Penguin Random House
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Penguin Random House
Torrey Peters' new book Detransition, Baby, is about navigating identity, commitment, parenthood and divorce. The three main characters, a pregnant cis woman, her partner who is a detransitioned man, and his ex, a trans woman, are all considering how they might come together to create a family.
Sam talks to Peters about writing for trans readers, creating flawed characters and how the COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed through a trans lens.
On fearing backlash to Detransition, Baby:
I was afraid of backlash within the community and I was afraid of backlash outside of the community. Detransition is something that's been weaponized against trans people. That when people detransition, they say, "See, it doesn't work, this isn't real. This is like a mental illness and that the people who transition regret it. So therefore, nobody should transition." ... And because it's been so weaponized, trans people are scared to talk about it. ... A lot of people I know detransition because it was really hard to live as a trans woman or trans man. And they detransition not because they don't have those feelings, but because it's just so difficult. But that reality doesn't get talked about, because if you talk about that reality, then it ends up getting weaponized against other trans people. And so I kind of wanted to say that ... in order to detransition, you have to first transition. Therefore detransition belongs to trans people. It's ours.
On writing complex trans characters and narratives:
You look at what actually gets talked about outside of the trans community, and it's like, bathroom bills. And there is nothing more of a ridiculous distraction than where someone pees. It's an embarrassing, undignified conversation... And so for me, detransition as it's weaponized is also a distraction. So I'm like, I'm going to reject that distraction and I'm going to write about things that matter. And similarly, if I want to have all of the tools that all these other artists have, I have to have flawed characters. Every story can't be a resilience story. Characters ought to be messy. They have to make mistakes. And I have to actually not be writing with the burden of representation.
On the problematic framing of her book as the 'first trans mainstream hit novel':
I stand on the shoulders of the people who taught me a lot. There's a kind of collective knowledge in the book that came out of a scene, sort of a Brooklyn trans lit scene around 2014... The idea of the scene was trans women writing for other trans women. And by writing for other trans women, it sets the bar really high. You never slow down to explain anything because trans women already know. Previously, I think a lot of trans writing had been like maybe 70 percent story and 30 percent slowing down. And when you're writing for other trans women, you're writing at full speed. That was something that we thought about a lot in relation to Toni Morrison. She said she writes explicitly for other Black women and that everybody else can keep up. And we thought, we'll just write like a flat-out run and everybody else can keep up. I mean, they have Google. And so we started doing it that way and it felt really good. It made me a better writer.
This episode of 'It's Been a Minute' was produced by Sylvie Douglis and Liam McBain. It was edited by Jordana Hochman. You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at email@example.com.