One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2014
A Junior Library Guild selection
A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens. Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. 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.
Click for Susan’s explanation about why she wrote Beyond Magenta, along with a short reading from the book.
Here are a few of the many organizations where transgender youth, their families, and friends can get help, information, and support.
Buzzfeed: Thinking Beyond Pink and Blue.
I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids): Photographing Beyond Magenta – by Susan Kuklin.
Kirkus: It’s the Person, Not the Gender.
Publishers Weekly: Beyond Magenta Spotlights Transgender Teens.
School Library Journal: Beyond Magenta: SLJ Talks to Susan Kuklin About Her Book on Transgender Teens.
YA Interrobang: Beyond Transgender Stereotypes: Author Susan Kuklin.
“[Kuklin] brings her intimate, compassionate and respectful lens to the stories of six transgender young people. In verbal and, when the subjects have given permission, visual profiles, readers meet transgender teens with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. They hear from teens who identify fully as female or male, teens who identify as neither male nor female, and one teen who is intersex. Their stories are told largely in the teens’ own words, with only a few italicized interpolations to clarify or contextualize a point or to describe a facial expression or inflection readers cannot see or hear. In photographs, readers see Nat, who attends a performing-arts high school in New York City and uses the personal gender pronouns themand they, carrying their violin on New York’s High Line. Christina, who attends Fashion Institute of Technology, is pictured shopping for clothes, proudly displaying a school project and hugging her mother. Images of the young people before their transitions are often included but, appropriately, do not serve as focal points for their chapters. Similarly, sex and genitalia are discussed frankly but are rarely what matters most. The collective portrait that emerges from these narratives and pictures is diverse, complex and occasionally self-contradictory—as any true story should be. Informative, revealing, powerful and necessary. (author’s note, glossary, resource list)”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“In a sorely needed resource for teens and, frankly, many adults, author/photographer Kuklin shares first-person narratives from six transgender teens, drawn from interviews she conducted and shaped with input from her subjects. The six “chapters” read like personal histories, with Kuklin interjecting occasional context and helping bridge jumps in time. Readers will gain a real understanding of gender as a spectrum and a societal construct, and of the challenges that even the most well-adjusted, well-supported transgender teens face, from mockery by peers and adults alike to feelings of isolation and discomfort in their own bodies. When readers meet New York City teenager Christina, she has gotten into a knock-down fight on the subway with two girls who were making fun of her; although Kuklin’s color and b&w portraits appear throughout, 19-year-old Mariah requests no photographs of her be used, confessing, “I’m not ready for people to see me.” While Kuklin’s subjects are candid about the difficulties of coming out as transgender to family and friends and the patience that transitioning often requires, their honest, humorous, and painful remarks about their relationships with gender are often downright revelatory. “Because I’m perceived as male, I get male privileges. It weirds me out a little bit,” says Cameron, whose PGP (preferred gender pronoun) is the plural “they.” Nat, who also prefers “they,” is relieved when diagnosed as intersex. “It proved what I had been feeling all along. I was not only emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually both sexes; I was physically both sexes, too. This is who I am.” A q&a section, author notes, glossary, and print and online resources close out the book. But its chief value isn’t just in the stories it reveals but in the way Kuklin captures these teenagers not as idealized exemplars of what it “means” to be transgender but as full, complex, and imperfect human beings. As Kuklin writes, “My subjects’ willingness to brave bullying and condemnation in order to reveal their individual selves makes it impossible to be nothing less than awestruck.” She isn’t wrong. “—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Kuklin’s book profiles six transgender teens in both their own words and the author’s excellent photographs. The result is a strikingly in-depth examination of the sometimes clinical complexities of being transgender, even as Kuklin’s empathy-inducing pictures put a human face on the experience. The profiles are evenly divided between FTM (female to male) and MTF (male to female) teens. Also represented are a variety of races and ethnicities, and included are one teen who is intersex and another who regards themself as pansexual (several of the teens choose to identify themselves with the gender- neutral pronouns they, them, and their). 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. Further information is contained in an appended interview with Dr. Manel Silva, clinical director of the HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens) program at the New York City–based Callen- Lorde Community Health Center, which has served the needs of several of the profiled teens. 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.” —Booklist, starred review
“Being a teenager is hard enough on most days—school, friends, pressures from family and society, homework. But teens who struggle with their identities, specifically as to which gender, if any, they associate with, often find themselves with no support system and an upward battle in making those around them understand the process through which they are fighting. Beyond Magenta documents the stories of six teenagers, in their own words, who consider themselves transgender or gender neutral.Their stories are about pain and power of transition, their daily lives, and how they feel society and their families and friends view them.
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. This book is worth having on any shelf in any library and will not linger there long. Kuklin includes a glossary and resources for further reading and research, a carefully compiled list that will be useful for anyone who reads this book. In short, this is a highly informative resource that is powerful, respectful, honest, and
most importantly, long overdue."—Amanda Fensch, VOYA
"The strength and honesty of six transgender teens stand out as their stories are told by a large cast of outstanding performers, including Nick Podehl, Roxanne Hernandez, Nancy Wu, and Marisol Ramirez. Each tells a complex personal tale of realization, coming out, communication with family and friends, struggles, and triumph through adversity. Each performer speaks in the gender of the person’s current self-identity, which is occasionally confusing, although a main narrator, reading Kuklin’s (No Choirboy) words as she conducted these interviews, provides context for each teen’s story. The teens are voiced in a totally believable way with various regional accents. They tell the stories as flawed but full human beings, and as they talk about bullying, mental health, clinical history, and problems with family and friends, listeners will be inspired by their lives."—School Library Journal, starred review