Chapter 53: Vivek Shraya is trashing traditional trans tropes


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By Neil Pasricha and Neil Pasricha: Bestselling Author. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

3 Books is a completely insane and totally epic 15-year-long quest to uncover the 1000 most formative books in the world. Each chapter is hosted live and in-person at the guest's preferred location by Neil Pasricha, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Awesome, The Happiness Equation, Two-Minute Mornings, etc. Each chapter of 3 Books uncovers and discusses the three most formative books from one of the world's most inspiring people. Sample guests include: Judy Blume, David Sedaris, Chris Anderson of TED, the founder of the world's largest feminist magazine, the world's greatest Uber driver, Pete Holmes, Angie Thomas, and Malcolm Gladwell. Each of the 333 chapters is dropped on the exact minute of every single new moon and full moon until September 1, 2031. 3 Books is an Apple "Best Of" award-winning show and 100% ad-free, commercial-free, sponsor-free, and interruption-free. For more info check out:

Chapter Description:

I was browsing through a book store a few years ago when I stumbled on a small purple book called I’m Afraid of Men written by Vivek Shraya.

Hadn’t heard of the book! Hadn’t heard of Vivek Shraya! But the provocative title grabbed me so I flipped it over. What was on the back? A simple big solo statement: “And men are afraid of me.”

I opened and kept reading the jacket. Here’s what it said: “A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl, and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century. Vivek Shraya has good reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she has endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and for not being feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive her childhood she had to learn how to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak. Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate.”

Needless to say, I was intrigued. I picked up this small book and it transfixed me. It showed me a view and a lens and a perspective that I had no familiarity with and was opening my mind to a culture and people living with so much oppression. I ended up buying more of Vivek’s books, including her wonderful children's book A Boy & The Bindi. And when her traveling live memoiry stageshow How To Fail As A Pop Star visited Toronto my wife Leslie and I bought tickets and joined the giant standing ovation.

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. That bestselling book I’m Afraid of Men was her­ald­ed by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel,” and her album with Queer Songbook Orchestra, Part‑Time Woman, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached and the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books. A six-time (!) Lambda Literary Award finalist, Vivek was a Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, was featured on The Globe and Mail’s Best Dressed list, and has received honours from The Writers’ Trust of Canada and The Publishing Triangle. And, as if that’s not enough, she’s also Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary!

And now, right in the throes of her book launch for her fiction debut (!) The Subtweet, I had the pleasure of chatting with Vivek from Calgary about a slew of topics I think you’ll enjoy such as how parents can avoid snuffing out their children’s gender creativity and how we might think about using pronouns.

Vivek is able to navigate many complex topics—topics that most people are not even willing to discuss—with a comfort and clarity that shows a deep level of thinking and which is the partial product of the hardships she’s endured and navigated throughout her life. I find her and her work incredibly brave, vulnerable, and important.

I loved talking to her and hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

And now … let’s go!

What You'll Learn:

  • How do you conduct a virtual book tour?
  • How can parents avoid snuffing out the gender creativity in their children?
  • How did colonization induce transphobia?
  • What are the pros and cons of using labels?
  • How might we think about using pronouns?
  • What are some issues with the most common trans narratives?
  • How do we learn to see cultural lenses that we have lived with our whole lives?
  • What is an artist’s real job?
  • And, of course, what are the incredible Vivek Shraya’s 3 most formative books?

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