All right, let’s get into it.
I timed my reading of Detransition, Baby so that it would be during Pride Month and it was a great intersectional conclusion to the books I read (Punch Me Up to the Gods and This Is How You Lose the Time War were the others, btw. HMU for all your LGBTQ+ lit needs).
Detransition, Baby was nominated for the 2021 UK Women’s Prize for Fiction, which was the factor that finally got me to officially decide to read it. Typically, character-driven novels that revolve around parenthood and otherwise domestic issues just don’t do it for me, but I’d heard so many good things that I had to give it a shot. It was totally worth it.
To give a succinct and most likely terrible synopsis, the novel revolves around Reese, a trans woman, Katrina, a cisgender woman, and Ames, a recently de-transitioned cisgender male who connects the two women’s lives. Ames and Reese used to date (when Ames was still Amy), but since have broken up and are on bad terms by the time the events of the novel start. When Ames gets Katrina (who is also his boss) pregnant, the burden and opportunity of parenthood opens the door to an unusual partnership. Readers follow the three characters as they begin to explore what raising a child might look like if all three of them did it together. We are treated to both Ames’ and Reese’s perspectives throughout the book, and get to explore both individuals’ history with motherhood, womanhood, and learning all that comes with being a transgender (and previously transgender) person.
Let me just preface this by saying that this book doesn’t pull any punches. This isn’t some flowery, idealistic novel about three unique people who Put Aside Their Differences and Work Together to Build a Family. Peters doesn’t shy away from putting the complexities of gender and sexuality out on a plate and just leaving it there – never moralizing one way or the other, but leaving the reader to explore how we react to the ideas.
While both Ames’ and Reese’s perspectives are fascinating, I was really drawn to Reese and her incredibly complicated relationship with the idea of being a mother. As someone who practically gets hives at the mere idea of pregnancy, it was stirring to hear about Reese’s deep maternal urges. Peters describing how little being a “trans mother” (that is, a mother figure to another trans woman) was satisfying that call to be a “true” mother was striking. It’s also, I’m sure, deeply relatable for many women. I loved the way her relationship with Katrina evolved, too. It was written so realistically – I’m not sure how I would feel about participating in such a hare-brained parenting plan myself at first – but the characters remained open and learned so much from each other’s pain. (Something we could all do once in a while.)
Long story short: I’m super grateful to have given this book a shot! It definitely falls within the top 5 novels I’ve read in 2021.
One of the reasons I feel it’s so important to read books from a variety of perspectives is to remind ourselves that the marginalized experience is not a monolith – not only between minority communities, but also within them. This helps me to develop empathy for others, but it also reminds me that I need to keep growing. There are so many stories to hear and a lot are already out there! It’s just up to us to seek them out.