If you’re a regular reader/visitor, you’ll know I don’t normally interject a lot of hyperbole into my reviews. Generally, I try to keep them well-grounded and professional, with just enough personality to add a little colour and (hopefully) make them a more interesting read. With that in mind, I beg your indulgence for just a moment, as I try to sum up Tristan Taormino’s Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica in a few words:
Absolutely amazing. Beautifully breathtaking. Compellingly creative. Deliciously diverse.
I could go on – after all, there are 22 letters I haven’t alliterated yet – but you get the point. On a list of my top 10 reads for the year, Tristan is looking down upon her peers from a very high perch indeed!
As she states in her introduction, this is a collection of “erotica by, for and about transfolk, FTMs, MTFs, genderqueers, gender outlaws, as well as two-spirit, intersex, and gender-variant people.” Almost immediately, you notice these are stories where gender (in all its forms) is almost taken for granted, without the ‘surprise confession’ or ‘shocking reveal’ common to mainstream erotica/porn, and without the arbitrary focus on simply passing or being acknowledged. This is a collection where trans lovers can feel intimately and comfortably at home amidst stories of being treasured, loved, desired, and adored.
Considering the wide variety of authors, genders, and subjects explored, I’m pleased to say there’s not a single story here that didn’t, on some level, resonate with me. Indeed, they are all wonderful, but there were certainly some stand-outs that I must call attention to:
"The Therapist and the Whore" by Giselle Renarde - Giselle at her romantic and thought-provoking best, turning the tables on our expectations with a kind, lovable, transsexual whore who serves as a remarkably effective bedroom therapist.
"Shoes Are Meant to Get You Somewhere" by Dean Scarborough - Plays to the clothes fetishist in me, complete with ballet slippers, stockings and garters, and a tightly laced corset, but it's also a remarkable literary dance of gender exploration.
"Taking the Toll" by Kiki DeLovely - Deliciously naughty and provocative, a tale of a young woman who is aroused by Sunday morning church bells, and her genderqueer lover who is only too happy to put her in a schoolgirl uniform and hear her confession.
"Dixie Belle" by Kate Bornstein - A gloriously genderqueer sequel to Huckleberry Finn, with young Huck settling quite contentedly into a new career as Miss Sarah Grangerford, high-class N'awlins whore. It's been years since I last read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, but Kate recaptures the magic perfectly.
"The Visible Woman" by Rachel K. Zall - This is a story that begins with an in-your-face fantasy of public confrontation, settles into a lovely domestic scene of transsexual bliss, and ends with the lovers playing to the voyeuristic public outside their apartment window.
"Canadian Slim" by Shawna Virago - Still erotic without being overtly sexual, this is the heart-warming story of a transsexual who has tired of being the fetish/freak secret partner, and who has found love with a fellow transsexual who fits her perfectly.
"Self-Reflection" by Tobi Hill-Meyer - Trippy and bizarre, this is one I'm cautious of saying too much about, but it doesn't get much sexier or self-aware than a post-op transsexual visiting her pre-op transsexual self for a little show-and-sell.
"Face Pack" by Penelope Mansfield - This is a bold, blatantly sexual story that challenges the pornographic mainstream, claiming the bukkake experience as a visual validation of the narrator's new-found femininity. It takes an act most would seem as vulgar or degrading, and transforms it into something cleansing and rewarding.
Not only are the stories contained here erotic, imaginative, and exciting, but they are also beautifully written. As Tristan asks in her introduction, “our language is severely limited when it comes to describing the bodies of transpeople,” and there is a significant challenge in writing stories that are both erotic and respectful. Fortunately, the authors here have the words to do so, and the talent to use those words well.
I’d like to leave you with a brief passage from Rachel K. Zall’s "The Visible Woman" that sums it up better than I ever could:
A stranger looking at us now would call us “MTFs” instead of women, would name us by our genitalia—“pre-op,” “nonop”—would call us trans before they called us anything else, if they did call us anything else. A stranger would call our bodies gender ambiguous: her cock about to enter me, my clit poking out of her fist, her tiny breasts on her large rib cage and the shadow across my cheeks and chin. A stranger would say that, and that stranger would be wrong: our bodies aren’t ambiguous at all, only the meanings people misapply to them. She’s a woman and her beautiful body is a woman’s body; I am a woman and seeing how beautiful her body is makes me think my body might be beautiful too.
Take Me There indeed . . . I just hope, somewhere down the line, Tristan chooses to take us there again.