Thomas Page McBee (Ep.30): Emotional detachment is a ticking time bomb

Thomas Page McBee (Ep.30): Emotional detachment is a ticking time bomb

Thomas Page McBee is an author (, ’14 and , Aug ’18) and journalist who writes about masculinity, and gender more broadly. Because Thomas is also trans, I entered the conversation with a preconceived set of beliefs, mostly based on the popular narratives I’d seen in media about trans people. Thomas and I discussed where his story and reporting diverged from those narratives, and helped me understand that gender is complicated for all of us. He’s got a unique and informed perspective on issues many men struggle with, including emotional detachment, gender policing, shame, and violence.

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The prevailing trans narratives (and how Thomas couldn’t relate)

The born in the wrong body story, which was this very reductionist, palatable 'These people seem like aliens.' The idea was to help make trans people relatable, we've got to explain this because 'it's so crazy.' The other big narrative that was happening was ``trans kids.`` Which I think was a big deal because people were trying to explain being trans. It was sympathetic and aimed at the parents.

On ‘Man Alive’ being about the transition into adulthood

There were a lot of books out there about the 'othering' details. Surgeries, hormones - and I understand people being curious about that, but I also think that the curiosity is an emotionally distancing thing.

Thomas on his decision to transition

I experienced a genuine urgency, a genuine discomfort. People can relate to that too, if you've ever been in a job, a marriage, a relationship - lower stakes - but you're like, 'This is not right. Not right.' It feels really bad and you need to change it.

Wall Street men, boxing, and masculinity

I didn't understand why you would risk your body if you were wealthy. But I learned that there's always been this idea of masculinity of looking towards the real men, who tend to be the under-classes and seeing them as more veral and masculine.

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Khe Hy is the creator of RadReads.