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"Do You Feel Like A Man Now? I Don't Know.",
This review is from: Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience (Hardcover)
Denver transman Matt Kailey and I must be about the same age, but we came to this space of manhood by such different paths. I picked up his book in order to help myself navigate my way around the many brilliant and varied genders of San Francisco, where every other person you meet on the scene is doing something about gender, not just sitting there and taking it. Consequently, as Kailey realizes, we sometimes don't know even the basic rules of etiquette when it comes to this new frontier. And, in addition, I was drawn by the pastel cover illustration, so apt and so clever. You might not be able to see it well in the reduced image but when you get the book you'll see it's apparently a woman diving into a large chemical test tube vat thing of a pearly blue liquid, and there's a man in it, his pose diametrically opposite and yet strangely synchronous to the woman above him. This is an allegory, I suppose, for Kailey's life, which changed gradually and organically and now he is--well, what? "What's in a name" indeed, that becomes one of the chapters, one that tells us, in simple to follow anecdotes and stories, how even the terms that we use to describe others and especially ourselves are like windows that open out into the light, or else separate us from the outside world.
Actually Kailey argues against the notion of the opposite, Uf it weren't for our fixation with binary gender style, so that "men" and "women" are supposed to be complete 180 degree opposites of each other, we wouldn't be in the terrible social mess we are now.
So maybe that front cover image isn't so cool after all.
He compares a particularly trying part of his transition to that "gray zone" that you get between sleeping and being awake. "It's that period of time in transition when some people think you are a 'ma'am,' others see you as a 'sir,' and still others are so unsure that they sputter nd stare until they finally give up and refuse to acknowledge you at all. When you have no visible gender, the whole of you becomes invisible as well; and even you start to wonder if you're really there."
Kailey was not doing this in an anonymous and sophisticated city like San Francisco, oh no, that's the point of the book. It all takes place in the heartland, well, mountain time, baby. Kailey speaks to the everybody in all of us, in a folksy way that yet has a very learned and witty flavor. He's not like the Erma Bombeck of transgenderism, though that's how they're trying to sell him. He was not born a hero, but yet has become one out of, well, there was no other place to go. As he says, "Maybe I'll damage myself in the process [of going on record, of "display"]. Maybe I'll reveal things i can never take back. but maybe because of that, someone else--a little transperson not even born yet--will eventually benefit. And that will be what I can leave for the world."
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 23, 2008 9:24:13 AM PDT
Gwen S. Walcott says:
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2010 4:57:27 PM PDT
Patrick F. says:
and yet, I read it. Unlike your post, it adds something.
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