Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-06-24
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BOOKS Trans author talks 'layered identity' in new memoir
by Lauren Emily Whalen

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

"I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a writer and a boy."

Life has never been easy for Nate Cannon. Diagnosed with major depression and bipolar disorder at 12 years old, the trans author lost his "sense of gender identity" at the same time. His mother did her best to raise him as a girl because "she thought society wouldn't embrace me," he said.

What followed were life-changing sports injuries, a teenage suicide attempt, substance abuse and a neurological disorder diagnosis—all while Cannon realized his gender-identity disorder wasn't going to fix itself. Dying to Hang with the Boys, the author's second memoir, chronicles Cannon's transition and his journeys in physical and mental health.

"This is a book that explores the consequences of being unable to express one's gender identity," Cannon said via phone from his Minnesota home. "If I had been able to transition earlier, would my life have gone differently? I don't know the answer to that."

While identifying as a lesbian, Cannon wrote Running on a Mind Rewired, a memoir of his time as the only girl on an all-boys hockey team, his slide into drug dependency and near-death experience at 17 and his subsequent recovery. The book is used as a teaching tool in high schools, colleges, hospitals and treatment centers—and is still published under Cannon's birth name. The author prefers it this way: "I feel like that was a story that belonged to who I was when I was Jennifer," he said. "And that portion of my identity and my life needs to be honored."

Dying to Hang with the Boys takes a deep dive into Cannon's suicide attempt, something he was initially discouraged from writing about. "When I first pitched this book, I was told, 'You should leave [suicide] out entirely,'" he said. However, Cannon knew he couldn't leave out his experience. "The book is not intended to glamorize suicide, [but] this is the gory stuff you don't want to hear," he said. "I'm hoping not to put out a story that's going to lead someone to engage in similar acts … but I hope it will give people the courage and determination to stay with us and keep fighting."

Fighting is part of Cannon's daily routine: since he was diagnosed with acquired dystonia, he has to contend with his own body.

"A mix of Parkinson's and MS is how I describe [dystonia]," Cannon said of the neurological disorder. "It feels like someone is reaching in and twisting my muscles with a dishrag." Though dystonia can also be genetic, Cannon feels his is a result of "rewiring my brain: chemical dependency, playing hockey and trying to hang with the boys," not to mention the damaging shoulder injury he sustained when another player gunned for him on the ice.

Running has helped both Cannon's recovery process and his dystonia: sober for 15 years now, he has also completed 14 marathons in the past decade. "It started early in my sobriety [as] putting on a pair of running shoes and getting on a treadmill, figuring out a natural way to boost those brain chemicals and feel good," he said.

"I'm glad I had that training when I developed dystonia in 2006. Dystonia pulls you off to one side. The muscles create push and pull, similar to Parkinson's, causing erratic signals to be sent to the muscles," Cannon said. "The reciprocal motion [of running] has been very helpful for me."

Cannon said running helped with gender issues as well. "Running brought to the surface that I had been confusing my sexual orientation with my gender identity," he said. "As a result of my sports bra, I was chafing. I thought, 'if I didn't have [breasts] this wouldn't be happening.' And that triggered another set of thoughts." Though he still wears women's running shoes, Cannon said "I think companies have gotten better about gender-neutral colors."

Next month, Cannon will run another marathon, do promotion events for Dying to Hang with the Boys and further his successful career in public speaking.

"Something about being on the stage feels comfortable for me," Cannon said. Though he did a bit of public speaking in college—mostly centering around the chemical dependency he was battling at the time—Cannon's career really took off in 2012, after he connected with the National Alliance of Mental Illness ( NAMI ). "I started in small residential mental health facilities, which became conferences," said Cannon, "and suddenly I was getting requests to come in and talk on a variety of issues: mental health, suicide prevention, neurological illness and the layered identity of being a transgender man living with a physical and mental illness."

While Cannon's audiences have ranged from social service professionals to the "brain health" community, he's done a lot of work with corrections employees of late. "When I first got connected with NAMI, I indicated I wasn't comfortable speaking with police," Cannon said. "And yet, [police] seem like an audience that has been able to hear my message about how you work with someone who's transgender to best honor their identity." Most recently, the police department of St. Paul, Minnesota hired Cannon to train 600 officers on its new transgender policy.

This spring, Cannon will have an essay published in Queer Voices: Prose, Poetry and Pride. The anthology "will feature artists primarily from the Twin Cities involved in the Queer Voices reading series, which was one of the longest-running reading series in the country," Cannon said. "Pretty excited about that!"

When asked what he'll write next, Cannon said, "I do think having finished this book, I set myself up for a trilogy and I didn't even realize it. I may have to write a third book—you never know!"

Dying to Hang with the Boys is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.

For more about the author, visit .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

WORLD Russian trans woman's win, Pride marches, museum CEO resigns 2020-06-29 - In Russia, a transgender woman won a landmark decision for trans rights and recognition after being fired from her job—but is now living ...

Gay News

Grassroots march focuses on Black, Brown trans lives 2020-06-28 - Organized by a host of grassroots organizations focused on assisting marginalized communities around the city, the Pride Without Prejudice/Reclaim Pride march kicked off ...

Gay News

BOOKS Joey Skladany entertains, instructs in 'Basic Bitchen' 2020-06-28 - With Basic Bitchen, Joey Skladany has probably put together one of the most entertaining cookbooks one might come across. With recipes for items ...

Gay News

Lambda files suit over Trump anti-trans policies 2020-06-26 - Lambda Legal announced June 22 that it is suing the federal government over rollbacks the Trump administration announced June 12 to protections against ...

Gay News

Groups respond to Indianapolis archdiocese's anti-trans guidelines 2020-06-25 - Pro-LGBTQ organizations responded to news about the Indianapolis archdiocese issuing new guidelines warning that transgender students may not be able to enroll in ...

Gay News

Printers Row Lit Fest officially cancelled 2020-06-25 - For the first time in its 36-year history, Chicago's Printers Row Lit Fest has been officially canceled. Organizers said the current city ...

Gay News

Library board president leaves post over anti-LGBTQ statements 2020-06-24 - Cook Memorial Public Library District Board President Bonnie Quirke has now resigned from her post, The Daily Herald reported. Quirke, 80, of Libertyville, ...

Gay News

At least two marches centering on Black trans Chicagoans planned for June 28 SEE UPDATE 2020-06-24 - UPDATE: ACTIVATE:CHI march and rally cancelled. . The grassroots activist organization ACTIVATE:CHI announced June 19 that it is collaborating with ...

Gay News

Local transgender man on being affected by healthcare rollback 2020-06-24 - Oli Rodriguez is a transgender man who hopes to carry a child and become a father in the near future. Following news ...

Gay News

Organizations respond to murder of trans Chicagoan 2020-06-24 - A number of organizations released statements on the May murder of a Chicago Latinx transgender woman who, at the time of her death, ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.