Book #09

Nevada by Imogen Binnie

Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she'd carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.

Maria Griffiths is a fucking powerhouse. Punk rock and trans, she lets us view her life in New York City through her eyes. Maria is everything I look for in a person - a rebel, a bookseller, a purveyor of attitude, and a diehard supporter of Courtney Love. 

As we sink deeper into Maria’s inner torments, it quickly becomes apparent just how much of an impact her transition has had on her life, and how she has some unresolved issues she needs to work out. After she is dumped by her girlfriend and fired from her job in quick succession, Maria decides to escape. Gloriously, we’re able to go on this journey with her.

Maria tells us things about being trans which you can only hear directly from the lips of a trans person. Some of these things were heartbreaking, and perfectly understandable. Some of these things were completely triumphant, and had me bursting with joy. Some of these things I’d never thought of, and was embarrassed to admit that to myself. 

For example, I knew as a cis woman that society has certain criteria to which I should aspire. People have an idea of what a woman is, and how I should conform to that. Similarly, but somewhat worse, there are also definitions of how trans women should look and behave. These definitions are not the same as those cis women are forced into. The worst of these, in my opinion, is that if a trans woman is attracted to women, she can’t possibly be trans, just a seriously perverted man. These standards are simply ridiculous, and it’s incredibly enlightening to now be aware of them.

I also hadn’t considered the loss of male privilege. White men are born with this, don’t really realise they have it, and profit from it daily. Transitioning robs you of this. You are no longer within a class of people who are culturally protected by the world. You’re catapulted into a subculture and forced to find your way through it without your previously relied on privilege. On top of everything else involved in transitioning, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Even if you aren’t reading this story to learn (although you should be), this is an utterly gorgeous book. Binnie’s writing style is almost as raw and punk rock as Maria herself, and I was so desperately engaged with the plot. Her characters are real as hell, and everything is just so beautifully put together.

A powerful, important masterpiece for Binnie, and one I’d recommend to anyone who wants (or needs) to learn about how our trans friends might feel. This knowledge can only allow us to be better allies. Read this.