The essay is ‘a story of trans becoming that digs into the messiness of bodies, gender and identity’.
“Having come out as transgender aged 31, I re-examine my youth in light of this new knowledge. ‘Reading the Mess Backwards’ explores how we come to understand and perform our gender in a world of restrictive binaries and male dominance,” Dr Rees said.
“By insisting upon the slippery nature of gendered identity, the essay questions what means to be ‘male’ or ‘female’ – and raises the possibility of being something else altogether.
Created by the Australian Book Review, the prize recognises an outstanding new non-fiction essay of 2000-5000 words.
Judges J.M. Coetzee, Lisa Gorton, and Peter Rose chose Dr Rees’s winning essay from almost 600 entries, a record field.
“I am honoured to be awarded the Calibre Prize, especially given the large field this year. In my essay, I’ve sketched the kind of narrative I hungered to read,” Dr Rees said.
“My hope is that, as such stories proliferate, we will all – men and women, cisgender and trans – be liberated from the prison of patriarchy, with its suffocating gender binary.
“The recognition afforded by the Calibre Prize is an important step in that struggle.”
Dr Rees is a writer and historian living on unceded Wurundjeri land. At present, they are a Lecturer in History at La Trobe University and co-host of the history podcast Archive Fever.
Dr Rees receives $5,000 prize money. Kate Middleton, named runner-up for ‘The Dolorimeter’, a highly personal account of the author’s experience with illness, receives $2,500.