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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, Thoughts

By Varsha Panikar

What's the T?

Navigating the Trans Experience with Juno Dawson's "What's the T?"

(a book review)



Juno Dawson's "What's the T?" stands as a great resource for anyone seeking to delve into the complexities of trans identity, both on a personal level and within the broader social and political landscape. Dawson's masterful ability to weave together personal anecdotes, expert advice, and real-life stories into a compelling narrative makes this book a valuable tool for both allies and those within the transgender community.


From the outset, Dawson's conversational writing style creates a welcoming atmosphere conducive to exploration and understanding. She adeptly addresses topics such as gender identity, transition, and coming out, meticulously navigating the challenges faced by the trans community, including discrimination and societal marginalization. Simultaneously, Dawson celebrates the strength, resilience, and beauty of trans identity, encouraging readers to embrace authenticity and advocate for inclusivity.


Enriching the narrative are Dawson's personal anecdotes, which provide a relatable and authentic perspective on the trans experience, allowing readers to connect with her on a personal level. Her stories highlight the challenges and triumphs of being trans, offering valuable insights into the day-to-day realities of trans individuals. Dawson's personal experiences are further complemented by personal stories from other trans and non-binary individuals, further showcasing the diversity of experiences within the community and acknowledging unique struggles faced by those from marginalised backgrounds. In the current global political climate, especially in India, the book becomes a crucial platform for trans voices.


Additionally, Dawson incorporates expert advice from a variety of sources, including medical professionals, therapists, and activists, providing a comprehensive and well-rounded understanding of trans issues. The book lays a good foundation for understanding gender identity and expression, making it a valuable resource for both cisgender and transgender individuals of all ages and levels of knowledge. The book also includes hall of fame, history, further reading, glossary, index, advice for parents, transphobia, practical and emotional support/advice.


While Dawson includes personal stories and perspectives from non-binary individuals, her discussion of non-binary identities falls short, feeling somewhat peripheral, suggesting a need for a more thorough exploration within this aspect of the transgender spectrum. For instance, the book could provide a more detailed discussion of the terminology and language used to describe non-binary identities, as well as the various ways in which non-binary individuals experience gender identity and expression. After all, the the book is being marketed as the "The guide to all things trans and/or non-binary."


Additionally, the book's definition of asexuality is inaccurate, defining it as a lack of desire for sex rather than a lack of sexual attraction, which encompasses a broader spectrum of experiences. This inaccuracy can contribute to misconceptions about asexuality and hinder the visibility of asexual individuals. The book would have benefited from featuring the voices of asexual individuals, allowing them to share their own experiences and perspectives.


Despite these shortcomings, "What's the T?" still offers valuable insights into the trans experience and provides a useful resource for all individuals seeking to learn more about gender diversity. In a world where trans individuals are marginalized and misunderstood, "What's the T?" stands as a beacon of light and hope.


Dawson's empathetic and careful approach makes the book accessible and engaging, empowering readers to become allies and advocates for the transgender community. By incorporating additional examples and addressing the shortcomings mentioned above, the book could further enhance its impact and serve as an even more comprehensive and inclusive guide to gender diversity.


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About the author:

Juno Dawson is a multi-award-winning author of young adult fiction and non-fiction. She is best known for her novels "This Book Is Gay," "Mind Your Head," "Margot & Me," and "The Gender Games." Dawson is also a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, Glamour Magazine, and The Guardian. She has written for BBC Women's Hour, Front Row, ITV News, Channel 5 News, This Morning, and Newsnight.


Buy the book here.


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