“Beyond Magenta”: Really Getting to Know Transgender Teens

They told me
No.
Said, ‘What are you?’ said, ‘you gotta choose’
said, ‘Pink or blue?’
and I said I’m a real nice color of
magenta

(Written by Luke, whose poem inspired the book title Beyond Magenta)

Award-winning author and photographer Susan Kuklin‘s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (2014) is a new resource for “transgender and gender-neutral” youth and those who care about them.

Six young adults and their families are featured in the book. “Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves,” states the publisher.

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates): “Kuklin’s book is not just a lifeline for teens who are going through something similar and need to see themselves and their lives so openly portrayed—this book is an important read for the parents, friends, and loved ones who want to understand what a transgender teen might be going through.”

kuklin_cover

Why did these kids open up to Kuklin? According to Chelsey Philpot, Buzzfeed, she says it’s simply about listening without judgment. Surely it also helped, in terms of putting the project together, that Kuklin also fostered a collaborative relationship with each one of them.

More from Philpot about the book’s structure and personalities:

Each chapter is told from the first-person perspective of one of the teens. Their experiences have similarities: Many were bullied, many were confused, and many felt trapped in bodies that did not belong to them. But their stories are also as different as their photographs. Some had supportive families and friends. Some did not. Some have arrived at a peaceful place of self-acceptance. Some are still searching…

As a group, they are racially diverse and come from a wide range of economic, religious, and social backgrounds. Mariah (who asked not to have her picture in the book ‘because I’m not comfortable with my body’) was raised by her grandmother in a poor neighborhood. Jessy is Thai; he and his family moved to the U.S. for his diplomat dad’s job. Christina grew up in a Catholic household. At home, Nat’s family spoke Spanish and English. Cameron is from Westchester County, but ‘not one of the rich, white Westchester towns you hear about.’ And Luke lives in Wisconsin with his two parents and older sister.

According to the Booklist review, three of the teenagers are female to male (FTM) and three are male to female (MTF). One is intersex, another identifies as pansexual. “Though their experiences differ, the teens often stress that, as Kuklin puts it, ‘Gender is one variable in a person’s identity, and sexual orientation is another variable. The two are not connected.’ Similarly, Kuklin makes clear that, despite the popular misconception, all trans teens are not gay.”

 

In addition to all the profiles, there is a resources section as well as clinical info from Dr. Manel Silva of HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens), a program at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York. Kuklin, in fact, found five of her subjects by connecting with this agency. The other teen was found through Proud Theater in Madison, Wisconsin.

SELECTED REVIEWS

Vicki Cobb, The Huffington Post: “What comes through loud and clear is their humanity, the depth of their suffering, and their courage to embrace their differences and show the world who they really are…(I)magine feeling as if you are in the wrong body; that even the most basic categories of ‘male’ or ‘female’ don’t apply to you. Thanks to Beyond Magenta you no longer have to imagine.”

Booklist: “Kuklin’s important new book brings welcome clarity to a subject that has often been obscure and gives faces—literally and metaphorically—to a segment of the teen population that has too long been invisible. Speaking with equal impact to both the reader’s heart and mind, Beyond Magenta is highly recommended.”

School Library Journal: “The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share It Gets Better-style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities–including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography–provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience…”

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