Arin Andrews was physically born a girl. But in every other way (psychologically, mentally, emotionally) he should have been born a boy. This coming-of-age memoir is about his decision to undergo gender reassignment and his often difficult journey dealing with people’s misconceptions and prejudices.
Born with female genitals, and named Emerald by his mother, Arin participated in beauty pageants and dance performances throughout most of his younger years. But despite these seemingly feminine pursuits, Arin was more of a tomboy, and although he enjoyed dancing, he much preferred to go camping with his cousins and wear comfortable clothes he could get physical in, rather than the restrictive dresses and skirts his mother would have preferred for him to wear. As a child, Arin could mostly ignore the norms that gender placed on him, but as he began to hit puberty, and his female body grew more apparent, it was clear to him that there was something wrong. He didn’t feel comfortable in his body- he yearned for the freedom of a male body, the ability to urinate while standing, the reduced pressure of having to deal with breasts and menstruation and a rapidly-changing female form. He grew depressed, and with a lack of resources and information, began to question his sexuality, and in particular, his church’s reaction to it. Coming from a religious background and attending a private school that abhorred ‘sexual deviation’ Arin felt that he had nowhere to turn. It wasn’t until an illicit relationship and a chance YouTube viewing that he was able to uncover his true self and discover the proper term to describe what he felt- he was a transgender teen.
Although coming out to his family as trans was challenging, and it was difficult for his mother to initially accept, Arin was lucky enough to have a strong support system behind him as he began his transition from female to male. Despite the positive steps of taking hormone medication, attending counselling sessions, meeting with a local support group and changing his name legally, Arin’s transition wasn’t quite as smooth as hoped. He was kicked out of his school and some of his closest friends abandoned him when they learnt of his intentions. He also had to save for the rather expensive surgery he would need to make his transition physically complete. Luckily, Arin also met the girl of his dreams, another transgender teen named Katie Rain Hill (whose memoir I have also reviewed and whose book led me to this one), and their relationship blossomed. This relationship helped both of them in their journeys of self-discovery and self-acceptance, and made life possible for others dealing in similar situations.
This is an eye-opening memoir into the life of a less-than-ordinary teen. Arin’s recount of his journey is frank and honest, and it was interesting to see how his perception of his relationship with Katie differed to how she described it in her memoirs. More importantly, this book provides a voice for people who are born in a different body to what they identify with, and the guides and lists of resources at the end of the book can help to provide some support for those who need it.
It always puzzles me a bit when people talk about a girl being a "tomboy" as evidence of them being really a boy. You can prefer wearing comfortable clothes and camping and still be a girl (I do, while being definitely female) , or like dancing (hello the male dancers in every professional ballet troupe in the world) dresses and makeup and be a boy. Biological sex is not the same as gender roles. More to it than that in this case though by the sounds of it.