Interview With Author Torrey Peters On 'Detransition, Baby' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders 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 Torrey about writing for trans readers, creating flawed characters and how the COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed through a trans lens.

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Author Torrey Peters On Seeing Through A Trans Lens

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TORREY PETERS: I think cis people are beginning to understand the way that gender works and their own gender through ideas that come from a trans lens.

SAM SANDERS, HOST:

That is Torrey Peters. She is the author of the new novel "Detransition, Baby."

PETERS: If you just go on Twitter and you see memes that are, like, the two genders, and one gender is, like, a trash can and one's a lamp, where it's not - there aren't - it's not, like, male or female.

SANDERS: So Torrey has noticed this trans lens more and more in the wider culture, this understanding that gender is not fixed, that it can be performed and presented in many ways. Gender can be done even through trash cans or lamps or sea captains.

PETERS: Yeah, you look at something like that fad for the sea shanty song.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELLERMAN")

NATHAN EVANS: (Singing) One day when the tonguin' is done, we'll take our leave and go.

PETERS: What people were really liking was, like, there was a gender performance in the sea shanty singers, you know. And it's like, you're doing a gender. Your gender is, like, sea captain or, like, a sailor.

SANDERS: And so doing gender - it's this thing that's really easy to see everybody doing once you begin to look for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: You are listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. And this episode, Torrey Peters and her new book, "Detransition, Baby." That book views a lot through a trans lens. Torrey says that when she writes, her audience in her mind is always other trans women, like her. She does not dumb things down for cisgender readers, like me. But there are a lot of ways that her book has made trans and cis people alike ask themselves a lot of questions about how gender works in their own lives.

PETERS: You don't have to have trans body or a cis body or - all these different things, we can begin to play with it And that's kind of like the place that I'm, like, writing into.

SANDERS: So there are three main characters in this book - Reese, a trans woman; Ames, her ex who was a trans woman that has detransitioned; and Ames' new girlfriend, a cisgender divorced woman named Katrina, who also happens to be Ames' boss. After detransitioning, Ames gets Katrina pregnant, and then Ames asks Reese and Katrina, his ex and his current girlfriend, if all three of them could raise that baby together. I know. It's complicated - a lot of entanglements, a lot of drama. And, listeners, it only escalates over the course of this book.

I am most obsessed with Ames.

PETERS: Really? OK.

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: I actually love that you're an Ames. Like, I feel like people have read this book - and what people used to do with "Sex And The City," where they're like, I'm a Carrie or I'm a Samantha or something like that, it tells me something about the reader...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

PETERS: ...Which is fun for me.

SANDERS: Yeah. My editor just Slacked me. And she wrote, I am an Ames doing the work of Katrina.

PETERS: Yeah (laughter).

SANDERS: Rising Ames cusp Katrina or whatever the astrology kids would call it - I don't know.

Before we got into the book, I had to ask Torrey about the response to it.

There is so much discussion around "Detransition, Baby" that discusses it like it is, you know, the first trans mainstream hit novel from a major publisher, which, when I first was seeing this, I was like, well, good for her. But you've tweeted that that framing of your book in that way as a first, it misses a lot of context. What is that context?

PETERS: Well, I came out of a scene, you know, and I stand sort of like on the shoulders of, like, the people who taught me a lot. Like, 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. I mean, I moved to Brooklyn really to be part of this scene. We thought it was going to be sort of like the Harlem Renaissance of trans writing or like Paris in the '20s of trans writing.

But 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. Like, you never slowed down to explain anything because trans women already know. So previously, I think a lot of trans writing had been, like, maybe 70% story and, like, 30% slowing down. And when you're writing for other trans women, you're writing at full speed. I mean, that was something that we thought about a lot in relation to Toni Morrison, where Toni Morrison said she writes explicitly for other Black women and that everybody else can keep up. And we thought, like, we'll just write at, 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. And it also made you - it made me - and I think it made the other women - a better writer because, like, let's say you want to talk about, like, taking your hormones or something. If - you can tell that to cis people, and they're like, wow, tell me about hormones. But if you tell that to another trans girl, she'll yawn in your face because she's been doing it for five years. So...

SANDERS: They know, yeah.

PETERS: Yeah. It'd be like, yeah, I know. I did it, like, two hours ago. So in order to really tell a good story, you had to bring something fresh. If you want to talk about hormones, you have to say something new about hormones.

