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What does it mean to be a man in America?

New book explores issue through lens of trans men

Portland State University


IMAGE: The book cover for Portland State University professor Miriam Abelson's book, 'Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race, and Sexuality in America.' view more 

Credit: University of Minnesota Press

What does it mean to a man in America? A new book by a Portland State University professor takes a deep dive into this question through in-depth interviews with 66 transgender men across the U.S.

Miriam Abelson's book, Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race and Sexuality in America, has been 12 years in the making.

Abelson, a sociologist and an assistant professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, traveled to 14 states in the South, Midwest and West to gather what she believes is the largest and most geographically diverse interview sample of transgender men.

"This is a group of men that is often left out of conversations about men and masculinity," she said. "But they're able to talk about their experiences in ways that might not be as apparent for other men."

That's because they have to navigate the pressures of others seeing them as men for the first time, or if they're undergoing a medical transition, talk about gender in therapy, she said.

The book explores how the places and spaces men live in and move through in their everyday lives are fundamental to their experiences of gender, sexuality and race. Abelson said the stories illustrate that how men expressed their masculinity shifted as they entered different situations or places, including whether they were living in a major city or rural community, or whether they were at school, work, with family or in a public space like restrooms.

"The standard in most places and spaces is you don't want to be too hyper masculine or violent but you also don't want to be too soft or too feminine," Abelson said.

She hopes the book will add to conversations about contemporary masculinity and trans men.

"What does it mean to be a man in America? I found that's not only a prominent question for trans men, but it's a question on the table that's important for all men," Abelson said.

The book was published in March by the University of Minnesota Press.


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