S1: This is the waves. This is the wave is the wave. This is the
S2: way. This is the way. This is the waves. But the tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
S1: Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender, feminism and potentially banned phrases. Every episode, you get a new pair of feminists to talk about the thing we can’t get off our minds and say, You got me, Susan Matthews Slate’s news director and the editorial director of this podcast,
S3: and me, Evan Urquhart, a writer on trans issues, as well as Slate’s community manager for our commenting community.
S1: And today we are here to talk about the rise of the use of the phrase pregnant people. I wanted to talk about this because for me, this has been something that has really like, infiltrated into my world in the past few months. Specifically, I would say that that’s because I’ve been writing and editing a lot of stories about Texas’s SB eight, which is a law that bans abortion after six weeks in the state. And this may be late that this is the mean time that I’ve been thinking about it, but for me, I’ve definitely done this before. But it’s been during the past few months that basically every time that I’m writing or editing, I’m making a choice and thinking about if we’re using the phrase pregnant people or pregnant women and why. And so to me, that feels current and new. And as I have started thinking about that, I’ve kind of looked out into the world and realized that there is an entire conversation happening about this right now. And it really is quite a conversation. And I’m very excited to talk about it because I think that a lot of what I’ve seen feels really overblown and kind of beyond what the conversation should be for what we’re talking about. And if you kind of dig through all that, you can get to a few concerns that are actually really worth talking about and thinking about. So I’m really excited to have this conversation with you, Evan, because I hope that we can kind of talk through what you don’t have to pay attention to about this conversation and what you should. But Evan, why did you want to talk about this topic? Well, this
S3: is a really personal topic for me because while I’ve never been pregnant, I am a man with a vagina. I’m a man who went through puberty where I got my period and developed breasts as an adolescent and a man who has to navigate a health care system, which ranges from being, you know, unversed in my needs as a trans man to showing active hostility at times. It really means a lot to be included in this discussion on the waves, because while the discussion about trans inclusive language very much about trans men and how to include us and when it is, it isn’t appropriate to include us, as well as also non-binary folks. Often we aren’t the ones writing the op ed’s. We’re very rarely interviewed for the news stories, and we’re often treated as an afterthought, particularly by people who object to the use of language that includes us.
S1: And that is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be here with you, even talking about this on the waves. And so we’re going to get into all of that after the break. Thank you so much for listening. I wanted to take a second and welcome all of our new listeners and our old ones too. We haven’t forgotten about you. If you’re loving the show and want to hear more, subscribe to our feed. New episodes come out every Thursday morning while you’re there. Check out our other episodes to like last week’s episode about who has it worse, the women or the men of succession. I wanted to start with us talking about the whole idea that this is a debate at all. I think that one of the main things to understand is that there’s kind of been a very specific strain of reaction to the rise of the phrase pregnant people. And that reaction has been that by encouraging the use of this more inclusive language, that means that people are no longer allowed to say the phrase pregnant women or pregnant women. If you’re a woman and you’re pregnant, you’re not allowed to self-identify that way. And when I started reading about this and I kind of, you know, opening up all these opinion articles that are arguing about this, I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that this is not actually a problem. But even tell me what you think about the idea that this is a debate at all.
S3: Yeah. So I mean, I think we really need to dispense with the idea that trans activists or literally anyone else in the world wants women to stop referring to themselves as women. Women should be calling themselves women. They should be calling themselves mothers. They should be using any kind of language that is comfortable for them. And to the extent that people say that anyone has a problem with that in the trans community, that’s an actual lie. So I mean, I think it’s important to kind of call out when something is really not true. The times when it might be appropriate to use pregnant people is when you are talking about the universe of people who can’t get pregnant, some of whom are actually men, trans men like me and some of whom are non-binary people who don’t identify as men or women.
