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Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,402 ratings  ·  751 reviews
A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preferen
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Candlewick Press
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Avery It's called "good reads" not "only books that tell a twisted life where everyone lives happily ever after reads". Goodreads does not write the books, …moreIt's called "good reads" not "only books that tell a twisted life where everyone lives happily ever after reads". Goodreads does not write the books, it includes them. If this is too much for you you should not have read it, it is YA for a reason and a nonfiction novel. They tell stories of real children and some of them are abused. Not because Goodreads is disrespectful but because the world we live in *news flash* is terrible and unfair. The whole point of telling stories is to show everyone's experience is different and to educate. If you are uncomfortable by the horrible events included, which you should, then find ways to support survivors of sexual abuse instead of shunning anything that dares expose you to it.(less)
Jeanne I just finished reading that section, and while I agree it's important to respect people's personal narratives, I think the author/interviewer could h…moreI just finished reading that section, and while I agree it's important to respect people's personal narratives, I think the author/interviewer could have done a better job at contextualizing it. I as an adult could understand that their actions were a result of the many ways our society fails our most vulnerable, but teens reading this might not have that context. The author editorialized at the start of the book quite a bit, explaining things the first interviewee said that a reader might not know. I though this section had very little of that, and I think it would have been helpful. The reality is that trans people are often at a higher risk for being targeted for sexual abuse, and I think giving some information/stats about that would have put the personal narrative in a larger context that highlighted an important issue.

I wouldn't say that abuse was being promoted (the narrator explicitly calls certain acts abuse or identifies pedophiles with whom she was afraid of). However, as a result of various circumstances, the narrator also describes certain behaviors they engaged in as a young child that I am pretty sure qualify as sexual assault, which they don't seem to be aware of. They also seem to think that very sexual exploration in very young pre-puberty children is normal (like 8ish years old), which makes sense given her own personal history but I don't think is universal (and it seemed to groom her for future more explicit abuse).

I think there was a way to frame this narrative in a truthful and respectful way that also provided the context to understand it, but the author did not do an effective job at this. Since this is a book geared towards teens who may have limited understanding of the topics represented, such contextualization is extremely important, and I've found it lacking as the book goes on. (less)

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Rick Riordan
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A timely and poignant exploration of the lives of transgender teens — each chapter a narrative constructed from interviews with those teens who have, with varying degrees of success, come to terms with their gender identity and overcome prejudice and misunderstanding at home, at school, and in the workplace. The best way to understand someone’s struggle and to develop compassion is to listen to them tell their stories. You would have to be very hard-hearted indeed to get through this book withou ...more
Oct 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ya, nonfiction, trans, lgbt
The idea of this book is fantastic: allowing young trans people from many different backgrounds to tell their own stories, which would then be collected and published, allowing the wider world to read about a variety of trans possibilities and experiences. The actuality of the book was incredibly disappointing.

The most positive thing about Beyond Magenta is that it does strive to include the diversity of the trans community as reflected in the identities of the interviewees. There is an equal r
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm leaning more towards 3.5 on this one. Yes, transgender issues need to be talked about more. Awareness and understanding need to be fostered. Yes, it's great to have a book that shows exactly the struggles transgender teens face in day-to-day life.


The scope of this book is extremely narrow. Out of six narratives, five of them are from NYC and the surrounding areas - the last teen, Luke, lives in Madison, WI. I almost stopped reading after the first two narratives because Jessy would s
Feb 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dnfed it 24 pages in, because COME ON SERIOUSLY ?!
Let me explain a bit more:
I’m having a real problem with Jessy. The guy knows what it’s like to be a girl, but he’s being really macho “Now that I’m masculine enough I can say ‘back off’ to other men when they talk to my girlfriend, I can take as much space as I want when I sit down in the subway, I take on the male social role now” …. REALLY ?
He also reinforced gender stereotypes : “Girls are so superficial and complicated” ; “I’ve always thoug
Jun 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
I appreciate the fact that the author of this book, Kuklin, allows the teenagers' stories and photos to mostly speak for themselves with seemingly little intervention. It would have been nice to see what kinds of questions teens were responding to, in order to have a sense of how Kuklin may have shaped the information given.

