‘Detransition, Baby’ author Torrey Peters gives students sneak peek of upcoming novella

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Photo by Isabella Gaglione for The Lafayette

Students gathered in Kirby 104 to hear from author Torrey Peters.

When Closs Writer-in-Residence Torrey Peters wrote her debut novel “Detransition, Baby, she had no idea that it would be published, let alone earn her a Women’s Prize for Fiction nomination and a television adaptation.

“At the time I was writing for like eight of my friends because they were the ones I knew who would read it,” Peters said. Now, “tens of thousands of people” have read her debut novel.

“Detransition, Baby” follows Reese, a transgender woman whose life gets complicated when she receives a call from her ex, Ames, who recently detransitioned and got his boss pregnant. Told through both Reese’s and Ames’ perspectives, the novel is one of the first novels written by a transgender woman to be published by a major publishing house and become a New York Times bestseller.

On Tuesday, Peters visited Lafayette for a reading and a question and answer session with students as a part of the Closs Residency, a yearly program established in 1984 to bring writers to campus.

The event began with Peters reading an excerpt from her upcoming novella, “The Chaser.” She shared with the group that she wanted to explore a different aspect of trans relationships.

“What was interesting to me was to talk about trans relationships, not from the perspective of trans women but from perhaps men who date trans women or are attracted to trans women and who don’t necessarily have a language for what’s going on,” Peters said.

Peters also read an excerpt from “Detransition, Baby.” Afterward, she answered audience questions and provided insight into her writing interests and being a trans woman in a predominantly cisgender industry.

She discussed her beginnings in Brooklyn’s trans writing scene, which consisted primarily of trans women writing for other trans women. Peters’ trans peers pushed her to be inventive with her writing.

“If I was to write to a cis audience about hormones and I was like, ‘Here’s what we do, we take it every week, here’s how it feels,’ oftentimes they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so interesting,’” she said. “If I say that to trans women, they yawn in my face.”

Additionally, Peters discussed how she handled the transphobic backlash she received after being nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and why she does not let it prevent her from telling important stories.

“When I as a reader relate to somebody being incredibly honest, I feel free,” Peters said. “I feel that the shame that existed before is suddenly put into words. Once that shame is in words, it stops being scary.”

Peters was introduced by English professor Jennifer Gilmore, who emphasizes the importance of bringing diverse voices to campus.

“I think it’s important to bring in LGBTQ voices in any way we can any kind of voices that we haven’t necessarily, as a community, heard a lot from,” Gilmore said. “We try to bring in a range of diverse voices through this Closs reading series and through other events we do in the English Department.”

Gilmore encourages students from all disciplines to engage in the Closs Residency and other English Department events.

“I just hope students remain open and curious and just want to read everything and anything. Also honestly, for me, fiction is the filter through which I see the world,” Gilmore said. “So I think it’s important for writing students and any students to be able to learn about the world and learn about people through fiction. There’s a truth in that, even if it’s not fact.”

More information on Torrey Peters can be found at torreypeters.com