This was my first book about the life and thoughts of a high school age transgender teen. I was interested to read the author’s notes at the end.
“To my cisgender readers — which is to say, to those of you who are not trans: Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being interested. I’m nervous about what you might think of this book, though maybe not in the way you might think I am. I am, of course, anxious that people might not like it, but even more than that I’m worried that you might take Amanda’s story as gospel, especially since it comes from a trans woman. This prospect terrifies me, actually! I am a storyteller, not an educator. I have taken liberties with what I know reality to be. I have fictionalized things to make them work in my story. I have, in some ways, cleaved to stereotypes and even bent rules to make Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible.” (275-276).
I was very touched by the story. Most teens are trying personas on, trying to figure out who they will become. Most teens are sensitive to bullying, opinion of their peers, and the fear of not fitting in with some social group. Think how difficult it would be to change gender and physical appearance in the midst of this all.
Some years ago, I was a teacher at a small Berkeley private school. A young man I knew as a freshman, hiking together at Yosemite and discussing cars, returned the next year to school dressing as a girl and asking to be called by a girl’s name. This caused quite a ruckus at the school. We wanted to be politically correct and sensitive. We also only had one bathroom for female staff and female students to share. A number of women didn’t feel comfortable having him/her use our bathroom. We finally settled on giving him/her a key to his/her own single stall bathroom. In the beginning, some of the girls seemed to think the person was changing assignment just to be able to more easily hit on girls. As time went on, and the person stuck with their new gender, despite intense disapproval from the father, students became more accepting.
The book emphasized to me the fear of Amanda, being attracted to a boy who seems to be attracted to her, but fearful that if she reveals her secret he will leave her or become violent.
I had a friend comment, “How many of your students will pick this book to read?” I hope many will read it. Even if somewhat simplified from what many trans people experience, it provided interesting insights and will make me more interesting in talking with trans people.