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A tale of transition

Posted in: Books
By Jacqui Stanford - 21st July 2010

f2m_1.jpg

"What happens when who you are on the inside clashes with what you are on the outside?"

That's the question posed on the cover of trans novel f2m: the boy within, which has its New Zealand launch in Wellington tonight.

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Ryan Kennedy
It is loosely based on the experiences of its co-author, Ryan Kennedy, a 34-year-old Aussie-turned-Wellingtonian, who transitioned around seven years ago.

Kennedy co-wrote the book with longtime family friend Hazel Edwards, who just happens to be a writer of children's books and young adult fiction. He met up with her on a visit to Melbourne in 2008, the first time she'd met him since he transitioned. "And she thought I looked really happy and was doing really well in my job and she was just interested to hear about the process," he says.

Kennedy sent Edwards segments from a journal he had kept while transitioning, which she thought had the elements of a book. "We decided to go ahead with this book and were lucky to get Ford St publishing onboard with it and in their series for this year."

Considering Kennedy works in IT, it's probably no surprise that the book was written in the most modern way – via Skype, with the manuscript sent back and forth in emails. Kennedy says it worked really well, saying even if they had been in the same city there wouldn't have been much of an advantage. "Actually being in the same room with someone wasn't all that necessary for getting the story done."

f2m: the boy within, follows 18-year-old punk-rocker Skye on the journey to becoming Finn. It looks at the impact the process has on Finn himself, as well as his friends and family.

In the text the character is referred to in the feminine until the transition period, where Skye and 'she' become Finn and 'he'. "It's as if the character went through a real transition for the authors as well, which I thought was really interesting." Kennedy says.

The writer is hoping to get more feedback from youth, who he wrote the book for, as there is a real gap in fiction for young trans people. "At that age you just want to read stories that reflect where you're at, or where one of your friends might be at and bring in a new perspective and something that you can really relate to. That's really important."

He points out that you can read all about the technical medical process of transitioning on the internet, but you can't relate to it when it isn't a story. "I mainly wanted to get across what it feels like and what it might feel like – it's not exactly my story - but something that people who transition might relate to, and so people supporting someone transitioning can get an insight into what they're going through."

Kennedy says because trans people are such a small minority of the population there is always going to be a small amount of resources. "And that's why we've got to make these sorts of efforts to get things publicised at a larger level, to reach people who might not know they're trans until they read it."

The music-lover and guitarist drew on his own experience in the punk scene, an area of society he believes is also often misrepresented. "People get the wrong idea about what it's actually about, they might think it's destructive, or whatever," he says.

"I always found it very constructive when I was in the punk scene and a good way to express who I was and a good way to throw off everything that I had thought about, about the world and about myself. And to explore my identity in that world, because it's a bit more free than the rest of society."

The work has already been launched in Melbourne, but its New Zealand launch in Wellington tonight is extra special for Kennedy. "This is what's really bringing it home to me that I have actually contributed something to the community that's valuable and actually going to change people's lives."

Green Party MP Kevin Hague and intersex counsellor Mani Mitchell will speak at the launch at Unity Books. True to the novel's creation process, co-author Hazel Edwards will appear on a big screen via Skype.

f2m: the boy within will be launched at 6pm tonight at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington. All welcome.

Watch a trailer for trans novel f2m: the boy within below:


Jacqui Stanford - 21st July 2010

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