S1: It’s so interesting because in the articles that are very much like I’m reclaiming pregnant women or I’m allowed to call myself whatever I want is this there’s a really interesting tension there, just about the fact that a lot of these writers are writing from feminist perspectives, but are very much claiming language that defines them by their reproductive potential. And you had kind of mentioned just the weirdness of this fact were when we were talking about this episode, I was hoping that you could just say a little bit more about what it feels like for you reading through some of those arguments that are so based on reproductive potential.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s there’s a weird split sometimes because I think sometimes people are saying, Hey, I don’t want to be identified by my biology. I don’t want to be called a person with a vagina. And that’s where they’re kind of missing that like, yeah, you are a person with a vagina. You call yourself a woman. I am also a person with a vagina. And sometimes someone might want to include me in the conversation. But you know, there’s a different strain where it’s like, know what a woman is, is someone who has this biology. What a woman is, is someone who can get pregnant. And there is an ideological position that asserts that a woman’s rightful role is in bearing children and then staying at home to care from them. That this all comes from biology, that it is sort of baked in to the social order and that to try and overturn that is very wrong. But I see that is and I think most people see that as completely opposed to feminism, where, you know, a woman is a human being whose role in society is whatever she wants it to be. That shouldn’t be constrained based on her sex and whether or not she chooses to have children. She should still have that kind of freedom and autonomy and dignity as an equal human being.
S1: It’s so interesting because I think that we have kind of figured out or at least in most of the circles that I feel like occupy. We have figured out that like sex and gender are not the same thing. And yet in this specific conversation, people are so attached to the idea that sex and gender have to be aligned in like this specific way. And I think that that’s where you mentioned the idea of there’s like a really extreme reaction to the phrasing of people with vaginas or how degrading it is to identify people by by their body parts. And I just think it’s it’s a really interesting thing to observe because I think that for cis people, we are so used to not having to define ourselves by our body parts that like, we feel really frustrated by that. But that, to me, seems like one of the things that trans people have to deal with all the time and like, our reaction to that should inform how it might feel to be identified in that way. And it’s interesting to me that that doesn’t seem to like, connect or go through.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I really think that in theory, the existence of trans men who have some of the same health care needs as this woman would seem to really underline the idea that biology isn’t destiny, that you know that people are kind of free to be who they are, you know, regardless of that, and somehow the conversation gets put in this weird box of being it’s anti-feminist to include trans men in certain conversations that, you know, the fact is we are part of, even if it’s not a very large part, even if I think there are times when it could overshadow the conversation to try and underline that too much.
S1: I wanted to kind of back up and talk a little bit about what you just said about where this feeling of. Being threatened comes from versus women. I met this woman. I have not had a child. I do understand the initial reaction to feel and to worry and to have some sort of concern about the idea that if we start saying pregnant people all the time and if we’re really universal in the switch to that language, that we’ll lose the fact that a lot of these laws, a lot of these problems are specifically targeted at women and that there are certain anti-women elements to them. So I definitely understood the impulse to, like, have some sort of concern at the top of that transition mattering too much. And I think the reason that I understand that and what I’ve come to think about it is that everyone who is affected by this conversation is operating from some sort of place of scarcity or from not having their needs being met or from having something about society being antagonistic to what they need. So women who have that reaction are understandably having that reaction because this conversation is happening within the context of us watching the world try to roll back reproductive health care access and reproductive health care access is obviously extremely important, particularly abortion care. Access is extremely important to women’s ability to fully participate in society. And so to me, when I started thinking about this and I started worrying and trying to see the side of if we just talk about pregnant people, are we fully grasping the harms to to women? I can understand where that fear comes from, and I think it’s basically from the fact that as a woman, as I see this woman, my reproductive potential has always been something that I felt I needed to worry about has always been something that I felt will eventually affect my life in some sort of negative way. So I think that it’s at least we can be generous enough to say that it’s understandable that people sort of have this reaction. It I think the question then becomes how they act on the reaction.
S3: Yeah, I think it does make sense. I mean, you know, again, I do kind of want to separate a couple of different impulses, one of which is, you know, going back to this idea that like trans women are trying to take away something from this woman, which is a very paranoid, almost conspiratorial idea. It has nothing to do with this language or where it came from or what its purposes and it is. I think often the first kind of thought that people have, and not coincidentally, because it’s the way one side sort of cynically frames the conversation and kind of primes people to have this thought that, you know, that trans women are trying to somehow take away, you know, the experiences that you’re talking about, like you can’t talk about those experiences of being concerned about when you’d have children, how that would interact with your career. Also, medical issues around having children, these are all concerns that I share. And so the other side of this is people who want to force me to say that I’m a woman in order to have a part of that conversation. And I mean, you can kind of see me on this video. It’s not something that most people are treating me as or seeing me, but it is very real in my, you know, my former life that I had these same concerns around, you know, reproductive health, reproductive rights, the possibility of becoming pregnant and sort of not really likely nowadays. But, you know, certainly when I was younger, it was, you know, a fear that I shared. And so I want there to be language that allows me to be part of that conversation and emphasize things that we share without me having to say. I also share womanhood with you.
