The Politics of Personhood

According to Freedom for All Americans, there are twenty-five anti-transgender bills currently being proposed in states across the nation. Laws that attack members of marginalized communities are certainly not new to the United States. It seems that there are always groups who are seen as “less-than” or who we prefer to not see at all. The current conflicts around what books should or should not be available in schools and libraries certainly suggest that there are specific groups of people who many adults wish to see erased from children’s knowledge, and transgender individuals are high on that list. Both Sides Now, by Peyton Thomas, explores the question of how to respond when one’s own personhood is an issue of political debate.

Finch Kelly is seventeen years old, a senior in high school, and a debate champion. He is also transgender, though not very many people know that. He is lucky to have a family that is supportive, though they don’t always recognize the deep necessity of the transition process for Finch. His debate partner and best friend, Jonah and Lucy, also know, and they are two of the best examples of supportive peers that I have read about in young adult literature. To them, Finch is Finch, and he deserves to be himself wherever he goes.

More than anything, this book is a love story, and Peyton Thomas’ depiction of the confusing intricacies of teenage romance is outstanding. The love story in Both Sides Now, is complicated by the topic of the debate for the National Championships, whether or not transgender individuals should be able to use the bathroom of their choice. Suddenly, Finch’s identity becomes a much bigger topic of conversation. Sometimes advocating for yourself is harder than supporting the rights of others.

Both Sides Now is a sweet, funny, and empowering young adult novel that ultimately demonstrates how simple it should be to live comfortably within one’s own skin. Young people seem to be the best hope we have that, one day, a person’s human rights–and their humanity–are no longer up for debate.

Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:

Identity 1: I have a positive view of myself, including an awareness of and comfort with my membership in multiple groups in society.

Diversity 6: I interact comfortably and respectfully with all people, whether they are similar to or different from me.

Diversity 9: I relate to an build connections with other people by showing them empathy, respect and understanding, regardless of our similarities or differences.

Action 17: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

Published by socialjusticeinchildrenslit

My name is Leah Cole and I was a teacher in Iowa for nine years. My passions for education, social justice, and children's literature led me to create this blog. Students are faced with issues of justice and fairness from the time they are very young. The Social Justice Standards developed by Teaching Tolerance help teachers to support the development of students who recognize and embrace their own identities while respecting and valuing those who are different. In this blog, I will attempt to identify and review books that support the social justice standards.

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