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The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male Paperback – May 4, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The best thing about this aggressive, emotional memoir by a former lesbian, female-to-male transgender is that its author never elicits easy sentiment or empathy from the reader. This is, by intent and in delivery, a tough book. Born in 1957 in Germany, a part–Native American Army brat, Anita Valerio grew up to be a lesbian-feminist who, after seeing the boxing film Raging Bull at age 23, began to understand that she was really a man. Eleven years later, Valerio is injecting testosterone and well on his journey to manhood. Valerio writes directly and forcefully about his "primal" new male sexual desires, which feel like "an outburst of instinct," as opposed to life on estrogen, which felt like being submerged "in a sweet, dense fog." Valerio's maleness is often expressed in blunt, even offensive language, as at the end of the book, when he realizes, with irony but not sadness, that he has made a further advance into maleness when it becomes more difficult to communicate with women. Valerio's broad, dichotomized stands on politics and gender often feel like just another tough pose. Worse, they flatten out the memoir's emotional landscape. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Determined to convey the experience of "one of the most extravagant experiments of the twentieth century," Native American Latino Sephardic poet and performer Valerio details the physiological, psychological, and social transformations of female-to-male sex change in three "files." The first describes Valerio at the start of the transition. "Before Testosterone" looks back at the internal--external factors leading to then leather-and-spikes lesbian Valerio's decision for the life-altering change. "After Testosterone" assays the "construction" of maleness. Valerio's on-target perceptions reveal such all-important details as increased hair growth on legs and feet, enlargement of the pores, and increased energy. Valerio started testosterone injections on March 20, 1989, and learned to give himself the shots of thick, oily liquid while watching his femaleness recede with attendant joy and nostalgia. Eventually, he built his masculinity physically--the clitoris, a "neocock," enlarged sufficiently to achieve penetration with female partners--and, most important, psychically. A signal addition to gender and sociology collections. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (May 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580051731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580051736
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My memoir is about my first five years of transition from female to male. It is not poetry, although many say it is poetic. Most deeply and consistently, I am a poet and have written poetry for over thirty years. Although I have been known to work with punk bands to create primal and seductive alien landscapes of sound, I am not a spoken word poet. Even so, my work is written for the page and then, to be heard and read out loud.

I am a registered treaty Indian in Canada: Blackfoot Confederacy and Kainai (Blood) band - Treaty 7. My mother is from the Blood or Kainai reserve, and my father is from Taos in northern New Mexico. I have been involved in tracking down my father's lineage, my Sephardic ancestors who were chased up north to New Mexico in 1598 and 1694, principally by the Spanish Inquisition, after sojourns in Italy from Spain after the expulsion.

I identify as many things. I am also a transsexual man, having gone through medical transition from female to male beginning in 1989. Primarily, I identify as just a man, but I certainly take on trans as a qualifier and an accurate description of who I am and where I have been.

I have a wonderful loving girlfriend, and a rich and sweet life in San Francisco. I'm a punk at heart, having been involved in the early punk scene, and I will always enjoy anarchy and a kind of visceral rebellion. However, I also have iconoclastic perspectives on many issues, and although I lean far to the left on most issues, whenever I sense that a utopian agenda is circumventing liberty or good, common sense, I have been known to lean to a place that I have not yet defined. That is, I am, in some respects, a civil libertarian, or at least, someone who dislikes being told what to do, say or think. I also dislike identity politics. It is the seventh ring of hell, and I would prefer to not think about it, but I guess, I am a man condemned in some sense. Possibly, we can move beyond those layers, to a fresh and energizing perspective.

I love visionary art and poetry. I am in love with transformation and intensely lived experience. I have been a part of many religious and spiritual paths including Tibetan Buddhism and Afro-Caribbean traditions, American Indian traditions, and an exploration of Judaism.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By JVS on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Before I even opened the book to start reading it, I was already coming to it filled with particular expectations. I actually think that we often/always approach books, among other things, in this manner. In this case, though, I was fortunate enough to be aware of what those expectations were from the beginning. In particular, given Valerio's past associations with This Bridge Called My Back and This Bridge We Call Home, I was looking forward to race and feminism being figured in more centrally in The Testosterone Files than other FTM texts (memoir and otherwise).

While by no means have I exhausted the entire genre, I'd have to say that in my readings thus far, I've been hard-pressed to find a FTM text that leaves me feeling satisfied with its treatment of race. So, admittedly, The Testosterone Files had a lot to live up to...perhaps too much.

