In his new book Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man, journalist and memoirist Thomas Page McBee trains for a charity fight. The book interweaves his immersion in the world of boxing — McBee became the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden — with research, interviews and stories that explore how we’ve arrived at a moment of collective reckoning with the toxic masculinity in American culture.
Amateur is an ambitious project, questioning not only what it means to be a man in our current culture, but what it means to be a trans man, interrogating the opportunities and privileges arrived at through a shift in socialization and lived awareness. The change in how others treat him as a man — at times better and worse in equally disturbing measure — as well as reports of masculinity’s demise, like the 2010 Atlantic cover story “The End of Men” which declared America to be in the throes of a “masculinity crisis,” spurn McBee to search for a healthier idea of what it means to be a man.
McBee is a compelling and thoughtful guide through the troubling maze of American masculinity. Amateur asks what we do with our privilege and our bodies and criticizes the version of masculinity we have accepted as normal. The book is an important addition to our broader cultural conversation around male violence, particularly post-election and in the wake of the #MeToo movement. McBee engages with the work of scholars who for years have been unraveling the Gordian knot of American masculinity; through their input and the author’s own journey, Amateur is optimistic about men’s capacity to transcend poisonous narratives of gender.
The harrowing moment of street harassment described at the beginning of Amateur is not McBee’s first experience of violence at the hands of a stranger. In his first book, the Lambda Award-winning Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man, McBee writes about surviving being mugged by a man who had killed other men in similar attacks, making the decision to transition, and facing off with the stepfather who had sexually abused him as a child. As a trans man who has also reckoned with violence at the hands of other men and who struggles to create for myself a path toward a feminist expression of masculinity, I was eager to catch up with McBee to discuss these issues and how we as trans men might be uniquely poised to witness masculinity for not only its flaws but also for its potential for positive change.
Cooper Lee Bombardier: Thanks so much for doingthis and making the time. How is it going? What has the response [to Amateur] been like so far?
Thomas Page McBee: Thanks! What’s interesting this time around is that it’s being published in the UK simultaneously. I’ve been talking to a lot of UK media, and getting a sense of the conversation happening over there. I think that the UK is in a really different spot right now on trans issues. They’re having a lot of heated public debate about trans bodies. Source Link