Copyright © 2010 by James Leonard Park
Selected and reviewed
by James Park,
existential philosopher and sexologist.
The books are organized by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions of this reviewer.
Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press,
1996) 212 pages
(ISBN: 0807079405; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F45 1996)
Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press,
1997) 218 pages
(ISBN: 0807079413; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F44 1996)
This book embraces
several variations of sex and gender:
(in order of importance) transsexuals; homosexuals; cross-dressers;
intersexuals; people with unusual gender-personalities;
and people who transcend conventional sex-roles.
All of these are called "transgender" persons.
But this term is mainly useful for the political project
of winning civil rights for persons with such variations.
Scientifically, the term "transgender" is far too broad and vague
because it lumps all variations of sex and gender together,
without regard to the causes or reasons behind each variation.
(This book casts no light on such possible causes or reasons.)
purposes of this collection
of pictures, stories, and myths of 'transgender' people
is to build a positive image (and self-image)
of all variations of sex and gender.
The author has combed history and pre-history,
looking for positive stories about people (and gods)
with some variation from standard sex and gender:
myths from the major cultures of the world;
indigenous peoples of the New World;
Roman Catholic saints; modern history.
Feinberg also explores tolerance and intolerance
of such variations around the world.
Leslie Feinberg might
like to be referred to as "he"
in any review of this book,
but the present reviewer, knowing her only thru the printed word,
feels that she is more a strong woman in personality than a man.
The author was born female but now lives as a man.
(For more details, read the book.)
The facts of her own life do not distort what she reports
—except in her selection of only positive role-models—
but her interest in the subject was doubtless personal in the beginning.
Warriors is not an
of people with variations of sex and gender.
Only positive examples and stories are included.
All the 'transgendered' people who suffered internally
or even killed themselves are omitted.
The only suffering acknowledged here is caused by other people
and authorities, who oppressed everyone
who did not fit the standard patterns of sex and gender.
But the purpose of the book is to present positive role-models,
not to present all sides of 'transgenderism'.
The author wants to make the world safer
for all variations of sex and gender.
People should not have to classify themselves by sex or gender.
And they should not have to follow life-paths
dictated by such classifications.
Feinberg seems to believe that sex and gender are free choices.
And we should all have the civil right to live any way we please.
Warriors is richly
with pictures on almost every page.
And the last section is over 30 pages of pictures and stories
of contemporary 'transgender' people.
For years to
come, this book will be a rich source
of stories and descriptions of variations of sex and gender.
Next, we need some careful, scientific analysis
of all phenomena related to sex and gender—and their variations.
Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana
1997) 695 pages
(ISBN: 0-253-33631-7; hardback)
(ISBN: 0-253-21259-6; paperback, 1999)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.D49 1997)
Holly Devor, interviewed 45 individuals
who were born as normal females but who later decided to become men
—socially, hormonally, & sometimes surgically.
She begins her
book with an historical review
of women who lived as men
long before sex-changes or transsexualism were invented.
These women had many different reasons for living as men.
contains several stunning pictures
of people who would always be taken for men:
beards, male-pattern balding, muscles, etc.
But all of these people were born female and later changed to men.
It is very hard to believe that these people ever lived as women
—or that they still have female genitals, which is usually the case.
Real first names are given with these pictures.
in order to protect
the participants in this study were all given pseudonyms.
Thus it is not possible to connect the pictures with the stories.
The author informs me that some of the participants are pictured.
Maybe a follow-up book, two decades into the 21 century,
would find the participants more willing
to have their pictures used along with their stories.
Some books on transsexuals do include 'before' and 'after' pictures
of the individuals who have changed sex.
Devor does not
endorse any single theory
of why some people want to change sex.
She reviews the scientific theories
but remains open to newer explanations that might emerge in the future.
The participants showed a variety of pathways to becoming men.
Some decided relatively late in life,
whereas others knew from an early age that they wanted to be male.
Family background does not provide a comprehensive explanation.
But it is an obvious place to begin looking.
Holly Devor spends quite a few pages exploring
the family backgrounds of the participants.
However, dysfunctional families are very common everywhere.
And most families-with-problems do not produce children
who want to change sex in adulthood.
Additional factors beyond alcoholism in the family,
child abuse, abandonment, or tomboyism must be the reasons
—because millions of other girls had similar backgrounds,
without wanting to become men in adulthood.
Most of the subjects
had a phase of teen-age sex with males.
