For my latest book review I wanted to focus on one which celebrates the queer community, and more importantly, the trans community.
A Trans Man Walks Into a Gay Bar by Harry Nicholas and published by Jessica Kingsley, is a coming of age mixed with self/sex discovery story in which Harry wrote about his experience of navigating life and love as a gay trans man. Harry is a writer and a campaigner and is based in London. This is my first introduction to Harry, his work and his story.
A Trans Man Walks Into a Gay Bar
This is a book that Harry was inspired to write after realising that a book like this didn’t exist, a book which he could relate to while on his personal journey of self and sex discovery. In all honesty, I am so glad that Harry chose to write this book as it has been eye-opening and engaging for me as a reader. I was rooting for Harry on every page that I turned.
Harry shares his journey of navigating this new life while experiencing questions such as “Why, if you like boys, did you transition?” Questions which he had also asked himself at the start.
The first chapter takes us back to 2018, just as Harry’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend Lucy is coming to an abrupt end. Harry initially finds the break-up hard, loneliness kicks in and he starts questioning where to go from here as Lucy was someone who he saw a future with.
Harry goes on to find comfort and self-reflection through listening to Elton John (funnily enough, I have Elton on my anxiety toolkit playlist too) while questioning his decisions such as whether transitioning to male was the cause of Lucy leaving him.
Prior to transitioning, Harry had tried to fit into the mould of being a lesbian because everyone already assumed that he was. Teachers, family, his peers. However, deep down he knew that this wasn’t him but he was still bullied at school due to fitting the lesbian stereotype.
Harry goes on to share his experience of transitioning and the physical changes, such as his voice changing, increased body hair and fat redistribution. Something which I found interesting as a woman, was hearing Harry’s account of how he was treated differently after transitioning. He started being on the receiving end of male privilege, and daily conversations with strangers made him feel uncomfortable and like he had to conform to the male misogynist stereotype. This is something which would never have crossed my mind, so that particular chapter caught my attention. It’s one thing transitioning physically but then there is the challenge of feeling like you have to alter your personality and views to be accepted too.
I found this chapter so endearing, showing up on Grindr with no experience of the terminology that was popular among the members on there, setting boundaries and the fear of trying sex with another man for the first time.
Harry starts to feel accepted by the queer community when he attends Manchester Pride in 2013 and talks about how confident he feels compared to how he felt in gay bars before transitioning.
I felt so connected to Harry throughout the book and throughout his own personal self-journey, I love that he shows up as his authentic self, sharing his thought process, his fears and insecurities and how he slowly goes on to question them and then overcome them.
This is a truly remarkable and interesting account of Harry’s life so far and an insight of what it feels like to transition.