Book Review: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Numerous thoughts on Detransition, Baby buzz in my head as I begin the review. I acknowledge it is slightly tricky to critique this book as I am saturated with mixed feelings. Detransition, Baby written by Torrey Peters, is just as whip-smart as the title suggests. It is a story of a transwoman, Reese, who is offered a role of a co-parent, by her ex and his girlfriend.

Reese and Amy were a solid trans-couple before the latter decided to detransition to Ames. After going separate ways, Ames begins dating his boss and partner, Katrina who is unaware of his past as a transgender woman. While their relationship evolves, Katrina becomes pregnant with Ames’ child. He, then, suggests that they begin an unconventional family alongside Reese, who is keen on becoming a mother.

“IF YOU ARE a trans girl who knows many other trans girls, you go to church a lot, because church is where they hold the funerals.”

Torrey Peters, Detransition, Baby

Peters excellently dissects a wide range of themes through these three main characters. One doesn’t fully fathom how difficult and stigmatised it is for a transwoman to broach the subject of motherhood in our society, let alone be one. After adopting a child, begins her battle of proving to society why it is normal, not monstrous/perverted, to want a child. Until the end, she has to reiterate her stance of being as deserving a mother as a cis woman next to her.

Although flawed, I loved Reese. She is confident and unapologetic about her opinions. For a transwoman, dating doesn’t come easy. It is difficult to find someone to truly love and accept you, especially when there are chasers to dodge. (Chasers: men who fetishize transwoman). Reese explains her inclination of dating a chaser than being repulsed for having a penis. I found this inference utterly thought-provoking.

Reese nonchalantly notes frequent suicides in the trans-community. The subsequent funerals are more like “social events” to meet and greet. The author also analyses a transwoman’s embarrassment of accidentally revealing ‘masculine mannerisms’, followed by the ‘guilt of being an incomplete woman’. As a reader, it dawns upon you that transitioning is beyond physical alteration.

Via Katrina’s lens, Peters boldly explores how a woman is disgraced for not wanting to become a mother. She is deemed ‘unwomanly’ or “too obsessed with herself, lacking some basic capacity”. Even if she does birth a child, society doesn’t let her escape this brunt. Those around continually criticise how she should or shouldn’t be mothering her child.

Through Ames, I saw the frustration of living in a body that you can’t fully associate with. The fear of being seen in your true self only worsens when you seek to come out of the closet.

Detransition, Baby is extremely character-driven. The plotlines keep shifting between Ames/Amy and Reese’s past and present. Although most anecdotes gave me something to mull over, I felt a lot of them also side-tracked from our main story. Moreover, the shift in timelines left me confused many times.

Peters’ outlook forces us to relook at the flawed social structure. It gives voice to the little known challenges. More importantly, it makes us ponder uncomfortable issues and become wiser than we were today.

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