Yves Rees wins Calibre Essay Prize

La Trobe history lecturer Dr Yves Rees has won the 2020 Calibre Essay Prize, for their essay ‘Reading the Mess Backwards’.

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.

PHOTO: Susan Papazian

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | k.powley@latrobe.edu.au | 9479 3491 | 0456 764 371