And so it was kind of like this ethos that we - was being developed in, like, 2014 and that there were these other books that taught me how to write and taught me how to think about, you know, my transness and about gender and about just kind of womanhood in general. And my book happened to be on Random House, and so it's gotten a certain kind of attention. But it didn't happen by myself. Like, it actually happened from within a community. And I hope they get those chances, too.

SANDERS: Yeah. Well - and now what I'm seeing in so many of the conversations you're having around this book with other folks is that there is a moment now in which the normative culture, the dominant culture, can begin to see their world through a trans lens. And I want to unpack more of that and what it means because I was really fascinated by that. But first, I guess we got to tell folks what your book is. Give us a quick synopsis of "Detransition, Baby" without any spoilers.

PETERS: OK. So the novel starts with Reese, who you can think of as sort of like Fleabag but trans and in Brooklyn.

SANDERS: (Laughter) OK.

PETERS: In the same way that, like, Fleabag's life is a little bit messy, so is Reese's. And she's kind of reeling still from the fallout of a breakup with her ex-girlfriend, who is also a trans woman, who then detransitioned from Amy to Ames. And the action of the novel kicks off when Ames contacts her again and asks Reese, would you like to be a mother? - because Ames has gotten his boss Katrina pregnant, and Katrina and Ames are trying to figure out how to raise the baby. And then - I realize that sounds complicated, but that's just the beginning. And then it goes from there. That's all the first chapter, by the way (laughter).

SANDERS: Listen. I mean, you come in hot, and I love it.

You draw some parallels between cis women and divorced cis women and trans women. And you even dedicate this book to divorced cis women. And you write in that dedication, like me, they have had to face starting their life over without either reinvesting in the illusions from the past or growing bitter about the future.

I love that, and it's beautiful. Unpack that for me, and tell me how you got there.

PETERS: Well, I was in my 30s - I'm still in my 30s, but I was in my early 30s - and, you know, transition was kind of over for me. And there was a lot of drama when anybody transitions, and there was for me. And then I was looking around. And I was like, well, now what? How do I find meaning?

And the previous generation of trans women, I'm very grateful for them. But the - a lot of them were also kind of figuring out how to find meaning because things have really changed in the last 10 or 20 years. You know, 20 years ago, I think, the big question of her life, if you're a trans woman, is, like, just how do you survive? You know, how do you just be OK day to day? And I had a bigger horizon than just day to day.

And so I'd say to these other trans women - I'd say, well, how do you plan for five years? How do you plan for 10 years? And they'd say, I don't know, you know. Not all of them, but many of them.

And so then I was looking around for role models. And I was looking around for like, how do you make meaning after this? And I came across a lot of books by divorced cis women who got to this place, usually in their 30s, where they just suddenly had to start their life over. And there was a bunch of wisdom and ways of looking at the world in these books that I kept on returning to them. I was like, oh, why do I keep going back? And I was realized that, like, oh, actually, they were models for me on how to live because what I was finding in them is I was finding that they had experienced a break in life, you know, a moment of changing in which they had to reassess themselves and they had to be honest about who they were and what they wanted. And then they had to make a plan going forward. They couldn't stay stuck. And the kind of questions that they had to ask themselves were so similar to the questions that I had to ask myself as a trans woman about what I wanted, what I cared about. And I sort of began taking on their stances, the stances from these books and from these stories and from this media.

And I realized, also, though, that I had something that I wanted to say to them. They were teaching me something about womanhood, but there was a way of looking at gender that trans people have developed and that trans women have a way of thinking about gender that I really thought could be useful to them. And so I was like, well, I'm going to write a book that's the same kind of social comedy of errors, social realism as the books that taught me. And I want to write it in that vein, but I want to talk back. I want it to be a conversation between us.

SANDERS: Yeah.

In your life, you transitioned and got divorced kind of around the same time.

PETERS: I did, yeah. I mean, it was funny that divorce was like a metaphor for me or an analogy. It was like only, like, two years later that I was like, wait. I also got divorced. Like...

