Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You” as Want to Read:
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  677 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humor and grace, these essays deal with issues from women's spaces to the old boys' network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Arsenal Pulp Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

Luna by Julie Anne PetersBeing Emily by Rachel GoldBeautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-MillsI am J by Cris BeamParrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Booklist for Trans Teens
26th out of 245 books — 333 voters
Refuse by Elliott DeLineA Boy Like Me by Jennie WoodParrotfish by Ellen WittlingerI am J by Cris BeamBecoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green
FTM / Trans Men
12th out of 176 books — 107 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,881)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Ellen Shull
Mar 13, 2010 Ellen Shull rated it really liked it
Bear strikes again. Amusing and amazing--"Hey, I resemble that remark!" moments abound, where you would *never* expect them, at least not if you're not a formerly butch-identified New York Jew trannyfag (and before any political correctivists get too excited, I'm using the author's terms for hirself).

Bear saves the best for last. In the final essay, ze outright rejects the negativity, the dys-phorias and the non-conformity and all that usually surrounds gender and comes up with a pure positivist
QUICK POINT: I find it a bit surprising how many reviews use the wrong pronouns. In the book Bear is pretty clear on it and one would hope folks reading it would understand.

Thanks, but I just had to make that point.

Last December I had a chance to see Bear when Ze was doing a tour with Ivan Coyote. Previous to the event I was unfamiliar with Bear's work, but found Ze's personality and style very appealing and so left the event with a copy of this book. It has taken me awhile to get around to re
Mar 24, 2015 Aaron rated it really liked it
Shelves: trans, k, non-fiction
Best essays (so far - only 1/2 of the way through the book so far):

- the nearest exit may be behind you (on always making sure you have a way to escape)
- roadside assistance (about wanting potential homophobes to know, after they've benefited from your help, who has helped them)
- it only takes a minute I (very short vignettes)
- dutiful grandchild (in the old age home, only one gender matters)
- when will you be having surgery? (there are many reasons to answer no)
- new year (busting them with kin
Mar 22, 2012 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Bear Bergman is an incredibly gifted storyteller. Some of these pieces should be mandatory reading if you're a human; one in particular, about a harrowing plane ride and 100-mile drive over the Canadian border for compassionate health care, should be required for anyone who works in the medical profession. Can't recommend it highly enough!
I was going back and forth on my opinion of this book the entire time I was reading it.
At the start of it, I was getting annoyed at the author's use of the word "tranny", because this word really offends me and has been used to insult me in the past. I realize that it was not meant to offend in this case, however, so I finally decided not to let it bother me anymore.
After getting over this, I found I disagreed with what the author was saying, but I was finding just as much of the book fascinatin
Jan 17, 2016 Emmy rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful. Funny, interesting, compelling, thoughtful, honest. I recommend this book to everyone, but particularly to people who are queer, trans, or know and love someone who is. I can't describe how great it is to read something that you think and feel in a book, things that you weren't sure anyone else thought or felt. Or the feeling of reading in a book that exactly what and who you are is ok, and it's ok that you aren't exactly sure about who and what you are either. The feeli ...more
Sacramento Public Library
In The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, S. Bear Bergman explores life in the gray areas of the gender spectrum. Bergman examines such everyday things as feeling safe in a public restroom or a doctor’s office, while also exploring larger issues such as getting one’s husband pregnant or trying to get through Customs with the “wrong” gender marker one’s passport. Insightful and hilarious, affirming and poignant, this book provides a beautifully written, brutally honest, and delightfully funny descri ...more
Apr 20, 2016 DW rated it liked it
I heard about this book from Mitch Grassi. I have two acquaintances and two friends who are transgender. I was not exactly thrilled to be born female, particularly earlier in life, but I've gotten used to it and I'm certain that if I were born male I would have gotten used to that. I picked this book up hoping for some insight into what exactly people feel that they can't do in their natural body (is it really just sex? I mean, it's 2016, women can do whatever they want, like become engineers, o ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir, glbtq
This was an excellent follow-up to my experience reading Gender Failure. Bergman writes in-depth about trans issues in society, and while ze also shares many, many stories about hir life (what I loved about Gender Failure), each one tied back to the big picture of politics, society, gender, and everything else. I loved the concepts of "reading" vs. "passing", trans people having excellent problem solving skills, and there being a place for those who are outside the gender binary.

