Detransition, Baby came to my attention due to its inclusion on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 longlist. And I’m so glad. I haven’t read fiction told from the point of view of transgender characters, or by a transgender author, before, so immediately it was an eye-opening read. As well as being totally engrossing.
Opening sentence: The question, for Reese: Were married men just desperately attractive to her? Or was the pool of men who were available to her as a trans woman only those who had already locked down a cis wife and could now ‘explore’ with her?
Reese, Ames and Katrina
This book is narrated by a trio of lead characters.
Ames is the detransition of the title. He was a man who transitioned to a woman, then back to a man (known as James / Amy / Ames). As Amy, she was in a relationship with fellow trans-woman Reese and then as Ames, he starts an affair with his boss, Katrina, a cis woman and accidentally gets her pregnant.
Reese was the character that jumped out at me most, she just got into my heart, from her questionable decisions (like her cowboy who treats her so badly) to understanding why she makes the decisions she does, to her longing to be a mother. She felt so real; flawed, full of heart, scathing and funny. My type of girl.
Ames knows his ex, Reese is desperate to be a mother, so pitches an unusual idea – that Reese becomes a co-mother to the baby. The story then explores this relationship structure, how all these characters deal with this, challenging normal family dynamics and conventions and revealing the history of each character.
I learnt so much about trans culture – from the tropes that are overused to the nuances within the community. It felt raw and unapologetic; I love this type of fearless storytelling.
What was she doing here anyway? Trying to get some cis woman to share her baby with Reese and Reese’s detransitioned ex-lover? How sad her life has become that such a ridiculous plan was the best peg on which to hang some kind of hope.
An exploration of motherhood
Since becoming a mother I find novels that delve into motherhood (in all its forms) really interesting. I’ve never read about it from the transgender perspective before, and always love novels that bring me a new viewpoint.
Detransition, Baby is so well written: it’s funny and cutting, clever and thought-provoking and you end up caring for all the lead characters. It’s a deep dive into transgender culture, but also a look at the complex nature of relationships and stereotypes in general, as well as what it means to be a mother or father. It covers a lot of themes and it does so wonderfully. Like nothing I’ve read before, just brilliant.
Author Torrey Peters is a trans woman, this is a great interview by her friend Harron Walker and gives more of an insight into both the book and Torrey.
- Get your copy of Detransition, Baby here;
- Published by Serpent’s Tail;
- 340 pages;
- My rating: