Cover Image: Before We Were Trans

Before We Were Trans

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Member Reviews

In BEFORE WE WERE TRANS, Dr. Kit Heyam asks extremely thought-provoking questions that take us far beyond the idea of "gender" and "sex." It's a fascinating read that insists we question what we know--or what we think we know about the past. I love the questions posed here and the stories shared. This book is going to be the heart of my queer and trans history class in October, which is for LGBTQIAP+ teens. We know they are challenging the way we think about and approach gender already, so I have no doubt they'll love this book as much as I do!
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When I first got this book I thought it was going to be about historical stories about trans people and it kind of was, but the introduction and the beginning was all the author explaining about trains, gender being a signed gender at birth how they address gender historically the difference between sex and gender and there was so much explaining it all became confusing to me. Not only that she would tell a historical story and referred to the people in question is they or them now when you talking about history all you can do is tell the story I do not in no way agree with her referring to them as non-binary people as we don’t know for certain that was their aim no their intention. We are talking about people from the 1600s and beyond. I also wish she would’ve told more stories and felt less inclined to retry history as the story sounded as if she was telling them from her point of view and how she felt about it but not history for history sake. I am not just talking about with the trans subjects but for example when discussing the first world war she talked about how they put Germans who were either living or had a holiday in Britain when the war broke out and throughout the whole narrative you totally knew her opinion about the whole situation and 80% of the story wasn’t about the trans person or the person who dressed up female while in the camp that’s not to say the stories weren’t interesting as they were I just wish you would’ve kept her personal opinions for the end notes or as an aside because I think it would’ve been fun to just read the stories how they were represented and not in the 21st century vernacular. I am a big proponent of letting people be who they are calling them by their correct pronouns, but I am in no way a proponent for rewriting history and I think that is what got me the most with this book. I have read some of the stories before and the reasons  for them being trans were not the reasons given in this book because as I said it was mostly just the authors opinion. Please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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Before We We’re Trans is an interesting and informative book about what gender meant across time and place. It is clear how much research went into this and it shows while still being easy to follow along. Overall, it was a really refreshing read that is different from most of the books I’ve read about this subject. Thank you to NetGalley and Basic Books for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A truly remarkable work that challenges the ideas of gender enshrined in much historiography today and encourages the reader to take on new, nuanced, sensitive and loving -- whilst ultimately radical, anti-colonial -- conceptions of what it means to be trans. 

Drawing on a variety of examples from across time, culture, and space, Heyam explores a refreshingly inclusive history, yet sensitively never steps towards universality, always recognising where cultural specificity necessitates a specific approach and reading despite the similarities we may see between examples in different areas of time and space. It is a work that is imbued with love and care for history and for people and does not shy away from this in its methodology. In this way, it is a truly inspiring work and one that I will carry with me into my own research wholeheartedly. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone interested in history, in gender, in queer studies, and in approaching tackling injustice. 

Thank you so much to Net Galley and Basic Books for the free ebook in exchange for my honest review.
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A history of what gender meant across time and place for humans and about the humans who lived outside of these gender norms. The work that went into the research shows! Job well done on not imposing current western colonial ideas on other time periods and cultures.
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This was such a great selection of narratives from trans folks. I really enjoyed how the writer wove together research and personal experience. I like how the book expanded the definition of "trans community" and instead challenged readers to take a different approach.
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