(LAUGHTER)

PETERS: I was like, I'm looking at it through this, like, you know, sophisticated literary lens. And that's why I, like, relate. And then I was like, no, wait. I'm actually a divorced woman, you know? And it was - I mean, I think that's one of the reasons why transition was very traumatic for me, is that it really was a break from so many things in my life. It was a break from my past. It was a break from my relationships. It was a break from the kind of opportunities.

You know, it's a little sometimes difficult. You know, people want to say, well, if you're trans or you're a woman, you're always a woman. But in my 20s, I was offered a lot of the opportunities that, like, a white man in America was offered. And it was shocking to me. It shouldn't have been. I should have realized. But it was - to actually feel it, the ways that those opportunities dropped away when I was suddenly like, you know, a transsexual woman and to have to sort of reassess without all of the normal supports that I had because I was also losing all those other supports, it was a hard period.

SANDERS: Coming up, Torrey tells me why discussing detransition isn't always welcome in the trans community and why she still talked about it anyway.

So the central premise and the central plot point in the book is these three people might create a family and raise a child together. It is all about, you know, pushing against the sometimes confining constraints of what we see as a usual marriage. Do you think that there is one big thing that you were trying to say with three people potentially raising one child together? Was there a big message there that you wanted to grapple with, or it was just a cool plot device to play with for a book?

PETERS: I think it was more the latter. I've always liked sort of triangles in literary plots, like something like "Great Gatsby" or - you know, there's triangles all over the place.

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: And so I've always enjoyed that. But - so to sort of answer more closely your question, I think what I was trying to get at was less prescribing to people, this is a way of doing this, so much as asking a question. That - I think that all three of those characters were kind of stuck in certain ways of seeing the world, and the book is about the things that they were sure of, their sort of biases and their judgments and that sort of - and their coping mechanisms, all of that stuff unraveling. You know, and as they unraveled, they moved closer together. And at the end, what I wanted them was I wanted them in a room together with all of their biases, all of their coping mechanisms, all of their sort of judgments stripped away from them. And then I wanted them to solve the problem of, like, how do you live? And that - the truth is, as a writer, I think that's a generational problem. How are we going to live now?

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: Because - I don't want to - no spoilers, but the book stops where it does because this is actually for readers to solve. Because I see a lot of, like, cis women I know, like the divorced woman that I dedicated to, but other women in my life, and definitely also other men in my life, where they're like, the ways that we've been doing things, like a sort of very strict nuclear family or very...

SANDERS: It doesn't work anymore.

PETERS: Yeah. Strong, kind of constraining gender roles or ideas about heterosexuality and, like, the way that it's conducted - people are like, this isn't working. So I read essays about - by straight cis women, and they have titles of things like heteropessimism. And it's like, this isn't working for anybody, you know? So I think the book is less an answer to this question than really trying to define the question through these experiences of three people who are actually quite different.

SANDERS: To hear you talk about that, how the central question is like, what do you do next after you figure out everything you have been doing isn't working, like, that as the crux of this book and this, like, way of seeing the world through a trans lens, if I'm big-picturing over the last year, I kind of want to say this last year of pandemic and lockdown has been a truly trans moment. Everything that we used to do seems like it doesn't work anymore. We might not ever return to what we were before. And we have to find a new way to live in this world and see ourselves in this world. This is the moment of transition for all of us.

PETERS: Absolutely, yeah. You said it better than I could have. So - but I think it's true. I mean, there's something I talked about in sort of the - in other places is an evolution of the literature of marginalized people, where there's different stages. And, like, sort of a first stage would be like, we're just like you. Like, we want your approval - to the dominant culture.

The second stage would be like, actually, we're nothing like you. Go away.

And then, like, a third stage would be like, we define ourselves separate from you. We don't have anything to do with you. We don't reject you or accept you. We're separate from you.

And then I think there's a fourth stage, which is what I think the trans literature is on right now and many types of things are on right now, where the dominant culture begins to understand itself through the terms set by the marginalized culture so that - like, you know, this happened with sexuality, where straight people now sort of understand the terms of their own sexuality through ideas and concepts that were created by queer people or queer scholars.

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: I think white people understand their own race and questions of race through work done by Black scholars and people of color. And that's kind of, like, the place that I'm, like, writing into. I'm writing into, like, this moment that I think is happening. And I hope that rather than being like, oh, we're losing something and we're scared, that it actually can be like a hopeful or playful moment.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. All right, back to the book. So writing about detransitioning in the book - that is not something that everyone in the trans community is actually comfortable with, right? And, like, in the book, you write about your trans character's discomfort with people who detransition. Why was it so important to you to write about a character who detransitions? And was there any fear about backlash from in the community?

