ARC Review: Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? – Heath Fogg Davis

Book cover: a person looks at the reader.Goes beyond transgender to question the need for gender classification.

Beyond Trans pushes the conversation on gender identity to its limits: questioning the need for gender categories in the first place. Whether on birth certificates or college admissions applications or on bathroom doors, why do we need to mark people and places with sex categories? Do they serve a real purpose or are these places and forms just mechanisms of exclusion? Heath Fogg Davis offers an impassioned call to rethink the usefulness of dividing the world into not just Male and Female categories but even additional categories of Transgender and gender fluid. Davis, himself a transgender man, explores the underlying gender-enforcing policies and customs in American life that have led to transgender bathroom bills, college admissions controversies, and more, arguing that it is necessary for our society to take real steps to challenge the assumption that gender matters.

He examines four areas where we need to re-think our sex-classification systems: sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports. Speaking from his own experience and drawing upon major cases of sex discrimination in the news and in the courts, Davis presents a persuasive case for challenging how individuals are classified according to sex and offers concrete recommendations for alleviating sex identity discrimination and sex-based disadvantage.

For anyone in search of pragmatic ways to make our world more inclusive, Davis’ recommendations provide much-needed practical guidance about how to work through this complex issue. A provocative call to action, Beyond Trans pushes us to think how we can work to make America truly inclusive of all people.

I received an ARC of Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? from NetGalley. I requested this non-fiction book, as I wanted to find out how Davis would discuss the four different issues and which solutions he would suggest.

This book is #ownvoices for transgender representation.

I started this book expecting to be angry at the end of it, especially after reading the first chapter, which is very direct and full of shock value. I thought this was an interesting stylistic method, especially since it will grab the attention of many different people, including those who think that sexism isn’t a real issue in the world.

The book introduced me to a lot of different ideas and solutions, as well as explained quite well the shortcomings of the present situations. Even though the book’s research is based on the US, I thought that a lot of it was applicable to Germany and the UK.

The book also discusses sexism through an intersectional lens, thus explaining how sexism affects marginalised people differently.

The writing is very academic most of the time, which made this book a very slow read for me. I just couldn’t get into it at the beginning and I felt that at some times the arguments kept being repeated. It took me several weeks to finish reading it, as I had several breaks in between reading it.

One part I disagreed with is the statement that it is impossible to use a third person singular non-gendered pronoun due to English grammar rules, which is untrue. “They” is an option that is often used, and there are also several other neopronouns that could be used.

This book has taught me to start to look for the why, as in “why is it necessary to have sex classification in this situation”. The case studies are well-researched and well-explained, even though they are a bit too academic for leisure reading.

If you’re looking for an interesting non-fiction book that analyses the current conversation about gender identity, this is a good book to choose.

4 stars

Have you read Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? Do you know of any other books with similar topics?


3 thoughts on “ARC Review: Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? – Heath Fogg Davis

  1. I’ve had this on my radar for a bit so I’m happy to see a (mostly) positive review! I quite like academic writing, and it sounds really interesting and well-researched, so I’m curious to check it out! x


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