Genre Guessing

I have always thought of myself as open-minded. I have even walked in Gay Pride parades carrying a “straight not narrow” sign when my gay friends were still in the closet. But I do have to admit that I sometimes confuse the terminology in the gay community. With all the news about Chaz/Chastity Bono it made me what to finally try to get things straight in my head (no pun intended).

The” trans” definitions were the ones to confuse me the most. One website that I read states that people who are transgendered or transsexual are usually someone who was born with male or female anatomies but feel like they have been born in the wrong bodies, i.e. Chaz/Chasity Bono. People who are hermaphrodite or intersexual have anatomy that is not considered typically male or female, they can have both sex organs. While it is true that intersexual individuals may wish to change their gender it is usually because the medical community had chosen the wrong gender in which they should be raised.

There are a couple of award winning fiction novels that might help the ordinary reader explore these feelings of not belonging in your own body. It is also interesting that one novel has the character going from male to female and the other has female to male transition.

The first one I want to discuss is Annabel by Kathleen Winter. I found this one especially striking because it takes place in Labrador. Wayne is born at home with both male and female body parts. While deciding to raise him as a boy, with the doctor’s advice, his mother and neighbour still can’t help thinking about the little girl who may have been. Gender roles are strictly defined both in the small remote village of Croydon Harbour and in Wayne’s father’s mind. Throughout his life Wayne is faced with not belonging, due to his medicine, his love of symmetry and his lack of desire to be “one of the boys”. Identity/individualism is hard enough to develop in a larger community but in the rural area secrets are more important to hide and there are no support groups to turn to. How Wayne/Annabel survives is an amazing tale.

Middlesex is Jeffrey Eugenides’ best-selling book and Pulitzer Prize winning novel on this subject matter. Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angles Times and the New York Times Book Review considered this novel one of the best novels of 2002. Callipose Stephanides states ” I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petosky, Michigan, in August of 1974.”. While it is the tale of a intersexed man it is also a family saga of a Greek immigrants voyage to the U.S. in 1922. You are enchanted by the 80 years of this Greek tragedy, from the 1922 Greco-Turkish War, through prohibition era Detroit and the race riots of the sixties to present day Berlin. Eugenides is an excellent guide through complex story.

Transition : the story of how I became a man by Chaz Bono. Bono has been all over the media promoting his book. There are very few people who are not familiar with his parents Sonny and Cher Bono. Chaz used to make appearances on his parent’s television show when he was still Chastity. I am unsure if it would have been easier or harder on him to transition. While he had the money for the operations and pills he would have been under the watchful eyes of the media.

She’s Not There : a life in two genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan. is her journey from James to Jennifer. It is also a love story, how James’ wife learned to live with and love her “sister”Jennifer. What is so striking is how open and honest it is.

Should the reader wish to learn more on this subject theme they might consider reading the following:

Trans People in Love
edited by Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox

Hermaphrodeities: the transgender spirituality workbook
by Raven Kaldera

Between XX and XY: intersexuality and the myth of two sexes

by Gerald N. Callahan

Transgender Child : a handbook for families and professionals
by Stephanie Brill


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