“None of this ‘trapped-in-a-man’s body’ bullshit’: Transgender Girls and Wrong-Body Discourse in Young Adult Fiction

Jennifer PutziCollege of William and Mary
Vol. 36, No. 2 (Fall 2017), 423-448

The use of the “born in the wrong body” model of accounting for transgender embodiment pervades young adult fiction featuring transgender teenage girls, including the much-acclaimed Luna by Julie Anne Peters and Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. Realistic novels about transgender teenagers, usually framed as “coming of age” narratives, privilege gender reassignment surgery as the culmination of a process of self-discovery confirming the gender binary. In wrong-body discourse, self-identity comes into conflict with and ultimately trumps the body, with the transgender character’s transition following a single-minded trajectory to adulthood and the erasure of the transgender past. While this model of embodiment is undoubtedly accurate for some transgender teenagers, it limits the space in which to think about the complexity of gender for both cisgender and transgender readers. Two recent novels, Rachel Gold’s Just Girls and Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s Freakboy, serve to demonstrate both the persistence of wrong-body discourse and its disruption. A verse novel that allows a range of gender nonconforming characters to speak to their own experiences of embodiment, Freakboy offers readers alternatives to the wrong-body model.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]