Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man

Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man

From an award-winning writer whose work bristles with “hard-won strength, insight, agility, and love” (Maggie Nelson), an exquisite and troubling narrative of masculinity, violence, and society.In this groundbreaking new book, the author, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between mas...

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Title:Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man
Author:Thomas Page McBee
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Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man Reviews

  • Dominic

    This is the kind of book I wish I could have written and maybe still will. And when I

    write my book about masculinity, I will credit Thomas Page McBee along with bell hooks (and her moving call to action,

    ) for their ability to write about the challenges of creating a new brand of masculinity without sounding whiny and without making it seem like men have it harder than women.

    In fact, McBee is able to call men to task while still deepening our understanding of masculine frag

    This is the kind of book I wish I could have written and maybe still will. And when I

    write my book about masculinity, I will credit Thomas Page McBee along with bell hooks (and her moving call to action,

    ) for their ability to write about the challenges of creating a new brand of masculinity without sounding whiny and without making it seem like men have it harder than women.

    In fact, McBee is able to call men to task while still deepening our understanding of masculine fragility, hunger, and desire. I've spent a good part of my life [okay, nearly all of it] feeling uncomfortable with hegemonic masculinity, wavering between inadequate and good enough, fearful and bold. Only now that I've reached 40 have I nearly completely shed my worry about being seen as less than manly in the eyes of others. I've been looking most of my adult life for alternatives to that narrow path to "what makes a man," and in 2018, I feel like the call for something different is more urgent than ever. We've taken a few steps forward and possibly even a few more steps back. McBee gets the conversation back on track and, for me at least, propels us headlong forward.

    McBee makes me proud to be the man that I am, even while encouraging me to be bolder and seek to make even more change around me.

  • Maggie Dziong

    Superbly well written and insightful, a pleasure to read. Thomas explores the subject of masculinity with great openness and vulnerability. As a woman I found it very interesting to read, and it certainly made me see things more from the male point of view.

  • Eleanor

    Thomas Page McBee wrote an earlier book,

    , about his transition; this one,

    , is about his attempts to learn to box in order to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden. (He did it, becoming the first trans man to box there in the process.) As its subtitle would suggest, this is fertile ground in terms of seeing questions about manhood through the lens of violence, aggression, love, and the moments where those three things can be synonymous, and the moments where they are

    Thomas Page McBee wrote an earlier book,

    , about his transition; this one,

    , is about his attempts to learn to box in order to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden. (He did it, becoming the first trans man to box there in the process.) As its subtitle would suggest, this is fertile ground in terms of seeing questions about manhood through the lens of violence, aggression, love, and the moments where those three things can be synonymous, and the moments where they are not. It is, as I said on Instagram, a book about being a good man, and a book about punching someone in the face. McBee is especially good on moments of disorientation, where he sees himself from the outside: not just flashbacks to his changing physique, but also quieter moments when he realises he’s failed to be the ally to women that he thought he was. (There’s a particularly painful moment when he and his brother both talk over his sister despite her knowing more about the topic of discussion. There’s also a thought-provoking incident at the start of the book, where another man tries to start a fight with him on the street. He’s not targeted for being trans; the other man doesn’t register that at all. Rather, McBee sees it as emblematic of a particular kind of male anger, one that lacks the vocabulary to ask to be loved. It acts as something of a catalyst for him in his attempts to discover what kind of man he wants, or needs, to be.) For me, as a woman who has never been either sporty or masculine-presenting, the scenes in McBee’s training gym were like secret dispatches from an alien culture: the men who teach him to hit are also the men who wrap his hands and treat his cuts and pour water into his mouth. At the very end of the book, when he finally comes out to his training coach, he discovers that the coach already knows, and has only been wondering when McBee will trust him enough to say it. The technical stuff about fighting and the more personal, psychological content is beautifully intertwined (and it’s especially nice to know that McBee’s girlfriend Jess, who makes several appearances in the book, usually with a tarot deck nearby, is now his wife). A must-read, and not just for folks interested in LGBTQ writing/issues.

