Why ‘Detransition, Baby’ Deserved its Place in the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 Longlist

By Victoria Bromley

Trans women are women: Torrey Peters’ name deserved to be with other incredible women writers for this prestigious award. There’s no doubt about it.

This year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s longlist was released on the 10th of March and was received with public controversy regarding the inclusion of Torrey Peters’ novel ‘Detransition, Baby’. The shortlist has since been released, announced on the 28th April, and unfortunately the trans writer’s book has not progressed in the competition.

You may be wondering why I have decided to write about this matter. Being straight and cis genered, I am not a part of the LGBTQ+ community, yet I am a woman and I want to use my voice as an ally to argue why ‘Detransition, Baby’ deserved to be longlisted as it was one of the best books I’ve ever read exploring motherhood and what it means to be a woman.

photo by @readingwithvic

‘Detransition, Baby’ follows three characters living in New York City. Reese is a trans woman who has always wanted a child, Ames used to be a trans woman named Amy but has since detransitioned back into a man after being attacked in a park and struggling to live any longer as a trans woman, and Katrina is Ames’ boss who has fallen pregnant with his child. Ames approaches Reese and proposes that all three of them raise the child together as Ames doesn’t want to be a father, but a parent, and believes that to avoid becoming a heteronormative family they need to bring in someone else. The themes of motherhood, loss, heartbreak, gender and race were so well executed and explored. This book deserves the highest of praises.

However not everyone agrees that this novel deserves to be valued under women’s literature because Torrey Peters is a trans woman. According to those with this view, longlisting ‘Detransition, Baby’ for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 means that women authors are deemed unworthy of their own prize. This implies that this book is an impostor, a parasite, an unwelcome guest which doesn’t belong and is only there to rob women of their prize. This is far from the truth. Peters deserved that prize as much as any of the other longlisted nominees.

photo by @booksthatmatteruk

One of the reasons as to why this book was so captivating was because of how much I’ve learnt about the trans community. This novel explores all the difficulties of living as a trans person in modern society. Before reading this book, I have never come across the idea of a trans person detransitioning. One of my favourite quotes from the book was: “He started to once again want the armour of masculinity and somewhat haphazardly detransitioned to fully suit up in it.” This shows how Amy wanted to feel safe and protected and the only way she believed she could continue living was if she disregarded her true identity and went back to living as a man so she no longer feared for her life. This was utterly heartbreaking to read.

A prominent theme of the novel was identity and how it shifts and changes and is a fluid thing. Another one of my favourite quotes was: “She knew that no matter how you self-identify ultimately, chances are that you succumb to becoming what the world treats you as.” Society moulds people into clones with the same beliefs and values which are considered ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ and any deviation of that must be punished. Yet self-expression and unique identities should be celebrated. Denying Peters a place in the rankings of this award is the opposite of celebrating diversity and difference. This book is a colourful, real and raw reality which shouldn’t be ignored.

Did ‘Detransition, Baby’ deserve to be longlisted? There is no doubt about it. Should it have been shortlisted and gone onto win? – I vote yes, however that is not the case. Anyone who has read this book should be in support of the messages and teachings it provides as I have been educated and so should everyone else.

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