Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Social Science Transgender Studies

Special Topics in Being a Human

A Queer and Tender Guide to Things I've Learned the Hard Way about Caring For People, Including Myself

by (author) S. Bear Bergman

illustrated by Saul Freedman-Lawson

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Transgender Studies, General, LGBTQ+, Happiness, Gay & Lesbian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


S. Bear Bergman's illustrated guide to practical advice for the modern age, filtered through a queer lens.

As an author, educator, and public speaker, S. Bear Bergman has documented his experience as, among other things, a trans parent, with wit and aplomb. He also writes the advice column "Asking Bear," in which he answers crucial questions about how best to make our collective way through the world.

Featuring disarming illustrations by Saul Freedman-Lawson, Special Topics in Being a Human elaborates on "Asking Bear"'s premise: a gentle, witty, and insightful book of practical advice for the modern age. It offers Dad advice and Jewish bubbe wisdom, all filtered through a queer lens, to help you navigate some of the complexities of life - from how to make big decisions or make a good apology, to how to get someone's new name and pronouns right as quickly as possible, to how to gracefully navigate a breakup. With warmth and candor, Special Topics in Being a Human calls out social inequities and injustices in traditional advice-giving, validates your feelings, asks a lot of questions, and tries to help you be your best possible self with kindness, compassion, and humour.

About the authors

S. Bear Bergman is the author of two books, the Lambda Award-nominated The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You (Arsenal Pulp, 2009), and Butch Is a Noun, first published by Suspect Thoughts in 2006 and reissued in a new edition by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2010. Bear is also the co-editor (with Kate Bornstein) of the Lambda Award-winning anthology Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (Seal, 2010). Ze is also a frequent contributor to anthologies on all manner of topics from the sacred to the extremely profane. A longtime activist, Bear was one of the founders of the first-ever Gay Straight Alliance, and has watched them spread with wonder. Ze continues to work at the points of intersection between and among gender, sexuality, and culture, and spends a lot of time trying to discourage people from installing traffic signals there. Bear lives in Toronto, Ontario with hir husband and son.


Follow S. Bear Bergman on Twitter

S. Bear Bergman's profile page

Saul Freedman-Lawson is an illustrator, student, zine-maker, babysitter, and educator. He makes art about queerness, transness, Judaism, and childhood. His comic Naturally is forthcoming from Old Growth Press. He likes to draw excitingly gendered people with big noses. Special Topics in Being a Human is his first full-length book.

Saul Freedman-Lawson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

This book allows the reader to spend quality time with the internet's wise, friendly uncle-dad, who is here to teach you how to avoid making the same mistakes he did and how to be gentle with yourself when you inevitably make some new ones of your own. The charming illustrations by Saul Freedman-Lawson expand upon the text in charming and often hilarious ways, and Bergman's advice manages to be truthful and direct without ever feeling didactic, as he delivers even the toughest love with maximum compassion and maximum love for humans, in all our frailty and weirdness. -Jennifer Peepas, writer of

I've been receiving nothing but good life advice from S. Bear Bergman for just about thirty years now. With this book on your shelf, so can you. At every crossroad in your life, you'll have loving guidance from a smart, kind big brother, a fun and funny uncle, and a best-ever daddy. -Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw

Special Topics in Being a Human is one of those rare books that is, indeed, essential reading for all humans. We all mess up. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. We're all trying to do better at caring for ourselves and those around us with compassion, boundaries, justice, allyship and grace. S. Bear Bergman offers his trademark tender, thoughtful wisdom in such accessible, bite-sized, pieces that you can literally take them with you. He's the queer older sibling, mentor and bubbe you've always needed; get a copy for yourself and a copy for every other human in your life who's also out there trying to do their best. -Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of Surprised By God and Nurture the Wow

A delightful, neatly intersectional graphic compendium of advice tailored to a variety of situations lands as so down-to-earth that few readers will mind that it's telling them what to do. Bergman approaches his mission with humility, humor, and practicality ... Delivered with more than a spoonful of kindness, this medicine goes down easy and has the potential to facilitate real healing. -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

S. Bear Bergman is the fantastic gay uncle you always wished you had, ready and able to help steer you - with gentle pragmatism and good humor - toward being a better, kinder, more compassionate and thoughtful human being. Heaven knows we could all use it. -Hanne Blank, author of Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

Bergman is gentle with readers and Saul Freedman-Lawson's illustrations throughout add an engaging, light touch. -The Globe and Mail

In this warm, funny, and tender book of advice, Bergman shares many valuable lessons about how to be a human in the world. There's a chapter on how to apologize well, a section on doing things you're not good at, and lots of wonderful advice on relationships of all kinds (including your relationship with yourself). Bergman's approach to life is radical and feminist, and his gentle, encouraging advice centers queer and trans lives and experiences. The illustrations are also wonderfully inclusive. -Book Riot

For many years the insight, compassion, and humor of S. Bear Bergman's writing has been an ever-tender roadmap to my own becoming. I find it truly impossible to read anything he writes and not feel my own heart double in size, and Special Topics in a Being Human is an especially transformative gift to our precious lives. Bergman's pages on "how to love" shook me like very few pieces of writing ever have. From beginning to end this book is a wildly thoughtful and beautifully honest guide to honoring ourselves, each other, and our world. -Andrea Gibson, author of Lord of the Butterflies

Sweet, soulful, and deeply humane. Bear at his best. -Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

S. Bear Bergman and Saul Freedman-Lawson offer us a gentle guide to belonging. They challenge us to navigate our relationship to ourselves, our community at large, and the home we create with our friends and loved ones. -Archie Bongiovanni, author of A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Other titles by

Related lists