Thursday, June 30, 2011

REVIEW: Letters for My Brothers edited by Megan M. Rohrer & Zander Keig

Letters for My Brothers is one of those books that I agreed to read, but wasn't really sure I wanted to review. It's not that I didn't expect it to be good, or that I felt obligated, or anything negative. Instead, it's that I didn't expect to relate to it, and I was concerned that disconnect might be hard to keep out of a review. After all, when you're going one way on the gender spectrum, it's almost impossible to fathom anybody wanting to go the other way.

Much to my surprise (and delight), I found that connection early on, and realised that many of the themes and concepts being expressed are universal. You don't have to be FTM (female-to-male) to appreciate the struggles and triumphs of the authors here. Heck, you don't even have to be transgendered to appreciate them - we all have at least one significant aspect of our life that we struggle against and worry about, as well as a few secrets that we keep from those we love (as often to protect them as ourselves). On top of all that, the central theme of body image is one of those things that we never really stop thinking about, no matter who we are or how old we get.

These are stories about curiosity, discovery, and realization. They're also stories about exposure, revelation, and condemnation. Each of these authors has truly "been there, done that" and their words of advice and encouragement to the next generation are all the more welcome for it. Some entries are reminiscences on the past, while others are letters written to their past selves. Some are more self-aware than others, but they all demonstrate a tenderness and understanding (and, in many cases, clear frustration) with the young women who once wore their shoes.

There is a strong spiritual presence to the collection - three of the contributors hold a professional role within their respective religions - that initially made me uncomfortable, expecting the worst in where they were heading, but I'm pleased to say their entries were some of my favourites. In fact, if I could have the chance to sit and talk with any of the contributors here, it would be Raven Kaldera, an FTM shaman who lives quite happily with his MTF wife and his FTM partner. His story, and his approach, really spoke to me, and made me pause a number of times to ponder the questions being asked.

It's entirely fitting that the collection ends with a piece entitled Enjoy the Journey by Matt Kailey, because the book itself is a journey, and clearly it's the shared experience that matters. We all have regrets, things we wish we could have done differently, and things we wish we could change about our past selves, but Matt reminds us that those things are part of who we are today, and should be honoured, not discarded. Without them, we wouldn't be who we are today, and for many of these contributors, where they are is precisely where they need to be.

Wise words, from a wonderful collection. Think of it as It Gets Better for the transgender community . . . a message that is always welcome. For more information, check out

By the way, if you missed Zander's reading recommendations from our Spring Celebration, check out his post here (thanks again, Zander, for everything!).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for such an honest and delightful review, Sally!!