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The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

By S. Bear Bergman
Categories: LGBTQ+, Trans Literature, Social Issues
Paperback : 9781551522647, 208 pages, 2009
Read Excerpt (PDF)


Lambda Literary Award Finalist

Now in its second printing

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.


  • Short-listed, Lambda Literary Award 2010


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

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

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!

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

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

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

This collection reveals a passionate and captivating storyteller at work. -Bitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. com

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