The Pants Project - Cat Clarke

Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me.
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

So, from the sounds of the excerpt on the jacket copy, this sounds like it's going to be a book about a trans boy, but I have to say if that's what you're hoping for, you may be disappointed. Other than a smattering of descriptive moments (which sound more like authorial interruptions than inner monologue), the overall story is much more focused on overthrowing the school's dress code rather than Liv exploring what it means to be a trans boy.

The narrative voice sounds much more butch grade-six-girl than anything, as the plot mostly revolves around Liv wanting to wear pants and ride a skateboard rather than about her actually wanting to be a boy. This doesn't make the book a bad book, but the fact that it is yet another book about a trans young person written by a cisgender author is a bit troubling. If we see books as windows, then the windows are being built by cisgender authors, telling cisgender readers what it means to be trans. And if we look at these books as mirrors, then whose lives are they really mirroring, because it's not trans children or teens, for the most part, but rather what cis authors think trans children and teens experience.

But back to the actual plot, the overthrowing of the dress code is very timely considering the backlash against dress codes in North America and some parts of the UK and Europe (just look at the recent story of boys wearing skirts to show the ridiculousness of forcing girls to wear skirts even in the winter). But the trans aspect of the narrative feels forced, almost as thought it was added because it's en vogue to write minority characters rather than because the story is actually supposed to be about that character's life and experience.

In any case, I think the book would be better used to discuss dress codes and sexist/patriarchal expectations, not to give readers a window into lived trans experience. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the book, but it left a rather unfortunate impression in the end.

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