Some got married and lived as wives and mothers for many years
before deciding to become men.
Almost all had a phase of lesbian identity
(including sex with other women) before they became men.
After their (years-long) transition to living as men,
they were much more satisfied to call themselves
heterosexual men than lesbian women.
(Some had other self-concepts after becoming men, such as gay man.)
Most of them found changing sex to become men
(who could legitimately have sex with straight women)
a much better self-concept than considering themselves lesbians.
Most wanted to fade into the male population
—being considered by everyone they met to be normal, everyday men.
However, their sex-partners knew that they still had female genitals.
includes full discussion of all the dimensions
of changing from women to men:
family, friends, psychological adjustments, new names,
clothes, manners, various hormonal and surgical treatments,
adjustments with sex-partners, etc.
Because they had lived at least a few years as women,
before they started living as men,
they rarely went to the extreme macho position or stereotype.
They were generally known as gentle and sensitive men.
Why did these (and other) women want to become men?
Surely they could have become more stable, deliberate,
self-confident, decisive, independent, autonomous,
courageous, disciplined, foresighted, & pragmatic
—several personality traits from the 'masculine', admirable column
of my Gender-Pattern Chart—without becoming men.
Many women do have these admirable personality characteristics.
So the desire to become the other sex
must be something more than the desire for personality change.
Holly Devor does not
believe that the motivation was primarily sexual
(in the sense of erotic fantasies, for example).
But we can still ask to what degree (or in which cases)
were these women motivated by their sexual yearnings?
Perhaps some found erotic responses deep within themselves
that told them that they already were men,
so they took the courageous step of radically changing their bodies
in order to match their imprinted sex-scripts.
(To learn more about this sex-script hypothesis , click those words.)
From this perspective,
perhaps this book could be seen
(at least in part) as a collection of stories about lesbian women
who decided to go "all the way"
—to become the-men-they-were in their sexual fantasies.
If we understood lesbianism—especially 'butch' lesbianism—better,
perhaps we would understand 'female-to-male transsexualism' better.
If we had a thousand 'butch' lesbians to study,
perhaps most would have sexual fantasies of themselves as men,
but only a few would want to become men.
And perhaps only a small number of these
would actually take the steps to begin living full-time as men.
(However, Holly Devor says that FTM
is definitely NOT a book about lesbians.)
Even more broadly,
this book might be a study of
45 individuals who were born as women
who later decided to live as men for a wide variety of reasons.
If we could have each story separate from the others,
the various reasons for wanting to live as men
might become more clear.
Will better public acceptance of lesbianism
(and other variations of sex and gender)
correspond with a decrease in the demand for sex-change?
Will some of the people studied in this book
later revert to a lesbian self-concept
instead of thinking of themselves as men?
Will same-sex marriage
(which will be realized in some forms in the 21st century)
also correlate with a decrease in 'transsexualism'?
Here is a basic
criticism of the book,
which can be corrected if Dr. Devor decides to do
follow-up studies 10 or 20 years later with these same participants:
Each woman-becoming-man should have a separate chapter.
This would have improved the narrative quality and interest of the book.
And it would have made the information
better raw material for other scientific analysis.
(The author does provide a Participant Index in the back of the book
that allows careful readers to trace
all mention of any individual throughout the book.
And frequent footnotes tell us
which specific participants are being discussed.)
Because the author
is a sociologist, she looked for general patterns,
especially in the family backgrounds of these women-becoming-men.
But because transsexualism is so extremely rare
—perhaps one person in 100,000—
collecting data about birth order, childhood trauma,
family structure and dynamics, etc.
contributes almost nothing to understanding
why these women decided to begin living as men.
and composite stories would make sense
for exploring a phenomenon that is quite common
—such as getting married or getting divorced—
but when bits and pieces from the lives of these 45 different individuals
are woven together into a composite FTM,
many useful facts might have been lost.
Because the author interviewed each subject personally,
she remembers each story separately.
But we—the readers—might find it difficult to remember
which pseudonym goes with which story.
The participants in this study might have had a wide variety
of highly individualistic reasons for wanting to live as men.
If so, these special reasons might have been lost in the attempt
to present a general picture of 'the female-to-male transsexual'.
Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society
presents only the positive dimensions of changing to live as men.
Social science will be very interested to learn
how these new men lived 10, 20, or 30 years after their changes.
(Of course, some of the participants
have already lived many years as men.)
study of transsexualism
has been greatly advanced
by this major contribution from Holly Devor.
