Why Torrey Peters’s debut novel could be the first great trans realist novel.
Chatting with a trans woman recently about the highs and lows of being an independent transsexual escort in London, opened our eyes about what it means to exist as a gendered being in the world, particularly for those trans women who wrestle with questions of adult work, motherhood and family making.
In Detransition, Baby, the story is centered on Reese, a 35-year-old trans woman living in Brooklyn, USA who longs for motherhood — but is in a rut of risky sex with married men. Then her ex, Ames, adds a snag by asking her to help him raise a baby with his new girlfriend. Reese isn’t just angry at the request, she’s furious because she was in love with Ames when she was Amy, before she decided to “detransition” and go back to “living as a man,” as the author Torrey Peters says, because of the transphobia she faced.
The novel certainly makes a careful distinction between “being trans”, which it treats as a condition of desire, and “doing trans” depicts the way a transphobic world erodes the commitments and saps the resources of trans people, until it can seem like our only option.
But what we found really fascinating about Detransition, Baby, is that you’re not always getting into the physical act as much as you are getting into the emotional reasons behind it and the ideas of performance or vulnerability.
Is it safe to assume men, women — not just trans or non-binary people — but everybody can relate to that in some way because “good sex” is what most people want. But we don’t know how to get it? Food for thought.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters available in the Amazon bookstore.