By Chelsey Shannon, editor
I first encountered Alex Myers as one type of champion: out of all of the entries to the 2019 UNO Press Publishing Lab contest, Alex’s novel Continental Divide emerged champion of the rigorous, consensus-based selection process that is the publishing lab class. This meant that, as an editor, I first got to know Alex’s writing, his politics, sensibilities, and tenderness, through the allusive scrim of fiction. Editing this loosely autobiographical coming-of-age narrative was a treat, one whose queerness, vulnerability, and courage I tried to honor through the editorial process.
With our second shared project, I got to know Alex as a different kind of champion. Supporting Transgender Students is a nonfiction guide on building gender-inclusive school environments that 1) affirm trans and gender non-conforming students and 2) refuse to re-inscribe harmful notions about gender identity and sexuality, broadening understandings of these concepts for the good of students (and faculty) of all identities.
The book is based on Alex’s twenty-five years of experience as both an English teacher and an educational consultant. In Supporting Transgender Students, readers discover the wisdom of Alex’s countless conversations with administrators, students, parents, and fellow teachers about how to make spaces in the school safe and comfortable for all students, as well as the more abstract matter of making school culture likewise hospitable.
With (as of this writing) 117 anti-trans bills on thirty-three states’ dockets, a sharp increase from last year, we’re at another pivotal moment when it comes to trans people’s wellbeing and safety. Much of this legislation targets trans and gender non-conforming youth, aiming to offer parents and educators legal backing to isolate and negate kids because of their gender—because of who they are. Myers presents inclusive, generative approaches to sports team eligibility and other subjects, in sharp contrast to the controlling, punitive tenor of this wave of anti-trans legislation.
Happily, two of those Louisiana bills have thus far been struck down. But we quite clearly have a long, long way to go before trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive kids have the protections they deserve, no matter where in the US they live.
Supporting Transgender Students is a critical resource and counter-voice against these trends, alongside Continental Divide and other fictional representations of trans identities and experiences. While editing, it wasn’t hard to see the connections between Alex’s advocacy work and the challenges faced and values cultivated by Ron, Continental Divide’s young protagonist—in fact, recognizing those connections was lovely and rare.
Back in 2013, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the social (mis)recognition of nonbinary gender. I never dreamed that not too many years down the road, I’d be in the position to edit a bracingly practical guide on rebuilding the way gender is understood and interacted with in educational environments. I’m damn proud of that arc, just as I’m damn proud of Supporting Transgender Students. I have the highest of hopes for the good it can do in this hurting but healable world.
In her introduction to I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, Kai Cheng Thom writes: “[I]n the midst of despair, I have come to believe that love—the feeling of love, the ethics and ideology and embodiment of love—is the only good option in this time of the apocalypse. What else do we have?”
What else indeed? Alex Myers’ book is available for preorder now.
Featured image by tedeytan.