But it might be just the beginning of the story.
The Politics of Transgenderism
(San Francisco, CA: Cleis
(ISBN: 1-57344-072-8; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C35 1997)
Califia has created
the most useful summary to date
of all the facts and theories concerning transsexualism.
Sex Changes is based on a careful reading
of the most readily available books
and articles on transsexualism and related phenomena
—such as transvestism and homosexuality.
Califia devotes chapters
the autobiographies of people who changed sex
(both the early, well-known books
and the more recent, less well-known);
scientific attempts to understand and 'treat' transsexualism;
problems in the feminist community
created by former men who have become women
—some now thinking of themselves as lesbians;
the sexual partners of transsexuals;
the political and social movements for acceptance
of all sex-and-gender minorities.
Because of its
of all the background books,
Sex Changes is an excellent place to begin reading
about transsexualism and related phenomena.
Transmen and FTMs:
Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities
(Urbana, IL: University of
1999) 201 pages
(ISBN: 0-252-02439-7; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-252-06825-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C76 1999)
This book describes
the lives and problems
of women who have decided to live as men.
It is based on the author's own experience
and her extensive contacts with a few hundred
other FTM (female-to-male) transsexuals
—in FTM support groups beginning in 1983,
informal surveys, formal surveys, conferences for FTMs,
e-mail communications, phone conversations, etc.
The most concentrated work took place
in San Francisco in 1995-1998.
This book was
originally a PhD thesis,
so it contains comprehensive research into the history
of women who decided to pass as men for at least parts of their lives.
However, most of these women would not be considered transsexuals
by any of our modern conceptions.
advocates the right to change sex
in whatever degree suits the individual.
And this book will be useful mainly to
other women who are thinking about living as men.
It is more advocacy and support than science.
In fact, Cromwell sees the clinicians who control the sex-change gate
mostly as opponents and oppressors of her subjects.
She affirms again and again that 'pathology', 'disease', & 'disorder'
are not the correct approach to transsexualism.
But she does not offer any alternative scientific explanations.
scientific professionals are not hostile
toward people with variations of sex and/or gender.
It would be good if authors such as Cromwell
would make this distinction
—and tell us which scientific theories they like best,
rather than rejecting all scientific approaches
and affirming whatever mythologies the variant individuals
embrace at any given time and place.
born-females now living as men
made this decision long before they started
any exploration of the scientific literature.
Thus, they often had firmly-established mythologies
of their own making, which explained (to their own satisfaction)
why they needed to live as men.
And often they cling to their beliefs as if they were religious dogmas.
In contrast to
earlier generations of transsexuals,
most of the subjects of this book did not want to fade into
the general population as ordinary, everyday, unremarkable men.
Most had only a few surgeries to become more like men,
such as having their breasts removed.
They often enjoyed their freedom to be either sex
as suited the situation or that particular phase of their lives.
For example, some were known as men on the job
but as butch lesbians in their social relationships.
Others wanted to be known in public as transsexuals
or some form of 'transgender' individuals.
And some even wished to be created intersexual individuals,
people who were born as normal biological females
but who later decided to modify their bodies
to some degree in the male direction.
were largely shaped
within the FTM community of their time and place
—late 1990s San Francisco.
Ten or twenty years later,
they might have different explanations of who they are
and new names and labels for themselves.
and FTMs definitely arises from
the grass-roots experience of hundreds of born-women
who for a variety of reasons decided
somewhere along the line they wanted to live as men.
This book is recommended both for people struggling
with such questions of sexual identity
and for professionals who are called upon to help them.
This book does not settle any questions of transsexualism,
but it is definitely an important part
of the literature about born-women who want to live as men.
Mildred L. Brown &
Chloe Ann Rounsley
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism
—For Families, Friends, Coworkers,
and Helping Professionals
(ISBN: 0-7879-0271-3; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.B76 1996)
is a California therapist
who has spent more than 20 years
working with transsexuals and their families
—more than 400 transsexuals in all.
She remains positive, affirming, & accepting thru-out.
Brown is convinced that transsexualism is "a medical condition",
not a psychological or psychiatric problem.
She accepts the belief that transsexuals were born that way.
Selves is written mainly for laypeople
—transsexuals themselves, their families and friends,
coworkers, & helping professionals
who have dealt with few or no transsexuals before.
The main chapters cover:
childhood; teen years; adulthood; therapy;
explaining the sex-change to co-workers, friends, & family;
& medical and surgical helps.
