“So keep your mind wide open and allow for stereotypes to be defied. Express yourself in whatever way you wish and allow others to do the same. Don’t make anyone afraid to stand up and stand out for who they are and who they want to be.” ~ Rachel Thompson
After being bullied unmercifully at his former school, Anton of 'Spy Stuff' by Mathew J. Mettzer, is starting a different one in hopes of having a new beginning. When his teacher asks him to introduce himself, Anton bristles; since he wants to remain as anonymous as possible, Anton tells her he'd rather not. This reply starts a small riot with the kids in the class, complete with throwing books, screaming, and swearing at each other, etc. Anton is alarmed, wondering if he's gone from the frying pan into the fire. Fortunately, Emma, one of his classmates, takes Anton under her wing and acts as a guide, explaining that they guys always act like that and they are actually friends.
Unlike most of us, Anton has to worry about what toilet to go in, changing in gym class, and wearing a skimpy vest (tank top) instead of a T-shirt because he doesn't want anyone to see his binder and discover he's transgender. Anton is afraid that if they did, he would be treated differently than if they consider him just “one of the guys”. Fortunately, the kids in this school seem friendly and open, particularly Emma and Jude.
Anton has never had anyone affect him the way Jude does and he's not quite sure how to act or feel. Jude's easy-going manner and brilliant smile make his heart beat nearly out of his chest and Anton dares to dream. Apparently, Jude feels the same way; even though he's only been with girls, Jude decides to ask Anton out anyway. Jude takes some flack about dating Anton, but he blows it off saying he doesn't care if they think he's gay or bi, because it's Anton he's attracted to, not his gender.
'Hearing' Anton's perspective gave me a clearer understanding of what a transgender person experiences every day, things that most people don't see as a problem. Fortunately, this story has a more positive slant than usually occurs in real life. It was wonderful to think about how things could be if only more people would just open their minds and not be so quick to judge. I especially loved Jude who was understanding and gracious with Anton. Jude encouraged Anton to be who he truly is rather than hiding it.
I don't have the space to put down all my thoughts and feelings about the transgender issue, but Matthew covers it in his special style of seriousness and humor, bringing up important points; yet he keeps it from being too heavy or didactic. There aren't many books about transgender teens that discuss the topic of being transgender, especially as well as Matthew does. This is one of the reasons I am highly recommending it to people of that age group. It's just as important that families, teachers, teens, and other adults, particularly those who associate with transgender kids, read this book as well. Support and sensitivity is especially important, because using the wrong pronoun, or implying the wrong gender, hurts more than anyone who is not sensitive to the subject can imagine. Thanks, Matthew, for the witty, informative, sensitive, and straightforward look at what it's like to be transgender.