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Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Paperback – March 10, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The strength and honesty of six transgender teens stand out as their stories are told by a large cast of outstanding performers, including Nick Podehl, Roxanne Hernandez, Nancy Wu, and Marisol Ramirez. Each tells a complex personal tale of realization, coming out, communication with family and friends, struggles, and triumph through adversity. Each performer speaks in the gender of the person's current self-identity, which is occasionally confusing, although a main narrator, reading Kuklin's (No Choirboy) words as she conducted these interviews, provides context for each teen's story. The teens are voiced in a totally believable way with various regional accents. They tell the stories as flawed but full human beings, and as they talk about bullying, mental health, clinical history, and problems with family and friends, listeners will be inspired by their lives. Unfortunately, neither the photographs from the book nor the interview with Dr. Silva, clinical director of the Health Outreach to Teens (HOTT) program in New York City, are included in the audio format.—Ann Brownson, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Kuklin’s book profiles six transgender teens in both their own words and the author’s excellent photographs. The result is 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. The profiles are evenly divided between FTM (female to male) and MTF (male to female) teens. Also represented are a variety of races and ethnicities, and included are one teen who is intersex and another who regards themself as pansexual (several of the teens choose to identify themselves with the gender-neutral pronouns they, them, and their). Though their experiences differ, the teens often stress that, as Kuklin puts it, “Gender is one variable in a person’s identity, and sexual orientation is another variable. The two are not connected.” Similarly, Kuklin makes clear that, despite the popular misconception, all trans teens are not gay. Further information is contained in an appended interview with Dr. Manel Silva, clinical director of the HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens) program at the New York City–based Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which has served the needs of several of the profiled teens. 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. Grades 7-12. --Michael Cart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I appreciated the way in which Susan Kulkin approached this project. She clearly wanted to give people who don't fit into our society's neat little categorized gender/sex boxes a voice. She felt comfortable enough with herself as a writer (and a person, for that matter) to allow this mission to take whatever form her six interviewees wanted, whether it be creative retellings of the stories most important to them, poetry, photography, or question/answer sessions. She let their voices shape the manuscript, rather than forcing them to fit within the rigid confines of her preconceptions.
The main message of the Male-to-Female, Female-to-Male, pansexual (often referred to as androgynous), and intersex (often referred to as hermaphrodite) teens is simple: we're people too. And, though many heterosexual readers who fit nicely into traditional gender roles may not understand "why someone would choose to be a gender or sex other than the one in which they were born," by the time those readers take the time to fully read the chapter by and about the one intersex teen represented, they might understand how it isn't always a choice when someone is born with ovatestes (a combination of male and female reproductive organs) and a body constantly populated with a confusing combination of male and female hormones. If such a person "chooses" either gender and undergoes the surgery and hormone therapy required to exercise that choice, isn't that person technically a transgender individual? Readers might also be surprised to learn that some such people "choose" to live life straddling gender lines, as they were born. Is that, too, really a choice?
If you want to become empathetic to transexual, pansexual, and intersex teens, I highly recommend this book. If you fall into any of those categories yourself, you have probably already heard about it, but, if not, I suspect you might feel a kinship with some of the six teens whose profiles are shared within its pages. If you are a teen, you might want to take a look at this book since, chances are, you will probably meet and befriend someone like the six teens interviewed herein. If you are a parent of teens, a teacher of teens, a social worker who works with teens, or any other adult who interacts with teens on a regular basis, I would encourage you to read this book. It would be a wonderful addition to any young adult library, high school classroom library, or teen center book collection.
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