Altho she overwhelmingly
who tell her that they were born into the wrong bodies,
she has encountered people
who have "other conditions and problems"
who are "not transsexuals at all".
gives one page
to listing the following 10 conditions,
which do not qualify as transsexualism:
1. Gay men and lesbians
their sexual orientation with the desire to change sex.
2. Cross-dressers who
that they enjoy the clothes of the other sex so much
that they want to become the other sex.
3. Men and women who
with the gender-personalities and sex-roles
assigned by society because of their sex.
4. Men with severe
Because they cannot have sex as men,
some want to become woman.
5. Victims of sexual
assault or abuse,
who therefore want to distance themselves as much as possible
from the bodies in which they were victimized.
If one result of the sexual abuse is that
they cannot function sexually as the sex in which they were born,
they hope that becoming the other sex
will put all the trauma behind them.
6. Persons who dislike
they have fallen into in their original sex
—eg rape, child-molestation, exhibitionism,
and other anti-social or criminal behavior.
They want to get rid of the parts of their bodies
—usually penises—that have led them astray.
7. Criminals who wish
to change their
to escape capture by the police.
8. Munchausen syndrome:
People who crave medical attention,
even tho there is nothing wrong with them.
9. Individuals with
who have delusions that they are the other sex.
10. Individuals with
At least one personality believes it is the other sex.
But a sex-change could create serious problems
for the other personalities.
Selves contains lots of practical advice
concerning all of the problems transsexuals will encounter
in the process of changing to the other sex:
announcing one's plans to family, friend, & co-workers,
being re-trained to behave as the other sex,
hormonal and surgical procedures, & financial problems.
Altho this book
does not advance
our scientific understanding of transsexualism,
it does deal comprehensively and compassionately
with the day-to-day problems encountered by people
who are changing from one sex to the other.
The Body Narratives of Transsexuality
(New York: Columbia
University Press, 1998) 270 pages
(ISBN: 0-231-10934-2; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-231-10935-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.P76 1998)
Jay Prosser was
born a female but as an adult lives as a man.
But this review will use the feminine pronouns—she, her, hers—
because her personality and her interests
as they come across in her writing seem to me
more the mind of a woman than the mind of a man.
The books she discusses were mostly written by radical feminists.
Besides advocating the same opportunities for women as granted to men,
Prosser also advocates the freedom to change sex
—or to present oneself as an intermediate sex between female and male.
Thus, her book grew out of her personal and passionate involvement
with the cause of sex-and-gender liberation.
research for Second
Skins was a reading
autobiographies of people who have changed from one sex to the other
—and some important works of transsexual fiction.
Jay Prosser is aware of the pressure to fabricate
a standard transsexual story
in order to convince the sex-change psychologists and surgeons.
And later these stories are elaborated into full-blown autobiographies,
but still with the purpose of justifying a sex-change.
Narratives are very important to transsexuals,
first because they must 'remember'
always wanting to be the other sex from childhood.
exploring the psychological reasons
for wanting to change sex.
And any discussion of the subjects' sexual orientations,
sexual responses, & sexual relationship is mostly absent.
Such an exploration might have revealed that most of the butch lesbians
discussed in this book were trying to understand
why they have sexual fantasies of themselves as male.
Early imprinting of sex-scripts might have been a better explanation
in many cases than 'transsexuality'.
A major gap in the research behind this book is modern scientific sexology.
She does give an account of old-fashioned explanations and some Freud.
the changing models
of these variations of sex and gender:
In the early 1900s, these people were called "inverts"
—meaning that they had "contrary sexual desires";
then they were "homosexuals";
finally some prefer to think of themselves as "transsexuals"
—and even later as "transgender persons".
In the early
days of 'transsexuality'—beginning in the middle 1900s—
most transsexuals wanted to become completely the other sex.
When this book was written—at the end of the 1990s—
a new self-concept was emerging:
"Transgender" people want to make
what used to be a transition into an identity.
These persons do not want to fade into the general population.
They want to be known publicly as "transgender"
—somewhere between the two sexes,
perhaps with the freedom to shift back and forth at will.
For a while they called themselves "preoperative transsexuals"
or "nonoperative transsexuals".
And they greatly outnumber the people
who have undergone sex-change surgery.
might not be the best people to consult
when trying to create a better model for these phenomena.
They might be too passionately involved in justifying their own choices.
But at least such autobiographies
provides lots of raw material for later scientific analysis.
