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The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  475 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Lambda Literary Award finalist

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 bathho
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,841)
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Ellen Shull
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
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!
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
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
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
Sharon Langridge
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
Just go out and read it already, mmkay?
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
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.
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
Sassafras Lowrey
Bear is one of my favorite queer essayists - witty and earnest Bear's stories are so fun to get lost in!
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
Katy Vance
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.
Emily Ann
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.

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 3 of 5 stars
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
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.
Joseph Burgess
Bergman's inability to view themself within a broader context of queer and transgender rights makes the book ultimately uninteresting. It ends up coming across as a diary or blog of someone concerned with queer/transgender issues, but with few if any interesting stories or anecdotes. By failing to embrace either the memoir or essay format, "The Nearest Exit" misses its mark.
Aug 07, 2012 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbtq
Various essays and thoughts about trans rights, lives, relationships, love, sex. Also a lot of Jewish jokes and stories in there which I found very enjoyable. Makes you think about yourself, your identity, the way you love, the sex and relationships you have, etc., even if you aren't trans.

And it's funny :)
This is a really interesting book of essays written about being non gender normative in a very gender binary society. They're easy to read, but also give a great glimpse into Bergman's life and hir interactions with family, Judaism, traveling, health care, sex and starting a family.
Awesome book. I found the chapter on shame particularly powerful (not to mention Relevant To My Interests). I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who's interested in trans* issues, and/or anyone who feels that gender as we're "supposed" to do is unpleasantly confining.
I was tempted to knock off a star for the sentence, "There's pretty solid research to show that houseplants wilt if you speak negatively to them all the time and thrive if you compliment them", but the rest of the book made up for that tidbit of misinformation.
A short, sweet, funny, moving & thought-provoking little volume. Bergman extrapolates on what it means to be a queer/Jewish/transmasculine/female-bodied person/activist/daddy-to-be in today's world. Witty, lyrical, intelligent, beautifully written.
The book was slow up to about 60 pages in. Then it seemed the book started really picking up and was very enjoyable and intriguing till the end. I especially enjoyed his essay on "passing". I believe it was about 3/4 in.
James Weisbach
While I liked so much of this book, I particularly identified with the sections where ze talked about being a Jewish trans man. I think hir comments about the intersection of those two identities was spot on.
Intelligent, funny essays about how awesome/difficult it is to be a queer Jewish "transmasculine thing" in a predominantly heteronormative world. Bear makes my heart grin & giggle.
I enjoyed the stories but I was less impressed by the analysis woven into them. Still, I'm glad I read it and it's given me a better understanding of the author who is a friend of mine.
I picked this up in the library without knowing who S. Bear Bergman was. I now know more about S. Bear Bergman and more about myself. I would recommend it to anyone!
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  • Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States
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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...
Butch Is a Noun Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter Backwards Day The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

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“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.” 7 likes
“So please, for the love of gender- go bloom. Or water someone else while they do.” 6 likes
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