Updated: Jul 1, 2021
For Pride month, we're spotlighting books that look at queer parenthood and encouraging people to read Torrey Peters' 2021 novel Detransition, Baby.
Holding the rare honor of being a bestseller written by a trans woman about a trans woman, Detransition, Baby explores the complicated gender dynamics inherent to our understanding of parenthood.
A brief synopsis: the book primarily centers on the lives of Reese, a trans woman, and Ames, her ex-partner who lived as a trans woman in the years they were together but has since detransitioned. When Ames gets his boss-turned-girlfriend Katrina pregnant, he turns to Reese, asking that she serve as a third parent to the child. The book interweaves their exploration of whether this family structure could work for them with stories from Reese and Ames’ pasts, crafting a narrative that Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff credits as looking “unflinchingly” at the modern American trans experience.
Perhaps the most fascinating and frank subject of the novel surrounds the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood. Ames is moved, in part, to approach Reese about parenting the baby because of his aversion to fatherhood. Despite having detransitioned, queerness remains central to his identity, and he believes that incorporating Reese into his family would enable him to be a parent rather than a father, speaking to a desire to avoid the stereotypical masculine attributes associated with the role. Reese’s relationship to motherhood is similarly tangled with gender constructs. While it is certainly not her only reason for desperately seeking a child, Reese considers motherhood the ultimate validation of her womanhood. Peters entwines these characters’ trans experiences with their hyper-awareness of gender performance, forcing readers to question deeply embedded assumptions regarding the gender binary, parent roles, and the intersection of the two. This makes for a book that is both defined by and much more than one woman’s desire for motherhood.
Interested in learning more about the woman behind Detransition, Baby? Read "On My Trans Mother, Myself" where Peters' friend Harron Walker reflects on the evolving nature of their relationship.
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