The Official Description: Jeremy Ivester is a transgender man. Thirty years ago, his parents welcomed him into the world as what they thought was their daughter. As a child, he preferred the toys and games our society views as masculine. He kept his hair short and wore boys’ clothing. They called him a tomboy. That’s what he called himself.
By high school, when he showed no interest in flirting, his parents thought he might be lesbian. At twenty, he wondered if he was asexual. At twenty-three, he surgically removed his breasts. A year later, he began taking the hormones that would lower his voice and give him a beard—and he announced his new name and pronouns.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy is Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender and eventually emerging as an advocate for the transgender community. This is not only Jeremy’s story but also that of his family, told from multiple perspectives—those of the siblings who struggled to understand the brother they once saw as a sister, and of the parents who ultimately joined him in the battle against discrimination. This is a story of acceptance in a world not quite ready to accept.
Just the facts: A memoir about family and being transgender.
This is a beautiful memoir about being trans. Told from several POV’s in the family, it’s remarkable, educational and touching. – Kinzie Things
My thoughts bit: Once a Girl, Always A Boy by Jo Ivestor is a wonderful memoir. In fact, this is the kind of memoir that keeps me reading them. There are transgender people in my life, and I suspect that most people know someone – even if they aren’t aware of it. This memoir is personal and challenging and I would recommend that everyone read it.
What’s unique about this book is the way that the family is represented through a variety of POVs. The most present voices are that of Jo Ivester (author and Mom) and Jeremy Ivester. Jeremy’s siblings and his father have also contributed to this memoir and there’s such a strong sense of family and love throughout the book.
It’s so valuable to have a book that gives a perspective on what a family member transitioning means to everyone involved. Unquestionably this book is about Jeremy and all the things that he went through as he worked through discovering who he was and how he wanted to be for the rest of his life. But, it’s also about Jeremy’s family and how they supported him, were confused by his thoughts and feelings, and the effect of transition on them. I haven’t read anything previously that explores the impact of gender so well and in such an intimate way.
I think that one of the most important things that I take away from this book is all the things I didn’t think about. There are so many times during a life, during a year, during a day… that a person’s gender comes up. There were things I hadn’t even thought of that can really be such a shock to someone’s system: growing and changing bodies, sports bras, sleepovers, shopping for school clothes, playing sports, hair cuts, weddings … all these things happen constantly and are an ever-present reminder of gender.
The systems that we interact with almost daily often begin with gender… there were things that I hadn’t even thought of. When you apply for a job you have to show ID, what if that ID doesn’t have the same gender as the one you present? Passports? Educational institutions? Doctors? Prescriptions? Appointments? Some of these systems are difficult to navigate without the added emotion and stress of having ID that doesn’t state the correct gender?
Maybe it was naive but I didn’t even think about how difficult some of these everyday things (to me) could be for other people. That’s because as a cisgender woman, I’ve never had to think about it.
This book touches on so many things: intergenerational understandings of masculinity and femininity, being left out, being bullied, hiding pain and emotions to fit in, politics… life. There are so many milestones passed in this book and I feel honored to have been allowed to read about this family.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Lots of discussion about gender identity gender dysphoria, body dysphoria, transphobia, deadnaming (corrected immediately), mentions suicide.
Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.
- Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali
I received an ARC of Once a Girl, Always a Boy by Jo Ivester from She Writes Press via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.