Gender Explorers by Juno Roche

Gender Explorers is a collection of interviews with young trans people, in which they talk about their experiences of their everyday lives, their gender, coming out, school, and their aspirations for the future. Ranging from primary age children to young people who’ve left school, the interviews give an insight into how life is for trans children in the modern age. Some are accompanied by interviews with the parent who accompanied the children to the support meetings where Roche conducted the interviews, but it is always centred around the experiences of the trans person in question. Roche terms these trans children ‘gender explorers’ as a way of highlighting the freedom to explore and be themselves, rather than be forced into a particular box.

This book feels very important in the current climate as a way of sharing the voices of trans children and young adults in a way that tries to protect them, seeing as all of the interviews are anonymous. Roche’s interview style (the interviews are structured to show who is talking and include the questions as well as answers) is empathetic and adjusts depending on the age of the interviewee in a way that feels authentic and allows for different focuses. A theme that arises from the collection is one of happiness: being able to explore gender or be treated in the way that they want to be treated brings happiness to these young people’s lives, and though there are struggles both discussed in the interviews and suggested under the surface, Roche always returns to asking for messages that they’d give to someone else who was in a similar situation and these messages are about kindness, positivity, and acceptance.

There have been some collections of essays and insights into the lives of adult trans people, but it feels groundbreaking to have a collection of the insights of young trans people that isn’t trying to then analyse what they say, but let their words speak for themselves. This isn’t a book looking for a single experience, but a way of opening people’s eyes to children’s lives and what can be done to support them. It definitely should be read by parents and anyone who works with children, but also people who are looking understand different experiences or feel heartened for the future.