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The cut. Cut cut the of. The cut. Suddenly, it seems like everyone I know is reading these Transition Baby by Tory Peters, it's lauded as one of the first novels by an openly trans author to be released by a major publisher. And it's so good. It's a delicious and deeply queer novel about as an extremely crude top line summary, three people trying to learn how to create a family together. Three people, two couples, one baby.


That is author Tory Peters. And to try to summarize the whole plot of the transition, baby would really do the book a disservice.


The story is dramatic and convoluted and hard to capture. It's about family. It's about motherhood. It's about mothering. But at the molten core of it all, it's about the way we all present our genders, including, says people.


You can change genders in inside of a sort of larger umbrella of womanhood because you're born with like a certain type of body and you have a certain kind of presentation, but you decide that you want to be a different kind of woman and you essentially transition the same way that male to female transsexuals like myself have transitioned. And that transition happens because usually it's something that doesn't feel right internally to you, that the expectations that you're putting on yourself to be, for instance, the kind of woman who shares her legs every day don't feel like the right expectations for what is your gender at the moment.


And so you have to do a transition.


Is that OK? Language forces people to use transition? I mean, yeah, I don't know. I'm hardly the person such a long time right now. I'm I'm definitely I get away with it because they're like, well, she's transitioning as to say whatever she wants. But really, I don't know. And for me, the thing is, I think the language that is most useful is is the language that people can use. Like I think that for for so long we've had this idea of sort of stay in your lane.


You don't continue to do this if you're outside of your lane. And part of the work that I wanted my book to do is to actually like create connections across difference through analogy.


Tory Peters is a trans writer writing about trans characters, mostly white trans women. But Peters is also writing about CIS characters. And in comparing and contrasting their experiences, she shows transgender ness as a lens to see the whole world.


I always refer to the Kardashians as female to female transsexuals that everything that they do in their sort of presentation actually seems to come from sort of drug problems or trans feminine culture. A lot of their aesthetics, like supercute cheekbones and things like that, because it was like you're trying to make your face look more feminine so you can't really have the Kardashians are an interesting example, because in some ways you can trace the origin of everything that they've put on themselves.


OK, like here's like all the stuff on black culture. Here's all the stuff from drug culture. Here's all these things that they've taken. But I would kind of argue that, like, no one is more sort of like Kardashian than the Kardashians, like they've created their own genre. They're not trying to be what they're referencing. They're trying to make something new and be authentically that new thing.


Whether you like that thing or whether you think that thing is like appealing is another question.


It's a huge question. There's a lot of internalized misogyny that comes up when I confront the Kardashians or even in myself, when I sort of them myself up and wonder why I'm doing this or when I judge other women for how we are or aren't performing our womanhood if we're doing it too much or not enough early on.


I mean, I think it like a trajectory for a lot of trans women where you transition on like there was a time where feminism was a kind of like armor to me, like I would put on my makeup to go to the supermarket, even if I was just like going to buy something for ten minutes. And it was more like, this is my shield against the world. And slowly over the course of years, the idea that that's especially obligatory to me as a trans woman has sort of faded as I just sort of live.


It's like I think the ways in which it's obligatory for me become the ways in which it's obligatory for this or the idea of women in general. There's a basic pressure to, like, look a certain way or perform a certain way. And as a result, there's ways in which I I purposely deviate from that.


Oh, totally.


It's trying to thread that needle between I'm not like other girls and I am a girl.


For me, a big thing in my time in Brooklyn was buying a motorcycle because I wanted I felt so meek. I felt like I didn't make eye contact with people. I, I was just like quiet and meek. And I was like, I remember what it felt like to take a. Space, I want to try and take a little space, so I want this big motorcycle, KLR, and then everybody asks me like, is this your boyfriend's bike?


You know?


So I painted it pink, which is, I think actually like a lot of where the idea of me as a thumb comes from, where it's like I ride around on a pink motorcycle and then I, like, painted my helmet pink. And then like for a while I like brown, my friend, small dog. And suddenly I was like the person riding a motorcycle with, like, a small dog. And I was like with the dogs on a motorcycle.


You probably got a small helmet for the dog and no dog. I didn't do this. I didn't I was like, this is how you become what I'm they were like each step along the way. I was like, oh, this makes sense. Totally.


It's like the extended Barbie playback. Like you have a pink house and a pink bike. I'm like, yeah, it's just stacked on top of each other.


I it actually was like an accidental or aesthetic that was like largely in some ways Defensor. There's so many different ways of being a woman. And any time that you start trying to pick while this is what it means to be a woman like to do this thing, you can find exceptions to it. You know, argue about what makes a woman is immediately becomes like so politicized and can become so ugly, whereas like arguing about a family, you can make jokes about it.


