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Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers Hardcover – January 2, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; First Edition edition (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011964
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,471,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this gripping, illuminating and deeply moving portrait of transgender teens in Los Angeles, the smallest incidents reverberate sharply. Beam, volunteering at a support center for trans teens, helps a young woman named Christina make changes on her driver's license: her name from Eduardo and the gender from male to female. The DMV clerk adamantly refuses to make the adjustment and only acquiesces after the humiliated Christina has a meltdown and Beam, pretending to be an ACLU lawyer, demands a supervisor. Christina is one of several, mostly minority, male-to-female transgender women to whom Beam becomes attached. Their group interactions—including fights, friendships and daily struggles to survive—form the center of the book. Though these women's lives are difficult—when Christina is beaten during an attempted rape, she has to lie to the police about being transgender—there are also moments of quick wit. As Beam morphs from parent to therapist, chum, cheerleader and legal adviser, she seamlessly blends memoir, reportage and advocacy. The result is a vivid and fiercely empathetic narrative that juxtaposes dead-on portraits of these young women with clearly articulated fury at a culture that's not only fearful of anyone who deviates from traditional gender roles but treats minorities and the poor with contempt. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Beam writes of her volunteer activities at Eagles, a small high school for gay and transgender teens in Los Angeles, by focusing on first one, then another, of the young people she encountered. Many were homeless, thrown out by their parents. Some alternated between gender identities, switching from masculine to feminine names as well as apparel. Beam taught language skills and writing. She and her students, who sometimes wandered into school and sometimes didn't, "managed to pull together enough pieces to make a magazine." Along with obituaries of friends, the 20-page glossy contained teen poetry, medical advice on the hazards of too many hormones acting too quickly, a transgender "Hints from Heloise," and two columns, "Getting Out of a Gang" and "When Your Grandma Finds Your Drag Clothes." Other victories, less tangible but equally important as she established meaningful relationships with the kids, as well as frustrations, obstacles, and disappointments, make for compelling reading that fills an important niche in gender studies. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Cris Beam's most recent book is To The End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Her first book was Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (Harcourt, 2007) which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book. Her young adult novel, I am J, was released by Little, Brown in March 2011, and was named a Kirkus Best Book and Library Guild Selection of 2011, and is the first book with a transgender character to be placed on the state of California's recommended reading list for public high schools. Her short memoir, Mother, Stranger was published by The Atavist in 2012 and quickly reached the top ten on Kindle Singles. Cris teaches creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, and Bayview Women's Correctional Facility. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia and lives in New York City. She's currently working on a novel.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Beam's prose is great.
Andrew Solomon, Author
I highly recommend this book for anyone with empathy for those who are on the fringes of our society and need help.
High School Teacher
This book opened my eyes in ways I never would have imagined and made me question and re-calibrate my assumptions.
Janet Stein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Solomon, Author on January 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book engages in many ways and at many levels, and part of what works in it is its complexity and density--which makes it harder to write about in any very coherent way. It's an amazing mix of autobiography and biography and social commentary and science and comedy, and it succeeds narratively in all of these areas, and, which is more remarkable, it makes them fit together as a coherent whole. Beam has a frankness in dealing with herself and the girls who are her subject that is arresting and powerful. She has a real and identifiable voice.

I love the fact that she started off at Eagles on a whim, and then allowed herself to be drawn so deep into these lives, and to weave them together with her own. This is a wonderful document of dawning relationships, and it's wonderfully generous because it describes not only what the author could do for these trans teens, but also what they did for her.

Of course it involves such interesting questions. The issue of class is everywhere here, the fact that she could break out of her own world and accept their world on their terms. And the issue of when she got carried away with that--as when she accept the girls' prostituting themselves, which might be bowing to reality, or might be accepting someone else's life as they present it, or might be losing sight of the horror, or might be a realization that it's not quite so horrible if you actually get up close and look at it. There's something voyeuristically satisfying about reading the narratives of what it is like inside this strange universe. She has managed by and large to look at the questions attached to being poor and abandoned and the questions attached to being trans, and the balance she has achieved there is elegant.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Mark S. Cohen on January 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In Beam's stunning exposure of the nearly invisible sub-culture of transgender people living on the streets of Los Angeles she addresses issues of societal values and law, of public safety and public ignorance, of kids living on outside of the safety net, race relations, gangs and a seemingly endless variety of issues that act harshly on this particular group of young people. She tells us that their gender identity challenges not just the straight community that makes up the majority of the country, but also the homosexual and transvestite community with whom they are so often grouped. Amazingly, she does this in an unapologetically blurred role of reporter and actor in the dramas of the lives of the characters she studies.

Reading the book, you cannot but love Cris and the kids who so honestly reveal themselves to her and through, her, to you. The pressure on growing up trans must be nearly unbearable, but because this young people have such clarity in their own crossed-gender identities they are have almost no choice but to fight with the perceptions and expectations of the people around them in order simply to be honest with and to themselves. There is no "giving up" and more than you or I could give up our gender identity under pressure and cross over as the man or woman we are not. In the end each of the actors of Cris' book is heroic, even if they end up incarcerated for real crimes.

In her public readings from Transparent, Cris has traveled with some of the transgender kids who appear in the book. These people want more than anything to be seen and accepted. They also continue in their transference attachment to Cris as their trans-parent or to almost any adult figure who can show them love and accept them as normal.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Felicia Sullivan on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In compassionate, honest, flawless and often times humorous prose, Cris Beam (a volunteer teacher at Eagles - a school for gay trans teens in L.A.) tells a compelling story of four fearless male-to-female transgender kids - Foxx, Christina, Ariel and Domineque - and shares with us their loves, heartbreaks, struggle to survive and their desire to find a sense of family and community in a society that consistently shuns them. Los Angeles is Mecca, the land of reinvention, of opportunity, where kids kids tossed out of their homes by unaccepting parents can flee.

Although highly informative (Beam details the disparate urban trans scenes, offers us statistics on trans kids, explains the trans lexicon, and interviews medical professionals so we can gather an understand of the medical and psychological concerns - high doses of estrogen shots which may lead to bread cancer, for example) the stories are the heart of the book and the characters - their need to fit in, to feel comfortable in their own skin, to simply be accepted for who they are and the choices they've made - are utterly accessible to any audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David N. Parker VINE VOICE on August 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
When Cris Beam moved to Los Angeles so her partner could get a Ph. D., she found she needed a challenge to offset the boredom of working at home in a strange city. When she heard of Eagles, a "small, scrappy high school for gay and transgender teenagers," she decided to volunteer "maybe once or twice a week."
Like most adults, she had little idea of how transgender teenagers survive on the streets. Most could care less - they shake their heads and ignore them as they pass by, or else they stop and become the kids' prostitution customers. Ms. Beam's experience with them over the next several years, chronicled in Transparent, sheds new light on their lives.
Her story is not about child abuse or exploitation, yet it reflects a great deal of both. While we hear a lot about physical and sexual abuse of children, reading this book raised several questions in my mind. What is child abuse?
Is it destroying all your 11 year-olds possessions, and then throwing him out on the street?
Is it refusing to recognize your child's identity and forcing them into a role against their will?
Is it throwing a child in jail for fighting back against abusive classmates or teachers?
Is it incarcerating transgirls in the male section of the juvenile hall or prison?
In many ways, Transparent is about children reacting to abusive authority figures of all kinds - parents, school personnel, law enforcement, social services, and medical professionals. Unloved or rejected by their birth parents because they do not fit societal norms, they find acceptance on the street. Their survival is often through prostitution and the concurrent drug use that makes it possible.
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