Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out [NOOK Book]

Overview

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens. Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each...
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Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

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Overview

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens. Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
02/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Extended interviews with six very different transgender, genderqueer, and intersex young adults allow these youth to tell their stories in their own words. Author-interviewer-photographer Kuklin interjects only briefly with questions or explanations, so that the voices of these youth-alternately proud and fearful, defiant and subdued, thoughtful and exuberant-shine through. While the interview subjects do occasionally ramble or become vague, the power of these 12-to-40 page interviews is that readers become immersed in these young adults' voices and experiences. The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share It Gets Better-style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities-including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography-provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience. Photographs of four of the subjects, including some before-and-after transition pictures from childhood and adolescence, help tell their stories and bring their transitions to life. Extensive back matter includes an interview with the clinical director of a health program for LGBTQI youth, a glossary, and books, media, websites, and organizations of interest to transgender youth. While this book's format and subject matter are probably never going to attract a broad audience, there is much here that will resonate with and hearten the kids who need it and will foster understanding and support among those who live and work with transgender teens.—Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library
Publishers Weekly
★ 11/18/2013
In a sorely needed resource for teens and, frankly, many adults, author/photographer Kuklin shares first-person narratives from six transgender teens, drawn from interviews she conducted and shaped with input from her subjects. The six “chapters” read like personal histories, with Kuklin interjecting occasional context and helping bridge jumps in time. Readers will gain a real understanding of gender as a spectrum and a societal construct, and of the challenges that even the most well-adjusted, well-supported transgender teens face, from mockery by peers and adults alike to feelings of isolation and discomfort in their own bodies. When readers meet New York City teenager Christina, she has gotten into a knock-down fight on the subway with two girls who were making fun of her; although Kuklin’s color and b&w portraits appear throughout, 19-year-old Mariah requests no photographs of her be used, confessing, “I’m not ready for people to see me.” While Kuklin’s subjects are candid about the difficulties of coming out as transgender to family and friends and the patience that transitioning often requires, their honest, humorous, and painful remarks about their relationships with gender are often downright revelatory. “Because I’m perceived as male, I get male privileges. It weirds me out a little bit,” says Cameron, whose PGP (preferred gender pronoun) is the plural “they.” Nat, who also prefers “they,” is relieved when diagnosed as intersex. “It proved what I had been feeling all along. I was not only emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually both sexes; I was physically both sexes, too. This is who I am.” A q&a section, author notes, glossary, and print and online resources close out the book. But its chief value isn’t just in the stories it reveals but in the way Kuklin captures these teenagers not as idealized exemplars of what it “means” to be transgender but as full, complex, and imperfect human beings. As Kuklin writes, “My subjects’ willingness to brave bullying and condemnation in order to reveal their individual selves makes it impossible to be nothing less than awestruck.” She isn’t wrong. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
[A] sorely needed resource for teens and, frankly, many adults... Downright revelatory. ... Kuklin captures these teenagers not as idealized exemplars of what it "means" to be transgender but as full, complex, and imperfect human beings. As Kuklin writes, "My subjects’ willingness to brave bullying and condemnation in order to reveal their individual selves makes it impossible to be nothing less than awestruck." She isn’t wrong.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Kuklin brings her intimate, compassionate and respectful lens to the stories of six transgender young people.
... The collective portrait that emerges from these narratives and pictures is diverse, complex and occasionally self-contradictory — as any true story should be.Informative, revealing, powerful and necessary.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

[A] strikingly in-depth examination of the sometimes clinical complexities of being transgender, even as Kuklin’s empathy-inducing pictures put a human face on the experience. ... Kuklin’s important new book brings welcome clarity to a subject that has often been obscure and gives faces—literally and metaphorically—to a segment of the teen population that has too long been invisible. Speaking with equal impact to both the reader’s heart and mind, Beyond Magenta is highly recommended.
—Booklist (starred review)

Readers [will] become immersed in these young adults’ voices and experiences. The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share It Gets Better-style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities–including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography–provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience. ... There is much here that will resonate with and hearten the kids who need it and will foster understanding and support among those who live and work with transgender teens
—School Library Journal

Pain and possibility are juxtaposed in this groundbreaking book that by its very existence portends a better future.
—San Francisco Chronicle

It is a testament to Susan Kuklin's gifts as a listener and interviewer that her subjects describe their lives with such candor. ... Kuklin introduces each teen with a bit of background, and often (but not always) the teen's gender at birth. Kuklin treats her subjects with tenderness and respect. Her book provides both reassurance and answers to questions that teens may not even realize they have.
—Shelf Awareness Pro