All in all, Second
Skins is an important
to the fast-growing literature of transsexualism and transgenderism.
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
A Trans-Religious Approach
OH: The Pilgrim Press: www.thepilgrimpress.com, 2007)
(ISBN: 978-0-8298-1771-3; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: BR115.T76M65 2007)
(Revised and expanded from a 2001 edition)
author herself is a lesbian woman who dresses and appears to be a man.
At least she is often mistaken in public for a man.
Mollenkott believes that everyone should have the freedom
to present themselves as either male or female.
And some will choose to be somewhere in between male and female.
(Evanston, IL: Chicago
(ISBN: 1-886094-51-9; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.E77 1996)
Randi Ettner is a psychologist
who accidentally began working with transsexuals.
She has appeared in various media defending the practice of sex-change.
Ettner believes that transsexuals are born that way
—with a psyche at odds with their bodies.
She gives psychological support to all who wish to change sex.
And this book presents the stories of about 10 of her clients.
It also includes 'before' and 'after' pictures
of some of the people who changed sex.
The purpose of this book seems to be
to support transsexuals in their choice
rather than to broaden our scientific understanding
of the several phenomena that might be involved.
Gordene Olga MacKenzie
(Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1994) 190 pages
(ISBN: 0-87972-596-6; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-87927-597-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.M54 1994)
This book supports all variations of sex and gender.
It is written from within the emerging sub-culture itself.
The author has had considerable contact with individuals in New Mexico
who vary from standard patterns of sex and gender in several ways.
As of the early 1990s, there was already a movement
within the 'transgender nation' away from conceptions
imposed by the scientific and medical establishments.
People were beginning to claim the right to live
as any sex or gender they pleased
—with or without the approval and/or physical help
of the medical profession.
Increasingly, these individuals were merely living as the other sex
if that seemed right to them.
This book is another addition to the literature of transsexualism
from the perspective of the transsexuals themselves.
Each person with some variation of sex and/or gender
usually develops some personal explanation
before he or she begins any scientific reading
or begins to consult any professionals.
The author favors transsexual persons remaining active
in the 'gender' community
rather than fading into the population of unremarkable males and females.
In Search of Eve:
Transsexual Rites of Passage
(South Hadley, MA: Bergin
& Garvey, 1988) 210 pages
(ISBN: 0897890825; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0897891155; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.B65 1988)
research based on two years
of being with 16 male-to-female transsexuals.
Bolin attempts to get beyond the standard transsexual story
that had to be told to doctors in order to be approved for a sex-change.
This sample of transsexuals does not conform to the stereotypes
expected by the early 'explanations' of transsexualism:
close mother-distant father,
being a sissy in childhood, hating one's penis.
Bolin gives considerable attention to the various processes
(social, educational, emotional, hormonal, surgical)
that the transsexuals must undergo
in order to emerge as complete women a few years later
—women's personality, emotional responses,
appearance, voice, hair, nails, walk, interests,
& perhaps marriage to a man and children by adoption.
This is an important document of the transsexual phenomenon
as seen by a participant-observer
who was not driven by any preconceived theory
of the 'causes' of transsexualism.
11. Viviane K. Namaste
The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000) 340 pages
(ISBN: 0-226-56809-1; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-226-58810-5; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.95.C2N35 2000)
A male-to-female transsexual with close connections
with the drag-queen sub-sub-culture of Montreal, Quebec, Canada
makes a strong case for recognizing this sub-sub-culture
and giving drag queens health care, especially for AIDS,
which they mostly contracted by having sex with gay men.
Because drag queens are male prostitutes
who pretend to be female to please their gay male clients,
they are often erased both by the general culture
(which does not acknowledge homosexuals at all)
and by the gay men's sub-culture
because drag queens are entertainers and prostitutes
not regular members of the gay men's sub-culture.
Thus the subjects of this book are doubly marginalized.
(Of course, not all drag queens have sex-change operations
in order to be closer to females in body,
but all do pretend in many ways to be women.
Some even sell sex to heterosexual men
by pretending to be ordinary female prostitutes.
But most sell sex to men who are sexually aroused
by the image of men who pretend to be women.)
In contrast to most scientific research on transsexuals,
which is done by non-transsexuals
studying individuals who are very different from themselves,
this book is written definitely from within
this very small sub-group within the larger gay and lesbian sub-culture.
The author established a health-clinic
to deal with the problems of males who sell sex as females.