S1: Can you back up for just a second because you made a point that I want to make sure that our listeners really understand, which is that I think that there is like a sphere in which this conversation is happening amongst reasonable people. And then there’s a sphere in which this conversation is happening amongst unreasonable people, and a lot of the unreasonable conversation is very much unfolding. I think it started like several years ago in the U.K., and there’s this whole strain of the British turf world. That is my understanding of it, is that it’s very unique to to the U.K., but I’m curious if you could just kind of like lay out the the situation there and why it’s so different there. And and if you agree with me that like some of those strains of thought are definitely popping up in U.S. based media now that we’re talking about this a little bit more.
S3: Yeah, definitely. So being someone who follows these issues and sometimes writes and reports on these issues, I’ve been aware for several years that online people who are who make a career of a very angrily talking about, you know, transphobic points online seized on this idea of pregnant people and. Gender neutral language, and it did start in the U.K., I think there was a pamphlet or guidelines that went out around a health care context that was trying to include trans men, and they made it into something that it completely wasn’t, which was, you know, trans women are trying to take away the word ‘Woman’ from us. And the thing that was so bizarre to me watching this play out when it was on the early, you know, online phase was that it was sort of corrected. It was, you know, made clear that this was about including trans men. And then the sort of online transphobic activists didn’t in any way change what they were saying or adjust, you know, a lot of the op eds, they’ll be kind of a line about, oh, maybe trans men. Inclusion is the thing, but that can’t possibly be important. And then they’ll just kind of stay on this idea that they’re trying to take away the word ‘Woman’ and they’re trying to embrace womanhood. And, you know, this kind of rolling downhill with transphobia goes on without interruption.
S1: To me, it’s a really weird idea because first, when we actually think about what we’re talking about, when we’re talking about what we want to include, when we say pregnant people, we definitely want to talk about trans men, which is which is the point that you already made. So the idea that trans women are like the evil people in this situation is just a really strange focus that feels so totally ancillary to the conversation and yet like takes up so much of the oxygen in the room.
S3: Yeah. Hatred against trans women is like a mania that some people have.
S1: There is a really good piece in Ian from 2019 where the writers said commentators often write as if more is at stake, as if trans people’s concerns can be taken seriously only at the expense of cis women’s needs. And I thought that that positioning of this conversation as a zero-sum game was so smart because that’s how it feels when you dive into these circles. But in reality, the impetus for the entire conversation was really just about how we can frame how we can make certain spaces more inclusive and more welcoming to anybody who could be having a health care need that they would need to access it there.
S3: Yeah. So I think this is a good time to talk about the the reality, the specifics of what access people need trans men and non-binary people need. And you know why it’s so important for us to have, you know, language that includes us. You know, there’s some social science research that says that trans men are actually more likely to avoid getting needed health care than other trans people than trans women and non-binary people. And you know, just speaking personally, you know, I was recently well, a couple of years ago referred for counselling. You know, low cost counselling at a place called the Women’s Initiative. And this is a wonderful kind of old school, you know, women’s feminist charity and their website talks about women, you know, all over it. And it is really about, you know, helping poor women and domestic violence survivors. And you know, I looked everywhere on this website to see just the little line that said, Oh, also trans people are included. And I couldn’t find it, and I didn’t know whether this was an actually transphobic organization that was making a point or whether this was a website that hadn’t been updated for a while, which turned out to be the case. Whether my, you know, referral was in error or whether I was eligible to receive counseling. And, you know, so I as a journalist, you know, reached out and I was pretty polite, but I said, you know, Hey, I’m a trans man. I was referred here. Should I let the person who referred me know that this isn’t appropriate for me or you’re going to, you know, update some of the language on your website? And they said, Oh, we’re so sorry, we’re trans inclusive, you know, and I was able to get services. But as a trans man, if I am going for services that are, say, ‘Woman’ ‘Woman’ ‘Woman’ everywhere, I may reasonably think that I’m not eligible. And that’s yeah, that’s a problem.
