All the Things They Said We Couldn’t Have is a gorgeous collection of essays and stories centering the joy of being trans. Tash Oakes-monger is a trans, nonbinary British writer. They don’t sidestep the difficulties of being trans in a hostile world, but illuminate the joy and life that comes with existing in the world as your true self.
I found myself starting each morning by reading a couple of selections. I find value in joy for its own sake, and it is the reason we keep going. Oakes-Monger puts joy on every page. They share stories of swimming in the ocean, community coming together to navigate bureaucracy, finding clothes that feel like them, and helping others do the same.
I don’t want anything I say in the following paragraph to imply that I think the oppression I face is the same as or as bad as the oppression faced by trans and nonbinary people. I am punished for my social transgressions by being told that I am not good enough, not that I shouldn’t exist. In much smaller ways, I know the joy of being myself in the world, when I have told to be someone different. I know the joy of find people with whom I share that commonality. I know the joy of being seen and accepted when that hasn’t been my experience. It’s a joy I wish for everyone.
Tash Oakes-Monger wrote an opinion piece asking what would be possible if trans and non-binary people didn’t have to spend so much of their lives just trying to exist.
Imagine what we could be if the world didn’t stifle us.
Imagine if we could breathe fully, and always.
All the Things They Said We Couldn’t Have offers something of an answer by focusing on the joy they and their community have now in a country trying to legislate them out of existence. It’s a beautiful book. I highly recommend it for everyone.
CW: reality of transphobia in the background, COVID-19 pandemic referenced, dysphoria, loneliness, poverty, systemic barriers, medical discrimination
I received this as an advance reader copy from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.