Short Stories 366:197 — “Transitions,” by Gwen Benaway

coverEdit: A letter was brought to my attention about Gwen Benaway. I really caution anyone reading it to avoid the comments that follow it (they are full of transphobia, among other things), but given that the anthology is presented as a place to find many #ownvoice authors, it’s worth noting. (See also below re: the anthology’s publisher, and basically this whole book comes with massive warnings.) I’m leaving the review in place, but I wanted to raise the caution. 

Found in the wonderful Love Beyond Body, Space, & Time, Gwen Benaway’s story about a woman signing up for a new series of transition medications has this perfect tone of non-monolithic queerness throughout that I’m having a hard time trying to put into words. I’m not a poet, but Benaway is, and there are turns of phrases, moments described in “Transitions” that are just so, in this fundamental way that had me nodding to myself, barely realizing I was reacting physically to the story. It’s the… ownership, I think? It’s a repeating pattern in the story: this woman is transitioning and she is going to do so, she is going to find the path, and it is going to be her path.

The narrative around this (the aforementioned trial with new drug options) coincides with a visit from an elder, and the woman—herself of mixed heritage—begins to see and hear things inspired by her culture. They could be due to the treatments, though hallucinations aren’t a part of the likely side-effects. The elder also offers her insight into transition (versus her own culture’s take on what it means to be a woman), and it was at this intersection of moments where I found myself so completely enthralled by the inner voice of the character, who is saying so very clearly that she is going to do this her way, and all the well-meaning advice from every source is neither required nor requested. I wanted to cheer.

Ultimately, the story doesn’t wrap up with a tidy ending, absolutely refuses to give the reader a simple answer, and leaves the character looking at her future and considering options and—most centrally, most importantly—what she wants to do. It’s safe to say I loved this tale, and I hope that’s obvious, and it isn’t just the ownership of the individual character’s path. But honestly, the sheer sense of “I am me, your advice is irrelevant” burning on the page was exactly what I needed when I read this. I’m so glad I found this story.

A note: I found this story in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci-Fi Anthology, but I need to point out this is one of those anthologies I’ve had in my collection for, well, years. It’s been sitting on my iPad, and it was only when someone asked me if I’d read it that I went to look and found out the publisher is defunct due to the publisher, Bedside Press, being shuttered when the editor confessed to sexual misconduct and sexual assault. After I went looking online and hit that roadblock, I was looking through my digital library to see what other anthologies I had and found my copy. Accordingly, I’m not suggesting you pick up the anthology.

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