Bergman writes c
Feb 25, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it
Shelves: queer, nonfiction
An interesting collection of essays from a transmasculine perspective. Bear Bergman has a witty and relatiable voice, but she doesn't cover much in the way of new ground here.
Jun 15, 2010 Stacy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Fantastic, thought-provoking and funny collection of essays on gender, politics, and just getting through life when you don't quite fit the regular mold.
Sep 24, 2010 Rosemary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recently
Just go out and read it already, mmkay?
Aug 27, 2016 Marika rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grsm-books
Oh my goodness, this book. This an absolutely wonderful piece of literature that I recommend to every trans person ever. (Though, I do warn that trans slurs are used, and while this use is by a trans author in reference to hirself, I still recognize that they can be triggering to read.) Cis folks, I hope you read this book, I hope you get something out of it. It's certainly worth a read. But, trans folks, this is the sort of book that we don't see very often. It feels real and relatable, while b ...more
Dec 01, 2015 aj rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
I really really enjoyed reading this book. I giggled, smirked, felt some sympathy tears, and felt affirmed throughout the essays. I read the full book in one sitting (great for travel! especially with the cover image of someone climbing through an airplane emergency door) and immediately started to wonder who I would recommend it to.

Bear writes about Being Bear in the tone of the playful uncle who wants to tell you all about your mom stealing cigarettes from grandma. Ze has a wonderful family li
Piacevole, soprattutto la prima parte. Brevi capitoletti, spesso ironici ed autobiografici che spiegano la fluidità della identità e la necessità di non costringersi ad omologarsi ma di ascoltare sempre se stessi. Per tutti coloro che vogliono avvicinarsi all'identità di genere con mente aperta ed anche per molti che ancora sono alla scoperta della propria.
Bear Bergman si definisce queer ed utilizza il termine nel modo piu' inclusivo possibile, è un fautore dell'autodeterminazione e della liber
Fred Langridge
Jan 01, 2015 Fred Langridge rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, non-fiction
I spotted the spine of this in a photo of someone else's bookshelf and thought it looked possibly interesting, and then I wolfed it down in a couple of days because it engaged me so strongly.

