Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity

Arlene Stein. Pantheon, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4745-9
Stein (Reluctant Witnesses) tracks the rapid evolution of gender identity in this provocative group portrait of trans men. The book opens in the waiting room of a South Florida plastic surgery clinic, where four patients are scheduled to undergo “top surgery” (chest masculinization) on the same day. For the next year Stein follows the four subjects as they recover from surgery and grow accustomed to their new bodies, interviewing their friends, families, and acquaintances. While in the past passing as cisgender was the goal, Stein finds these days people are just as likely to reject the gender binary outright and claim trans as their own identity. Of Stein’s four subjects, Lucas makes a point of coming out as trans, Parker is interested in passing in the traditional sense, Nadia chooses to change her body but not her gender, and Ben is still figuring out where he is most comfortable (meanwhile he uses social media to keep people updated, posting a photo of the bandages and tubes on his chest). The book also notes the prominence of reality television and social media in creating space for more gender identities to flourish by making “the personal eminently more public.” Stein posits that trans identity as it exists right now in younger people is less an act of survival and more an act of self-reinvention. Though Stein finds no tidy conclusions, her book succeeds in documenting what it means to be trans today. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2018
Release date: 06/05/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-101-97249-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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