Peters, author of the novel “Detransition, Baby,” strikes up a conversation about her best-selling novel and her own experiences as a trans woman in Dartmouth.
Source: Courtesy of Torrey Peters
Source: Courtesy of Torrey Peters
Visibility: 2022 Hosted acclaimed novelist Torrey Peters GR ’13 for a conversation on gender and creative writing on April 5. This is the third year that the Office of Pluralism and Leadership has organized Visibility:2022, the annual student-led campaign to promote gender equity and end gender and power-based violence. After the conversation, moderator and professor Mingwei Huang led a question and answer session with the audience. The event ended with a signing session.
Huang, who is an assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to moderate a conversation with Peters because she came across “Detransition, Baby” just following its January 2021 release, the novel is shortlisted for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for the John Leonard Prize, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize, and shortlisted for Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club.
Both Huang and Peters called the book “T for T,” meaning written by a trans author for a primarily trans audience. However, as a cis woman, Huang said she was able to fully appreciate the powerful and thought-provoking novel.
“Engaging in Peters’ work isn’t just about cis women or people trying to learn more about trans issues or how to become better allies,” Huang said. “I think engaging in trans stories and trans lives also helps cis women think more about their own gender and sexuality.”
Prof Huang kicked off the conversation by asking Peters about his time in Dartmouth in the 2010s – a very different time for trans visibility, politics, cultural production and writing. Peters described her year at Dartmouth as “educational”.
Prior to Dartmouth, Peters lived in Chicago where she came out as transgender but did not start using hormones. She explained how the lingo was different back then, as she used terms like “crossdresser” and “genderqueer” to define herself.
Peters said she had two life-changing experiences during her time at Dartmouth. First, she had an amazing advisor. Second, in search of a queer community, Peters found a “transvestite” bar in Massachusetts. Peters explained that she met two 50-year-old transgender women there – she didn’t get along well with them, but Peters said she couldn’t stop thinking about them.
“I thought they did, and I don’t,” Peters said. “I was a bit obsessed with them. In my head, I was like, why am I thinking about those two? And I realized I was jealous.
Shortly after this experience, Peters decided she wanted to start hormones. Peters met with an endocrinologist at Dick’s House and was able to get a prescription.
“And then I was transitioning,” Peters said. “I am really grateful to Dartmouth that this happened. I [didn’t] even know they did it intentionally – I just don’t think they had a protocol about it. And as a result, it worked wonders for me.
The moderated conversation continued with questions written by members of the Visibility:2022 committee about Peters’ journey to becoming a self-published author. To conclude, Huang asked Peters if she had any advice for herself of college age.
“There are a lot of things that I wanted [I had known], but I think a lot of it was because I was just scared,” Peters said. “I would have liked to recognize how much what I had done [to myself during that time] was unfair.
The Visibility:2022 student planning committee includes Kendra Elk Looks Back ’24, Beatriz Hidalgo ’25, Anne Johnakin ’23, Eliza Mahoney ’22, Irina Sandoval ’23, and Ann Tran ’25. The committee is chaired by Jimena Perez ’23, who started the conversation by giving an overview of this year’s visibility campaign.
Perez said she hopes the Visibility: 2022 conversation isn’t a one-time interaction for students attending OPAL, as she would like students to continue to be more involved in office programming.
“Visibility is the mission,” Perez said. “I hope people took away from this event the importance of making space for these conversations. I think a lot of students benefit from it [these conversations]especially those who might have similar interests as the speakers. »