PETERS: Yeah, 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, you know, trans people, in that way, shouldn't exist.

And so I think because it's been so weaponized, trans people are scared to talk about it. If you talk about like, oh, things are really hard - you know, a lot of people I know detransition because it was really hard to live as a trans woman and - or a 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, like, that whole conversation is a distraction, like - and that in order to detransition, you have to first transition. So therefore, detransition belongs to trans people. It's ours. And we shouldn't let other people weaponize it against us. And if it does belong to us, we should talk about what it actually means in an honest way and, like, a nonfearful way. And if you don't - if you can't talk about regret and you can't talk about it openly and sort of within the community, those regrets - they fester and they become shame.

SANDERS: It's so interesting hearing you talk about this and how the trans community grapples with the way other communities might see conversation about detransitioning. It feels a lot about this discourse that happened so much in and around Black art for a long time. And I think we've gotten over it. But there was this idea that, like, you couldn't share the family business for, like, widespread or white consumption. You couldn't have any conversations or art that would give the people that want to say bad things about Black people fodder. So everything in Black art and film and performance had to be performatively righteous, and it had to be good so that the enemies of Black people got no ammo. And I think we as a community have finally gotten past that and said, we get to make the full range of art as we see fit, just like the white people get to do. I don't know. I just hear parallels in that hearing you talk about feeling free to write about detransitioning.

PETERS: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I mean, I've mentioned Toni Morrison once already in this interview, but I think another quote of hers is that the very serious work of racism is distraction. And I feel like she rejected that distraction. She was like - 'cause she does write flawed characters. She writes difficult characters. And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: And for me, that was a model that was like - you know, you look at what actually gets talked about outside of trans community, and it's, like, bathroom bills, right? And, like, there is nothing more, like, of a ridiculous distraction than where someone pees. Like, it's an embarrassing, undignified conversation. And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...If you enter into that conversation, suddenly you're, like, lost in this, like, ridiculous - there's no way to be dignified in that argument, and so that distraction has won. So for me, it was like, detransition as it gets 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. I can't have - like, every story can't be a resilience story. Characters have to be messy. They have to make mistakes.

And I have to actually not be writing with the burden of representation. Like, my characters - they're not just trans women. They're very specific types of trans women. Like, I'm writing about, really, white trans women in Brooklyn who are like me. And if I try to represent all trans women, first of all, everyone will be like, that's not my story, so you've misrepresented me. And No. 2, I won't be able to say a lot. Like, the jokes that I make - they're, like, catty jokes, you know? Like, I make fun of people in the narrative voice, especially of race. And so I have to be really specific about who I make fun of if I want that to land. Like, a joke about someone like me in Brooklyn, you know, wanting a KitchenAid mixer or something like that - that...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...That joke...

SANDERS: You can do that.

PETERS: I can do that. And that joke works if I'm really specific to myself, if I'm not trying to represent all trans women. And so...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

PETERS: ...I kind of - in order to be, like, just funny, in order to tell a good joke, I can't do it with the burden of representation. And so I try to make it clear who I'm making fun of - and, you know, usually myself - in the book.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

PETERS: And that way, it lands. And the models for that I got from Black literature.

SANDERS: Coming up, how to view the act of parenting itself through a trans lens.

I want to get into how Ames came to be. I read that the character of Ames came out of a not-so-great trip that you took to Mexico.

PETERS: Mmm hmm. The voice of Reese, which is that sort of catty - like very high femme, catty voice, that was the voice that was easy for me. But finding the voice of Ames was a little bit harder, the sort of like - I think of Ames as very dissociated. Like, he's a little bit distanced from himself. He sort of watches what he does from outside of himself. And I was having a hard time in 2017. I had a friend who was getting a gender surgery in Guadalajara, which is - now there's more options in the United States, but there's sort of kind of famously trans girls go to Mexico and Argentina.

