Becoming Who We Are edited by Sammy Lisel & Hazel Newlevant

subtitled Real Stories About Growing Up Trans.

Happy Pride Month, y’all! I was so thrilled to have this land on my desk to officially launch Pride over here at The Frumious Consortium. Collecting nine real biographies of trans people and their childhoods, this is an excellent, inspirational collection that serves double-duty in assuring trans kids (and even some adults!) that it’s okay to be who you are, while also sharing with cis folks the interior lives of a demographic they may have yet had little experience with.

Sammy Lisel has done an excellent job in interviewing nine impressive transgender North Americans from all walks of life and reworking each of their life stories into a chapter of this highly readable graphic novel. The diversity is exceptional, in age, racial and cultural background, profession, and just in the multitude of life experiences that it took for each kid to grow up to be the person who they are today. It’s also really great to see teachers and entrepreneurs, park rangers and musicians, scientists and firefighters all represented in these pages, underscoring how trans people are integral parts of society and will flourish in their chosen fields as long as they’re given the right to live peaceably as who they are. Their stories are told with humor, honesty and verve, emphasizing the need for trans people to be able to exist as unreservedly as cis people do, and to be able to come out on their own terms.

Becoming Who We Are’s real genius, tho, lies in Hazel Newlevant’s editorial decision to assign each story to a different, extremely talented artist, underscoring once more the diversity of these stories and experiences. While the chapters are each unified in their theme of a trans person discussing the challenges of their childhoods and onwards before becoming the inspirational people that they are today, the contrast in artistic styles emphasizes that trans people are not a monolith, that they come from all walks of life. Just as importantly, there is no one “correct” way to be trans, as this book makes very clear both in text and imagery. We’re all unique individuals, regardless of whether we’re trans or cis, so it’s perfectly normal to have different paths to happiness.

Which is a very important lesson to impart, not only to kids but to anyone fearful of opening up about themselves. Representation matters in all forms, as Robin Aguilar’s tale here explicitly states. Books like this are important because they showcase how it’s possible for any trans person from any background to become a happy, thriving grown-up doing meaningful work to help uplift and advance the world. It’s hard to believe that someone like yourself can succeed if you don’t see people like you achieving the goals that you want to accomplish, too. The flipside of that, ofc, is how important it is for trans people who are secure and supported to stand up and lead by example. Given the much smaller percentages of out trans folks compared to cis adults in the world tho, books like this serve an important purpose in giving kids hope that things will get better, via concrete examples of trans people growing up and going on to do amazing things.

Becoming Who We Are edited by Sammy Lisel & Hazel Newlevant was published June 4 2024 by A Wave Blue World and is available from all good booksellers, including

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