Talk about a book that is one of a kind and a story that needed to be shared. Torrey Peters broke all the ceilings with Detransition, Baby and I recommend that everyone read this book. Detransition, Baby is a story of transgender and cisgender women whose lives intersect when one of them becomes pregnant. It gives light to themes of gender and motherhood through the lens of these women and their unique life experiences. Reading books about other people's experiences is the surest way to gain empathy and better understand things outside the realm of your little bubble. Because of that, READ THIS BOOK!
Reese thought she was close to finally settling down in life after she met her girlfriend, Amy. That is until the monotony of life took over and Amy made the decision to detransition. Amy is now Ames, and he meets Katrina. Through a work romance and by utter surprise, Katrina finds out she is pregnant. Not wanting to adhere to the gender standards that would pin Ames as a father, he suggests they go an untraditional route with raising the child by including Reese as another mother. Detransition, Baby covers timely topics like gender, transgender roles in parenting, motherhood, relationships, and sex in a way that is so incredibly original, I guarantee you have never read a story like this.
As cliché as it sounds, I learned so much from this book. In my sheltered mind, I had never thought about what it must feel like to be a transgender woman who yearns for motherhood. How trapped would you feel if in your heart of hearts, you know you are a woman, yet your physical anatomy prevents you from carrying and birthing a child? The amount of work that must go into accepting that is unfathomable and this book shed light on just that. Reese yearns to be a mother, but she is no fool. She knows it is not physically possible for her to carry a child, but she also knows how society views trans women with children.
The representation of characters is incredible. Reese is a transgender woman, Ames was a transgender woman, but detransitioned to male, and Katrina is a ciswoman. The story dives into the differences and privileges that come so easily to ciswomen, but are hard earned for transgender women. The lens is more focused on the white trans experience, as opposed to Black or other races, so there is still room for an author out there to tell that story. I think that is also worth keeping in mind because white transwomen and Black transwomen do have very different experiences and Black transwomen face countless hardships, including higher suicide and murder rates.
For being the first book I read with these types of characters and covering these topics, wow, it was outstanding. Gritty, honest, and razor sharp. These characters did not come to play. Reese is so outspoken and strong, but I loved how the reader gets to see behind her façade to learn what her heart really yearns for. There is plenty of sex in this book, which I was not expecting and found a little surprising at first. But the more I read, the more I understood why it was necessary. So often, transwomen are fetishized. Ciswomen are jealous and secretly want to "be" them and cismen want to have sex with them. It is something that transwomen grabble with on a daily basis and the author shed light on this. That being said, if you are squeamish about sex in books, know that going into this one.
Detransition, Baby would make an excellent book club choice. There is so much to unpack with this one and, with the right group, could make for some amazing conversations.
Content warnings: explicit sex scenes, miscarriage, attempted suicide, domestic abuse, death in the transcommunity