So I had gone with a friend to take care of her after her surgery in Guadalajara, and my passport hadn't yet been changed, the M/F gender marker on my passport. And I just really didn't want to deal with customs. And I had this suit, this sort of "Reservoir Dogs"-style suit hanging in my closet - you know, like, black suit, skinny black tie, white shirt - pretty skeezy suit, honestly. And...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

PETERS: ...I was like, well, I'll just wear this. So I did that. And of course, the airline lost my luggage. So I spent kind of, like, a week or two wandering around Guadalajara in this black, like, "Reservoir Dogs"-style suit. And I was having a hard time in my life. I was really - I did have a lot of regrets about stuff that I'd lost and my - you know, with the divorce. And things actually stopped hurting as much, like, when I was in this state. You know? Like, it was like armor.

You know, I'd go in. And I'd know that I looked weird, but I was just so far from myself in that moment that, you know, if people gave me a weird look or something, like, it just bounced right off of me. And I felt in some ways almost formidable in a way that I hadn't - I'd felt so raw after transition for so long that anybody just poking me wrong could hurt. And then I returned to this state in this suit, and I suddenly had this armor. And I was fearsome in a way that I wasn't normally, an untouchable in some ways in both the good and bad senses of that word.

And for me, that was sort of like - that place is where I started writing the character of Ames. Like, there's a way in which he's moved away from himself. And there's a kind of attractiveness almost like a - I use the word louche in it. There's like a louche attractiveness to him being in this way that he is. But, you know, then my luggage came. And I was like, oh, that was a weird week.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Let's write a book about it.

PETERS: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERS: So - and that was the voice of Ames.

SANDERS: Yeah. So Ames is detransitioning to be a man. And Ames wants this baby with Katrina, this woman. But Ames doesn't want to be a father, like, quote-unquote, "father." And that so stuck with me. And I grappled with that. And it's like, what does it mean when someone like Ames wants to keep living as a man, maybe even wants to build a family, but doesn't want to be a father? What does that mean?

PETERS: Well, I mean, I know about it specifically for Ames. For him, it was that when you're a father, it's - you have to be known. Like, you have to be known to your children, you know? And your children are going to find you out eventually. They're going to find you out in therapy. They're going to write books about you. Children make a study of their parents. And I think that Ames felt, because of his gender, that no matter what, if a study was made of him, he'd come out as a failure to the child. That's one piece of it.

And I think the second piece is that also the idea of a father - like, the way that people talk about fatherhood is like, you know, this sort of like potent figure was something that he was ultimately really, really uncomfortable with. That wasn't a role or responsibility that he wanted to take on. And so the idea of being a parent, you know, it seems like a distinction without meaning, the difference between being a father and a parent. But for him, I think, it was really important. He could be a parent. He could love a child as himself, but he couldn't love a child in the role of a father. You know, kind of riffing on that, for other people, I think that also this is like a - I think a lot about what people called, maybe a couple years ago, a crisis of masculinity, like, in this country.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

PETERS: And I kind of want to talk about pickup truck ads, like, which is a really random digression, which I didn't know I was going to make. But I used to think a lot about...

SANDERS: Let's do it.

PETERS: ...Pickup truck ads, where - like, it used to be like, why did you get a truck if you're a dad? Like, you get a truck because you're going to work all day, and you're going to take care of your family, and so you need a truck. And so the family is going to sacrifice, and they're going to put all this money into it so you can buy a truck so you can make money to take care of your family. But if you look at, like, pickup truck ads now, they're not about, can you take care of your family with this truck?

SANDERS: It's about looking manly.

PETERS: Exactly - and with a bunch of other dudes. Like, if you look at the picture, it's like a bunch of dudes getting muddy...

SANDERS: The kids aren't there.

PETERS: Yeah, like, getting muddy - like, look how strong my truck is with my bros or whatever. And the idea of masculinity as, like, a power versus, like, I'm going to take care of a family - like, they've become separated somehow. And, you know, that's extrapolating a lot from a pickup truck ad. But I do feel...

SANDERS: I don't know. It's working for me.

PETERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: I feel it.

PETERS: I do. I do, too. And so I think that, like, you know, the - there's a lot of - like, when Ames also wanted to be like, well, people could be like, well, there's a lot of different ways to be a father, and I just, like, want to look around at our culture and be like, is there, though?