The stories teens told were interesting and sad and funny, they spoke about how they view gender, what their childhoods were like, etc That said, this collection feels like
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
I just...ugh. I was so disappointed by this. Yet another book about trans people but not for us. And I get that the whole point is teens telling their own stories but the way most of them talk about gender is so troubling, especially considering the clearly cis anticipated audience. Trans is not the next step down the (nonexistent) line from gay. And the glossary in the back was so bare bones and very off base in a lot of cases. I can't recommend this to anyone honestly. None of the voices reson ...more
Jan 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-reads
changing my review bc when I first read it I was still a baby trans person and didn't see the issues. a book featuring a cis author speaking on behalf of trans teens is really not what we need. what we need is #ownvoices ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: banned-books, read2016, ya
I read this as one of my selections for Banned Books Week, from the list provided by ALA of "frequently banned diverse books." Alongside it I read Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence, a short story collection from 1994, geared to the same age group. I think the grouping put this book into more perspective. No, these six profiles of transgender, genderneutral, genderfluid, and intersex teens can't possibly capture every possible experience in the trans community, but I appreciated the attempt ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
From the very first story (Jessy's), the reveal of the teens' birth names, the focus on (before and after) photography, and the way Susan Kuklin guides the story while purporting not to guide, I knew this was yet another book about transgender people made by a cisgender person for a voyeuristic cisgender gaze.

The book is small, covering only 6 young people living in a very small geographical area (none of whom happen to be black). Despite its slim size, the text is riddled with typos. Not only
The Insatiable Cherry Bomb
Jan 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was eagerly awaiting this book, but I was seriously disappointed. I went out on the day of the release, purchased it, and then returned it all in the same day because I found it so appalling. This is a subject that truly needs to be illuminated and deserves much more attention than it is currently receiving. However, this book only further served to put more false information into circulation and bolstered up some of the negative stereotypes that the transgender community has worked so hard to ...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Beyond Magenta is the very first non-fiction book reviewed here in the five years of The Nocturnal Library’s existence, and I couldn’t have picked a better one for the honor. It consists of six stories about six transgender, genderqueer or gender nonconforming teens, accompanied by gorgeous, honest photographs and several comments by the author. The stories are told in first person by the teens themselves, interspersed here and there by the author’s brief comments and observations.

The first thi
Jan 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
This was really disappointing and a great example of why books about a specific group of people should be written by a member of that group. Most of this book was dedicated to the tragic stories of transfolks and/or reinforcing the gender binary, and much of the language used around transness was really out of date. The author also inserts herself into the story in ways that feel inappropriate. This whole thing is clearly transness through the cis-gaze.

also trigger warnings: reinforcement of gen
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a really difficult book to rate. Kuklin gathers together stories of different transgender teenagers at various stages in their coming out process and talks with them about their lives up until this point. It's heartbreaking to read about the challenges each individual has faced and see the hate and discrimination they deal with everyday. Yet at the same time, I found myself wanting to scream at some of the things the teens were say
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I reserved a library copy of Beyond Magenta after seeing it on the American Library Association's annual top ten list of frequently challenged books. Beyond Magenta has become a target of book-banners, according to the ALA, who say it's anti-family, filled with offensive language and references to homosexuality, sneaky attempts to teach kids about sex, politics, and religion, and wrong for the age group at which it's aimed. Moreover, the ALA cites evidence that Beyond Magenta has prompted some s ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this was disappointing.

it was very childish and shallow. and definitely not a book for trans teens. the gender roles and how most of the teens defined themselves based on that made even me, a cisgender person, really uncomfortable. the author's interventions were super weird, specially to listen to. a voice from older trans people might have put a lot of things in perspective too. not really the book I was hoping and not what young teens deserve.

full review here: https://catshelf.wordpress.com/2
Mariah Roze
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I appreciate all the people in this book that shared their stories.

"Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclos
This multifaceted photo book about six transgender teenagers was truly enjoyable. Blending first person accounts with portrait photography (when the teens were comfortable with it), this book profiles several diverse trans teens. Included are teens of color, trans men, trans women, teens dealing with mental illness, and an intersex teen. One of the trans women, Mariah, is bisexual and another, Cameron (pictured on the cover) is pansexual and genderqueer.

Kuklin explains in the afterward how the p
Anna (Bananas)
This is a decent intro to trans, intersex, and genderqueer points of views. Each section is mainly comprised of the speaker's obviously transcribed own words, which is good in that you get their exact thoughts and feelings on their journey and who they are. However, the interviewees are all teenage or twenty-somethings, so a lot of what they say comes off as immature. More importantly the book needs heavy editing for repetition and at times for coherence.