S1: Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s totally a problem, and it’s it’s totally irrelevant to like longtime listeners of this podcast may know that the way this was previously referred to as Double X gabfest, I went back and I read a piece that I wrote in just this past September talking about SB eight, and I definitely used female gendered language throughout the whole thing. There are sort of like this awkwardness of figuring out how to use the right language. Now there was a piece by Amy Harmon in the New York Times. I think it came out last week that I thought was really instructive and useful in the way that it very honestly reported on and took seriously the idea that like this feeling of awkwardness is something that actually really drives a lot of the conversation on this. While I very much understand the emotional reaction and the feelings around it, what matters is like, which feelings do we act on? Do we prioritize? The privileged people’s slight feeling of awkwardness or or discomfort, or do we think about the actual more material effects that some of these words have and try to remedy that or report on that or talk about that? And to me, it’s the focus on prioritizing the sometimes ways that like I could feel awkward that just feels much less important than prioritizing the actual material things that you experience.
S3: Yeah, it’s I would say, three three separate things. So one is actual trans men needing to actually practically access health care and how we reach out to them and make sure that that people in my community are getting the health care that we need. Then there is. Are there times when being drawn into a discussion of trans issues is going to be politically counterproductive when it’s really important to be, you know, to be spotlighting sexism and not allowing, you know, bad faith conservatives to drag you off into defending, you know, trans issues. And I think that that is a legitimate fear that people have that needs to be factored into things at times. And then I think there’s also what you’re talking about, which is kind of like an irritation like, well, I shouldn’t have to worry about trans men, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that as a trans, you know, like if you’re tired of like worrying that I exist, like you’re just going to have to get over that as far as I’m concerned, like, I’m not going to go out of my way to like worry about the fact that you’re a little bit irritated, that you have been reminded that I exist.
S1: We’re going to take a break here. But if you’re enjoying the waves, we would love it if you would like and subscribe to the waves wherever you get your podcasts.
S3: And if you want to hear more from Susan myself on another topic, check out our Waves Plus segment where today Susan and I are going to be talking about Detransition baby.
S1: Welcome back to the waves. So we’ve talked a little bit about what this debate isn’t about, who isn’t the driving force in this conversation. And I wanted to spend some time talking about what is at stake and what the best practices are for this and just kind of help people sort through what they should do about this practically with their language. One of the things that I’ve always been interested in is the fact that women writ large are an oppressed group, I think, but they’re not a minority, and so they don’t get a lot of legal protections in the law. And I think that that’s really relevant when you think about some of the things that we’re thinking about with regard to abortion access and what’s happening at the Supreme Court right now. I called up a law professor at Georgetown and I talked to her about, you know, the fact that right now she she had just recently finished a law review article that was specifically for an issue that took on women’s rights. And she had used the phrasing of pregnant women and gendered language throughout the whole piece. But she also realized really early on that she could just kind of put in a footnote to just say women are not the only people who can become pregnant, and this is just to acknowledge that. I thought that that was a smart way to handle it, but I was curious to hear what you thought about if that is sufficient and what the right way is to to use pregnant people versus women.
S3: Yeah. So I think we talked a lot in the earlier segment about a time when it is really important, which is if you’re in health care materials that are outreach to the public and you want to make sure that, you know, trans men know that they would also be welcome. Where we get into something that’s more trickier is when we’re trying to have these, you know, political debates about what’s traditionally been known as women’s issues. And we’re kind of asking like, Oh, is this time to go back, you know, rewrite everything and call it people’s issues like probably not like, that’s going to be super unspecific. We’re definitely not going to know what we’re talking about and exactly what you’re saying, which is if it’s a time when you’re not going to get totally derailed by a transphobic, you know, bad faith, you know, argument that makes it all about that. Just putting in like one sentence in the article that just acknowledges like, oh, also other people. And then, you know, keep it mostly with the language that people are comfortable with because, you know, we’re trying to make points and sometimes for clarity, you don’t want to, you know, go into a big digression about, you know, trans men get pregnant, too.
