‘Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender’ by Nick Krieger

Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender (Beacon) is the memoir of one San Francisco queer, Nick Krieger, who makes his way from the world of his affluent, femme, lesbian friends, to the sexually permissive and gender-variant world of his new Castro crew.

Krieger explores the rites, rituals, and nomenclature of the SF trans-male community to which he finds himself drawn.  But his personal account is not so straightforward; Krieger tells his story in a way we have not seen before in transgender narratives of self-realization.

Reading Nina Here Nor There is like taking a tour through San Francisco’s transmale culture by the most charming guide you could hope for.

As he explores how his friends and acquaintances thought about, spoke about, and made sense of their gender identities, Krieger maintains his individuality and always remains faithful to his own path.  In response to a comment from his yoga teacher, Krieger writes, “I was pretty sure he was trying to tell me that someone else’s body, someone else’s experience would not show me how to have mine.”

While he constantly learns from the people around him, in the end, Krieger holds to the authenticity of his own experiences and desire without resigning any part of himself.

Specifically, this book poignantly, seriously, and directly addresses points of contention that sometimes arise between the FTM transmale community, and the lesbian community.  Krieger recounts conversations with transmale and lesbian friends, which touch on feminism, misogyny, phallocentricsm, and the potential and multiple “meaning” of breasts.

Particularly in the chapter titled, “Packing,” Krieger outlines and weighs in on these vexed topics, which often produce horizontal hostility between queer communities.

In one episode, Krieger, in conversation with a friend, Jess, refers to his packer as a “penis.”  Jess quickly corrects him saying, “It’s not a penis… It’s a cock… We’re tough.”

Krieger writes, “I didn’t want a cock, a word that signified much of what I despised in men…: cockiness, superiority, and egotism.”

Over the course of the chapter, after encounters with various friends regarding his decision to pack, Krieger reinterprets for himself what wearing a packer means and feels like for him:

With my packer, my awareness burgeoned with complications and consequences of relating to a body part symbolic of so much more than anatomy… Wearing a packer was another way to express myself, and yet I’d shoved it at Tori so that she would notice, nearly begging her to see me in a new light.  For as much as I wanted to indict some trans guys when I caught what sounded like misogyny, I could often see both sides of the rift I noticed inside queer spaces—strong, confident women pissed about former dykes turning into asshole dudes and these very same guys referring to these women as transphobic for refusing to acknowledge, accept, or respect their new identities.

Just as many trans individuals struggle to articulate their bodies, desires, and experiences, Nina Here Nor There pays close attention to language as a means to self-discovery.

“The meaning was mine, as long as I was with those who had the vision and vocabulary to understand my creation,” Krieger writes.

This is a text that interprets and decodes social signs of queerness, sexual desire, and language around gender variance, and reveals the complexities of transition without generalizing. Furthermore, without psychologizing identity, Krieger fearlessly and intelligently discusses the social aspects of transition within its queer context, and in so doing, moves beyond our current discourse around gender transition.

This book serves, on one hand, to offer one person’s story of transition, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually. Simultaneously, Nina serves to shrink the divide between us by highlighting and celebrating the diversity of our queer community.

Nina Here Nor There touches on experiences affecting not only trans folks, but also issues relevant to queers of all kinds such as coming out, learning about sex and desire, personal boundaries, family, and the harrowing yet empowering experience of coming into ourselves.

Nina Here Nor There is a coming of age story packed with teachable moments making this book representative not only of one person’s coming-of-age, but indicative of many current issues regarding transition and the intersections of queer communities. Even as Krieger brings readers on his own journey, the social and cultural aspect of the FTM transmale community always figures.

Krieger’s book is easy to read, entertaining, informative, and an important contribution to the body of literature about contemporary queer culture and lives. Nina Here Nor There is a book queers across the gender and sexuality spectrum should read.  An insightful, accessible, and witty page-turner, Nina Here Nor There is the transgender narrative we’ve been waiting for.

Nina Here Nor There
My Journey Beyond Gender
by Nick Krieger
Beacon Press
9780807000922, Paperback, 202 pgs.
May 2011