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Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure

Authored by Lewis Hancox
Illustrated by Lewis Hancox
Published by Scholastic

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Lewis Hancox writes and illustrates this brilliant graphic memoir of transitioning. Focusing on experiencing gender dysmorphia during his High School years, Hancox explores inner feelings and outer reactions to identifying as male in a female body. The lack of information and connection is beautifully rendered in black and white illustrations of the adult male Lewis talking to, and mocking, the young adult female, Lois.

Lewis’ presence in the narrative creates points for reflection on Lois’ struggles with breasts, periods and falling in love. Lewis is quite gentle with his younger self as they question and explore aspects of identity that feel stable for all their friends. I particularly like the contemporary inserts: asking parents, friends and grandparents how they were feeling at these times of potential upheaval. Recognising that sometimes it’s hard for even the well-meaning around the trans person makes this a great resource for family centres, libraries, community centres and youth centres.

But mostly this would be a great resource for a trans teen or tween. Despite the 14+ label on the cover, there is some fairly heavy drinking episodes, exploration of food and weight issues and destructive ‘jackass’ behaviours, I think this might be a useful resource for an adult (parent, doctor or counsellor) to bring to a child if they are talking the way that the young Lois was.

Most of the adults in Lewis’ story suspected that he was not as he was born and perhaps this graphic memoir could help adults in the lives of transitioning or questioning children as well as the young people at the centre of the experience. What the memoir reminds us of is: that no young person experiences this alone but they can always be made to feel alone because they are told, or feel that they are told, that they aren’t ‘normal’.