Years into her career, prolific trans author Lucy Sante’s story keeps getting deeper

This profile is part of Queerty’s 2022 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day.

Name: Lucy Sante, 68

Bio: The Belgian-born writer and consummate New Yorker has written about her life and the places she’s lived in stirring intellectual works since the ’90s. Now, readers of her work get an even more intimate window into her life. 

Coming Out: In January of this year, the celebrated writer Lucy Sante wrote about her egg cracking in Vanity Fair. It all started with a FaceApp photo: During quarantine, Sante had, like so many of us, gotten into the habit of messing around with selfies. When an app presented her with a sense of the possible, she realized that the time to come out was now. 

“Changing genders was a strange and electric idea that had lived somewhere in the recesses of my mind for the better part of my 67 years.” she wrote. “But I had seldom allowed myself such a graphic self-depiction; over the years I had occasionally drawn pictures and altered photographs to visualize myself as a woman but had always immediately destroyed the results. And yet I didn’t delete that cyber-image.”

It was through images that she could see clearly the part of herself that had been “guarded by dragons” for so long: she was a trans woman, and it was time to come out. 

“I could now see, laid out before me on my screen, the panorama of my life as a girl, from giggling preteen to last year’s matron. I had always hated seeing pictures of myself, but these made every kind of sense.”

Screenshot: Instagram, @luxante

After that point, riding on a “wave of pure momentum,” Sante came out and never looked back. But the Vanity Fair piece wasn’t the whole story. In what she describes as “a radical break with my own existence,” she announced via an IG post in September of 2021 that “I am transitioning–I have joined the other team. Yes, I’ve known since at least age 11 but probably earlier, and yes, I suppressed and denied it for decades. But somehow my egg cracked (term of art) in mid-February.”

Having one’s egg crack as an already-prominent writer and thinker is no easy business. But Sante—whose nonfiction works comprise some of the most interesting, kaleidoscopic accounts of an artist’s life in the last 20th century—has never been one to shy away from difficult subjects. 

1991’s Low Life, along with 2022’s Nineteen Reservoirs, tell the story of music, life, and community in New York in a fluid, poetic mix of lived and learned histories. The autobiographical The Factory of Facts discusses Sante’s upbringing in Belgium and relocation to New York. And it’s no surprise that Low Life‘s story of The Bowery starts with a chapter called “The Body,” about the island of Manhattan’s specific, significant shape. 

Coming back to the body was only natural. It’s been a part of how Sante has worked all along.

“A lot of my writing is basically this: I have a strong but complicated emotion about something. I couldn’t easily explain it in conversation…” she told LitHub this year. “To make sense of it in writing I have to methodically break it down into its constituent parts, until I have identified every significant facet of that emotion. Then, with the patient splayed on the operating table and all its organs numbered, hitherto unsuspected patterns will begin to emerge.”


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It’s this meticulous sense of breaking down the emotional story that makes Sante one of her generation’s finest minds. She’s chronicled New York’s history, and her own. By coming out, Sante emerges as our generation’s Jan Morris: a fearless writer coming to terms with herself in later life, grappling with internal and external stressors, and saving the best part of herself, on the page, for us.