The presentation of the spectrum of experiences is remarkably nuanced and sensitive... Kuklin also brings her skills as a photographer to the book’s design, using some pictures documentary-style interspersed throughout an individual’s interview, others grouped as breathtaking galleries that explore expression or isolation.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Kuklin’s book is not just a lifeline for teens who are going through something similar and need to see themselves and their lives so openly portrayed—this book is an important read for the parents, friends, and loved ones who want to understand what a transgender teen might be going through. This book is worth having on any shelf in any library and will not linger there long. ... A highly informative resource that is powerful, respectful, honest, and most importantly, long overdue.
—VOYA

In her edited transcriptions of the interviews, Kuklin lets her subjects speak wholly for themselves... Photographs (of most of the subjects) are candid and winning; and appended material, including Kuklin’s explanation of her interview process, a Q&A with the director of a clinic for transgendered teens, and a great resource list, is valuable.
—The Horn Book

This book examines a sensitive issue and explains the spectrum and diversity within the transgender community as well as defines the distinction between transgenders and individuals identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer. ... This book is a valuable resource for students desiring information on gender identity and the LGBTQ community.
—Library Media Connection

An eye-opener. ... Through extensive interviews, Susan Kuklin has captured the thinking and personalities of each subject in this book. Her sensitive photographs shows them as interesting people who have struggled to understand themselves and how they each, in their own unique way, differ from the norm.
—The Huffington Post

[A] candid, inspiring book. ... The teens are members of a group, but also distinct individuals, each with a unique, highly personal story. It goes without saying that their decision to share these stories is courageous. But being brave and taking chances is what transitioning is all about.
—The Chicago Tribune

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
This powerful and revealing book is based on in-depth interviews with five transgender young adults. An additional short chapter is based on the poetry and acting of one transgender teen at the About Proud Theatre company in Madison, Wisconsin. With two exceptions, the interviewees allowed the author to create photo galleries to accompany their stories. The author worked with the staff of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City to identify youth representing a variety of ethnicities and experiences. All have faced varying levels of skepticism, prejudice, and/or bullying from friends, neighbors, school staff, the medical community, and family. One of the most striking conclusions that can be drawn from this collection is how critically important it is for family to be accepting so this challenging transition is as manageable as possible. Readers will become acquainted with individuals who have had a relatively easy time coming to grips with their new identity, and others who are still struggling. The author is to be commended for approaching a difficult subject in a sensitive and respectful manner. She earned the trust of interviewees, who shared very personal accounts. Extensive “Author Notes” follow the text, as does information about both Callen-Lorde Health Center and About Proud Theatre. A several-page Q & A with the clinical director of the health outreach program at Callen-Lorde gives more general information about the process of transitioning and the kinds of support the clinic provides. A glossary and an extensive resource list, including advocacy and legal organizations, close out the volume. This book should be available in school and public libraries. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.; Ages 13 up.
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Amanda Fensch
Being a teenager is hard enough on most days—school, friends, pressures from family and society, homework. But teens who struggle with their identities, specifically as to which gender, if any, they associate with, often find themselves with no support system and an upward battle in making those around them understand the process through which they are fighting. Beyond Magenta documents the stories of six teenagers, in their own words, who consider themselves transgender or gender neutral. Their stories are about pain and power of transition, their daily lives, and how they feel society and their families and friends view them. Kuklin’s book is not just a lifeline for teens who are going through something similar and need to see themselves and their lives so openly portrayed—this book is an important read for the parents, friends, and loved ones who want to understand what a transgender teen might be going through. This book is worth having on any shelf in any library and will not linger there long. Kuklin includes a glossary and resources for further reading and research, a carefully compiled list that will be useful for anyone who reads this book. In short, this is a highly informative resource that is powerful, respectful, honest, and most importantly, long overdue. Reviewer: Amanda Fensch; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-01
Kuklin (No Choirboy, 2008, etc.) brings her intimate, compassionate and respectful lens to the stories of six transgender young people. In verbal and, when the subjects have given permission, visual profiles, readers meet transgender teens with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. They hear from teens who identify fully as female or male, teens who identify as neither male nor female, and one teen who is intersex. Their stories are told largely in the teens' own words, with only a few italicized interpolations to clarify or contextualize a point or to describe a facial expression or inflection readers cannot see or hear. In photographs, readers see Nat, who attends a performing-arts high school in New York City and uses the personal gender pronouns them and they, carrying their violin on New York's High Line. Christina, who attends Fashion Institute of Technology, is pictured shopping for clothes, proudly displaying a school project and hugging her mother. Images of the young people before their transitions are often included but, appropriately, do not serve as focal points for their chapters. Similarly, sex and genitalia are discussed frankly but are rarely what matters most. The collective portrait that emerges from these narratives and pictures is diverse, complex and occasionally self-contradictory--as any true story should be. Informative, revealing, powerful and necessary. (author's note, glossary, resource list) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)
The Barnes & Noble Review