Do you identify as a fan? I identify as a low fan, which is like I also think that idea of like high and low within these gender categories is also funny or Rinzler like Lord of the Rings or something like your high you're high from you know, like I don't know, I'm from I wear makeup most days, but like I also like have a motorcycle and stuff and all of this, like at some point, like, it becomes like a fun game.


But yeah, I guess in the end I'm a category of and this is a huge part of the transition baby navigating womanhood and feminists.


The ways we do and don't present our gender is on the decisions we make around them. Like one of the main characters, Peters writes about, a trans woman named Reese badly wants to become a mother. And it's because she loves children, but also because, as she sees it, when you are a mother, no one doubts your womanhood is motherhood. Femme.


I wouldn't say so now, especially if you have sort of the definition of that. I'm a writer, which was like queer fun, which has a lot to do with, like a certain presentation on sexuality that has to do with, like navigating ideas of like availability in the world and the like being a mom, maybe problematically. So I think people see that as like, well, now you're not the same level available as before. Do you mean like sexually available or sexually available or like even emotionally you've got a child, right?


Like that's now your priority. And so you're not as available for like everything else that the world needs. And that same idea carries over even even like prejudices and like the workplace. Right. That like, if you tell people that you're a mom, they might not give you a job because they're like, oh, well, you're going to not be available to work extremely long hours. That's sort of what I mean by less available. I think it's distinct in some ways from the work of motherhood, which is considered extremely feminine.


And if you are a woman who is a mom, maybe you have found yourself transitioned out of who you thought you were with different habits and different presentations, whoever you are, maybe the pandemic has changed how you present and how you feel about your gender.


Maybe your hair is longer. Maybe you shaved it all off. Maybe you learned how to put on makeup. Maybe you haven't had any time for makeup at all. Maybe your body's changed and maybe these changes feel right and maybe they don't.


I know that I have always felt like I'm not quite living up to what I think I should be as a woman when I was transitioning, I assumed that this woman had it down somehow, that I had this childhood and they understood what it meant to be a woman and that they weren't troubled by their failures or that they didn't even have failures as women like just whatever they did was magically what a woman did, like axiomatically and basically figuring out that, like so many system, men are walking around feeling like they're constantly failing as a woman and all these different ways in terms of their bodies, in terms of their presentations, in terms of like, are they like ingratiating enough?


I mean, honestly, I think it was realizing that everybody is failing a gender that made me feel healed. The ways that I began to relate to other women as a woman wasn't around like Worsoe so fierce or something like that. I like around around like small fires. I see that you feel like you've had this failure in this way. And like, I feel like I've had this failure in my way. We can commiserate and we can realize that, like, the whole idea of this was unfair to begin with.


And like that who we are is like totally fine. It's the failure actually that I felt bonded me to people. So I actually dedicated this book to divorced women because I feel like the sort of parallel there is is the break. You live your life a certain way and then there's a break and then you have to move forward without getting better or reinvesting in illusions. And so there's a way in which I really related to divorce this woman as a trans woman around.


For me, the big break was transition. For them, the big break was divorced. But in a certain way, both of those things were were moments of failure, like a divorce. You're not supposed to frame a divorce as a failure, but like the relationship in some ways, a failed. And for me, like my performance of gender over a period of years, I came to a point where I was like, this has failed.


So many trans women have had to try to find role models and community among CIS women, partly because they didn't have a lot of other choices.


But in the fictionalized world, Terry Peters built the energy flows the other way to where CIS women have a lot to absorb and learn from trans women, especially the moms.


That's after the break.


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Transition Baby is a book very much about friendship and family and romantic love and how the boundaries of these categories are porous in queer relationships and chosen families.


I mean, you have this idea in your book of the mom crush. What is that?


So many moms I know feel like alienated and alone and isolated and there's so much put on them. And then you see them with each other and they're so happy to sort of share in the labor of taking care of children. But I began to just sort of think about like the sort of like affection that moms can have for each other when they've got this, like, shared project of of raising children and the like. I have a stepson now, but in some ways I guess I have mom crushes around it.


Oh, that's interesting because like.


Right. So a mom crush is more of a lateral move than like the love and respect one has for, like an elder. Yeah.


The mom crush in the in the book was between moms rather than it was definitely horizontal as opposed to you are my mom. But I think that like one moms are involved, it gets really confusing because there's a mom daughter always has sort of hierarchies of like can you just like for a moment, like let your mom take care of things. Maternal care, like inherently has a vertical structure and in a maternal way.


In a friendly way.


In a mom Krush way, trans women have had to learn how to mother each other, even women who are basically the same age to check in on each other and nag each other and be the people you can call at 2:00 a.m. and bind.


Pieters has a metaphor she likes to employ about why this is comparing trans women to baby elephants.


The trans women are juvenile elephants and that we're often traumatized. The original idea came from a journal and Nature magazine.


