feature image by Tony Kershaw for Buzzfeed
For years James Dawson’s books have been bought and loved by young readers all around the world. His books have touched on issues like bullying, identity, finding your place in high school and being gay. Now he’s taking the next step in his career and life and coming out publicly as a trans woman in an interview with Buzzfeed.
Dawson is, for now, still using “he” pronouns and the name James. “You wouldn’t call a butterfly a butterfly until it had hatched,” he reasoned.
Known for Young Adult books like Hollow Pike, Say Her Name, Cruel Summer and Under My Skin, as well as the internationally best-selling non fiction book This Book is Gay, Dawson is the winner of the 2014 Queen of Teen award, given to a Young Adult author as chosen by teen readers. This Book is Gay is meant to serve as a humorous but informative “instruction manual” for LGBTQ teens who’ve come out and don’t know what to do next.
Dawson’s next book, Spot the Difference, comes out on World Book Day, March 3, 2016. It will put an even brighter spotlight on the author, who by then, he hopes, will be several weeks into hormone replacement therapy. Spot the Difference, which is about a bullied girl named Avery who suddenly finds herself with a chance to join the A-list, is one of only two Young Adult books selected for World Book Day and as a part of the celebration will be available to every schoolchild in the UK. Dawson will also be touring and giving talks to thousands of young people in schools across the country. This will put Dawson in a rare level of spotlight for a trans woman, especially in the world of Young Adult literature.
In his interview with Buzzfeed, Dawson spoke of his hopes and fears and how his family reacted, saying, “my mum and dad are quite unsurprised, my sister thought I was being very brave. Trans people hear that a lot. It’s a shame we have to be brave.” This interview goes deep into the way all women, and specifically trans women are expected to follow a certain strict path of femininity, and that if you don’t fit in with that, society says they’re being women wrong and that they’ll never be happy. It also discusses the many legal, practical and professional obstacles that await Dawson on his new path.
Dawson also released a statement in which he gave some details of the personal and professional transition he’ll be undergoing in the next few years.
About eighteen months ago I started what will be a very long journey into living as a woman. It was while writing This Book Is Gay that I realised I had far more in common with trans women than I did with gay men and started speaking to a gender therapist. I am now on a waiting list to receive treatment from specialist doctors and nurses.
People have already noticed me physically changing and I will continue to do so over the coming months. It’s a slow and complicated process and, with regret, I may have to take a step back from some events, and focus on writing.
In 2016, I’ll be back with Mind Your Head, the World Book Day novella Spot The Difference, as well as a new name and news of a brand new novel with Hot Key Books, who have been wonderfully supportive. For now, please continue to refer to me as ‘he’/‘his’ until I am further along in my transition. I have the best readers in the world and I just know my gender identity isn’t going to be an issue for a second.
You can read the much longer interview on Buzzfeed where Dawson talks about his past (“I used to go to bed and bargain with God and say, ‘I’ve been good today, so can I wake up a girl?'”) and his future (“I’m not wasting any more time in the wrong gender, so let’s get on with it.”)
Congratulations to James Dawson, and we wish all the best for you.