Book Thoughts: Trans Voices – Becoming Who You Are by Declan Henry

As mentioned previously, I came across this book while actively seeking books by or involving trans people, in my own way of responding to the recent controversy surrounding John Boyne and his recent publication, My Brother’s Name is Jessica.

Trans Voices is written by a non-trans person, but Declan is clear in his introduction that even though he identifies as part of the LGBTQIA++ community, he was aware of how little he understood of the trans experience, by not being trans himself. Instead, he speaks with multiple trans people, because as becomes clear as the book progresses, there is no singular ‘trans experience’.


I got through this book quite quickly – its quite an easy read, particularly if you are somewhat familiar with trans issues. I found I didn’t learn much that was new, but to be fair, I’ve been trying to learn and understand more about trans people for quite a while. It was very clear in explanations, and describing what it can be like for some trans people – the clearest message that came through for me is that really each trans individual has a different experience, feels differently, makes different choices, and has different ways in which they feel comfortable and/or safe.

To be honest, at times it read a bit like my psychology textbooks – real, but a bit removed. When I think about it, that makes sense, I mean, this book gives me second hand descriptions and explanations at best. As a result,  I’d say this book is probably great to give to someone who is accepting but not very aware of what it means to be trans, like a granny or an uncle. But for me, in terms of what I was looking for, this didn’t really hit the spot. I’ve since dug deeper and have some books on order form the library that have been written by trans people, both about their own experiences and novels, etc too. This exercise for me is about learning about a different life experience to mine, but also to be an ally in a way, by reading work by trans authors (I’d buy them if I’d a steady income, but I figure highlighting them on here is better than nothing!).

trans flag

For me, I don’t really feel I need to ‘learn’ about trans people – I mean, I want to understand what life can be like for trans people, but I think there is no need for me to be encouraging the everyday person to make a study of trans people, just so as not to be eejits (I’d like to be more explicit here, but I’m *trying* to be polite) towards them. I do think researchers could do with researching this community more, in order to ensure that society supports and enables them better (though some, like my lovely colleague Danielle is doing great work as an example), because trans people face more injustice and unfair treatment than most as a group. For the regular person, like you and me, it’s pretty easy to be a trans ally – don’t be mean, don’t assume, be kind, be inclusive. It’s really not that hard.

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If you are a member of the LGBTQIA++ community, or you think you might be, there are places you can seek support. BelongTo, LGBT Ireland, and TENI are some good places to start.


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