S1: Yeah. On that point of I think that one of the things that kind of spurred some of these reactions was definitely that the ACLU tweeted out of Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote in which they totally butchered the whole thing to make the language be not specific to women, but to people. And that was one of those instances where I think that actually that story is being used as an example of how bad it is that we’re trying to use this language now. But in fact, if you look at what actually happened with this that story, which is that the ACLU apologized and was basically like, Oh, that was the thing that we shouldn’t have done that was not necessary. Like if you look at the actual story there, it actually is indicative of the fact that people are can be quite reasonable about these things. And like, we’re all trying our best and sometimes we make mistakes. And when we make mistakes, it’s better to say that wasn’t actually what anyone was asking for it like, let’s not do that again. And yet, like, there is still some sort of thing where that’s being used to say like, look, see, like we can’t even quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg anymore, which definitely set off a certain kind of feminist. So I’m glad that you mentioned that idea of like, do we go back and say that women’s issues are people’s issues? And I think that once again, like nobody reasonable is asking us to do that. It’s just that there are definitely certain things that signal, you know, particularly in the health care context, which is an extremely practical area that like, yes, you can receive care here as well. But in the legal sphere and in the political sphere, this is one thing that I wanted to talk about because it in some ways what we’ve done and what’s happening right now is that in some ways, like even just saying the phrase pregnant people is a signal to, I don’t even know if you would say that it’s half the population who would kind of know what that’s indicating. But when we’re having conversations within the realm and the idea that men in Texas want to take away women the right to get an abortion after six weeks and are basically talking about it and don’t even know the specifics of when somebody would know that they were pregnant and like, are saying, Oh, six weeks is totally long enough for everyone to get their abortion. If even if they’ve been raped like the. There’s something specific about the idea that when you’re talking to those people who want to restrict these rights, it’s that question of is it the time to make these arguments? And one of the things that I thought was interesting Irin Carmon wrote a piece in New York magazine just about how this is filtering into legal Laymon. Specifically, and one of the things that she wrote about in that piece was just that, you know, some of the scholars fear that if they bring pregnant people to the Supreme Court, that that could actually harm the general access to abortion rights because it would be sort of a distraction. And I think that that’s a really complicated question, like a political question to think through, like it kind of gets at some really uncomfortable issues about the choices that you have to make to to, like, bring the people on board that you want to bring on board. But I also think that right now in the political sphere in particular, this language hasn’t become universal, but it is like creeping in
S3: and that feels to me, I guess I’m going to say about right. I mean, it feels to me about right that the ACLU would learn not to Baldur eyes, you know, Ruth Bader Ginsberg quotes like that that feels like a correct outcome. You know, for the most part, having the language creep in is a way to to let trans people know some of the time that we are being remembered. And I mean, I think that the point about the the guys in Texas who are trying to, you know, restrict access to health care as far as they’re concerned, I’m a woman, you know, like so there’s sexism is not going to be, you know, really careful about my gender identity and to the extent that I want my political allies to be aware of that and the fact that I need feminism to and other trans men need these things too. It’s important that we’re recognized in the language, but to the extent that my rights are going to be, you know, curtailed because people are so busy arguing about pregnant people that they lose the fact that this is based on sexism, like I don’t want that. I don’t think that helps trans people. I don’t think that helps trans men to be tricked into debating about language when actual rights are on the on the line.
S1: Yeah. And one of the things that I have been thinking about, as I’ve been thinking through this too, is that already when we talk about abortion access generally, we already do make a lot of distinctions in how we talk about it. One of the things that comes out again and again is the idea that rich, mostly white women will always have access to abortion regardless of it’s legal or not, and it’s specific types of women who are most harmed from these laws. So while you can definitely look at this these laws and think about the idea that, like Roe, being overturned is a problem for all people in America, for women in America specifically, I think that the other thing is is that routinely when we write about abortion access, we talk about how it will disproportionately affect women of color, poor women, women who don’t have health care, access, who don’t have health insurance. There are already these categories of people who are most harmed by these laws. And one of the things that I thought was really interesting about the idea of what’s insufficient about just kind of bringing trans men in under the umbrella of pregnant people is that transmen actually have worse reproductive health care outcomes than cis women do. And I think that when we get so focused on just saying the right thing, we kind of lose that nuance and lose the fact that actually like they’re a part of the story, it’s really important and and you’re dealing with specific types of access problems and harms that that should be acknowledged specifically.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a great direction. It’s a great direction to look at where we go in acknowledging that poor women and women of color are among the people who are the most impacted when their legal access to abortion is curtailed. So another group of poor people are trans people. Trans people face a lot of homelessness, they face a lot of violence, they face a lot of unemployment. They have a lack of family support. So another, you know, individual who might have a particularly difficult time accessing an abortion if it’s made much more difficult, you know, if he has to drive across state lines, if he has to get to a hospital that has admitting privileges, whatever that you know, the weird restrictions are, is it is a trans man. And it’s not that that should be the first thing we’re talking about, but the language that’s used to acknowledge that some people have particular struggles can be kind of extended to trans men are also one of these groups that has particular struggles with health care access, appropriate health care providers that are competent with, you know, our specific needs, etc.
