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An intimate portrait of a new generation of transmasculine individuals as they undergo gender transitions
Award-winning sociologist Arlene Stein takes us into the lives of four strangers who find themselves together in a sun-drenched surgeon’s office, having traveled to Florida from across the United States in order to masculinize their chests. Ben, Lucas, Parker, and Nadia wish to feel more comfortable in their bodies; three of them are also taking testosterone so that others recognize them as male. Following them over the course of a year, Stein shows how members of this young transgender generation, along with other gender dissidents, are refashioning their identities and challenging others’ conceptions of who they are. During a time of conservative resurgence, they do so despite great personal costs.
Transgender men comprise a large, growing proportion of the trans population, yet they remain largely invisible. In this powerful, timely, and eye-opening account, Stein draws from dozens of interviews with transgender people and their friends and families, as well as with activists and medical and psychological experts. Unbound documents the varied ways younger trans men see themselves and how they are changing our understanding of what it means to be male and female in America.
About the Author
ARLENE STEIN is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and director of the Institute for Research on Women. The author of six books, she received the Ruth Benedict Prize for her book The Stranger Next Door. Stein has written for The Nation, Jacobin, and The New Inquiry, among other publications. She lives in New Jersey.
"Earnest, diligent and defiantly optimistic....What gives this book its real heat — is more personal; it’s the challenge posed to [Stein's] own cherished beliefs."
—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“A book written by a sociologist who writes like a novelist. It's a rare nonfiction page-turner and an important book.”
—Rebecca Makkai, Conde Nast Traveler
"Sensitive....A much needed primer for those who are puzzled by contemporary discussions about gender."
—The New Yorker
“Moves beyond the popular fixation on bathroom politics to explore individual lives.”
—The Washington Post
“Moving.... By allowing her subjects to speak for themselves as those selves are reinvented in various ways, Stein leaves room for productive conversations to appear.”
“For readers bewildered by how to make sense of gender today.... Having received rave reviews, for those wanting to learn more about transgender people, especially as their issues continue to make news, Unbound serves as a useful primer.”
—The Bay Area Reporter
“Stein tracks the rapid evolution of gender identity in this provocative group portrait of trans men....Her book succeeds in documenting what it means to be trans today.”
“Arlene Stein brings insight, wit, and generosity to this perceptive analysis of the dazzling shifts in how we imagine, and live out, gender today. Unbound will surprise readers who thought they had this figured out decades ago.”
—Janice Irvine, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts
“A new sociological study on transgender individuals and their experience transitioning. This significant book provides medical, sociological, and psychological information that can only serve to educate those lacking understanding and awareness of an entire community of individuals who deserve representation. A stellar exploration of the complexities and limitations of gender.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“If you’ve been trying to make sense of how gender today seems to have slipped the chains that bind it to our bodies in familiar ways, Unbound is a book for you. It’s a sympathetic account by non-transgender sociologist Arlene Stein, aimed at a primarily non-transgender audience, of four people assigned female at birth who surgically masculinize their chests. Stein helps her readers understand that they, too, no longer need be bound by conventional expectations of the meaning of our flesh.”
—Susan Stryker, founding co-editor, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly
“In this gripping, illuminating and clear-eyed portrait of what it means to be transmasculine in today’s America, Arlene Stein does justice to an oft-misrepresented topic. A vivid and fiercely empathetic narrative that juxtaposes nuanced portraits of these young people with a clearly articulated understanding of what it means to navigate a culture that treats gender minorities with contempt, ignorance, and violence. Unbound is a revelatory read that fills an important role in gender studies.”
—Ryan Berg, author of No House to Call My Home
“Unbound is a timely and critical response to the loud silence permeating the current public discourse on gender and transgender experiences, especially the lived realities of transgender men within the US. A critical and stunning work that will shift the ways gender has been politicized and imagined. Should be required reading for all.”
—Darnell L. Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America