Frankly, I'm torn...I'm definitely glad to have read the book, as well as to own it. I will proudly display it on my bookshelf (where self space is at a high premium). As a trans text, I think that its focus on testosterone (as opposed to surgery) helps to stretch the boundaries of the genre, and of how we think about trans itself. Like other FTM texts, there is much focus on the body and its physical transformations, but because the emphasis isn't on surgery it offers something to those readers who either want to transition without surgery, or simply have to transition and live without surgery due to other constraints (e.g., affordability, or lack thereof).

Even though Valerio makes clear in the text that he experienced discomfort with his breasts, and that it was because of the lack of being able to afford top surgery that he hadn't had surgery (well, until he wrote this book!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Unlike most authors of transsexual books out there, Max can actually write, and the book is worth reading even if you have no interest in transsexuality. There is no self-pity or whining in this book. The author is honest about the difficulties of being a transsexual, but he's matter of fact about it (when he's not being funny). He describes his experience is the same way he talks about his punk rock life and weird friends. It's an adventure: scary, thrilling, perplexing, and risky but ultimately worth it.

What I found most interesting about this book was its portrayal of the profound differences between the way men and women think, act, and feel. Max is an intelligent, sensitive, and self-aware person who has had the opportunity to experience life as both a woman and as a man. As far as I know, there are no other memoirs out there that describe this experience and it's eye-opening to read Max's firsthand account of how his sex drive, feelings, and even sense of smell are affected by testosterone. For every woman who has ever suspected that men and women are REALLY different, this memoir is a compelling account of what those differences feel like.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. Hunter on May 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Reading this book was a little like eating candy, in that I wanted to gobble it up all at once and at the same time, read it slowly, savoring every word. The gobble won, and it was gone all too soon.

Firstly, I want to echo all of what Pen Name said about it. Yes, that review was all true and right on.

Secondly, I want to add that as a transman, it was very validating and perhaps normalizing to have so much of what I've experienced in transition described with a depth and accuracy that's been missing when I talk with other transmen about it.

When i asked my partner to read the book and give me her take on it, she complained that she'd already watched me go through transition and there was nothing new to be gleaned. Nevertheless, she started paging through it, wound up reading the whole thng and concluded by saying it helped her understand me better and also, better understand the essentail differences between men and women.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Merri Ann Langhorst on April 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I barely made it through the prologue of this book because of the writing style. The author is a poet and it really shows in that section. Unfortunately I'm not too keen on poetry and, while slogging through it, kept mumbling Mark Twain's Rule 14: Eschew Surplusage!

Nevertheless, this book is a fascinating read, and well worth pursuing to the end. Valerio throws amazing revelation after amazing revelation (ok, a little surplusage of my own) at you. I was surprised, for instance, that there are so many things about the effects of testosterone on men that I never knew or suspected.

Valerio does an excellent job sharing his experience, providing insight into the (to me) mysterious feeling that one has been born into a body that does not fit his sexual identity.

Our society would benefit from a greater understanding of LGBT issues, and this book is well-suited to that purpose. Read it and pass it on.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J.K. on September 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is to Max's credit that he warns us of this book's personal nature. He warns us that he is not going to be politically correct...ok,whatever. He can be as feisty as he wants in this story of his life, made suddenly noteworthy by being a transexual.

I got a sense of this guy's personality through reading this. He likes to provoke people who may not be so comforted by his transformation.
It is probably lesbians who would be most disquieted by his experience going from butch to straight man. He knows that, and he is torturing them a little bit (just like he wanted to torture his friend's barbie?) through a few unnecessary jabs (their porn is boring, they are sequestered as a group, etc.)

Also, I was put off by the broad, or nonexistent understanding that Max has about how hormones work in the brain and the body. If my body were undergoing such a change, I would want to read at least a couple of books on biology and neuroscience.
He talks about testosterone like it is a pill given to him by his doctor. (well, a shot) Just pop it and see what happens....keep a diary. Record all your poetic observations, and then apply it to the experience of MEN..... Your perceptions are yours, but you do not have the scientific authority to make statement's like:

"The male eye is excited by red." -uh, says who?

"Women do tend to enjoy reading about sex more than looking at images." here we go again....says who? which women?

"The bright light bulb" of testosterone compared to the "deep, dark well" of estrogen. oh the polarities...the frolicking unicorn of hyperbole is back!

And the greatest:
"My god, if this is how men feel, how come they don't rape more often?"

I get what he's saying. Sort of.
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