Last month, the Columbia University Press published The Lives of Transgender People, a book outlining the findings of a comprehensive survey on gender, development, and identity among transgender individuals in the United States. Authored by Genny Beemyn and Susan Rankin, the book offers a unique body of data gathered from nearly 3,500 participants, with more than 400 follow-up interviews. The findings of the survey reflect the diversity of identities, experiences, and relationships to gender within U.S. transgender communities.
In the book’s introduction, Beemyn and Rankin recount the history of transgender studies, the ways in which transgender identity has been defined and redefined in the past, the methods used in their particular study, and finally an overview of the chapters in the book. With an aim at transparency, the authors go on to discuss the demographic breakdown of the study, an issue complicated by the limits of language to describe gender experience. Seeking to explore the full scope of transgender lives, the survey asked questions regarding individuals’ initial experiences of gender difference, how they came to embrace a transgender identity, how they feel after doing so, and what issues they have faced and continue to face since making this change.
The Lives of Transgender People is unique in that it looks at gender identity within and beyond the binary, giving a voice to those who identify in ways that are given less, or no, visibility in mainstream media. The experiences of the subjects interviewed and surveyed in this study shed light on areas of transgender life often not widely explored. With a blend of qualitative and quantitative data and analysis, this book serves as an excellent resource for those wishing to know more about transgender experiences, as well as those endeavoring to highlight the challenges these communities continue to face in everyday life.