Review: Transparent by Cris Beam
Title: Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers
Author: Beam, Cris
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Gender
Publisher / Year: Harcourt / 2007
Why I Read It: I’d heard good things about it, and enjoyed Beam’s young adult book I Am J.
Date Read: 09/02/12
Cris Beam moved to Los Angeles with her partner and was feeling bored with little to do to occupy her time. After hearing about a small school for GLBTQ youth who had no where else to go, she decided to check it out. She ended up being roped into teaching weekly and grew to love and respect the kids who came to her class. After leaving the school she kept in contact with many of them, both providing a sounding board to talk to and helping with resources and generally learning about life, and researching for this book.
Throughout this book Beam shares about the school at which she works, the realities of life for many transgender teenagers who have often had to run away if they haven’t been kicked out and so are living on the street and in various group homes, and about a few of the kids in general – Christina, Dominique, Foxxjazell, and Ariel. Although it can be a depressing read, knowing what the kids are living through and how few resources exist for them, it is also a great resource to learn about what resources they are, and how they actually cope on the streets. It is a life unlike one that I’ve ever known, yet it is one that is immediately understandable, I think.
Through the various girls that Beam follows we learn about the various options they have, and the ways they get there. I always felt that Beam respected them and really cared about them. In that way this is a story that isn’t quite objective investigative reporting as people like to see it. She lived with them and hung out with them and helped them. That being said, having that closeness and respect only enhances the quality of any reporting, in my mind.
Definitely an interesting book that I would recommend to all. If you want to know more about living as a transgender woman (Beam mostly followed and spoke with girls and women) or as gender queer, if you are interested in life on the streets, or if you are interested in just learning more about life, this is a book to pick up. It will make you think and hopefully change you, making you both more aware and more knowledgeable.