Their daily problems include drugs
as well as the sexually-transmitted diseases associated with their occupation.
What should drag queens do when they discover they are HIV positive?
Should they risk passing the virus to their clients?
Because they have few others skills,
and when the economy does not have many opportunities,
it is economically difficult for them to give up selling sex
to gay men who are attracted to drag queens.
Should they retire from the game and adapt to a probably-shortened life?
What about their housing conditions?
What about the working conditions of phone-sex workers?
Despite the author's sex-change,
this reviewer senses that his mind is all male.
He has done pains-taking detailed research into other writings on transsexualism.
(For instance, he summarizes a great deal of writing
on the various 'causes' of transsexualism.)
He is an activist, rather than merely suffering his fate.
His prose is hard-hitting and hyper-logical
rather than diffuse and supportive.
Someone whose mind was formed as a female
would have written a completely different book.
Male-to-female transsexuals face employment discrimination
because employers do not want to hire someone who used to be a male
and who now dresses and acts like a woman.
This fact tends to keep drag queen prostitutes in that line-of-work
in order to pay for their sex-change and other health-care needs.
His basic hope in writing this book
is to make the daily lives and problems of MTF transsexual prostitutes
more visible in the hope that greater public awareness
will lead to improvement in their lives.
This differs fundamentally from more objective research,
which just describes a given phenomenon
without any political agenda to help the people being studied.
Namaste makes no attempt to explain why some people are gay
or why some gay men want to imitate women
in their sexual encounters with other gay men
or why some drag queens decide to sell sex to other men.
These are all assumed and established facts.
The thrust of the book is to make this minority better known,
in the hope that they will receive better treatment
by the police, health-care workers, and medical systems.
One problem encountered by drag queens who want to have a sex-change
is that clinics usually require a period of living as the chosen sex,
which (for MTFs) includes being employed as women.
And prostitution usually did not qualify as a valid form of employment.
Many felt that they were set up to fail
when they were told to put on a dress and get a job.
This book provides some interesting glimpses
into the lives and problems of MTF prostitutes,
who are such a small group
that they will probably never have another book written about them.
Only some of them really want to undergo sex-change operations,
which are not really needed for them to continue their way-of-life.
Bernice L. Hausman
Transsexualism, Technology, and the Idea of Gender
(Durham, NC: Duke
(ISBN: 0822316803; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0822316927; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: RC560.G45H38 1995)
that the technical ability
to do sex-change surgery
is the fundamental cause of transsexualism.
Janis Raymond (in Transsexual Empire) proposed a similar thesis.
Both women see the phenomenon of
men turning themselves into woman
thru feminist glasses,
which makes them see a conspiracy of male surgeons
turning men into conventional women.
was very aware
of the cultural causes of such phenomena as sex-roles
(behavior assigned on the basis of one's sex)
(traits enculturated into us, making us either 'masculine' or 'feminine'),
she assumes that there must be a cultural cause of transsexualism.
Herein this reviewer believes she is profoundly mistaken.
The phenomenon now called transsexualism
has existed for hundreds of years.
Thus, it was not the result of the technology of sex-change surgery,
which only became possible in the second half of the 20th century.
blames television transsexuals
for planting the notion
that one can solve all one's problems by changing sex.
Clearly many people latch onto the concept of transsexualism
when they first hear about the phenomenon,
but we should not blame the medium for making the concept known.
Hausman is correct
about the standard transsexual story.
Because male-to-female transsexuals must convince
(mostly male) doctors that they are women,
they must conform to the stereotypes of what
women look like, how women move, behave, feel, talk, etc.
They must be interested in "women's concerns"—marriage, family, etc.
Some feminists complain that these features constitute
men's ideas of what women are like.
But if transsexualism
were a result of a conspiracy of male doctors
to make more women because that pleases men,
they would take all comers:
Every man who wanted a sex-change could get the operation.
Hausman seems unaware that scientific doctors
turn down more applicants than they operate on.
flaw of this book—a revision of a PhD thesis—
is that most of the research upon which it was based
were cases that took place before 1950.
It would need a lot of updating to take recent
facts, discoveries, & theories into account.
Finally, this question: Is working against transsexualism
really a good way to promote the feminist agenda?
The Transsexual Empire:
The Making of the She-Male
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press,
(Library of Congress call number: RC560.C4R38 1979)
(New York: Teachers
College Press, 1994—second
edition) 220 pages
(Library of Congress call number: RC560.C4R38 1994)
This book is
a feminist critique of the practice of changing sex.
