As a member of the greater LGBTQI+ community, I am constantly on the look out for creative projects that help spread the word and inform the public about issues affecting us. As a writer, I am particularly drawn to the written word, so when I heard about a book trying to gain traction on IndieGoGo that tackled transgender* issues, titled Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, I was instantly interested to learn more. I spoke with editor Laura Erickson-Schroth to get a deeper look into the project and what it’s hoping to achieve:
A.J.: Tell me a little bit about the book. What can readers expect once it’s published?
Laura: Trans Bodies, Trans Selves was inspired by Our Bodies, Ourselves. In the late 1960s, a group of women living in Boston got together to teach and learn from each other about their health, and saw that they were their best source of information, not the male doctors taking care of them. They wrote about really radical things like abortion, lesbian identity and rape. Today we’re following in their footsteps by writing a book by and for transgender people and having trans experiences speak for themselves. We’re hoping that the book will be a resource for people just beginning to explore their gender identities and those farther along their paths, as well as friends, family and service providers.
A.J.: Who are the writers who’ve contributed to the book?
Laura: Hundreds of people have written portions of the book. There are over 50 chapter authors who are all transgender or gender nonconforming people with expertise in a particular area. For example, the legal and immigration sections have authors who are trans lawyers and trans immigrants. Within each chapter are short pieces written by trans people, their friends and family members. There are also photographs of many of the short piece authors, as well as art produced by trans people.
A.J.: Why did you decide to go the crowd funding route for Trans Bodies, Trans Selves?
Laura: We have two goals with crowd funding. From the beginning, Trans Bodies has been a volunteer project. However, at the late stages it became apparent that there were things we needed, such as an experienced editor, that we just didn’t have the expertise to do in-house. Once these expenses are paid, we will continue to raise money for our second and more important goal, which is to get the book out to as many people as possible, regardless of ability to pay. We’d like our fundraising efforts to help us donate copies of the book to community organizations and to sell reduced price copies of the book to individuals at conferences and other events.
A.J.: What will the funding you receive through IndieGoGo go to exactly?
Laura: First, to cover expenses incurred during the four-year production leading up to publication, including our web designer, two illustrators and a professional editor, all of whom offered their services at reduced rates, and were necessary to logistically get the book done and in print.
Second, and more importantly, to support a national outreach project to improve the lives of trans and gender nonconforming people. This project will expand on the publication of the book by enabling us to offer the book at reduced or no cost to individuals unable to pay, to schools, libraries, community centers and other support services. Also, the project will focus on the education of providers, community and online forums for the exchange of information and for support, to be a visible presence at national conferences, and to produce ongoing editions of the book as issues evolve.
A.J.: I can see why this is an important project, but how would you explain the need for such a publication to someone who doesn’t understand?
Laura: One of the most important things about this book is that it is written by and for trans people. But that is what makes it so valuable to non-trans people too — it is a view into trans life that is not edited for another audience. Friends and relatives can learn about identity categories and coming out, parents can read about kids, health professionals can find up-to-date preventive and transitional care information and partners can find tips on relationships, all written by the experts — trans people themselves.