Kirkus gives HST a starred review

 min read
July 18, 2023


Kirkus July 18, 2023

A wonderfully clear and convincing guide to comprehending and defending gender diversity.

Understanding the realities of gender identities.

In this remarkable book, Bailar, the first trans athlete to play a sport on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team and now a prominent advocate for trans rights, reflects on his experiences as a trans man and explains how we might best comprehend and discuss gender identity. In four sections, the author provides definitions of critical concepts related to gender, recommendations about ways to discuss complex and sensitive issues, scientifically informed debunking of common misconceptions, and guidance about how trans individuals and their allies can successfully navigate the challenges of an often transphobic society. Along the way, Bailar astutely unpacks the assumptions informing key debates that have become flashpoints in the nation’s culture wars: the appropriateness of surgery and hormone treatments for young people; the participation of trans individuals in sports; the politics of bathrooms; the significance of pronoun use; and the relationship between trans identities and mental illness. Among the many strengths of this book is the author’s patient, informed unfolding of his arguments. Though his claims are obviously deeply held and passionately rendered, Bailar refrains from polemics and remains generous toward those who might disagree. Another key point is the author’s linking of transphobia to other forms of prejudice and indictment of deep-seated cultural anxieties about gender and sexual orientation. Trans individuals, he writes, “are a threat because our very identities disrupt the most basic conventions of Western society: cis white patriarchal power—the system of oppression that has built and controlled this country since its inception…we know ourselves even when those in power say it is impossible for us to exist.” Bailar’s appeals for understanding could not be timelier, given the recent rise of anti-trans legislation as well as anti-trans violence. For those seeking such understanding, this is an invaluable resource.

A wonderfully clear and convincing guide to comprehending and defending gender diversity.

Kirkus STARRED Review: He/She/They: How We Talk About Gender and Why It Matters