Raymond is offended by transsexuals who want to be conventional women
—the very stereotypes she has been trying to counteract.
Why should men want to join an oppressed class?
To Raymond this seems as foolish
as whites changing their skin color to become blacks.
Sex-change operations only reinforce the conventional differences
between men and women.
Raymond wants to overcome such differences.
She compares sex-change operations
to women having their breasts enlarged—to please men.
the transsexual doctors—psychiatrists and surgeons—
in a conspiracy trying to keep the sexes separate and distinct,
which includes keeping women in subordinate roles.
But the fact is that these few 'transsexual' individuals
freely seek out such professionals
because they do not feel at home in their bodies.
The surgery is intended to relieve suffering,
not to 'keep women in their place'.
And most people who seek to change sex
are turned down by the professionals.
book, Raymond confuses gender-personality traits
with male/female self-designation.
She believes that male-to-female transsexuals
are trying to become more 'feminine'.
But surely men can be more sensitive, warm, loving, & nurturing
without a sex-change!
that transsexualism is an ideology
—a social construct created by society—like sexism and patriarchy.
And because treatments for transsexuals undercut the efforts
to eradicate sex-role stereotyping and sex-discrimination,
such treatments move in the wrong direction
according to Raymond's feminist ideology.
were based on only 15 transsexuals
and interviews with professionals in the field.
She seems to lack empathy for these male-to-female transsexuals
in claiming that society made them want to become women.
The book is little
changed from the 1979 edition.
A new preface has been added.
And in the opinion of this reviewer, this book adds nothing
to the understanding of transsexualism and its treatment.
But because it was such a classic, it had to be included in this bibliography.
If Raymond reads Variations of Sex and Gender:
Six Phenomena Frequently Confused by James Park,
she will find that several of these confusions cloud her own book.
But then she can write a completely new book
—based on new research with actual transsexuals.
The Apartheid of Sex:
A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender
(New York: Crown,
(Library of Congress Call number: HQ1075.R68 1995)
complete freedom for people
to be and express any variation of sex and gender they please:
to dress any way they want;
to have whatever personality traits they prefer;
to marry anyone they want;
to raise children in whatever ways please them;
to have sex with whomever they please; &
to have any surgery to change sex that they want.
He believes all of these are matters of social convention.
But this reviewer believes that the last two
(sex-scripts and biological sex) are much deeper than enculturation.
there is a continuum of sex from female to male.
He uses the analogy of race:
Skin color shows every possible shade and variation.
And Rothblatt believes it is possible
to have the body of one sex but the mind of the other.
As the title
Rothblatt wants to end sex-segregation and discrimination
—just as racial segregation and discrimination are now ending.
Historically speaking the races are converging.
The geographical separations that originally created
the different races of the human species are now disappearing.
And interracial reproduction
is reducing the differences between the races.
Rothblatt's own 4 children are interracial,
since he is white and his wife is black.
But inter-breeding between males and females
has not reduced the differences
between the two sexes of the human species.
argument conceals an unstated shift:
We have been able to change the traditional sex-roles of men and women.
And our gender-personalities are converging
(especially the admirable qualities of both 'masculinity' and 'femininity').
But we cannot 'go further' to abolish all sex-differences.
Our biological sex-differences are as pure and strong
as they have ever been.
And there is no way to make sex-differences go away.
Our success in eliminating sex-role and gender-personality stereotypes
does not imply that sexual differentiation will be the next to disappear.
We have great
flexibility in gender-personalities:
As self-creating adults, we can choose our personality traits
from any of the hundreds of characteristics
listed on the Gender-Pattern Chart.
(See Ch. 7 of James Park's New Ways of Loving:
How Authenticity Transforms Relationships:
"Masculinity/Femininity: Loving Beyond Our Gender-Personalities".
This Gender-Pattern Chart also appears in
Variations of Sex and Gender,
Ch. IV "Gender Personalities: Thousands of Possible Gender-Patterns".
This book-in-progress is also by James Park.)
But none of the changes in personality-traits
requires or suggests that a sex-change is needed.
Rothblatt makes a classic switch
(also found in other advocates of sex-change freedom):
Because 'masculinity' and 'femininity' are flexible,
so are maleness and femaleness.
But such thinking confuses biologically-given sex
with enculturated sex-roles and gender-personalties.
to sell us a radical change
(sex-change operations on demand)
under the guise of a moderate change most of us would endorse
(moving away from rigid and stereotyped gender-personalities
and conventional sex-roles assigned to men and women).
