Importantly: because of the legal precariousness of the transgender community and the rapid shifts in laws and regulations around transgender people’s bodies and legal documents, much specific legal content is already outdated. Since 2014, there have been changes in the legality of same-sex marriage, adjustments in state laws on birth certificate changes, and a flurry of new court cases centered on transgender bathroom access. Additionally, recent action by the Trump administration’s DOJ which suggests that future court rulings will contradict interpretations of Title VII which have previously protected trans people from discrimination.
Erickson-Schroth, Laura (Editor) (2014). Trans Bodies, Trans Selves. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
I featured this work in my prior list of trans nonfiction for beginners. I’m now reviewing it in depth, as an exercise in reflecting on sexual health and legal information available, particularly for trans teens and adolescents.
At 649 pages, this compendium of information is probably the most massive reference text on trans experience to exist. Its main editor, Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, MA, is a psychiatrist, a board member of GLMA, and a member of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.
Published in 2014, the work is an ongoing project and 501 c3 non-profit organization. Calls for submissions to the new edition of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves were due by Nov 1, 2018.
It is notable that the price point of this work ($44.95) is significantly different than the original Our Bodies, Ourselves, which was originally published as a 136-page, 35-cent booklet in 1970 by the New England Free Press. More recent editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves still usually cost under $20. Before the publication of this book, there was significant discourse around whether Oxford Press was the right publisher for this work–since similar works, like The Brown Boi Project, went for independent publishing routes.
Another question that some trans readers might have concern allegations of assault against Scott Loren Moore (content warning for link for photos of assault injuries), one of the many short-piece editors for this volume. The allegations, made by writer Bryn Kelly (1981-2016), resulted in some trans readers boycotting the book. In the print edition, Moore (an employee of the NYC DOE) is only credited in the back of the book among hundreds of other contributors, and his involvement in the project–based only on the print edition’s references and contributor page–would seem to be nominal, despite Kelly’s post and Moore’s own blog listing Moore (rather than Erickson-Schroth) as a primary editor. This post by a friend of Kelly (http://umruik.tumblr.com/post/149050012552/not-a-eulogy) states that Moore’s involvement was scaled back after allegations surfaced. However, Moore is credited on the trans bodies.org site.
My take on this resource is: Despite the questions about cost and about the editing team, the end result of this project in 2014 was a dense volume of resources that remains the largest trans-written collection of health resources for trans people currently in print. I would have benefited from this large, very comprehensive book at the beginning of my own transition, and I would still recommend it to any trans person who has been out fewer than five years, despite the fact that this edition is several years old. The breadth is really astonishing, and it would be a very necessary book for many teens for this reason alone. I think that high school libraries should certainly look into acquiring future editions, while continuing to ask critical questions about the publication/editing team involved.
While the tone of the text approaches all subject matters in what I think is an unnecessarily intro-level, feelings-focused way (ie, using phrases like “valid” and “authentic” with considerable frequency), and doesn’t compile as much specific medical information (hormone dosages, surgery innovations etc) as trans people might wish in such a large document, it collects a huge range of trans experiences and ideas in one place, and offers real practicable health, legal, and relationship advice to young and old trans people. I firmly believe that this volume can also help the partners and loved ones of trans people better understand their experiences and community.
What’s actually inside: In addition to routine information about procuring hormones, the effects of hormones, and surgery, large sections of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves are devoted to specific issues which disproportionately affect the trans community, such as: higher rates of nicotine use, more barriers to STI testing, higher rates of trauma and intimate partner violence, high unemployment, and the danger of unplanned ER visits with doctors who do not know patients are trans. More general sections address activism around incarceration, immigration, access to family planning and adoption, marriage, access to employment, and anti-transgender activism.
Sections at the beginning of the book are dedicated to race and ethnicity and their impact on trans lives and experiences; later sections include essays and information about transgender people and spirituality. These sections include anecdotes from religious trans people and advice about where to seek religious community.
Resources and References: Each chapter comes with a reference section, which refers readers to 20-30 academic/medical articles and books per chapter on the issues the chapter covers.
Contributors include activists, surgeons, doctors, poets, and actors. When a contributor has given their name and image, these are featured alongside their essay or art. Some anonymous quotes and contributions are included within the text.
Information on reproductive health focuses on what is known, which for the transgender community, is not much. In this way, the book is significantly different from Our Bodies, Ourselves, which was usually able to cite extensive medical research. An example of this lack of medical information is the “Contraception in Masculine-Spectrum People” section of the Reproductive Health chapter, which specifies that testosterone is not birth control, and specifies that the effects of testosterone on fertility in trans men has never been tested clinically (Erickson-Schroth, p. 235). The text does provide information on places readers can go to learn more about the most recent studies, such as the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference.
This does not mean that the guide is itself a poor resource; rather, it was generated in a specific temporal context and contained up-to-date information as of 2014. The comprehensive nature of the project implies that future editions will incorporate new information about trans legal status and health.