AROUND THE TIME the novelist Torrey Peters transitioned, she was spending more and more time talking to strangers on the internet. She was 32 years old, in an open marriage, and in the midst of a fellowship program in comparative literature at Dartmouth when she realized she no longer wanted to be a professor. She had an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s writing workshop, but she didn’t want to be a writer anymore, either. She met a wealthy tech guy on Facebook a while back who wanted to fly her out to Seattle for a long weekend. By the end of that visit, she had settled on a new vision of her future. “I wanted to be a trophy wife,” she recalled. “I wanted to take care of a man and have a dog we walked together. It all seems ridiculous to me now, but at the time I was dead serious.”
The tech guy was married, but Peters decided to move to Seattle to become his mistress. She bought a wardrobe of sundresses and heels. “It was a wonderful time. It was also the most insecure I’ve been in my life.” The relationship didn’t last (Peters’s marriage collapsed too), and after a year, the trophywife fantasy fizzled out. By the time she sat down to write her first novel, in the summer of 2016, she was entertaining a previously unthinkable fantasy: a family, maybe kids. The book was an attempt to imagine how that life might be achieved. “It was a thought experiment for how to live as a trans woman,” she said.
The novel, Detransition, Baby, is among the first written by a trans woman to be issued by a bigfive publishing house. It follows three New Yorkers in their late 30s as they face various life crises and contemplate an unconventional solution to their problems: raising a child together. One of them, Katrina, is cis and unexpectedly pregnant. Her partner, Ames, is a trans woman who has decided to detransition and live as a man again. Reese, a trans woman who dated Ames predetransition, is gripped with longing for a baby. “Trans women will be matching their experiences against Reese’s, but so will cis women,” reads a Kirkus review of the book. Roxane Gay, who chose Detransition, Baby, as her February bookclub pick, predicted in a Goodreads review that it would be “polarizing.” “I thought it was incredibly brave,” said Cecilia Gentili, a trans activist and an actress (Pose), on a recent chilly night on the back patio of a Brooklyn restaurant where Peters and her friends had gathered. “Because detransitioning is one of the topics transphobic people use against us. Sometimes I think about detransitioning, but we never talk about it.” Harron Walker, a writer for Jezebel, nodded. She really appreciated a character like Reese, she said, “a trans woman grappling with the idea of motherhood.” To bear children, Peters said, is to be “unquestionably” a woman. “I will never have that unquestionableness.”
Peters, now 39, lounged back against a snowbank. Barefaced save for a hint of eyeliner, she wore a long black vintage fur coat made from nutria (“big rats,” she said). Confident and charismatic, Peters is the kind of woman who can inspire despair in others. Walker’s first thought on meeting her was “She’s so hot I want to jump off a cliff.” In New York, she has cycled through various phases: trans separatist, queer party girl, proud owner of a hotpink motorcycle, cozy domestic. (She’s now engaged to a cis woman, a law professor with a son.) She has always been able to fit into any milieu, but that evening she seemed to glow with the security of a woman who had arrived after a long, difficult journey.
AT A QUAKER BOARDING school in Iowa, Peters had played soccer and learned to be popular by studying what the popular boys did. She had two Facebook pages, one as a boy and one as a girl. “I was so compartmentalized,” she said. She first had sex with a man while dressed as a woman when she was 18. Similar encounters soon followed. She told no one about her secret life. “I didn’t know the word trans. I thought it was a sexual fetish.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Last Sane Man on Wall Street
Nathan Anderson made his name exposing—and betting against—corporate fraud. But short selling in a frothy pandemic economy can be ruinous.
13,000 POUNDS AT 118 MILES PER HOUR
THE WRECK OF A LIMO NEAR ALBANY WAS THE DEADLIEST U.S. TRANSPORTATION DISASTER IN A DECADE. AND THE MAN BEHIND IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST NOTORIOUS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANTS IN FBI HISTORY.
72 minutes with… Connor Pardoe
Pickleball, once a game for the 50-plus crowd, exploded during the pandemic. This sports commissioner wants to turn it into a national pastime.
The novelist tends to torture her gay male characters—but only so she can swoop in to save them.
A cabaret star asks: Can you find yourself without leaving home?
Mitski in Nine Acts
If the musician has to reveal herself at all, she’d rather do it one short burst at a time.
SEE SPOT PAINT
Agnieszka Pilat has become the Silicon Valley elite’s favorite artist. Even The Matrix’s Neo owns her work.
The City Politic: Errol Louis
The Eric Adams Show: A beginning stocked with masterstrokes, gaffes, and eyebrow-raising appointments.
The Money Game: Choire Sicha
America’s Quarter-Life: Crisis Where’s our change? The answer is gnarlier than you’d expect.
The Undoing of Joss Whedon
The Buffy creator, once an icon of Hollywood feminism, is now an outcast accused of misogyny. How did he get here?
It Has Been a Privilege
My first byline in HOT ROD magazine appeared in the February 1992 issue. Now, 30 years later, the February 2022 issue will likely carry my last. This is my final editorial column.
NO SYMPATHY FOR DEVIL SCOTT
Peterson’s sister & old lover vow to testify against Laci’s evil killer.
HARRY & MEGHAN ARE NEIGHBORS FROM HELL!
Fat cats fleeing California town as tacky royals set up shop
AMAZON TO ALLOW EMPLOYEES TO WORK REMOTELY INDEFINITELY
Amazon said it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can commute to the office when necessary.
2 Alaska Towns Allow Texts to 911 When Calling Not an Option
Residents in Wrangell and Petersburg now have the ability to text 911 for help when calling isn’t an option.
FALL PREVIEW CSI: VEGAS Grissom and sara are the season's winning pair
Power up your remote! The new TV season shines bright with electric performances (Jeff Daniels! Jessica Chastain! Michael Keaton!) and memorable returns, starting with our favorite Sin City couple…
Stepping Up to the Plate
A longtime baseball card collector seizes the opportunity to do good after a destructive wildfire
REESE WITHERSPOON SELLS HELLO SUNSHINE, JOINS NEW COMPANY
It’s a perfect day for Reese Witherspoon as the actress and producer is selling the media company she founded to a newly formed company backed by private equity firm Blackstone Group.
THE LAST FRONTIER
EDWARD CURTIS’S FINAL ADVENTURE
Why ‘Microbial Area Kleaners' Can Help Save Our Seas
EMT CEO Randall Mount addresses the benefits of MAKs.