A Safe Girl To Love by Casey Plett
Genre: Short Stories | Diversity: trans #OwnVoices | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Safe Girl To Love is a raw collection of stories about trans women by a trans woman author. The stories follow different characters as they struggle with being 20-something, either in small towns or in cities, and the harsh realities of being transgender. From messy romances to uncomfortable family dynamics, the collection examines different aspects of trans life in a way that’s also accessible and valuable for cis readers.
(Please Note: TW for transphobia, queerphobia & violence against queer/trans people, sexual assault.)
awkward, messy sexual relationships
The relationships in these stories were so awkward and real. One character is a cam girl, making her money by doing sexually explicit things for (presumably cis straight) men on the internet. One character describes dysmorphia about her dick—and how her sexual partner doesn’t listen or understand her feelings. There’s one story with two trans women in a messy relationship, and one story about a trans woman in an open relationship with a trans guy. One woman spends most of the story having a full-fledged conversation with her cat (which sounds weird, but was so hilarious to read).
What I’m trying to say is that this collection contains a whole realm of different relationships that all felt very real. Plett doesn’t shy away from awkwardness and uncomfortable conversations—it was so refreshing to hear one character talk openly about her relationship with her penis, and so heart-breaking to have her feelings disrespected. In fact, this whole collection welcomes the uncomfortableness—because, guess what, relationships are messy, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation.
family dynamics across the board
Pretty much every one of these stories has to do with family: whether or not they know the character is trans, how they react to the character transitioning. Some of the parents work to embrace their now daughter, but Plett also writes about characters who can’t or won’t come out to their families. As sad as it is to read a woman who dresses as man to please her aging grandfather, it was completely understandable. It’s not always safe or advisable for queer folks to be our full selves, and this is even more true for trans people from conservative or religious backgrounds.
By far my favorite family situation in the collection comes from the story “Winning” which follows Zoe back to her hometown after transitioning. Zoe grew up with a trans mom and it was so refreshing to see their relationship and interactions. Even Zoe’s mom didn’t react perfectly to her daughter’s transition, mostly because she doesn’t want her child to go through the things she did. Despite many of the other stories involving unaccepting families, it was nice to see a balance.
passing, coming out, & transphobia
Overall, each of the stories have one thing in common: they each deal with issues specific to trans women. Most of the women deal with being misgendered; many of them struggle with how or whether to come out to their families, coworkers, potential sexual partners. Most of them deal with transphobia, whether it’s cat-calling from cis men on the street, threats of violence, or even sexual assault (although the rape happens off-screen in the story).
Many of these stories were absolutely heart-breaking. I can’t imagine living in a state of fear the way these women do, just for being themselves. It’s unacceptable, but it’s so easy for cis people to forget that this is a daily thing for these women.
But Casey Plett doesn’t try to write her characters as trans heroines. These women have their flaws (in fact, I’d say most of them are well on their way to becoming alcoholics, but that’s my interpretation). These women don’t want to be called brave—because they’re just living their lives, and because they’re terrified.
impact for cis readers
As I’m not transgender, my perspective comes from the cis angle of things. That being said, there’s a lot of value in reading this as a cis reader. We as people cannot understand what other people go through unless we’re willing to dive in and learn about those experiences. While this book is obviously intended to provide trans women with representation, I think it can also be of such value to cis readers, in opening up our minds. Because while these characters are all trans, they’re also just young people, trying to get by in a difficult world that doesn’t have a space for them.
overall: recommended reading
All in all, this is a wonderful collection filled with hilarious and often poignant stories about trans women. I look forward to seeing what Casey Plett writes next.
Have you read A Safe Girl To Love? What’s your favorite short story collection (bonus points if it’s queer!)? Let’s talk in the comments!