I did not anticipate the way this book would simultaneously shake and awaken something in me. Within the pages of this book are tales of fantasy and queerness, beautifully blended.
“I just wonder, maybe I won’t be the same person if I start out as a boy.”— EM
Transcendent is a collection of short stories about transgender identities with a difference. In this book, trans identities are re-imagined with a touch of magic and fantasy. The collection intricately highlights the various layers of being trans, from those early troubling thoughts to settling into your gender. Granted, not all stories have transgender characters but the journeys and metaphors echo the experience.
It is not news that being trans in today’s world is an existence littered with self-doubt, hardship and confusion. From the discrimination and physical violence to the toll it takes on us mentally and otherwise. In Transcendent, the reality of our lives in society is retold with compassion, power, beauty and honesty—with a dash of magic, aliens and other mythical creatures.
“The seaweed grew from her scalp. Her hand in mine was grainy, as though she were made of compacted sand.” – BJS
Opening with a moving story on time travel and the power behind names, it closes out in a colourful tale of finding one’s self in a family that embraced difference and individuality. In both stories (and all others in between) you get the sense of that struggle that comes with the discovery and acceptance of oneself. It is never overwhelming and is painted with a rare type of gentility not seen when trans stories are told by non-trans people. I always leave the arms of this book refreshed and encouraged to strive for an authentic life as a queer non-binary person.
“Jackson leaned in and took a breath of me and did not stare as if I were a thing to break apart and better understand. He looked at me with reverence, seeing my female spirit within my male skin.” – ECT
Some of my favourite stories are “The shape of my name”, “Everything beneath you” and “Where monsters dance”.
“The shape of my name” teleported me to an unfamiliar time and place where the importance of one’s name was the beginning and end of one as a person. As a non-binary person, I could relate to it—with the use of new pronouns. It deepened my understanding of why dead-naming should be discouraged in the trans community. “Everything beneath you” pulls on the thread of that association between biological sex and gender. It made me yearn for that great love thing poets and musicians croon about. The short story taught me that my body and how it presents should not make me feel any less non-binary than I already am. It was a call for me to embrace myself, and everything beneath me(get it?)
“I am a reflection of my family, and interpretation of painted flesh illegible without their paradigm behind me.”— PS
Lastly, “Where monsters dance”—hmmm! This short but powerful and mystical tale wrapped me in the rhythm of unheard music and had my heart dancing to the beat of resilience and love. I felt no fear when they spoke of monsters one’s mind could make and control, to do and undo what one desired. In this story, your heart will sink and rise with the pace of each word and you would almost wish you could jump in just to feel the cadence of the songs. Honestly, I love all the stories—some more than others!
I cannot wait to hear which stories you loved, and why!
Uyoyo is a non-binary queer person from Nigeria who writes as a coping mechanism while navigating life. Their love for writing was borne from years of reading tales woven about lives both real, and fiction. They love art, listening to music, people and bird watching; large bodies of water calm them. They are a community paralegal in their country, and a part of ELLA Nigeria team.