When the New York Times called Thomas Page McBee the “questioner of masculinity,” they sure weren’t kidding. This author, reporter, and TV writer approaches masculinity’s legacy of violence from a warm perspective that makes you want to listen. Rather than feeling as if he’s talking down to you as a reader, he invites you into his mind and encourages you to ask your own questions, which, for a topic like masculine privilege not often discussed, makes all the difference for those who want to learn from McBee’s insights.
McBee stands as a welcoming force in the queer community as a trans man willing to question the relationship his gender has to a world that prizes masculinity. When reading his work, you feel as if you’re talking to a friend, a mentor, an expert, an overall good person, in the sense that you know he seeks only to help, rather than hurt, with his words, which is quite uncommon, even for authors. And while he is the first to admit when he’s said the wrong thing, as he’s done previously in his novels, you know that when he opens his mouth, you have nothing to fear.
McBee has documented his relentless investigation of masculinity in his memoir Man Alive, named book of the year by the likes of NPR Books, Publisher’s Weekly, and BuzzFeed. In addition to rustling the foundations of patriarchy and misogyny, he has written for the New York Times, Them, Teen Vogue, and more. McBee has also leant his talents to shows like The L Word, Generation Q and Netflix’s Tales of the City.
THE RECOMMENDATION: AMATEUR
McBee’s groundbreaking novel, Amatuer, walks us through his struggles with the “masculinity crisis” that hit the country after the 2008 recession as a trans man, wrestling with the new privileges he was allocated as a white man that he hadn’t realized existed. How many times had he talked over a female coworker? How many times had he effortlessly commanded attention in a meeting?
He expertly examines what it means to be a man as he prepares for a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden, as the first trans man to do so, which he makes sure to address and dissect throughout the novel. He investigates masculinity’s seamless connection to violence, and his own participation in emotional and social violence as he trains in such a physically combative sport.
“It’s hard to overstate how important and profound it feels to read a personal account of a man actively examining his own masculinity and privilege in such an honest way,” said the Women’s Review of Books about the novel.
McBee shares his refreshing take on little-known phenomena, like masculine privilege, white privilege, and misogyny in and outside of the queer community, that are often swept under the rug, making for a dazzling read for those of all perspectives.
McBee said it best on his website, in that he approaches masculinity with a “beginner’s mind,” as well as a compassionate soul.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDITS: SIMON AND SCHUSTER, AMAZON, WALLPAPER DIRECT