S1: To me, one of the things that came through that felt particularly icky was the idea that trans men are such a small number of the population, and then trans men who will get pregnant are an even smaller number of the population. And so because it’s just such a small number of people, we can just ignore it. The cumulative weight of the ‘Woman’ side kind of outweighs. The trans man side, and that to me, just feels so the opposite of the point of what feminism is trying to to do. And I just felt like in particular, if you think about the actual size of the harm that they’re experiencing when they’re not able to access the health care in the same way that that we shouldn’t be doing this based on like some sort of cumulative amount. But it feels like when we try to minimize the size of the population that could be dealing with this, that just like gets us really far off base.
S3: Yeah, I mean, when you talk about health issues in general, you know, at any given time the number of people who are experiencing a particular health problem is going to be a very small percentage of the total population. You know, trans men are there’s a lot fewer of us than there are cis women, but we’re not, you know, such a small number that an abortion clinic is never going to have a trans men come through the door. It’s, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s it’s not like this, this freak occurrence. And you know, while I think there is room for talking about, you know, proportionally how much of our attention should be on this versus the other thing. I also think that that the zero sum game is really just it’s a red herring. Like, there’s no reason that trans men shouldn’t be able to come along and be, you know, be helped be part of the conversation, be included, be given health care like we’re not we’re not taking something away from from anyone else.
S1: I was wondering, even if you had any suggestions for our listeners who are thinking, when do I start using this in my language? Like, What should I do? Like, do you have any tips or ideas of what you would like to hear from people who are just starting to think about this?
S3: Yeah. So I mean, the least interesting part of this to me is when trans acceptance is used sort of as a social signifier or people are playing games of gotcha with like, Oh, you’re transphobic because you didn’t say it this way or whatever. You know, I think if someone wants to occasionally make a rhetorical, you know, nod to the fact that, you know, trans men and non-binary people who get pregnant exist when they are talking about the universe of all people who get pregnant, then it’s great. If they say pregnant people, you know, they could say pregnant women. Oh, and also Trans Mountain non-binary people like whatever they’re comfortable with, however, they’re comfortable with kind of nodding to that is great, but I don’t want it to sound as if, well, if you don’t do it, you’re bad or if you don’t do it. In this situation, you’re bad because people are learning and it’s more about trying to grow together and figure out how to use the language in a way that helps all of us talk about our common needs that it is about, you know, kind of catch people out.
S1: Yeah, I think that that’s a really great point. This language isn’t even necessarily the greatest need that trans people are encountering right now.
S3: Yes, absolutely. So I mean, when I think about trans activists, I think about a formerly homeless black trans woman in Boston who is raising funds to provide homeless trans people in her city with a shelter and get them off the street. It’s not trans activists who are leading the charge for language policing. It’s much more about which of the issues get picked up, what people click on, what people are, you know, interacting with. You know, if trans activists had our way, we would be talking all the time about homelessness, about violence, about unemployment, about really direct discrimination, in finding a job or getting housing and not about when people are saying pregnant people are not like that is kind of like a thousand on the list. And so, you know, there’s sometimes a perception that what trans activism is is this silly language struggles, and I don’t see it from my perspective that way at all. I think the silly language struggles are what the mainstream wants to talk about, and the real issues are what trans activists are really trying and often failing to get up onto the border.
S1: Before we head out, we wanted to give some recommendations. Evan, what are you loving right now?
S3: My main entertainment is video games. So if there are gamers out there, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a video game called Inscription, it’s I.N.S. S.R. y tione. It’s my favorite game of the year. It is a PC game, so not everyone is going to have access to it. And I almost don’t want to say anything about it because because you could really spoil the experience by not going into it, you know, pretty, pretty fresh. But I absolutely loved this game and I think everyone should play it. I also wanted to mention Metroid Dread, which I think a lot more people have a Nintendo Switch than a gaming PC. And Super Metroid is the series with a ‘Woman’ protagonist, Samus Aaron, who goes around kicking alien ass. She’s been doing it since the 1980s. She’s doing it again on the switch, and I just love this game. I’ve actually beat it like three times now. It’s kind of my relaxation. Take a few hours. Beat Metroid Dread these days. I can’t recommend it enough.
