Trans Men Contemplate Manhood in New Book
The question of what does it mean to be a man is at the heart of a new book featuring essays from a diverse group of men who have transitioned from female to male.
"Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves," published by Oakland-based Transgress Press, explores issues surrounding masculinity and manhood within the FTM community. It aims to move the conversation beyond tales of transitioning and focus it on the 28 contributors’ lived experiences and daily struggles.
"There are a number of pieces in there where people talk about why fatherhood is important to them and what it means to be a good dad, especially as a transman," said Oakland resident Trystan Cotten, 45, a straight married black man and professor of gender studies and African American studies at Cal State Stanislaus. "Life is not the same as a cisgender man. Not to say being a cisgender man is easy. But as a trans man you have a different road to take."
(Cisgender refers to individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity, as a complement to transgender.)
Cotten, who transitioned from female to male in 2007, is the book’s publisher. He launched Transgress Press two years ago as a platform for trans writers to find an audience.
His company’s latest title, released in late May, provides readers with a "much broader, diverse understanding about what it is to transition to manhood," said Cotten.
The book is filled with "beautiful stories of men becoming fathers, husbands, brothers and about mentoring other men," said Berkeley resident Zander Keig, 47, who came up with the idea for the book and co-edited it.
Taken together the collection of essays is "a celebration of being a man and all of the different aspects each of them experience as a result of being men," said Keig, a clinical social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs who works with homeless vets.
Based on the subject matter of the essays, Keig and his co-editor, Boston-based transgender activist Mitch Kellaway, decided to use the phrase "man up" as the basis for the book’s title.
"Becoming men, or manning up, is a different take on the phrase, which tends to be a negative thing," said Keig. "We wanted to not reclaim it but reframe it for our purposes."
During his late teens and into his 20s, Keig identified as a dyke. In his early 30s he started identifying as trans, and at age 39, began his medical transition. Several years ago Keig co-edited the book "Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect," which was a series of letters trans men wrote to their pre-transition selves with words of advice and guidance.
Following the success of that book, it was a 2011 Lambda Literary Awards finalist, Keig turned to wanting to spark a conversation among trans men, whose voices are often not heard from in mainstream media or within the LGBT community itself.