    Originally published on my blog,

  • Julie Giehl

    This one is going to sit with me for awhile. Ann Friedman’s back of the book review calls it a warm hug, and it is. I loved his writing style, his ability to see everything, to face hard truths and lead with a beginner’s mind. There’s a lot to say about masculinity in America and McBee does a beautiful job giving this topic justice, in a very warm and vulnerable way. I’ll second Friedman’s review, I want the world to read this book.

  • Randy Bretzin

    The hunks of truth, contained within ‘Amateur’, weigh in with such power and necessity - delivered with such graceful empathy and self-awareness; its authority is impossible to deny. The world is a better place knowing Thomas Page McBee is in it. Every body should read this.

  • Courtney Gillette

    If I’m honest, I have little interest in boxing (and perhaps less so in masculinity as a concept), but Thomas Page McBee is such a talent, I’d follow him anywhere. This is a generous and tender story, beautifully rendered. I’m grateful this book is in the world.

  • James

    This is an important book that will likely not be read widely enough.

    The writing is great. He's a journalist and that shows in the style, but he's also a natural storyteller and that shows too, especially the in the parts about his mother.

    My experiences with masculinity differ from his (people still talk over me in meetings, for one thing), but his perspective is valuable and unique and full of unexpected depth and wisdom. A lot of what he had to say resonated. A lot of it, I wish I could share

    This is an important book that will likely not be read widely enough.

    The writing is great. He's a journalist and that shows in the style, but he's also a natural storyteller and that shows too, especially the in the parts about his mother.

    My experiences with masculinity differ from his (people still talk over me in meetings, for one thing), but his perspective is valuable and unique and full of unexpected depth and wisdom. A lot of what he had to say resonated. A lot of it, I wish I could share with guy friends, but hey...we just don't do that. (Sadly.)

    After reading and if so inclined, the actual fight is on YouTube here:

    Overall, incredible book about masculinity. Worth reading, even for people who don't like boxing.

  • Rebecca Foster

    Thomas Page McBee was the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden. In his second memoir, which arose from a

    article entitled “Why Men Fight,” he recounts the training leading up to his charity match and ponders whether aggression is a natural male trait. McBee grew up in a small town outside Pittsburgh with a stepfather who sexually abused him from age four. In 2011 he started the testosterone injections that would begin his gender transformation. During the years that follo

    Thomas Page McBee was the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden. In his second memoir, which arose from a

    article entitled “Why Men Fight,” he recounts the training leading up to his charity match and ponders whether aggression is a natural male trait. McBee grew up in a small town outside Pittsburgh with a stepfather who sexually abused him from age four. In 2011 he started the testosterone injections that would begin his gender transformation. During the years that followed, other men seemed to pick fights with him fairly often, and he was unsure what to do about it. Finally, in 2015, the Manhattan editor decided to confront the belligerent male stereotype by starting boxing training.

    What I most appreciated were the author’s observations of how others have related to him since his transition. He notices that he’s taken more seriously at work as a man, and that he can be an object of fear – when jogging behind a woman at night, for instance. One of the most eye-opening moments of the book is when he realizes that he’s been talking over his own sister. Thankfully, McBee is sensitive enough to stop and change, recognizing that kindness and vulnerability are not faults but attributes any person should be proud of.

    I have a feeling I would have preferred his previous memoir,

    , which sounds like it has more about the transition itself. Jonathan Eig’s

    is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and in comparison I didn’t find the boxing writing here very interesting. Likewise, this pales beside two similar but more perceptive books I’ve read that have been hugely influential on my own understanding of gender identity:

    by Jan Morris and

    by Maggie Nelson.

    Originally published on my blog,

    .

  • Rebecca

    Maggie Nelson said that this book was like "sitting with someone uncurling his hands, than holding them out to you, open, so that you can behold all the hard-won strength, insight, agility and love to be found there" and I think that's true. This is a vital trans narrative about becoming and fighting and masculinity. There's bloodiness and tenacity in it, but also gentleness.

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