I love when an author is able to take us into the mind of a character and reveal to us those inner thoughts that impact the decisions that person makes. In this case, the story of what it’s like being a trans man who is desperate to continue physically transitioning after top surgery, but has been told repeatedly he is too invested in his feminine body is almost heartbreaking to read. When you add to that the fact he has gotten pregnant, not really knowing how much his dysphoria would make the pregnancy a living hell, well you have a compelling window into a life most of us will never know or truly understand.
Andreas was tossed away by his transphobic family, resettled in England, and there found the man who would become his home, Erik. Erik, himself, had a cruel life, bounced from foster home to foster home after being abandoned at the age of eighteen months by a mother he would never know. He formed a family of sorts from a “sister” he met while in care and two other friends, but longed for a real family of his own, including a child of his and his partner’s making. When Andreas realizes he is pregnant and the quest to start testosterone will have to wait, he is torn apart, hating his body and its curvy appearance, yet wanting to have the baby both he and Erik have made. Unfortunately, when little Beatriz is born, the sheer panic Andreas has over hiding his fleshy body doesn’t abate, but actually intensifies, often causing full blown panic attacks over the simple chore of trying to wear a pair of shorts. Erik tries to understand, but fears that Andreas’ battle with dysphoria will lead to real health issues, particularly when his boyfriend stops eating and takes on an exercise regimen that leaves him exhausted. The two men and their little girl must wade through the emotional minefield that is Andreas’ life as he hopes and prays that he will be given the green light to finally continue his transition and find peace with the reflection in the mirror again.
Although this novel is entitled Erik the Pink, it is more a side by side exploration of both men and how they deal with fatherhood, dysphoria, and beginning a family they both crave and need. For Andreas, it is a virtual nightmare and a tearing apart of his psyche as he goes through the pregnancy and life post-delivery. Author Matthew J. Metzger is brilliant at revealing the layers of thought and emotion that he uses to build his characters and draws the reader into the most intimate of moments he creates for his men. I felt each second of panic Andreas went through and was able to begin to understand just what it means for a person who hates the sight of the body that does not reflect who they really are. When the author couples that with the idea that Andreas hates his pregnancy, but desperately wants to love his baby girl, you have a tumultuous story that captures the reader and never lets them go.
Then we meet Erik, who is so overwhelmed with this baby he and Andreas have created, but so very in love with both his partner and their daughter. As each milestone is reached, we see Erik fall more in love and relax into fatherhood, but never really let go of the anxiety that he has that all this might suddenly get taken away. He has led a life of loneliness, building a makeshift family around him, and when Andreas allows for the idea of a daughter of their own, Erik is over the moon. Erik has always shown the world a rough and fearless man—renaming himself Erik after a Viking figure and his own shaggy flaming red mane. He is a softy at heart, but presents as a mountain of a man who takes no crap from anyone. Beatriz softens him even further and he realizes that with Andreas and the baby, he no longer needs to be that tough fighter who craves a real family, but can relax and not only allow his gentle side to rule his life, but accept and trust that this family won’t abandon him.
Erik the Pink is a beautiful love story that centers not on just a couple, but a family who learns to love deeply and trust one another—to accept that life will never be easy, yet the challenges are made tolerable when faced together. It is also perhaps the most direct and honest portrayal of life in transition both for Erik and Andreas and how it affects both of them. I highly recommend this novel to you—it is brilliant.