Nina Here Nor There, a New Memoir by Nick Krieger

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Nina Here Nor There, a New Memoir by Nick Krieger

In just one week we have three new contributions to the conversation about transgender identity:

First, an itch-inducing NYT profile crowning Chaz Bono a “reluctant transgender role model” in which he makes essentialist statements about how hormones make him less likely to gossip and more into tech gadgets and the reporter clears herself to ask whether his gender identity is his famous mother’s “fault”. (really, I mean, REALLY?). I second Grace Moon’s rant on the subject.

Second, a tenuously respectful profile of the brilliant performer Justin Bond in New York Magazine about her process of, as they put it, becoming “the woman (and man) he always wanted to be.” (editor's note: you can read Justin's response to the piece on her blog)

And third, a new take: the release of Nick Krieger’s trans memoir Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender (Beacon Press). Nick has painted a personal, intimate, funny and real portrait of his own quest to find himself, and to carve out a space beyond the binary most of us are still trapped in. Reading about transfolks in the media sometimes feels like a trip through treacherous water with an unreliable guide. Nick has taken his trip into his own capable, curious hands:

Why did you write this book?
This book started and ended really differently than I had intended. I started working on this project about 3 ½ years ago in grad school for writing. I was just writing short pieces about transgender people, transgender issues, as my way of making sense of what was going on around me in SF, what I was seeing in my friends and my larger queer community. Writing it was a way of processing it, and my own questions surrounding it, my own fascination surrounding it.

This started out as a project about other people and it became infinitely more compelling for me to write about my own transgender experience. It was, I think, my way of exploring what was going on personally. Writing was a tool to discover what transgender actually was. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know transgender people. At a certain point I really started to explore my own gender path. It was at that point that I turned to making it a personal story.

I went on my own gender exploration. I started to feel that my story took precedence in my own life. And I found it a lot easier to write about myself than to write about other people. I can be self-deprecating. I can be funny. I can make fun of myself. I didn’t really want to do that with other people. It then became a way to process my own experience. This was the subject matter I was exploring at the time so this is what I used to connect with the world.

When did you know you were writing a book?
I knew I was doing a book about two years ago, summer 2007. It started as a narrative non-fiction book project. My thesis was a precursor to the book—It was a practice book, I guess I’d call it. I said ok, well now I want to make this into a real book.

I saw the seed of the story, I understood I had a whole narrative arc. I had compelling characters, I had a story I wanted to tell. I had actually had personally decided that I was going to write this book whether I was able to get any industry support or not. I felt like I had to get my personal story down on paper in order to move on with my life, really. I did reach out and try to get an agent. I wrote a book proposal. I really centered it around the idea that I was writing a transgender memoir different than what was already out there.

What makes your story different?
A lot of the transgender memoirs that I have read were very specific, "I am a woman and now I am becoming a man. I am a man and now I am becoming a woman". And what I have always felt, and what I started seeing around me, was this way of holding man and woman at the same time. Genderqueer, or gender fluid, or middle ground.

This idea of holding both man and woman was something that I really related to, and started to see around me a lot in both lesbian and transgender communities. And I just didn’t see that reflected in memoir. I did see it reflected in theory and academia and in essays. What was really compelling to me was to try to tell my story of ‘between woman and man.’

Who did you write this book for?
The question of audience has been one of the most challenging questions I have faced in this whole process. And even now I’m surprised at who my audience is turning out to be. I was writing this for alternative people in urban centers—people who have some sense of open mindedness about things that are new and different, maybe even have some basic transgender understanding.

Maybe they have heard the narratives of "I was born the wrong body and now I’m switching my sex so that my insides match my outsides." And then I was trying to take that and make this new space for this middle ground.

I was definitely writing a bit for lesbians. I lived as a lesbian for 10 years. I feel deeply, deeply connected to the lesbian community. One thing that has been a real struggle for me is (something I hear about but I actually really haven’t felt) this notion that once people move towards this trans-masculine realm, they lose their lesbian community.

The 30 years that I lived as a woman were so important to me, and I wanted to capture that in a book. I wanted to write to them. I wanted to tell all my friends that I am still with you, I am still here, a couple things have just changed.

I wanted to tell trans people there are more ways of looking at this than we previously thought, and to empower trans people to feel like they can tell their stories as well. I am really trying to reach everybody who is at some stage to learn something different.

How did the people you wrote about in the book—your family and your community- respond to being written about? How has it reverberated?
The book is just being released now, so a handful and growing number of people have read it. The first people I did give this book to were the people who are in it. I gave it to them shortly before it went to publication. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking things. It was definitely a concern of mine throughout the whole book writing process, I mean. I don’t think anyone asks to be in someone else’s memoir. It is uncomfortable for me to write about other people.

I felt that they were so integral to my story. They allowed me to be the person that I am, so I hope in some sense my book pays homage to them and all they have done. I feel like I was met with such grace and dignity. The people that I have written about have been completely supportive. I am sure they have struggled with some of the things that I have said. I’m sure they all really want progress for transgender and LGBTQ people in general. It’s interesting, people within the LGBTQ community, they know about a lot of this stuff. I think there is a great joy in seeing their stories reflected, seeing some representation of themselves that they actually haven’t seen before.



Comments [6]

patricia's picture

Amazing!

What a great interview! Couldn't stop reading it, page to page.

Conlite's picture

This book does sound

This book does sound interesting - appreciate the interview!

Not2Taem's picture

Must read

This is definitely a must read for me. I especially appreciate the emphasis on genuinely recognizing a space beyond the binary, a recognition of the many spiritual aspects and dualities that exists in all of us. Going to see if its on Kindle yet.  Smile

Ashley Harness's picture

awesome... so awesome

Angela, thank you for asking the tough questions with respect. Nick, thank you for answering with such incredible grace, wisdom, courage and beauty. Wow. I am so excited to read the book!!

Grace Moon's picture

"I lived as a lesbian for 10

"I lived as a lesbian for 10 years. I feel deeply, deeply connected to the lesbian community. One thing that has been a real struggle for me is (something I hear about but I actually really haven’t felt) this notion that once people move towards this trans-masculine realm, they lose their lesbian community.

The 30 years that I lived as a woman were so important to me, and I wanted to capture that in a book. I wanted to write to them. I wanted to tell all my friends that I am still with you, I am still here, a couple things have just changed."

how refreshing to read...

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Grace Moon's picture

in clairification to my own comment

it was in response to the trainwreck of an interview with Chaz bono in the NYTimes.

thanks god for other more thoughtful perspectives.

tweet tweet @gracemoon