By Aryana Goodarzi
This week is Trans Awareness Week; and our latest edition of “books to add to your To Be Read pile (TBR)”, includes A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Dunham and Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson – three must-reads on queerness and transgender identity.
First up, A Year Without a Name carves out the complexities, clutter, and anxieties that are queerness. Terms and definitions bring us into being, but the chrysalis of transition is inflected by other identities.
I told a few more close friends about Cyrus, mostly in texts or emails. It was too scary to say it out loud. But the name spread…I mourned Grace each time I was addressed as Cyrus. The new name rang with guilt for abandoning the old one, as if I’d been tasked with Grace’s care and I’d harmed her…When friends changed their names, it seemed clear that it was a matter of survival. Their birth names had simply stopped being livable. I held myself to different standards: Why wasn’t I strong enough to exist inside Grace? Did I hate myself?… Was I so naive as to think that a new name could shepherd me into a new existence, one that hurt less?…Somewhere deep in my unconscious I still believed that not feeling like a woman was a personal failing…I still believed that if I were whole, I wouldn’t have to change myself.from A Year Without a Name, by Cyrus Dunham
Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues is hands-down another must-read. There is no way to write about this book such that it amounts to its impact on transness and queerness. It is as painful, crippling, and triggering as those of us who know the continuum that is gender identity and sexuality can be.
But who was I now—woman or man? I fought long and hard to be included as a woman among women, but I always felt so excluded by my differences. I hadn’t just believed that passing would hide me. I hoped that it would allow me to express the part of myself that didn’t seem to be woman. I didn’t get to explore being a he-she, though. I simply became a he—a man without a past.from Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg
The Argonauts is an auto-theory book by Maggie Nelson that excavates, rather than solely analyzes, gender identity. Queerness is used both as an identity and an analytic in her book.
But whatever sameness I’ve noted in my relationships with women is not the sameness of Woman, and certainly not the sameness of parts. Rather, it is the shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy.from The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
Queer content is overwhelmingly lacking. It could have been one of the many reasons why some of us did not come out until way later; because we lacked the terms and definitions, and with that, we didn’t know that our identities were even an option.