Lambda Literary Award Finalist
Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humour and grace, these essays deal with issues from women's spaces to the old boys' network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one; throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you're visibly different from those around you?whether it's being transgressively gendered or readably queer. As a transmasculine person, Bergman keeps readers breathless and rapt in the freakshow tent long after the midway has gone dark, when the good hooch gets passed around and the best stories get told. Bear offers unique perspectives on issues that challenge, complicate, and confound the "official stories" about how gender and sexuality work.
Bear Bergman writes circles around most people—circles that enclose so many identities, and so much insight about all of them, that you're bound to see some of your own selves newly, and beautifully, reflected there.
?Carol Queen, author of Real Live Nude Girl
— Carol Queen, October 2009
Life having the unpredictable crossroads it does, I've often wondered how memoirists handle the problem of writing a second book. Thanks to Bear Bergman's The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, I know the answer: one goes about it with good-humored smarts, candid humility, and a queer and delightful generosity of spirit.
—Hanne Blank, author of Virgin: The Untouched History
— Hanne Blank, August 2009
If we could just clone Bergman's brain and manners, the world would be a much better place, indeed. This new collection of meditations, essays, and stories about living visibly queer is complex in beautifully simple ways.
—Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty
— Helen Boyd, Helen Boyd
Bear Bergman is an endearing, gallant, sexy fellow, the queer world's daddy, brother, and son. In Nearest Exit, he's writing it all down for us, today's transgender experience. This is a landmark book for both queer theory and literature, written by an accomplished teller of tales. It's a book that will be cherished by generations of queer youth and adults alike. My heart overflows the brim with love and pride when I read his words.
—Kate Bornstein, author of Hello, Cruel World
— Kate Bornstein, Kate Bornstein
It is rare that I pick up a book and see my life reflected in the words inside it. Bear Bergman has written parts of my life down for me to look at from another direction—a funny, compassionate, nimble-tongued and Jewish direction. I want to give a copy of this book to everyone in my family, with love.
—Ivan E. Coyote, author of The Slow Fix
— Ivan E. Coyote
An intellectually whip-smart and engagingly personal collection of essays about gender and its assorted - and sometimes confounding - permutations and combinations.... a candid, self-effacing and generously instructive primer on proud transmasculine life.
—Richard Labonte, Book Marks
— Book Marks, October 2009
Bergman's writing style is witty, razor sharp and super smart. Ze also writes about gender with a sensitivity that is hard to find. Bergman tackles the difficult intricacies of the terrain of gender with grace and humor.
— Feministing, November 2009
A sweet and tender collection.
— Capital Xtra!, December 2009
Self-described gender-jammer S. Bear Bergman is an very courageous individual, though I suspect ze would react to that by turning red and looking down at hir shoes while muttering something self-deprecating. But The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, a collection of essays on being trans, negates any argument you might have about Bear's intestinal fortitude. Courage fairly drips off these pieces, but it's not the stern John Wayne type. It's a common sense, do-what-you-have-to-do type ballsiness leavened with humor. Oh yes. Bear is a very funny writer indeed. So funny you almost forget there's a point to be made. Almost.
—Out in Print blog
— Out in Print, January 2010
Bergman's elegantly written collection of essays chronicles life as a gender non-conformist with a laugh-out-loud sense of humor.... This engrossing memoir is highly recommended.
—Gay and Lesbian Review
— Gay and Lesbian Review, January 2010
Bear continues to write about the subject [of gender] in hir funny, thoughtful, insightful and touching ways. Bear continues to give a voice to all the gender incongruent people who are flipping madly through the dictionary, trying to find the words to describe the gender mess they see in the mirror. Bear ... continues to be an absolutely vital voice in our queer community.
— TLA Video, January 2010
Bergman's gift of storytelling illuminates the evolving nuances of queer and trans life, and one of the greatest elements of hir book is that ze has a way of making the personal not only political, but public and shared as well.... Few books discuss queer and trans topics in such a personal way, and this book does a great service to contributing to the growing canon of queer literature. By making hir experiences visible, Bergman provides yet another narrative within the LGBTQ discourse, and lengthens the spectrum of possibility even further, one essay at a time.
— Feminist Review, January 2010
This collection reveals a passionate and captivating storyteller at work.
— Bitch, February 2010
Smart, provocative, accessible, and funny.
— GCN, April 2010
A second collection of autobiographical essays by Bergman, whose transmasculine gender identity is best described as "post," and who writes unabashedly about everything from gay men's bathhouses to lesbian potlucks. This is gender theory at its most accessible.
— Curve, April 2010
S. Bear Bergman is a natural storyteller. As a trans-Jewish writer, Bergman is navigating uncharted literary terrain, writing "hirself" (the pronoun used in the book) into the ever-expanding landscape of contemporary queer Canadian literature. Bergman writes about hir personal experience in day-to-day life in first person without the guise of fiction. With heartbreaking honesty, ferocious wit and humour, Bergman is the best thing since hir comrade Ivan Coyote came along. Some writers just translate a story, best kept to the bound and printed page, Bergman's work is meant to be read out loud. This collection of essays can coax readers into stitches as quickly as it can tears.
—The Coast (Halifax)
— The Coast (Halifax), May 2010
Broadly appealing in presentation and penetrating in content, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You can stand its ground next to the defining works of Leslie Feinberg, Judith Halberstam, and Alison Bechdel in any queer, gender, or LGBTQ studies course... [It is] an enlightening and easily relatable examination of gender.
— Counterpoise, June 2010
Brilliant, funny, poignant, this is an inspirational book for trans people and the ultimate educational tool for everybody else, including your favourite know-nothing.
— NOW, December 2010
Along with Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You is one of the best books I've read on transgender issues ... [It] helped me feel-in the very core of my being-just how complex and multifaceted gender identity is.
—United Way Twin Cities blog
— United Way, January 2011
As the title indicates, the book documents, interrogates, meditates on the experience of gender that does not, unlike (hopefully) an airplane flight, smoothly transition a person from point A to point B, from woman to man, as it were. Rather, Bergman opts for a gendered journey of hir own choosing, one that requires a parachute and a strong arm to unlock the emergency exit.
— Lambda Literary, February 2011
Bergman's work is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You had me in stitches one paragraph, the next in tears. In our complicated, detached modern world, pure heart and sheer honesty goes a long way.
— Xtra!, September 2011
About the Author:
S. Bear Bergman is the author of three books published by Arsenal Pulp Press: the Lambda Literary Award finalist The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, Butch Is a Noun, and most recently, Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Bear is also author of two trans-positive children's books, Backwards Day and The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy (Flamingo Rampant), and co-editor (with Kate Bornstein) of the Lambda Award-winning anthology Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (Seal). A longtime activist and public speaker, Bear continues to work at the intersection between and among gender, sexuality, and culture. Originally from New England, Bear now lives with his husband and son in Toronto.