Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century
Trans Kids is a trenchant ethnographic and interview-based study of the first generation of families affirming and facilitating gender nonconformity in children. Whereas previous generations of parents sent such children for psychiatric treatment aimed at a cure, these parents agree to call their children new names, allow them to wear whatever clothing they choose, and approach the state to alter the gender designation on their passports and birth certificates. Sociologist Tey Meadow argues that these parents are negotiating gender in new and significant ways, with everyone and everything, from intimates to institutions.
Drawing from sociology, philosophy, psychology and sexuality studies, Meadow depicts the intricate social processes that shape gender acquisition. Where once atypical gender expression was considered a failure of gender, now it is a form of gender. Engaging and rigorously argued, Trans Kids underscores both the centrality of ever more particular configurations of gender in both our physical and psychological life, and the increasing embeddedness of personal identities in social institutions.
Praise for Trans Kids
“This is an excellent sociological engagement with trans kids, their families, schools, the clinics they encounter, the vocabulary that constrains them and the new languages that give them hope for a better and more livable world. Tey Meadow shows how engaged and committed ethnographic work with trans kids means entering into their worlds, tracking not only they way they see themselves, but how they are treated and named by a wide range of social institutions. Most exhilarating is the way that Meadow lets us see the profound changes that become possible once repressive theories, insistent on developmental failure or pathology, are replaced with more affirmative and descriptive ways of understanding gender. Gender is made by a wide range of agents, including parents, some of whom have had to wrestle with how their own closed categories create problems for their children. Increasingly, Meadow shows, trans-affirmative models of healthcare have not only produced greater knowledge, but dissipated the pathology against which trans kids have to struggle. This work shows us how stories are social actions, how description can let us understand the lived struggle of trans kids as they find themselves defined within any number of social forms. In this book, new stories makes for new knowledge and new forms of care. A thoughtful work that helps brings an expansive sensibility into the world.” —Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble, Bodies that Matter, and Undoing Gender
“Trans Kids is a carefully researched, deeply thoughtful, and beautifully written account of the ways that families, professionals, and authorities respond to the presence of transgender children in North American society today. It captures the fear, love, and hope that swirl around these lives and tells us something important—and new—about gender itself.”—Raewyn Connell, author of Masculinities and Confronting Equality
“In Trans Kids , Meadow successfully and coherently merges theory and practice, heart and soul. The result is this landmark book about trans youth and how their families might avoid yesterday’s pitfalls and become truly loving and supportive. This is the leading edge of trans today.”—Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw
“A gripping and compassionate read, Trans Kids is the first comprehensive academic treatment of the emerging social, medical, and psychological category of the transgender child. In telling the narratives of ‘facilitative families,’ Tey Meadow provides a powerfully detailed account of the dramatic changes happening in the West around gender as a category that will speak to parents, practitioners, and academics alike.”— C. J. Pascoe, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon and author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School
“ Trans Kids is essential reading for anyone traversing the ever-shifting ground of gender identity in the twenty-first century. Meadow has created an intricate narrative here that combines meticulous ethnographic research with bold theoretical claims. The result is a compulsively readable and deeply compassionate account of trans kids, the parents who usher them through adolescence, and the experts who treat them. Gender, Meadow argues, is a rapidly expanding set of classifications for the body, and trans kids are on the front lines of this massive transformation.”— Jack Halberstam, Columbia University, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability
“A major, clear-eyed, and beautifully written contribution to thinking intelligently and empathetically about gender today—how it is mushrooming, producing new realizations, new subjectivities, and new battlegrounds.”—Don Kulick, author of Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes
“Tey Meadow’s powerful account follows the institutional shift from regulatory to facilitative medicine in the treatment of gender variance, and documents the process through which atypical gender has become understood ‘not as a failure of gender but as a form of gender.’ Through moving and acutely attuned interviews, Meadow shows how parents can ‘give gender’ to their trans kids. This is a timely and illuminating book.”—Gayle Salamon, author of Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality .