Review: Transitions of the Heart by Rachel Pepper

Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant ChildrenTransitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children by Rachel Pepper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I settled down yesterday afternoon to peruse Transitions of the Heart and couldn’t put it down until the sun set. Each of the stories in this collection compound the unifying message of the book–love your child unconditionally, whether they conform to society’s (and your) expectations or not. The essays come from a wide range of individuals with varying experience with writing, but even the most simply written stories sing with voices that resound with truth, strength, and transformational love. I was delighted at the diversity Rachel Pepper collected here: varying religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, childhood upbringings, and parenting styles. And the perspective is unique as well. The stories come from the mothers, rather than the children. While this area of literature is still very new, most books are about the experiences of trans* and gender variant individuals, and not from the perspective of the families and parents who must learn to accept and support, or lose their child.

As a queer woman and trans ally, reading this book was both poignantly painful and a spiritual tonic. I welcomed the bravery of these women to fight their fears for the sake of their children and to share their experiences with the world, so that more people can educate themselves and understand the struggle for survival and validation so many transgender and gender variant children go through. I also hope this book will find itself in the hands of other parents who are struggling in the same ways, and that it will give them hope and strength.

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A bit of Trans- Poetics

I just got out of my Trans- Poetics class with the always fabulous Rebekah Edwards. We are examining two bodies of work, Transgender Theory/Studies and Translation Theory, and discovering how they inform each other and create new meanings.

This is shaping up to be an amazing experience, with a bunch of beautiful minds. We discussed Susan Holbrook’s essay, “Lifting Bellies, Filling Petunias, and Making Meaning through the Trans- Poetic”  about the trans- moments Gertrude Stein’s poem “Lifting Belly,” and Clare Sears’ “Electric Brilliancy: Cross-Dressing Law and Freak Show Displays in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco,” against one of our readings last week, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “The Politics of Translation.” My focused interest for the last few weeks has been the way bodies interpret other bodies (bodies meaning not just people but groups of people and institutions, as well as the body as something separate from the self), or translate aesthetic. In these pieces, especially the Sears one, we discussed the way the private/public dichotomy, gender norms, racism, nationalism, and bodies policing bodies all connect, and how these might relate to “trans-ing,” a term we will work towards defining all semester.

Rebekah schooled us on the Ugly Laws, which appeared in many cities across the U.S. in the early 1900’s, policing what kinds of bodies were allowed to be in “public display” and what kinds were “unsightly.” A fellow classmate, L., mentioned something very spot-on in relation to the interpretation of the law and the translation process from written word to punitive action: “[this law thing acts as an example/makes visible] the instability of meaning that creates space for trans-ing.”

For this class, we are also supposed to have a weekly blog with rotating roles. This week I wrote an integration of Sears’ and Holbrook’s texts. If you want to read that, and the description of my 30-day praxis, see below.


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The Big DayMay 25th, 2013
College is over! I have my degree!
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