According to publisher Seal Press, Trans Like Me by CN Lester, is a personal and culture-driven exploration of the most pressing questions facing the transgender community today, from a leading activist, musician, and academic.
In Trans Like Me, CN Lester takes readers on a measured, thoughtful, intelligent yet approachable tour through the most important and high-profile narratives around the trans community, turning them inside out and examining where we really are in terms of progress. From the impact of the media’s wording in covering trans people and issues, to the way parenting gender variant children is portrayed, Lester brings their charged personal narrative to every topic and expertly lays out the work left to be done.
I was given the privilege of being sent an advance copy of this memoir. I’ve read many books by transgender individuals and I was reminded how the term ‘transgender’ means something different for every transperson. So yes, Trans Like Me is what being trans means to CN Lester, and if you or I were to write a biography with the same title it would be a very different book.
But this book is different than what I’ve read before. The cover states that the book has ‘conversations for all of us’. Although every transperson is different and has different experiences, our collective history is the same. Chapter 11, titled ‘The Denial of History’ is particularly interesting as it covers the evolution of the different terminology, such as ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestite’, that is, or was, associated with being transgender. Lester also touches on how transgender people are portrayed in works of literature of film and cites The World According to Garp and The Danish Girl.
Speaking of how transgender people are portrayed in the media and viewed by the public, Lester has a very well written chapter on Caitlyn Jenner that eloquently summarizes the conflicted perspectives I have on who is arguably the world’s most famous transwoman.
Of course, the flip side of history is where we are going. As the public becomes more…acquainted with transgender people, whether in entertainment, the public, or in the media, more people are becoming more familiar with how complex and varied gender is, and can be. Of course, there’s no guarantee how people will react to us, but that’s another story. The chapter ‘Beyond Binaries’ end on a what I read as an optimistic and realistic perspective. Lester writes “Our steps toward equality are still tentative — this is not a done deal. For every example of positive change I could provide, I could show multiple negatives. But the changes I have seen, over my lifetime, at least show that change is possible. What I have learned about our histories shows me that the gendered bars and limits placed around us need not be permanent”.
Trans Like Me is a well-written book that is a not only a very personal biography but is also very refreshing in how it’s not only about Lester and their life. Lester discusses history, the media, the limits and potential of gender and the shared experiences that all trans and non-binary individuals have in a way that we can relate to. However, I would say that the book’s true strength is Lester’s ability to tell our history and complexities in a friendly, direct, and approachable way to the non-transcommunity as well.
Thank you to Seal Press for the opportunity to read this book in advance.