Everything you need to know about inspiring trans author Lucy Sante – and her new memoir

Lucy Sante speaks at a panel event, with a microphone in hand

Trans author Lucy Sante is making waves at the moment with her new memoir about her life and transition.

Published last week, the Belgian-born writer and critic writes in the book about why she “repressed [her] lifelong desire to be a woman”.

Sante previously lived as a male and wrote under a male name, until she began to transition at the age of 66.

Sante emigrated to the US in the early 60s when she was a child and has lived New York State ever since, first in New York City and now in Kingston, upstate New York.

What is Lucy Sante known for?

Sante has been a full-time writer since 1984 and was a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books under editor Barbara Epstein, where she wrote about film, art, photography, and reviewed books.

Sante has written 13 books in total, including her memoir. Her first book was called Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York which documented the life and politics of lower Manhattan from the mid 19th century until the early 20th century.

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Many of Sante’s previous writings were as a cultural historian or critic, rather than works of a personal nature.

Sante was also a teacher

For the last 20 years, Sante had been teaching writing and the history of photography at Bard College in upstate New York while raising her son, Raphael, with her ex-wife Melissa Holbrook Pierson, and also freelancing for The New York Review of Books.

Raphael graduated in 2023, which is when Sante decided to coincide her retirement from teaching.

Sante says her son wasn’t bothered by her coming out. She told Vulture: “He’s known trans kids since he was 11.”

Sante has also retired from freelancing. She said: “In 2023, I suddenly decided I have had f**king enough. I started doing that in 1981, so it’s 42 years of this, I’ll tell you.”

I Heard Her Call My Name is not Sante’s first memoir

Sante’s first memoir was published in 1998 and titled The Factory of Facts. It was also about a transition of sorts, chronicling her transformation from a “pious, timid Belgian boy into a loutish American adolescent” and delving into her family, Belgian history, and the American identity.

She told Vulture that the book was written for her father to read: “But by the time it was done, he had dementia, and my mom would read it page by page and call me and yell at me for things I got wrong.”

In her newest memoir, titled I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition, Sante writes that her parents would have not approved if she had come as trans when she was younger.

She came out to her friends via email, which was a shock to many of them, after using FaceApp during the first Coronovirus lockdown to swap her gender using uploaded photos.

Sante writes: “Although the app allowed users to change age, shape, or hairstyle, I was, specifically and exclusively, interested in the gender-swap function. I fed in a mug-shot-style selfie and in return got something that didn’t displease me: a picture of an attractive woman in whose face my features were discernible.”

You can buy I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition from Penguin Books, here.

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