Queer Book Club: Nobody Passes, ed. Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

nobodypassescoverThis is going to be a short genderfuck Friday review, because my head is full of cold and fuzz. A bit of non-fiction for a change.

A few months ago, I made the foolish mistake, while perusing various online trans resources, of stumbling upon a guide to passing, and then I fell down a horrible sucking hole of binary conformity. To cheer me up, a friend bought me a couple of books, and Nobody Passes is one of them.

Nobody Passes is about gender, but it’s also about all the many other ways that people can pass or fail to pass in their lives. It’s a collection of essays, stories, conversations and interviews by all sorts of people that Mattilda has brought together, and it covers class, race, religion, sexuality and gender. It’s quite specific to US culture, but I found gaining a closer and more personal insight into US identity politics really interesting, especially as we (in the UK) import many of these ideas anyway.

Importantly, Nobody Passes is one of those important books in my life that has given me a bit of extra space to breathe and be. There’s such a very great pressure to fit in, in so many ways. That pressure hits everyone, not just trans people. Mainstream gender narratives alone do so much violence, twisting us to be an ideal thing, a symbol of something. To be read in the correct way. This book shows identity as complex and slippery, as something difficult to fit neatly, and most importantly, as something we get to make for ourselves, even thought that making might come with a fight.

If I ever read another guide to passing, it will be too soon, but this I will read again. I’m definitely going to look for more of Mattilda’s work. A friend recommended Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity,  Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, so I’ll likely give that a look as well.


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