Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience is a non-fiction auto-biographical recount of a transman’s transition in his early 40’s. The author is Matt Kailey, who runs a wonderful blog which I frequently visit not just for the articles but for the stimulating conversation that usually ensues.
For the inexperienced, novice, young or old, discovering transsexual, this book covers basic ground and a little extra in a measured, clear manner. It is equally equipped to present to non-trans people who are making a sincere effort in understanding the transgender/transexual experience. For the experienced, young, veteran, genderqueer, super involved trans* this book might still contain some explosive Wow’s, or at the very least several Hmmm’s.
Nevertheless, Matt’s witty humor is never lost, and there are genuine gems of wisdom sprinkled throughout. Most topics are navigated with a simple, fresh honesty. Yet the thoughtful insights serve as both discussion starters and disucssion resolvers. With a (self-ascribed) “old-school” view of transgender topics, Matt often manages to leave space for non-binary identified transgender or genderqueer people as well.
That’s pretty much it. I can’t summarize it because it’s not a novel. But I can enlighten you with some quotes that tickled my fancy, with some short annotations of mine, because some of this stuff really made me think.
“Comfort in one’s body and a congruity between body and mind are the goals of transition, and these concepts mean different things to different people.”
“… setting up a strict binary gender system (a two-gendered system) that leaves no room for anyone who doesn’t specifically conform, physically or emotionally, to what our society considers either ‘male’ or ‘female.'”
There is a mention here of ‘physical and emotional’ non-binary identity, but the subsequent discussion focuses primarily on non-binary physical aspects, and does not really touch upon psychological or emotional apsects of it. It’s not so much a failure of inclusion, as the main purpose of the book is not to discuss non-binary identities, but I certainly did notice this happening a few times.
“Transsexuals are the ones who can change gender as we know it. We are the ones who can liberate not only ourselves but the rest of society.”
Some powerful stuff here… This is why I am grateful for being trans – I freed myself from all gender expectations and norms, and can do the same unto others.
“It’s possible that it’s not the person who’s dysfuncitonal but the culture…”
“But is it our culture that produces Gender Identity Disorder? In a way, yes, it is. Our culture certainly doesn’t generate whatever it is that makes a person feel out of alignment with his or her body… our culture does stigmatize this feeling not only as unnatural but as a full-blown mental illness. Society doesn’t produce the feeling, but society provides the diagnosis.”
“When I began to think of myself as a transman, something wholly apart from either a biological male or a biological female, a different animal entirely, I no longer felt genderless. I felt transgendered.”
I like how he frames being transgender not just as an identity but as an important part one’s gender.
“However, the bureaucracy must think that we’re not always sure ourselves, which is why gender questions on forms usually come with multiple-choice answers, allowing for at least a 50 percent chance of getting it right.”
And Matt gets humor right 100% of the time.
“It’s true that simply by transitioning … I have bought into a larger part of society’s binary gender system. When I’m not being accused of trying to rid out culture of gender, I’m lambasted for reinforcing narrow gender stereotypes. For me, it’s simply a matter of comfort with myself and with what I want to look like.”
Ah, the age-old trans dilemma of being free of gender only to cage oneself once again in a different body. But the main point is to be who you are, and if you are a binary identified transgender, or even a cisgender individual, that’s OK too, as long as we recognize, accept, and respect differences.
“I wondered what would happen if a woman with a double mastectomy, an obvious woman who bore the female gender markers of our culture, decided to take her shirt off and lay out in a public park. Would she be arrested or ignored? With the emphasis that we place on breasts, either outcome would seem an insult.”
I very much wonder too…
“‘Gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘straight,’ and ‘bisexual’ are labels, not orientations. And the interesting thing is that these labels are applied based on the gender of the person feeling the attraction. … My label has nothing to do with who I am attracted to. It has evertyhing to do with who I am.”
I could not have said this better, hence why I never liked to label myself as gay, and my personal distaste for lesbian. Besides, I’m asexual, and that is non-gender based 🙂
“I didn’t choose to be transgendered but I would choose it if I could. I was born that wonderful, fascinating way. It’s not my fault that I lead such an interesting, unusual life. you should not feel sorry for me, and not hate me, because I’m not a victim or a freak, and I have a lot to teach you.”
My new mantra.
There’s a LOT more quotes that I highlighted and annotated, but I don’t want to re-publish the whole book. Quite the opposite – it’s a short read, and you might just find something that makes you go “oh! [lightbulb]” shedding some light on old and new issues alike. Now go, read!
Last Minute Update
Coincidentally yesterday someone pointed me to a reference of the term neutrois in print – in this book! It’s surprising I missed it, considering I highlighted the part right before it. It is the only print reference of the term neutrois that I know of, and I’m Very Excited to learn this. The book was published in 2005 so neutrois must have been around before then. It’s in the glossary under the definition of transgender. Here’s the whole definition, which by the way I think is accurately descriptive and encompassing.
transgender(ed) (TG): Most generally used as an umbrella term that encompasses a range of people. In general usage, it can refer to anyone who transgresses gender norms. More specifically, it is used to refer to people who experience discomfort and/or unhappiness, either some or all of the time, with their birth sex, including their anatomy, appearance, and expected social roles. The discomfort can be express in activities such as adopting the behavior and dress of the “opposite” sex, either full- or part-time; living in the role of the “opposite” sex, either full- or part-time; or physically altering the body through hormones and/or surgery. It can also refer to those who present as androgynous or do not define themselves by gender at all. In some cases, these people self-identify as genderqueer, genderless, or neutrois. There are many other names that people use to define themselves.
Bonus! Participating in the “Gender Identity & Expression Challenge 2011”
Visit the Bibrary site for more info – it sounds like fun if you’re already reading some queer literature (and if you aren’t, you should)!