The bibliography of Susan Kuklin's Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out includes five films from the past twenty-five years that feature transgender characters. They include The Crying Game (1992), in which a transgender woman provides the "shocking" plot twist; the more hopeful Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), which ends in happy fatherhood for a gay man and happy marriage for a transgender woman; the tragic Boys Don't Cry (1999), which depicted the real-life rape and murder of a transgender man; and Transamerica (2005), in which the lead role was played by Felicity Huffman, as opposed to a transgender woman. All were good films and ahead of their time, but one of the most hopeful notes struck after reading Kuklin's interviews with six transgender teens is that each film now seems dated in its own way.

Not that we still don't have a long way to go. To cite two recent examples: In the fall of 2013, Islan Nettles, a transgender woman, was beaten to death in public across from a New York City police station. And in January 2014, Grantland, a publication with a reputation for meticulous editing, sent a story to press that managed to make almost every possible mistake in its treatment of its subject, a transgender woman inventor: the author didn't follow the most basic (and easily found online) forms of protocol when referring to transgender people, treated his subject's gender as a form of deception, and outed her to an investor. Ultimately the inventor committed suicide (up to 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide in their lifetime). The story had been read by between thirteen and fifteen editors, according to Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, including the publisher and ESPN.com's editor-in-chief, before going to press; not a single one had raised objections.

But the good news is that this generation of transgender youth is the most aware and active yet. They are coming out earlier (particularly important for those who choose to transition using hormones, which are more effective the earlier they are used), forming their own communities, advocating for their civil rights, and insisting that parents and authority figures give them the respect they deserve.

One of the most surprising tools for self-determination is the most basic: the Internet. While earlier generations of transgender teens may not have had words for their identity until they met another person like themselves, these kids started typing in search terms to educate first themselves, then others, on complicated notions of sexuality and gender. Christina, a transgender woman, invokes the ire of the principal at her Catholic all-boys school when she shows up to school in acrylic nails ("If it's not in the handbook," insists Christina, "I can wear nails"). As the principal slams his hands on the table screaming, "YOU'RE A BOY! YOU'RE NOT A WOMAN! YOU'RE A BOY!" Christina, replies, "You just need to educate yourself. Get on Google and Google transsexual cause I'm a girl."

Gender identity exists across a spectrum, but Kuklin's subjects fall into three general categories: Jessy and Luke both identify primarily as transgender men and prefer male pronouns; Christina and Mariah identify primarily as transgender women and prefer female pronouns; Cameron and Nat identify as gender-neutral and prefer they or them.

Gays and lesbians are far more visible in politics and pop culture than transgender people, and while this may have made society at large more open to people whose self-definitions depart from norms of gender and sexuality, all six teens found most people around them fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be transgender. Some parents and friends were cool with the idea of a kid being lesbian or gay but seemed to think of transgender as taking things to unnecessary extremes. "Being transgender is not the next step in being gay," says Cameron. "They are similar in that they are both breaking gender rules." But, as Christina points out, "Sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender."

Some, such as Jessy's mother, seemed to view their children's desire to change their gender identity as a form of body hatred. "Why can't you be comfortable with yourself?" she asked. "I don't see other lesbians doing this."

"I told my mom that I wanted to see myself as a man in heterosexual relationship," says Jessy. "I wanted to be referred to as he. I wanted to live my life as the man of the house, masculine. I know there are butch lesbians and stuff but I didn't want to be that. I just wanted to be a normal man."

Luke, who also identifies as a transgender man, says, "If anyone asked, I would say I was gay, not lesbian."