SANDERS: Yeah. Well, and it's like - it stuck with me so much because I realized in reading about Ames and in seeing Ames ask this question, I realized I've quietly been asking myself this same question the last year or two without knowing it. Like, I want to be a dad one day. I'm 36 years old. I think it'd be cool to do it in the next few years. I don't know how to do it. I know it won't look like my parents' relationship because, like, they were straight and I'm gay. But I think a lot of what I'm dealing with and, like, the hesitation about how to do it is that I, in actuality, don't want to be a, quote-unquote, "father."

PETERS: Yeah.

SANDERS: I don't want to be my dad. I love my dad. He was good. But he was stoic and silent in this way that I can't be. And I want to figure out how to be a parent without being a father. And reading Ames experience that and ask that question confirmed that I have been asking that question myself, so I suppose perhaps another way in which those of us who aren't trans can begin to see our worlds through a trans lens, so thanks for that.

PETERS: I love that, actually, because so much of this book - you know, the - just my position, the way I ask the questions is about motherhood. And I hadn't actually considered the ways in which, like, there's also, like, an inverse of that for fatherhood. So I'm actually really grateful for you for telling me that.

SANDERS: Thank you. This book also, besides playing with the ideas of parenthood, it plays with the idea of adult romantic relationships, particularly queer romantic relationships, as mirroring in many ways parent-child relationships. And there's this lovely exchange with Thalia, Reese's friend, during Thalia's drag show, where Reese is waxing poetic about being a mother to Thalia at a certain moment and also being a mother to Amy, now Ames, when she was transitioning. And so much of the language about the queer relationships in this book deal with parent-child dynamics. And I realize that's also so much of the language of, like, gay relationships - father and son ideas. Do you think this conceptualization of romantic relationships through a parent-child lens - is it specifically a queer thing, or is it a thing that all relationships actually mirror?

PETERS: I think it's not. I think it's that queers named something that is the case for a lot of people, right? Like, I mean, this is like Freud...

SANDERS: Wow.

PETERS: ...Right? - where Freud is like, everybody wants to...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...You know, be with their mom or, like, Oedipal relationships and stuff - you know? - that...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...That it's all over the place. I think the thing is that queer people are really willing to do some, like, dangerous work around it, which is that...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...They're willing to, like, name that in erotic relationships. Now, suddenly, straight people, too, are all calling each other daddy. I don't know if this is something new.

SANDERS: And I hate it. I hate it.

PETERS: (Laughter) But...

SANDERS: They can't have that.

PETERS: But they're all doing it now.

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: And so it's like, well, you know, straight people are finally coming around to the fact that, like, there is an erotic component to these relationships, and it's - and the ways in which you talk about it and separate it, I think, is work that has largely been done, you know, by queers, especially because...

SANDERS: Yeah.

PETERS: ...Queers are also historically cast out from their families. So it's like...

SANDERS: They had to build these new families.

PETERS: Right. They had to build these new families. And sometimes they borrowed, you know, terms and ways of thinking from their old families. A lot of times, also, it's tongue-in-cheek. You know, like when Reese calls Thalia her daughter, she both means it and also is like, she's kind of pulling rank, you know, on Thalia. And that, for me, is like - I have trans daughters. And, like, when I say, like, you can't talk to your mom that way, it's like that's a joke because I'm obviously talking to, like, a fully formed adult who can do whatever she wants, you know? And I think that the fact that it's happening on both levels is a little bit like the pleasure of that scene for me.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. You know, we have talked about this book and themes around the book, and we've managed to not really give away any spoilers. So I'm proud of us for that.

PETERS: Yeah. Thank you.

SANDERS: Applause. Pats on the back. But I want to leave you with one last question. You told New York Magazine that writing this book was a, quote, "thought experiment for how to live as a trans woman." Now that this book is done and it's out in the world, what would you say as the scientist who led the experiment is the result of that experiment for you and your readers?

PETERS: I think that, sadly (ph), further experiments are ongoing.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERS: And I encourage other labs to take up the question.

SANDERS: OK. Torrey Peters, thank you so much for your book, for this conversation. I appreciate you and all you do.

PETERS: Well, thank you so much for having me.

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SANDERS: Thanks again to Torrey Peters. Her new novel, "Detransition, Baby," is out right now. Go read it. It's good and already a bestseller.

This episode was produced by Sylvie Douglis and Liam McBain, and it was edited by Jordana Hochman. Listeners, until Friday, be good to yourselves. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

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