An anthology written by and for trans youth, Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words, is full of passionate, heartfelt works on themes from childhood to bodies to mental health. The collection – comprised of stories, poems, essays, and visual art – was curated from the work produced during multiple writers’ retreats for Canadian trans youth. The all-trans adult mentors – ranging from emerging to established artists, authors, activists, and scholars – taught and assisted attendees, with volunteers providing emotional support. The result is a thoughtful anthology by youth aged 10 to 18.
Every chapter begins with a question posed to the reader, such as “Can you think of other areas in which family acceptance is important for you? For example, is it important in such life choices as choosing friends or hobbies?” The reflective questions written by editors Herriot and Fry, who also oversaw the retreats, draw on concepts and themes from the stories and invite readers to connect. Other informational aspects include recommended reading lists and advice from trans scholars, authors, and activists, with important terms like cisgender, patriarchy, and misogyny emphasized through italicized, bold lettering. Filled with hope, love, and anger, the collection engages innovatively with topics that include voice dysphoria, pronoun usage, and parental acceptance.
Whether the tone is joking or heavy-hearted, the anthology amplifies and unites these often-ignored voices and is a startling testament to these kids’ resiliency. In Owen Miller’s “When You Call Me She,” he describes being misgendered as “feel[ing] like dead girl’s blood is smeared across my mouth.” Other entries are playful and happy, and some, like Luna’s “Boy or Girl?,” come with an inspirational ending.
While Growing Up Trans is unlikely to be a cover-to-cover read, it can be returned to repeatedly for guidance, comfort, and connection. The experiences of trans children and youth still aren’t an oft-discussed topic, and these stories are essential entry points that cisgender questioning and trans kids will find helpful.