The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution
reviewed by Franco Dispenza - October 24, 2018
Title: The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution
Author(s): Ann Travers
Publisher: New York University Press, New York
ISBN: 1479885797, Pages: 288, Year: 2018
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From 2012 to 2017, Ann Travers interviewed 19 diverse transgender kids and 23 parents, all living in Canada and the United States. The purpose of the book was to provide an account of how trans kids are incredibly vulnerable because of the way in which gender identities are imposed on children in general, with particularly negative consequences for trans kids (p. 10). The Trans Generation provides readers with some essential psychosocial perspectives on the everyday lives of transgender youth living in their respective ecological contexts (i.e., school, community, family). Drawing from narratives, in-depth interviews, and personal reflection, Travers provides intricate and nuanced accounts as to how transgender youth control their destinies. Readers will be more enlightened after reading the book, and will have a deeper understanding of how gender affects the lives of all youth.
The Trans Generation is made up of seven chapters (including introductory and concluding chapters), several appendices (including policy recommendations and resources), and a glossary for terminology. Travers begins the book by describing some of the qualitative research methods employed in the large-scale study. Travers manages not to inundate the reader with too much research jargon, and provides just enough description to be transparent about the rigor and integrity of data collection. Travers proceeds to explore the psychological and social worlds of transgender kids, with an initial exploration of coping strategies employed by the transgender youth interviewed in the study. Travers situates their everyday lives using a variety of theoretical constructs, including conceptualizations of precarity, necropolitics, queer theory, and critical disability theory. Travers then shifts into exploring the world of school for transgender youth. School is one of the strongest chapters in the book, and Travers critically evaluates how transgender youth and their families navigate educational systems that are fundamentally gendered, even in the way children line up for class. There are also several accounts of trauma, assault, and abuse reported by the participants, showcasing some of the dangers that transgender youth unfortunately face when navigating their education in traditional school systems in North America.
Travers goes beyond education and school, and examines other community spaces that transgender youth occupy in their daily lives. Sports, recreation, and bathrooms are the particular focus of the chapter entitled Spaces, which also offers a discussion of the various statutes, laws, and bills that have prohibited transgender youth from being able to freely access and use these spaces. Another pertinent chapter in the book focuses on parents and family. Parents are not often a focus of research with transgender youth, and so the chapter provides great insight into support and advocacy, as well as the challenges parents may face. Finally, Travers includes a chapter on supportive healthcare and addresses some of the controversial discourse pertaining to puberty suppression therapy. The last chapter on healthcare also shows how disempowered youth are, in general, when it comes to healthcare. Much of the power resides with the parent, often because of the economic cost associated with healthcare.
Travers manages some great things in this book that will be of interest to many readers. First, Travers works thoughtfully within the tradition of qualitative inquiry by providing rich narratives of transgender youth and their families. Second, Travers conducts a strong ecological examination of the everyday lives of transgender youth, including school, community, healthcare, and family. For readers who are less familiar with transgender youth, this book will provide perspective on how the various systems within a trans kids life intersect with one another. Travers comparative analysis of sociopolitical, cultural, and economic factors in the United States and Canada is most notable. In addition to providing a thoughtful critique of the influence of race and ethnicity on the lives of transgender youth across North America, Travers provides affirmative policy recommendations to help reduce harm to transgender kids.
Despite Travers attempt to reach a wider audience, there are some elements that make the book less accessible outside of academia or higher education. First, there is no shortage of theory. Although appealing to scholars and academics, it is unclear if the reliance on too many theories makes the book less accessible to persons who are less familiar with scholarly rhetoric. Second, many of Travers recommendations are at the policy level. These policy recommendations are informative, critical, and helpful, but some are abstract. Some recommendations may also be overwhelming for readers, particularly those who might not feel empowered in their systems to advocate for the level of change that is so clearly needed. However, Travers policy recommendations have the potential to facilitate harm-reduction not just for transgender youth, but for all youth.
The Trans Generation would be a valuable text in any introductory undergraduate or graduate class that addresses multiculturalism, gender studies, education, family studies, development, psychology, sociology, social work, or counseling. The book would also be valuable to anyone who has a loved one, family member, friend, or student who identifies as transgender. Furthermore, the book would be helpful to anyone who wishes to be more knowledgeable about transgender youth.