Journeys of discovery

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (One World; £14.99); reviewed by Talia Drew.

Purchasing this novel, I was unsure what to expect. It turned out to be a more unexpected story than I could have possibly imagined! The topic of detransitioning is controversial, emotive and largely unspoken about within media and popular culture, though Peters does so with insight, compassion and wit.

We are thrust into the chaotic and turbulent world of Reese, a transgender woman on a journey of exploration. Together, the reader and Reese consider femininity, womanhood, identity, relationships and motherhood. Reese is on a relatable search for connection, acceptance and love. Romantic unfulfillment, questioning and rejection litter the plot, developing our empathy for Reese and the other main characters, Ames and Katrina.

The narrative jumps around from present to past, creating a sense of dysphoria and confusion that mirrors the experiences of Ames, who was assigned male at birth, transitioned to female, and then detransitioned back to male. The chaotic narrative invites the reader into Ames’s mind, facilitating a sense of understanding of the pain and uncertainty he feels about himself. We traverse this journey of discovery alongside him, as he is faced with decisions about parenthood when his partner Katrina, a cisgender woman, unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Katrina, Ames and Reese are brought together over the prospect of parenthood and come to an unusual parental agreement, challenging traditional heteronormative perspectives of childrearing. Katrina experiences challenges in understanding and accepting Ames whilst confronting her own issues in relation to race, relationships and motherhood. Each character fights an individual battle. Each is vulnerable and loveable in their own right.

While littered with humour and irony throughout, this is certainly not an easy read. It deals with important, harrowing concepts including suicide, miscarriage and the maltreatment and abuse of trans women. Peters enables the reader to engage with these issues through her captivating storytelling. Prepare to feel sad, happy, angry and any emotion in between. In covering the terrain associated with detransitioning, it’s worth noting that this book is not promoting detransitioning, it is simply a portrayal of a fictionalised lived experience of it. The provocative title of the novel does exactly what it set out to do: provoke discussion, reflection and consideration of experiences that are less understood and rarely conceptualised in fiction.

This book moved me, educated me and entertained me simultaneously. As a trainee psychologist, I feel it’s important to engage with perspectives and narratives that differ from my own lived experience, and this book helped me do exactly that.

- Reviewed by Talia Drew, Trainee Clinical Psychologist

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