It's a collection of essays on one person's experience of being transgender and genderqueer and queer. My (e-book) copy is now full of bookmarks and highlightings - so many bits rang so many bells for me.
One thread probably of more interest to me than to most people I'd recommend it to is stuff about being
Jan 25, 2012 Eli rated it it was amazing
I don't know why it took me so long to discover S. Bear Bergman; I'd been hearing about hir for years but it took me a while to catch on. This book is a great introduction to hir work; the essays in it are wry, knowing, the literary equivalents of a jocular nudge that quickly turns into a warm tight hug. Bear is a strong voice for queers and trans folk of all stripes, but also makes short work of Jewish identity, transnational relationships, and the wonders of bringing a small thing into a big q ...more
Lisa M.
Nov 08, 2010 Lisa M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essay
I don't always use this site regularly, so this review will not be as fresh as it could have been. This book wasn't exactly what I expected it to be, but that wasn't a problem for me. I didn't know who S. Bear Bergman was or how important he was/is to the gender-queer movement when I started to read this book. From a brief review I had read, I expected a young, "hip," and funny gender queer account of life. Instead, I recieved an experience that was much more complex! This book is told from Berg ...more
Jackie Bolen
Jun 04, 2015 Jackie Bolen rated it really liked it
It's entertaining enough, but like a lot of the stuff seems kind of repetitive. I felt like I could have put the book down 1/2 way through and not really missed that much.
Rhia Hellmuth
Jul 13, 2016 Rhia Hellmuth rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Overall, it was a nice collection of essays. I laughed, I thought, I was challenged. But somewhere in the middle I lost interest and almost didn't finish it.
Sassafras Lowrey
Jul 04, 2014 Sassafras Lowrey rated it it was amazing
Bear is one of my favorite queer essayists - witty and earnest Bear's stories are so fun to get lost in!
May 20, 2016 Ramona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, gsd, 2016
I enjoyed this book and I'm glad I read it as it has made me view gender in a whole new way.
May 12, 2016 Betty rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. Run, do not walk, to your nearest indie bookstore and grab a copy today.
Shay Gonzales
One time I ran into Bear Bergman in a bathroom. To run into another transmasculine genre-d persyn in a public restroom you're not designed to enter is pretty great, in and of it self. Imagine my suprise, years later, when I ran into another transmasculine genre-d person in a book, sharing their experience and perspective and position in humourous, strong and kind prose, in a voice without apology or any non-decorative hesitation. I'm not this person, but for a few hours I felt I was more than I ...more
Katy Vance
Mar 26, 2011 Katy Vance rated it it was amazing
This book was stellar! Bear is funny, intellectual and feeling. Ze made me think about gender, religion, love, family, judaism, and sexuality. This book made me grow, a trait of any truly excellent book. Some people won't like it, because it will make some people uncomfortable. But I think that being uncomfortable is a good thing, because we are forced to stretch and bend. Exploring what we believe and we think we know about ourselves, our families and our friends can only be good for the world.
George Ilsley
Sep 08, 2015 George Ilsley rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, gay, glbt
Fascinating but uneven. This is a collection of pieces rather than a book, and as such, there is considerable overlap and revisiting of themes. I appreciate how Bergman's self-identity keeps changing and the courage it takes to stand up and own that in a world that tries to put people into boxes and wants to keep them there. I started skipping around and enjoyed that immensely. However, when I tried to read the volume from the beginning, there were places I had to skim.
Emily Ann
Aug 24, 2011 Emily Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, queerness
I LOVE THIS BOOK. Bear is an outstanding writer. My thinking was pushed, my choice of language has changed and I feel like a better person for having read this -- not in the self-congragulatory "yay! you win queer points for having read a queer book!", but in a way that feels like I've gotten somewhere in my personal understanding of gender in society (and the new place is better).

Read it, share it, talk about it. Talk to ME about it.

Apr 13, 2013 Rory rated it liked it
The first few chapters were strong - funny and meaningful - but after that my interest waned. Part of the issue, for me, was that I have no connection to or particular affection for the butch/femme dynamics that so shaped Bergman's youth. Ze does offer some interesting observations about gender roles and being an outsider. Fair warning for those who prefer not to see the t-slur - Bergman uses it frequently to describe hirself and other trans* people.
Nov 03, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
Recommended to Sue by: April
Shelves: memoirs, k
A collection of essays on gender issues, which I'm reading any time I have a few minutes...

Some of these essays were great & I found others became rather tiresome (basically agreeing with April). Like her, I especially enjoyed -
. The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You.
. Roadside Assistance.
. Dutiful Grandchild
. New Year - probably my favorite
. I'm Just Saying

& I also liked -
. While You Were Away
. Wrap/t
. Today I Am a Man
Jan 10, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I think it can be a bit difficult to write balanced review of something you experience very viscerally, so I will simply say: I loved this book. It wasn't perfect, and some essays spoke to me more deeply than others, but that is only to be expected in such a collection. What is important is that I loved it, I'm very glad I read it, and I plan on buying my own copy so I can re-read it whenever I want to.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 96 97 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
  • Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
  • Boys Like Her: Transfictions
  • GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary
  • Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue
  • Transgender History
  • First Spring Grass Fire
  • PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality
  • Kicked Out
  • Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
  • In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives
  • Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers
  • From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond
  • Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender
  • Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word)
  • Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism
S. Bear Bergman is a storyteller, a theater artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. Ze is the author of Butch Is a Noun (reissued with a new foreword by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010) and Lambda Literary Award-finalist The Nearest Exit May be Behind You (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009) as well as the editor (with the inimitable Kate Bornst ...more
More about S. Bear Bergman...

Share This Book

“One bright pansy popping through a sidewalk crack will get weeded or stepped on; it's not until twenty fabulous flowers bust through and the pavement is ruined anyway that someone decides maybe it isn't a sidewalk at all, but a flower garden. So please, for the love of gender--go bloom.” 9 likes
“So please, for the love of gender- go bloom. Or water someone else while they do.” 6 likes
More quotes…