Part memoir and part introduction to gender and trans issues, Dawson, a trans woman, strikes a balance between her personal experience with gender, both pre- and post-transition, and a wider discussion of how gender messes with all of us. Her main argument is that gender is a ridiculously narrow set of expectations that hurts everyone: cis and trans, binary and non, female and male, from before we are even born.
As someone with only a surface understanding of gender theory, I liked how clearly she set out the difference between sex and gender; sex being the physical, chemical, biological and reproductive make-up of our bodies, and gender being the characteristics we project onto the different sexes. I loved these quotes:
Gender is not sex.
Gender is something else.
If that’s all you take away from this book, I’ve won.
Gender, as convincing as he is, is full of shit.
If you take that away from this book, even better.
Gender, despite anything he might tell us to the contrary, is nothing but characteristics we have assigned to the sexes. Like a group of horny teenagers with a Ouija board, Gender was summoned into being by us.
“I sometimes wonder if people are so wary of transgender progress because we highlight how something we often consider carved in stone can be so easily manipulated.”
Dawson talks throughout the book about her ideas of feminism and intersectionality, making this a good read for anyone looking for an introduction to feminism and LGBT+ and transgender issues specifically. Her point being that if we want truly to be more inclusive (and we should), it’s vital that we listen to and raise up voices of people who exist outside of the white, cisgendered majority. It was also interesting to read about her experience as a man, the expectations gender places on men, and the knowledge that the patriarchy is damaging to men as well as women.
Where the book fell down a little for me was that found myself wishing it was a little less… broad, a little narrower in scope, I guess. The last third of the book covered a lot of ground and I found myself wishing some of those subjects could have been covered in greater detail. Having said that, however, her arguments are intelligent and engaging and the conversational tone in which she writes makes The Gender Games an interesting and accessible introduction to gender theory. It made me laugh and it made me think so, for me, it was a winner. Definitely worth picking up if you’re at all interested in the idea of gender. It also makes me want to search out other books, other authors, and I’m really eager for any recommendations anyone might have for me.