True Trans Bike Rebel
You know what this zine pairs really well with? Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, the last book I read. All queer everything! Happy Pride month! etc
True Trans Bike Rebel is an anthology of short personal essays about biking and trans identity, written by and for trans people, and is not really for me in the sense that I don’t bike, have never identified as a sport or long distance cyclist, and am in fact not currently physically able to ride a bicycle without excruciating pain.
I’m also not really trans, although I am kind of …something, and that something is kind of trans-adjacent. Ish. This zine creates an interesting context in which to consider the questions I have about my identity, since I don’t really find in my history the experience of transitioning from one state to another state, and this anthology is really about that part of trans-ness: the transportation part, the movement, and how we do it, with our bodies. Travel is such an interesting metaphor for being, because the thing is that wherever you go, there you are: you, inescapable, the same as before. But elsewhere. Seeing different scenery with your same old eyes.
You might be able to tell that although I’m not technically the target audience, I also sort of am. Shit’s complicated.
As in any anthology, some of these essays hit me harder than others. Several of the essayists talk about the experience of building a bicycle either from scratch or from a wreck, and how that empowered them to consider changing their own bodies. Laurie Williams makes this metaphor most explicit in “Build Your Own Body:” “As I design [my bike]’s blueprint in my mind, I start to design myself in the same way. Subconsciously at first, in daydreams and just before sleep. Slowly, these plans start to unfurl; steadily transforming from abstraction into something tangible. What geometry do I want for myself? How will I form these new shapes? What tools do I need? A sketch is drawn, a path to follow until I get there.”
Williams writes about scamming a doctor in order to get the kind of medical care they actually want, something I felt on a spiritual level. Scamming doctors is self care.
I also really liked “Everything I Needed to Know About Being Trans I Learned On the Pan-American Highway,” and not just because it’s by my friend Elly Bangs. I’m not a cyclist, but I am a traveler, and last year I drove, in a passenger car, from Seattle to La Paz, Baja California Sur—almost to Cabo San Lucas. The benefit of driving instead of biking is that you can take your dog in the passenger seat, and also your stupid broken body is not consumed by the pain of pushing pedals down over and over in a motion that squishes the chunk of ossified scar tissue around in your hip joint. There are similar things that you find, though, however you travel. Wherever you go, there you are.
I have a list of people I want to push this book on. The teenager who recently confided in me, the queerest aunty they know, that they have some dreams and wishes about gender. My father, who is a long-distance cyclist and a practical, cisgender and heterosexual man. We’ll see how it goes.
n.b. This book was a gift from a couple of friends who are also deeply invested in the project of making a better world. Thank you—let’s keep paying it forward.