I was incredibly excited when I discovered, completely by accident, the upcoming publication of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, both of whom are transgender trailblazers and activists. Bornstein wrote Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us in 1994 and the book made a huge impact on me when I read it a few years ago. I wasn't even aware that the collection Gender Outlaws was even in the works until I happened to spy its eye-catching cover on a Seal Press' list of books available for review. I requested a copy and was absolutely thrilled when it arrived in the mail. Released in 2010, Gender Outlaws was published sixteen years after Gender Outlaw, hence the book's subtitle, The Next Generation (occasionally referred to as "genderation" in the text.)
Gender Outlaws collects fifty-five short works by fifty-seven creators, including Bornstein and Bergman. The contributions are roughly divided into five vaguely thematic groupings: Part One, "Do I look like an outlaw to you." Part Two, "Being reconfigured is not the same as being reimagined." Part Three, "...which is why I'm as cute as I happen to be." Part Four, "It might not be a picnic, but there's a great buffet." and Part Five, "And still we rise." Also included are acknowledgments and sections devoted to the individual contributors and editors. Each piece is rather short--none are over twenty pages long and most are only five or so pages with plenty that are even less.
Gender Outlaws contains some powerful stuff. Generally, I expect these sorts of collections to vary in quality from piece to piece, but every one of these was strong. Certainly some spoke more to me on a personal level than others, but I was able to take something away from each offering. It's difficult for me to choose a favorite (really, they all were fantastic), but probably the piece that stood out most for me was "trancension," a comic by Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes. Some entries were amusing, some charming, some heartbreaking, some challenging, but they were all unique and worthwhile. Overall, the collection is very positive and forward thinking although it doesn't ignore the problems, issues, and challenges that trans and queer folk still face today. Happily, things have progressed since Bornstein wrote Gender Outlaw which is one of the reasons this collection was created.
What most impressed me about Gender Outlaws was the wide variety and diversity exhibited by the content and creators. More than three hundred people submitted work to be considered for the collection and Bornstein and Bergman have done a marvelous job in selecting and editing the pieces together into one book. I appreciated the different viewpoints and experiences that each contributor brought to Gender Outlaws; they didn't always agree on everything and I found that to be illuminating and valuable in and of itself. A whole spectrum of gender identity, sexualities, religions, nationalities, and more make up the list of creators. I also loved the range of work included in Gender Outlaws, everything from academic essays to creative nonfiction, poetry, transcripts, and comics. Regardless what form it takes, each entry is intensely personal and makes Gender Outlaws an absolutely fabulous collection.