Jessy, who grew up in Florida, Thailand, and Nairobi, identifies himself on Facebook in such a way — "male — so glad I'm taking T" — that acknowledges both the male and the transgender part of his gender identity. But he pretty much achieves his desire to be perceived as a "normal" straight man, which comes with all sorts of benefits in the outside (sometimes homo- and transphobic) world. He is elected student-body president at his college, and invited to pledge a fraternity. Now, he says with delight, he is referred to unambiguously as "sir." "Before, the guys on the street wouldn't respect two women together" but now when he is out with his girlfriend, they aren't hassled because he is seen as a "guy with his gal." (Ironically Jessy's girlfriend, who has only dated "older women, never men" identifies as lesbian and therefore prefers to refer to Jessy using female pronouns.)

This, as Cameron points out, is a product of what is sometimes called "male privilege," and it's not necessarily a good thing. Though identifying as gender-neutral, Cameron is often perceived as male and "Because I'm perceived as male, I get male privileges. It weirds me out a little.... 'Wait, guys, I haven't said anything yet. And besides, you shouldn't be giving me male privilege because I'm not really a guy — at least not by your standards. By your standards, I'm definitely not."

Transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, have the highest murder rate in the LGBT community, accounting for 44 percent of all LGBT murders, and thus it's not surprising that Christina's story begins with her getting into a violent confrontation on the New York City subway. "It's really weird, because now if people think I'm a man, it sometimes turns me into a very violent person," she says. "I know — that's masculine." (Mariah, the other transgender woman interviewed, has many similar stories.) While five of the six teens interviewed are taking hormones, Christina is also saving up for surgery, "While everyone else my age is saving up for a car or a house, I'm saving up to look possible. I'm saving up for a vagina." Part of it is the very understandable wish to have one's outside body match their lived experience. But for some transgender women, it can also be a form of self-protection: "When I started dating straight men, it was very scary to admit I was transgender," says Christina. "They could get very violent and freak out." She also admits she's stayed with her boyfriend longer than she'd like because she's worried she won't find another straight-identified man who will accept her. ("At the end of the day, they are going to put the ring on the genetic female," she says. "If I had been born a female, I could leave Gabriel.")

Cameron and Nat, on the other hand, do not strive to fit neatly into any gender category. Instead, both deliberately aim to blow up the idea that binary categories of gender exist (throughout, they is used as a singular pronoun with reference to Cameron and Nat). "I don't know," says Cameron, " — am I allowed to curse? — I'm dressing gender fuck" — a state defined as "something girl and something boy and something neither." Nat identifies as "Intersex — I'm both male and female; I'm neither male nor female; I'm a whole different gender, a third gender." Although gender identity does not need to match one's biological sex, Nat's discovery of a medical condition that produces a much higher than average mix of both male and female hormones bolsters this perspective. While Nat's mother dismisses the condition as "crap," Nat finds a kind of relief in a perceived match between biological body and gender identity.

Although many of the parents start off somewhat confused, nearly all of them come around, and most of them are pretty great. One of my favorites is Christina's mother, in part because she allows love for her children to overcome her initial prejudices. A few years before Christina told her parents she was transgender, her older brother, Jonathan, came out as gay and took the brunt of his mother's ire, "That's disgusting," she said. Their father took it all in stride ("I love you," he says. "It doesn't matter to me. I've known since you were a little kid that you've always wanted to be a girl.") Christina's mother was, above all, afraid for her daughter's safety. When she shows up with acrylic nails for the first day at her all- boys Catholic school, her mother says, "Someone's going to hurt you baby." But in the end, her mother defends Christina against the neighborhood bullies, lends her credit card to pay for breast implants, and brags about how good-looking both Jonathan and Christina have become. She is the only parent photographed in the book, and there she is, posed with her arms around her daughter. "Don't be like I was with Jonathan," she says. "Don't say horrible things to your child. That will haunt me 'til the day I die. Hug your children. Hug them."

Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review.

Reviewer: Amy Benfer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763670351
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 208,963
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • File size: 15 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Susan Kuklin is the award-winning author and photographer of more than thirty books for children and young adults that span social issues and culture. Her photographs have appeared in Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. Susan Kuklin lives in New York City.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Exceptional does not begin to describe the power this book holds

    Exceptional does not begin to describe the power this book holds. It captivated me from beginning to end, even beyond the sources and footnotes. I feel like I know these young individuals personally, deeply. In some part I already understood their struggle, I am transgendered myself. It is a beautiful thing to see us represented so fully and respectfully, and did I mention the exquisite photography? I would recommend this to family, friends, coworkers, anyone who could stand to gain a little understanding for the world of transgendered youth and transgendered people in general.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2014

    Look here

    I hate gays and lesbians god did not make any of you this way why do you do this its a SIN

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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