different in the final copy) and sometimes the confusion in who was speaking and me needing to go back and check. Otherwise really enjoyed this book and would read more from this author. 

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Interesting set of interviews around the question of the transmasculine experience. Not my favourite format of book, but an important addition to the trans canon nonetheless.
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4.5 stars

*eARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

big fan of this book! i thought that as a transmasculine person who's never identified as male, i wouldn't find this book super affirming, but i learned a lot from it and felt a bit more comfortable being transmasc. what i found different with this book compared to other similar trans anthologies i have read was the interview style, meaning the editor's voice was constant throughout, and i finished the book quite quickly. this meant a couple questions were asked to each person each time, in particular, to what extent trans men are allowed to experiment with femininity. however, it was at times a bit too chatty. i really liked learning about how individual gender is to each interviewee, even if they didn't identify as nonbinary, and their own relationship to transmasculinity and how that differs to cismasculinity. also i appreciated hearing about more negative personal consequences of transitioning, such as the pressure to be toxically masculine or jealousy around other people's transitions, whilst firmly remaining centered in trans joy and the inner peace that transitioning brings.
the book was somewhat diverse - perspectives were included from people of colour, a disabled contributor, and a neurodivergent contributor, but i would have liked to see more geographical variety (though i understand with an English-language anthology, American and English perspectives will be more common). also it was good to hear from people in a variety of jobs and how being transmasculine impacts this, like fitness and politics. as a theatre person, i really loved the chapter about theatre, acting, and how performing your identity can feel like a role.

my favourite contributions were:
caspar j baldwin
leo george
colton gibbons
charlie caine
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I really appreciated that this book was an interview-format thing with several different perspectives. It really helped drive home that, while we have similarities, trans people aren't a monolith and have individual/unique experiences and there's no one "right" way to be trans. Also cool to see that much trans male representation, honestly.
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This book follows the lived experiences of trans men and transmasculine people through interviews. 

I would rather call them open discussions, as the questions were not the same for all of them. This is understandable, however, to have a better understanding of their perspectives on being trans men/transmasc people, it would've been really valuable to get their responses on the same questions, to be truly able to make a comparison, get a broad picture, and have a cohesive narrative throughout the book.

Moreover, the author inserted his answers/opinions/perspectives in the "interviews" as well so they resembled more of a regular conversation between acquaintances. On the one hand, that was great, getting to understand and know the author better at the same time (because apart from the introduction and the afterword, both short, that's the only way to get more from him), but on the other hand, I would've preferred that page time to be dedicated to the person being interviewed so they could go into more details. 

I appreciated a lot the fact that they also discussed the good parts of their lives, what they were grateful for, and the positive things that happened to them since they realized they were trans. Most of the time, not only in books but in media as well, the narratives focus on the negative, which is a very important topic of conversation, but it can get quite depressing and make everything seem hopeless, so having storied of joy, gender euphoria, and love was a breath of fresh air.

It was an interesting read because everyone had a different (kind of) background. I'm saying "kind of" because all of them were influencers, already established activists, or even Ph.D. students. Learning about their current projects and goals was great, however, not all of them were explicitly mentioned so I can't look them up; same with the interviewees - can't find them online even though they are influencers… Weird.

I would've preferred more interviews with regular people, with regular lives, someone you'd be more likely to meet in your day-to-day life. And yes, they discussed their hardships, however, most (if not all) had great, supporting families, had access to HRT, surgery and so on. I'm not trying to invalidate anything here, just highlighting (as they also did in the book) their privilege.

I'm looking forward to more books like this, but focusing on less privileged perspectives that we don't get to see on the internet and social media. That I would call a truly eye-opening book.

All in all, this was an insightful read, but it could've been more powerful than it turned out to be.
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Thank you NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for access to this title! 

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of interviews, and especially loved how gender euphoria and trans joy were focal points throughout; Ezra and the contributing interviewees make mention multiple times how dysphoria and trauma are so often centred in trans stories, and it was so refreshing to be able to read about the more joyful aspects of gender non conformity and transmasculinity. The interview format has never been my favourite, but I felt that it really lent itself to an inclusive, conversational feel to the book which makes it all the more accessible - i can’t recommend this enough.
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I first encountered Jessica Kingsley at University. They rapidly became one of my favourite publishers. They manage to produce accessible, enjoyable, important, academic studies without recourse to jargon. This book is no exception 
One of the few books written by trans men, this book is an inspirational exploration of; masculinity, gender, and life as a trans male. In the form of a series of interviews, this book reads like a succession of chats with inspirational friends who have exciting things to say about gender. It is an important and accessible work; a high recommend.
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This is an interesting and useful edition to the trans cannon. I would recommended for an under 30 audience. It's harder to relate to as a post 30s trans person.
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