Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters explores the complexities of parenthood between two women and a man who unite in an effort to take care of a baby, but the closer they get, the more they convince themselves they’re making a mistake.
Reese always wanted to be a mother. In fact, she acts as a mother figure in the New York City transgender community, taking in young trans women who remind her of herself when she first came to the city from the Midwest. Upon her arrival, she quickly became a go-to caretaker for children on the Upper East Side. She has the natural gift of taking care of others. One of the trans women she had taken under her wing was Amy, who returns in her life in a form she’s unfamiliar with.
Ames is a marketing executive having a sultry fling with his recently divorced boss, Katrina. They soon realize they are expecting a baby. Katrina had a miscarriage during her marriage, so she’s nervous about the pregnancy. She’s also at the top of her game at work, and she’s unsure how a baby she’s having with a subordinate fits into her career plan post-divorce. Ames can’t believe he even impregnated a woman, but now that he has, he suggests bringing in an old friend to help parent the baby.
When Reese sees Amy again, Amy is now known as Ames. Amy detransitioned from a trans woman back to a biological man. Ames explains how he thought years of taking hormones to live as a female would decrease his fertility. But now that a baby is coming, Ames wants to tap Reese to be a secondary mother and assist Katrina to raise the child. Reese always wanted to be a mother, and she feels her chances were dashed when she and Amy broke up. Now, who Reese still can’t believe is the Amy she used to love is offering the opportunity of motherhood.
Skeptical of the idea of becoming a mother by playing a third parent in raising another woman’s baby, Reese starts hanging out with Ames and Katrina to see if she can get onboard with the proposal. Katrina has questions and misconceptions of how Reese lives as a trans woman and how Ames lived as a trans woman. The clashes melt away once Reese and Katrina realize they are simply women who want to be mothers. It takes a village to raise a child. But when Katrina realizes why Reese and Amy broke up, she starts to rethink the concept of letting Reese play a mother and herself become a mother.
This is an eye-opening novel exploring a part of the New York City trans community rarely seen in mainstream media. Reports say that this book is one of the firsts written by a trans author to be distributed by a “big five” publisher. It’s refreshing to learn about how these fictional trans women feel they are competing with biological women to demonstrate their femaleness, including their capability and desire to become mothers. The author, who is a trans woman, spent time in the community to nail down the intricacies of the characters, their backgrounds, and their desires.
The spectrum of characters represent different people who interact in the community. There is the trans person, the former trans person, and the cisgender, heterosexual person fighting their biases to accept someone they actually meet in real life who is trans. For Reese, her sex life is complicated with having committed lovers and secret lovers. The emotional struggle of identifying as female in a world that deidentifies her as not female makes her feel like she could never commit to a monogamous relationship long enough to raise a child with someone. For Ames, he detransitions soon after ending his relationship with Reese but still struggles on pinpointing what made him want to live as male again, especially when Reese pushes for answers. For Katrina, she is wrapping her brain around the fact she is having a baby with someone she didn’t know had lived as a woman for years, but her open-mindedness forces her to shake the anger and accept the perceived affection she’s receiving from Ames and now Reese.
Overall, this novel again shows a community rarely magnified in the literary world. Pushing the boundaries that women who have penises also have desires to be mothers, and though it could be difficult to produce that child biologically depending on the partner, they will make a way to be mothers. Humankind, regardless of identities and circumstances, wants love, and this story shows the road for these characters finding that love unexpectedly with each other, though their inner demons try to destroy what they have. By the way, a TV series adaptation is in the works.