So elephants are a matriarchal culture. The juveniles are raised within 15 feet of their mom for the first seven years of their life. And then they're like close to their moms and aunts.


And like all of them, people are not people, elephants that basically teach them how to live because elephants are know. Fifteen thousand pounds, incredibly powerful. And if you just, like, let these elephants run wild, they'll hurt themselves or hurt other elephants. There's like a long period when moms and aunt elephants basically teach young elephants to control themselves, to control all of this rage because elephants are like full of hormones, too, like rage and my power that an elephant has.


And what ended up happening is in the game parks, when you had poachers, they would they would kill the mother elephants and chain the baby elephants to the carcasses, essentially of the mothers. But what they ended up creating was a lot of really, really traumatized elephants like elephants who'd seen their moms killed before them and then also had all of this rage, had all this power and didn't have anyone to teach them how to control it.


So what you had in the game, parks and like the nineties, were these like violent gangs of elephants that would kill rhinoceroses for sport, would attack humans. We have huge conflict between elephants. Elephants on elephant violence skyrocketed. Elephant on human skyrocket like elephant on human violence, I think went up like a thousand percent. We're just like these angry elephants. We're just attacking everything around them. It became a metaphor for me for like what's sort of happened with transwoman and in my generation and that our elders, we sort of have a lost generation.


We lost our elders to HIV, but also suicide, substance abuse going stealth, which means that just passing the system and disappearing into society without any trace of your trans ness. We had an entire generation that disappeared from us and so it was difficult to be trans. We have no elders to teach us to control ourselves and we're in some ways running rampage. Not so much on this people, because people aren't really vulnerable to us, but on to each other.


We can attack each other. We can say you're not doing trans, right. You're not you're embarrassing as a trans woman to other trans woman.


How do we square that now?


Like, how can two traumatized baby elephants, like, learn to be in a room together now?


I mean, some of there's a reason why I dedicated the book to divorce this woman. It's like I'm kind of saying to divorce this. I'm like, look, we have something to offer you, right? I just you just asked, like, can we use all these gender terms? And I'm like, yeah, you should use it, use all the stuff, but in turn, help take care of us, you know, like we can actually like there's a lot of trans women out there who could be great friends to you, who could, you know, who need your help, who do.


Our generation doesn't know what it means to be thriving in your 60s, so if your sister in your 60s take a second to tell like a juvenile elephant translating Hey, here's where here's how you set up your life for more than just this year. And that I think that there's an opportunity for exchange and our opportunity for healing for both CIS women who are maybe looking for a new ways to think about their gender that can be liberating to them that trans people have had to develop and certainly trans people need the resources necessary.


Perhaps this is a beautiful and idealistic world that Tori Peters is imagining. Of course. No, we're not there yet. While all kinds of women have so many universal lessons to give each other, being a trans woman is a particular experience and it carries a lot of wounds that says people cannot know. And it's different across race and across class. But this book is a tender companion to these divides and to these commonalities. The transition baby is a starting point for that beautiful, idealistic world which Tory Peters is mothering into existence.


When I look around at a lot of like the trans women around me where they've got all this trauma and they've got all these coping mechanisms, and so I was like, well, I'm going to write a book that creates a picture of where you are, and then I'm going to strip everything away from someone who's like you. And then I'm going to ask, what are you going to do next? And that is absolutely like a mothering, kind of annoying mother thing to do to our generation of people.


And so it's like the me writing and lets me because I like her mom where I can be like I don't just talk to like one or two trans girls. I'm going to talk to an entire generation of them and tell them what is an act of incredible ego on my part. But also, you know, in some ways just being a mother and traditional ways, an act of ego.


The podcast is produced by HVA Parker, Jasmine Aguilera and ME executive produced by Stella Buckbee, Hanna Rosin and the Shekhawat Mixed and scored by Brandon McFarland with very special thanks this week to Shawn Reale and David Davis.


We are production of New York Magazine.


Subscribe today to support their work at the cut dotcom slash subscribe. I'm Avery Friedman. Thanks for listening.


If you're having trouble meeting your goals or focusing at work or if you're feeling stressed and having trouble sleeping, better help is here for you. It's not a self-help class. It's not a crisis line. But our help is secure online professional counseling with licensed therapists who have the tools to help you feel better. Just fill out a questionnaire about how you're doing and better help will match you with your own licensed therapist. And under 48 hours, no more awkward therapist waiting rooms.


No more limitations on the type of experts in your area and in between weekly appointments. If you need more guidance, you can send free unlimited messages to your counselor.


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Better hope will help you quickly find a new one for free. Better help is a more affordable option than traditional therapy and financial aid is available. This podcast is sponsored by Better Help and listeners of the Cut can get 10 percent off their first month at Better Help Dotcom.


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