S1: That’s amazing. I need a hobby that feels like that. I guess mine is kind of puzzling where it feels like it’s like the the Cleland’s from thinking about anything else. But I feel like I don’t have anything that is like immersive enough to be quite quite that level. So I have to give it a try. I have been a big fan of what Ezra Klein has been doing with his podcast since he’s taken it to the New York Times. Somebody described it to me as he was kind of really become like a very California boy over there. What I think is a correct assessment of of where he’s going, he kind of the show feels very roving to me, but right now he is on paternity leave, and he has given over the reins to the show, to several guests hosts. And so the episode that I wanted to recommend today is its Tressie McMillan Kcomt and is the guest host, and she is interviewing Kiese Laymon about his work and his book Heavy. And it’s just a conversation about writing and about ownership of work, and it is totally fascinating and everybody should listen to it. And in plugging this, I also simultaneously want to plug the book Heavy, which I read at some point during the pandemic and felt like it’s an incredible read. It’s beautifully written. It was extremely immersive, and I just think that if I could make everyone in America read one book, I feel like now that would be my answer. But the other thing that I wanted to simultaneously recommend is when Ezra interviews Tressie McMillan Kcomt and when he is still on the podcast. That was, I think, now like a year ago. At this point, that was also one of the most memorable podcast episodes I have listened to. So this is just a Tressie McMillan cotton endorsement, which is not a new thing to say, but she’s amazing. And anytime that she speaks off the cuff about anything, we should listen strong.
S2: Gorey That’s it.
S1: That’s our show this week. The Waves is produced by Sheena Roth.
S3: Susan Matthews is our editorial director with June Thomas providing oversight and moral support.
S1: If you like the show. Be sure to subscribe rate interview wherever you get your podcasts. And please consider supporting the show by joining Slate Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast and bonus content of shows like this one. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to Slate.com. Slash the waves.
S3: Plus, we’d also love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.
S1: The waves will be back next week. Different hosts. Different topic, same time and place. Thank you so much for being a Slate Plus member, and since you’re a member, you get an additional weekly segment this week instead of debating whether something is feminist, Evan and I decided that we wanted to talk about Detransition Baby, which is a novel by Torrey Peters that I read this spring. So I really liked this book, and after I read it, a friend of mine who has a bookstore had an event with Torrey Peters, and I got to listen in because it was during the pandemic and everything was virtual. So it didn’t matter that it wasn’t where I was physically. And I got to listen to her talk about her work and one of the things that she talked about that I really thought about and appreciated was the fact that she wrote this novel for like her friends and she didn’t really bother positioning it toward, says people. And I think that that was one of the things that I, as a reader, really enjoyed. She said that she felt like that made it really snappy and that readers really like to, like, have to keep up with something. And I think that I sort of felt that way when I was reading it is that she wasn’t doing too much like over explaining of like, this is the trans experience she was just writing from that perspective. And so I felt like that made the book both instructive to me in a very specific, useful way that felt like honest and and good. But I also think that the book to me just felt like it was a really intimate window into the characters like psyches, which is the thing that I really crave from novels like That’s what I I read novels for, so I really liked it. Obviously, that’s my cards on the table. But I was curious to hear what you thought and in particular, what you thought about her choice to tell the story of Reese and Ames, since Ames is a trans character who is going through the process of Detransition.
S3: Yeah, I honestly think that Torrey Peters is being a bit modest when she talks about only writing for her own community. In addition to Reese, who’s a trans woman, and Ames who is sort of in the in the current times of the book, she’s Detransition and is living is male. And then there are flashbacks where she’s she’s a trans woman. There’s a third major character as well, who’s Katrina, who is a Swiss woman who is very down to earth. She’s very kind. She’s very open minded. While at times, you know, experiencing some discomfort with the knowledge that Ames, who she begins an affair with, is as a man once lived as a transgender woman. And I think Trina works incredibly well as sort of an entry point character for readers who aren’t trans. You know, she finds out that she’s pregnant by Ames, and she grapples with a very classic queer experience of wondering how she can create a non-traditional family under circumstances where having a traditional family isn’t open to her. I think it takes a lot of skill for an author to provide that feeling of entering into an unfamiliar world and unfamiliar experience. And I think that’s more skill than just writing for people who are already, you know, familiar with the community. I think it’s meant a lot to trans women to see them, their experiences reflected, but I think a lot of this women as well have really resonated with the book.
