In Iowa, where I live, Governor Kim Reynolds recently signed a bill that will allow legislators to deny state funding through the Medicaid program for transition-related care to transgender Iowans. This means that reassignment surgeries would have to be paid for exclusively by the patient. Considering that reassignment surgeries can cost over $30,000, these often lifesaving treatments are off limits to most if not all individuals who qualify for Medicaid. Governor Reynolds’ reasoning for signing this piece of discriminatory legislation was that it simply returns us to what had previously been the standard before the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that this provision was unconstitutional. After all, everyone knows that going backwards is the best way to create positive change.
Alex Bertie, the author of Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard, lives in England where the National Health Service gives all of its citizens equal access to essential medical care. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Hachette Book Group (#LBYRPartner) and finished it in one sitting. Alex didn’t fully recognize that he was transgender until he was fifteen, but he was always drawn to things that were typically considered masculine. He had been documenting his life on YouTube for several years before he made this realization and that was where he truly found his community. Finding a community is important for everyone, but especially someone like Alex who lived in a small town in England and didn’t have many transgender role models or peers.
Trans Mission is a book that any high school student or adult could read to learn more about what it is like to live as a transgender man. Alex is very clear that his perspective and experiences may not reflect those of all transgender men and definitely not of transgender women who often have very different experiences. Still, his account of growing up and starting to transition is an important story for both cisgender and transgender readers. For those readers who are cisgender, Alex writes about standing up to bullies and has an especially strong message for teachers. He also gives great advice on transitioning, surgeries, and dating for transgender readers. Alex’s mom also writes a chapter that includes her reflections on the process of coming to terms with Alex’s gender identity.
Alex writes as if he is talking to the reader and the book’s use of language reflects that style of discourse. Teens will have a lot of fun getting to know Alex and will also gain insight into the incredible complexities of living as a transgender individual. If only some of our politicians could empathize with these experiences instead of casting them aside as something “other” and therefore unworthy of support.
Diversity 7: I have the language and knowledge to accurately and respectfully describe how people (including myself) are both similar to and different from each other and others in their identity groups.
Diversity 8: I respectfully express curiosity about the histories and lived experiences of others and exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.