But these are small quibbles really beca
Kate Welsh
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this because a local Christian group is trying to get people riled up about this book being in my city's library, and I wanted to be able to say I'd actually read the whole thing and disagreed with their "concerns." However, while obviously I disagree with their bigoted nonsense about this book trying to hurt kids, it probably wouldn't be the first book I'd recommend because it very much presents trans people through the lens (sometimes literally) of the cis author and firmly others them, ...more
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, book-club
While this book definitely encouraged an amazing discussion at our book club meeting, I really felt it was lacking in many ways. First, I am not trans, nor do I know any personally, so that's where I am coming from. Here's what I didn't like. I felt the teens interviewed were not as diverse as they should have been - most all being from one area in the east, and only one from the Midwest (and none from the west.) Also, most of the kids seemed pretty damaged from events that were NOT necessarily ...more
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The topic gets 5 stars, execution 1. Such an of-the-moment topic, and one that needs more books to address. I felt like the kids in this book had so so many issues beyond their trans identities, and their comments about why and how they were transitioning were quite flippant and juvenile. It made me question their counsellors and the age at which they were making these profoundly life altering decisions. I also didn't like that all but one of the teens were from the same area, some diversity wou ...more
Apr 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, lgbtq, gender
Lawmakers should hear the earnest struggles and true internal feelings expressed by these young people. Each person (teen/early-20's) gets about 30 pages of bio as they explain when they knew, when they started transitioning, who helped, who bullied/hurt, real thoughts on hormones and true feelings about not (yet) having matching body-parts to who they truly feel to be inside. There is no judging or analysis happening here. Simply six people telling their own story of transitioning.

Each of the 6
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-1
This book is saved from a 1-star rating only because I think books like this are really important in this day and age. I'm very glad this type of book is out there, I'm just sorry I didn't enjoy reading it. I wanted a more diverse cross-section of voices - 5 kids from the East Coast and 1 from the Midwest - was too limiting for me to get a real feel for the experience or a deeper understanding of transgender identity. I also found that almost all of the teens were extremely damaged and had unsta ...more
Emily Murray
This was...disappointing.

I feel bad about rating this so low because these are honest stories from trans teens and I fully believe that they are speaking from the heart... but there was some concerning stuff in here. First, the writing was awful. I listened to this as an audiobook so I think these might have been interview transcripts, but even so it felt unpolished. There were even instances of incorrect grammar that was infuriating to listen to. Additionally, in the first and second stories, w
Beyond Magenta is a book on the ALA's list of most challenged books of 2015.

I think it's a needed book (especially for teen audiences) and, otoh, I wanted to like it more than I did.

What I liked:
-- the bravery of these teens to live their lives how they want & need to, often in the face of opposition
-- the willingness to share their struggles & stories so that others may learn
-- nice photography of the teens who were willing to be pictured
-- the author's lists of resources for support groups, et
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-nonfiction
I thought I knew what "transgender" meant. Not really. Such an honor to read these teens' stories and immerse myself in what it really means to be "transgender." Kuklin states it best in the author's note -
"So here we are, a pack of Homo sapiens thinking that we know whether a person is female or male. Now that I've spent a few years researching and talking with people who fall under the transgender umbrella, I am confident saying that male/female is not the only way to describe gender. The peop
Dana Berglund
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
4 stars for the idea and content. Though the audiobook readers are good, I definitely recommend the print version because of the photographs and excellent additional resources at the end. That this book exists at all is amazing. The teens are brave and worth knowing. A strength of the book is in their personal diversity:nobody claims to be the trans spokesperson. They are each their own person, as there are an infinite number of ways to be queer or trans.
As a piece of literature, however, only 2
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Terrific interviews with transgender, intersex, and genderqueer youth and young adults that offer insights into the variety of gender experience and the social issues in surviving and trying to thrive in a binary gender and cisgender privileged world. Lots here for youth and young adult groups and OWL (Our Whole Lives) youth, young adult, and adult classes to talk about, as well as social justice groups seeking to understand more about fluidity and variety in gender and challenges there. There a ...more
Rod Brown
Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-real-books
I decided to celebrate Banned Book Week by reading a small pile of frequently challenged books. It's telling that two of them deal with transgender people (I read I Am Jazz yesterday). I try to be open minded but will admit to being stuck in a binary mindset for most of my life. I have a long way to go to get my mind wrapped around the topic fully, but this book was a helpful step. I hope in the future more people try challenging themselves by reading the book rather than challenging its right t ...more
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fab-15, summer-15
This is beautifully photographed – one might be worried that such gorgeous photographs might only encourage prurient interest – but they’re so engaging they just drew me right in – “Oh, I want to know more about that person!” The lack of analysis and the simple storytelling just feels so right! It was seriously wonderful and moving. The individual stories are quite touching, yet varied. And the photographs are luscious, in the most respectful of ways. I picked it up just to browse through it, bu ...more
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“SK: What causes a person to be transgender?

MS: I think the question should be flipped around: What’s the cause for assuming that one’s gender identity has to be the one that you are born with? When I first came into this job, I was much more comfortable about people’s sexuality than I was with people’s gender identity. But when you hear the same stories over and over again, from people from all over the world, you start realizing that transgender is not an anomaly. It’s a part of the spectrum of people’s realities. Then you stop wondering about the cause and you start realizing it’s a part of reality.”
“But when you hear the same stories over and over again, from people from all over the world, you start realizing that transgender is not an anomaly. It’s a part of the spectrum of people’s realities. Then you stop wondering about the cause and you start realizing it’s a part of reality.” 1 likes
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