Book Review | Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman

gender-outlaws-the-next-generation-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
EDITORS: Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
PUBLISHER: Seal Press
RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2010
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 304


The second gender-bending anthology edited by Kate Bornstein brings together an extraordinary range of trans-spectrum creators.  This book celebrates diverse LGBTQI+ experiences, while encouraging readers to take a long, hard look at their society’s gender laws.  

Instead of looking to the binaries for answers – male/female, femininity/masculinity, sex/gender – I’ve decided to take my body back for myself – for me to shape, show off, love and dress and play.  But above all, for me to name – Transliteration by Francisco Fernández

I love how this book raises up voices that have been silenced.  The diversity represented in this book opened my eyes to many new ways of seeing the world, and made me realise just how terrible it would be to live with my heart closed to other people’s individuality.  Each contributor has their own interpretation of what it means to be a “gender outlaw”.  From performance artists to drag queens; from comic strips to an ode to special needs toilets; from the “manly art” of being a pregnant trans man, to being a queer Muslim trans man.  The experiences shared in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation are unique, while striking countless universal chords.

By telling my story, I am reclaiming my voice as an intersex person.  Those of us with intersex conditions and varying gender identities are the only ones who can know and tell our own stories – I am the “I” by Sean Saifa Wall

Despite addressing heavy taboos, the overall tone of this anthology is light, since most of the contributors have developed a positive, hopeful attitude towards their future.  This choice of self-aware tone adds meaning to the anthology: firstly, it reminds readers that the creators don’t need our permission to love themselves and be happy with the lives they’ve made.  Secondly, it helps us engage with the content on a personal level (instead of feeling like we’re the target of blame and anger).  Lastly, it reveals the creators’ humanity and rawness, and encourages readers to breach any socio-cultural divides and stop seeing gender outlaws as “Other”.

We’re all outlaws at one time or another, simply because laws are designed to govern people as groups.  No group of laws can encompass the varied desires and actions of an individual, and when the law omits or excludes us, we are be definition outlaw – not breakers of that law, but outside of it to begin with.  We are all outlaws by omission – On Living Well and Coming Free by Ryka Aoki

While reading this book, I was struck by the realisation that the gender labels I was taught growing up are totally inadequate.  If we view gender identity as a spectrum, and remember the endless combinations of gender identity and sexual preference, we learn that nothing is as simple as we’ve been led to believe.  The diversity of contributors to Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation goes a long way in opening readers’ eyes to the possibilities and complexity of constructing identity.

Every piece of information, every experience, has served to mould me into who I am at this moment, just as what I am undergoing in this moment is shaping who I will be tomorrow.  The only thing I have always been doing is growing.  Who cares whether we have always been this way?  Let us instead say: I have always been becoming what I am right now – Transcension by Katie Diamond & Johnny Blazes  

Intimate, delightful, and passionate, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation is an Own Voices book worth treasuring.  It offers readers a peak into a handful of incredible lives,  helping us to foster a more inclusive, more aware worldview.  

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