Book Review: Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-first Century by Tey Meadow
Summary/key Points In her work, Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century, author Tey Meadow performs ethnographical research by interviewing transgender adolescents, their parents, and activists to explore the contemporary gender moment and what it means to be “gendered” in the Twenty-First Century. Meadow notes that ‘gender identity,’ or the felt sense of gender, is fundamental, immutable, and not tied to the materiality of the body, but rather, is part of an intricate social practice that is influenced by individuals, families, and larger social systems. Therefore, we are encouraged to understand that gender nonconformity constitutes social identity, rather than an erosion of the gender system. She effectively uses her gathered research as well examining her own role in the study to argue that gender isn’t merely performed, but it is also given. She also argues that contrary to popular feminist theorist attempts to eliminate gender categories in efforts to liberalize gender restrictions, the proliferation of the current gender movement and acceptance of mobility between categories does not necessarily destabilize the categories themselves, but instead, allows for the institutionalization (and, contemporaneously, the acceptance) of categories beyond the binary. In other words, transgender children of the 21st century offer us an opportunity to examine gender beyond the categories of male and female, and instead challenge us to acknowledge the social processes that influence a person’s gender identity.
A short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses Meadows’ work left me in admiration of its strengths and scraping for crumbs of weakness. It is well-written, easy to read, and entertaining. The book is clearly organized, which lends to its ease of reading. The author does an excellent job of blending theory and practice, and utilizing academic theory in a way that is easy to digest by wider audiences. The work is thoughtful and well-researched, especially in how the author uses reflexivity by clearly understanding and explaining how her own existence impacts the social processes of gender and thus, the research itself. As far as weaknesses, I wish there were more voices from the adolescents themselves, though I understand and admire Meadow’s reason for not doing so as she notes not wanting to unintentionally damage or pathologize adolescent participants.
However, the lack of children’s voices is made up by the personal accounts from parents, which further highlight adults’ roles in navigating the social spaces of their trans-identified and gender-nonconforming children. Parents detail how they navigate social structures, school systems, participate in activism, and construct different sets of rules for their child's public life than they maintained within the walls of their homes. Families revised institutionalized tropes and reimported them back into the institutions they inhabited; in that way, they made social change. They offer a glimpse of integration: how people reformulate their understandings of the world in response to queer lives. They bring clarity to the processes by which individuals make dissident identities and articulate how they challenge and reinterpret dominant frameworks to support their children.
This book is an excellent resource for clinicians who want to better understand their gender non-conforming clients and how they navigate the world. This work would also serve as being exceptionally powerful for parents of trans- and gender-nonconforming children as much of the book includes first-hand narratives of the trials, tribulations, and love of parenting a transgender child. Furthermore, this book adds to scholarly work on gender by providing a fresh take on something: the first generation of gender nonconforming children. Meadow achieves her goal of examining the social processes in which gender is embedded, performed, and given, and does so in a way that is supportive and non-pathologizing.
Overall, I think it opens our eyes to changing meanings of gender, the social processes that influence a person’s gender identity, and what it truly means to be gendered in the 21st century. Thus, leaving the reader with hope for the institutionalization and acceptance of categories beyond the binary.
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My name is Holly and I am a Trauma-Informed and Board Certified Clinical Sexologist. I provide sex therapy and coaching to individuals and couples that are struggling with reaching their full potential. As a clinician, I am passionate about helping people achieve their goals and live happy, healthy, rewarding lives. I truly believe that trauma is the source of pathology, and that everyone has within them the capacity to heal. Furthermore, I am dedicated to fostering a safe environment, working with each individual to develop the necessary skills to achieve lifelong change to improve their quality of life. As your therapist, I can’t guarantee that I will be able to fully understand what it is like to walk in your shoes, but I can guarantee that I can help you to sort things out, let go of what does not serve you, and create the life you truly want. Peaceful. Connected. Powerful. And Pleasurable.
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