Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer.
Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is.
Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it. It is Zisin’s powerful and brave account of their journey to transgender, and all the stumbles, victories and life-changing moments along the way.
“A gorgeous coming of age story about one person’s journey to discover themselves. Zisin is a compelling storyteller with a delightful and exciting new voice.” Clementine Ford
Released on May 1st by Black Dog Books this book touches on the themes of transgender, queer, family, acceptance, self-discovery, bullying, weight issues, and change.
The below is a Q&A by transgender writer and activist, Nevo Zisin.
- What do you hope readers will take away from Finding Nevo?
I hope they will not only take away my story but also their own. I hope people will find similarities or moments they can relate to and connect it to their own narrative and what the implications of that may be. I hope fellow trans people will feel less alone, heard and seen. I hope they realize that there is a future for them and that they are strong and resilient. I hope cis people read this book and feel a responsibility to create safer spaces and a safer world at large for trans people. While also questioning ways they may uphold oppressive standards of gender binaries onto those around them. Though in general I hope this book will inspire people to create change, both within themselves and in society.
- What made you write your autobiography at such a young age?
I was lucky enough to be commissioned to write my autobiography so that was certainly a huge influence. But outside of that I think it’s really vital to be prioritizing young voices. I often hear the phrase, “children are the future”, and I feel like this is so dismissive. What about now? Do we just ignore them until they grow up? I think it’s crucial that young people have young role models, people they can relate to and understand. So even though my life hasn’t been as long as others who write autobiographies, I think I have a lot to say and the demographic I am aiming at aren’t always the most spoken to.
- How did you feel writing Finding Nevo? Did you find it liberating, or was it painful on some parts of the journey?
At the beginning it felt like an impossible task. There was so much to cover and I felt like such an imposter pretending to be an “author”. I had never written a book before, so many people commented on how young I was and so I felt like I wasn’t capable. I wrote out big lists of what I wanted and needed to write. I spent a really long time considering the ethics of writing a memoir: how it would affect me, my family, the trans community and how I could best be representative of all those people. My motivation came in waves and so did the pain. Sometimes it was too hard to look back upon things I wished to forget, sometimes it was crucial in my own personal healing process.
- What role do you think Finding Nevo will have in terms of challenging social norms?
I think that it will make people question the application of such strict gender expectations. I honestly believe that these rigid societal standards are oppressive to everyone. I do not think it is comfortable for anyone to be forced into those boxes. So I hope this will allow people to consider wider worlds of gender aside from the “woman” and “man” categories we have accepted. I am also hoping it will help the friends and families of trans people get into their minds a little bit deeper and begin to try and understand what they might be going through.
- Your book is incredibly honest, and brave. When so many people struggle to be so vulnerable, where did this honesty come from?
I have always been an open book (pardon the pun). For me, my own truth is the only truth I can be sure of. I have always loved storytelling and have been writing since I was very young. I also began questioning my identity at such a young age that finding my truth became a very important part of my life and I was happy to share that with others along the way. I also think when you’re a member of an oppressed minority, you don’t often have the choice to be honest or not because so many people are asking you questions all the time.
- In the book, you write about how those close to you struggled on the two occasions you came out. How has their reaction been to the book release?
Mostly overwhelmingly positive. I was expecting quite a harsh reaction particular from family members who struggled with my transition. I had no intention of slandering them, I understand why they reacted in the ways they did, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult for me and I needed to express my truth. I was really surprised at how most of them took on board what I had said and really understood. It was quite healing for a lot of my relationships within my family.
- The book covers themes of family, self-discovery, bullying, and acceptance, and has touched many people who aren’t from the queer community. Are you surprised the book is having such an effect on a broader audience?
Not really to be honest. I think there are a lot of relatable experiences in the book that simply reflect the human condition. I think when looking upon someone whose identity is different from our own we like to create an “us” and “them” narrative but when it truly comes down to it, chances are we have far more in common than not. So I am not surprised that the book has had an effect on a broader audience, though I’m sure that there are people that may be surprised at just how much they connected, even if they weren’t expecting to.
- Did you learn anything about yourself when you were writing the book?
Oh yes. I learnt a lot. I learnt a lot about my past, my present and who my future self might be. I learnt about my trauma, my relationships and my family. I learnt how to believe more in myself and my writing and how to begin to call myself an author (that one took a lot longer). I think as much as I was “Finding Nevo”, I was also learning Nevo.
- As a youth leader and activist, do you feel Finding Nevo will be a source of comfort for people going through a similar journey?
I really like to think so. I believe if a book like this had been available in the early stages of my transition I would have felt far less alone and distraught. My only goal has only ever been to try and be the kind of person I really needed while I was growing up, and I hope this book can do that for young people.
- With the Safe Schools program losing funding in all schools except those in Victoria, what is the best piece of advice you would give to help someone who may be outside the gender binary that society still largely considers to be the “norm”?
I think the Internet is a really great place to start. There are so many resources out there nowadays for young gender diverse folk that weren’t available not that long ago. I think there’s a lot on Tumblr and Instagram. I also think my best advice would be a quote from one of my favourite Melbourne bands, Two Steps on the Water, “If the world don’t love you, then the world is wrong”. If you feel outside of the “norm” perhaps there is something fundamentally flawed with the norm and not who you happen to be.
About the author: Nevo Zisin is a young activist, student, writer and public speaker with a particular focus on issues surrounding gender, sex and sexuality. Assigned female at birth, Nevo has had a complex relationship with gender, transitioning to present as male at the age of 17, undergoing different medical interventions and now identifying outside of a female / male gender binary. They work particularly with children as a youth leader and through running programs and workshops in schools. They are also a contact point in the Jewish community for other children and families confronting issues of gender and sexuality in their own lives. Finding Nevo is their first book.