S1: There’s this I’m going to mess up the plot a little bit because I read it so many months ago. But basically, what happens at the very end? I mean, we’re in Slate Plus. So sorry, if we’re spoiling this book that came out, not maybe a few years ago. Now, I don’t know if we can spoil the novel, but basically what happens at the end is that Katrina has a has a reaction to like basically an HIV scare, and Reese talks about how it’s like. Of course, this is the thing that, like she is trying to have her queer experience. And of course, this is the thing that would would freak her out and kind of send her running in a way. And I was just wondering how you felt about the ending and particularly how they dealt with bringing that factor in.
S3: So as a trans reader, I remember almost holding my breath for a moment when Ames would finally go back to living authentically as a trans woman. And there was a feeling of relief at the very end when she sort of finally acknowledged herself as a woman. I believe it was even maybe the last line. So that was something that I was both anticipating and but also really felt like I needed from the narrative. I thought the ending was really very strong. I mean, you could kind of feel Peters under some pressure to not be too saccharine, but also not end with like the suicide of a trans woman or something that would merely make it feel like she was beating up on the community. And I think that’s a really hard line to walk, and I think she actually pulled it up pretty beautifully.
S1: She kind of talks about how she went into this project just saying like, well, like Detransition is something that people that I know deal with him live with, and I’m just going to write about it. And I don’t really care about the fact that Detransition is such a like, politically hot topic. She kind of reclaimed it in a sense to me and then just kind of addressed it from that perspective, which I thought was really strong. But I know that you’ve written a lot about Detransition for Slate and for others, and I was curious how you felt about the the fact that that was just one of the main themes of the book.
S3: You know what I write about Tressie. Position, it’s mostly how it functions in anti-trans activism, which is there’s sort of a stereotype of a tragic error that a cis person and usually it’s talking about a cis woman who falsely believes herself to be a trans man, you know, should be prevented from making it any cost. And something that I really loved about this book is that it presents a much more a narrative that’s much truer to what the statistics and the, you know, lived reality, says Detransition actually is, which is that it’s very often a trans woman who is under so much social pressure and discrimination and prejudice that she decides that she has to live as a man because she just can’t, you know, can’t deal with being a pariah. And that was Amy story. That’s Caitlyn Jenner’s story. You know, it’s it’s not the face of Detransition, but it is the most common way Detransition presents itself. And you know, on one level, I almost wished that that Peters had made it just a little clearer, like what the false Detransition narrative is. But that’s kind of me as a journalist who’s written about the false narrative a lot. And I just I just have to hope that that some of the cis readers will really kind of put those dots together and, you know, kind of realize that the stories, including on 60 Minutes that are always focusing on these tiny, tiny outliers, which we talked earlier about just because something is small in number doesn’t mean that those stories aren’t important. But there is a political strategy of highlighting an outlier of ‘Woman’, who made a mistake and thought she was a trans man to sort of undermine all transition and all trans men. And I hope readers do kind of connect those dots on their own.
S1: Yeah. And one thing I think that you have written about a lot and it’s something that I feel like kind of connects to our conversation earlier is that right now in the media, there’s so much focus on those outliers, which is a very small percentage and there isn’t enough interest or investment in like just the more common lived experience of trans people. And so that’s like another like, I think the the size of the problem is is definitely something that we always think about as journalists. You know, sometimes there’s ways in which, like the the fact that it’s a really unique problem makes a story more interesting or more engaging. But I think that there’s there’s a way in which I also felt really interested in the idea. I felt like this is a narrative of Detransition that, like you said, like seems more true to to people who actually have this experience. The thing yet is, is such an outlier in the things that that I’ve heard and consumed that I just felt really lucky to have kind of realized that and reoriented my own thinking toward the topic. But that’s it for us on Detransition baby, and we will be back next week discussing whether something is feminist or not. If you have something that you’re dying to know if it is feminist or not, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.