Calling all such changes "gender freedom"
hides the profound differences between biological sex on the one hand
and sex-roles and gender-personalities on the other.
Contrary to the author's aim,
sex-change operations on demand are not a part of the feminist agenda.
suggests ending sex-typing at birth.
This would allow the child to choose a sex later—or no sex.
Unisex bathrooms would de-emphasize the differences between the sexes
and solve some of the problems associated with segregated bathrooms.
lived most of his life as a man:
He married a woman, fathered 4 children,
became a successful lawyer and businessman.
In the middle of his life, he decided to put his 'female' persona first.
He now lives full time as a woman,
wearing women's clothes, jewelry, nail polish, hair-style, etc.
He has remained married to his wife, now calling it a lesbian marriage.
They go out together in public as a lesbian couple.
He tells us nothing about their sex-life,
either before or after his change to living as a woman.
His children still regard him as their dad.
And judging only from the printed words of his book,
his personality is still more 'masculine' than 'feminine'.
He remains stern and hard-hitting in every line of the text.
A more 'feminine' person would emphasize
the tender and intuitive side of being a woman.
He remains a 'masculine' writer, for example,
using lots of scientific examples of paradigm shifts
in his attempt to promote a paradigm shift in our thinking about sex.
He has not changed his professional interests or activities.
He has no 'feminine' interests or activities.
He continues to run his own business, now as a female CEO.
So his decision to live as a woman was not really a personality shift.
His personality probably remains
much the same as it was when he lived as a man.
written a very personal book
—even tho it takes the form of a legal or philosophical argument—
based on his own mental change from calling himself a man
to calling himself a woman.
But (for this reader at least) he does not sufficiently explain his change.
And he shows very little evidence
of having read any scientific books on sex.
Biographies of Gender
and Hermaphroditism in Paired Comparisons:
Clinical Supplement to the Handbook of Sexology
(Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier, 1991) 375 pages
studies of 22 intersex individuals,
most followed from infancy thru adulthood. Main themes:
(1) sex assignment confusions, problems, mistakes, & later corrections;
(2) hormonal problems prenatally and at puberty
—and their correction when possible;
(3) surgical correction of make the body more male or female;
(4) family histories of coping with sexual birth defects;
(5) male/female self-designation struggles for all the intersex individuals;
(6) sexual histories, romantic histories, marriage, adoption of children,
adjustment, & mal-adjustment.
This book should
be read by all intersex individuals,
their families, & all professionals who deal with them.
Even tho this
book does not deal with transsexuals
as normally understood
—persons who decide to change sex in the middle of life—
it may be the first scientific book that deals with the questions
concerning what makes an individual one sex or the other.
Everyone with a personal or professional interest in transsexualism
should also read this book.
As Nature Made Him:
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
(New York: HarperCollins,
(ISBN: 0-06-019211-9; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: RC560.G45C65 2000)
is not really
a book about transsexualism,
but it does tell the story of a baby boy whose parents decided
that he should be raised as a girl because he lost his penis.
Later (at age 14) he decided to become a male again.
It is related to transsexualism in that
it does deal with the question of how set or permanent one's sex is
or how easily one can change sex.
book is journalism
rather than science.
But it will introduce thousands of people to sexology
who would never have taken the opportunity
to read a more technical book.
the story of David Reimer,
who lost his penis in a circumcision accident at age 8 months.
After his parents saw a television program
featuring sexologist John Money,
they decided explore the possibility of raising their son as a girl.
In consultation with John Money
and other psychological and medical professionals,
they decided to raise Bruce (David's original name)
as a girl (Brenda) beginning at age 19 months.
The infant's testicles were removed at age 22 months.
In retrospect, this may have been too late to change the sex of a child.
Male/female self-designation ("I am a girl" or "I am a boy")
is probably set—imprinted—by age 18 months,
by the time a child begins to speak.
story is a psychological experiment that failed.
After some troublesome years as a girl, at age 14 years,
when David learned that he was born a boy
(just like his identical twin brother),
he decided to begin living as a male once again.
And as of the publication of this book,
he has lived more than half of his life as a male again.
He married a woman who already had three children,
thereby becoming an instant father.
and a new constructed penis
have helped him to cross the sex-line for a second time.
Psychologically he seems well adjusted to being a male,
even tho he spend his childhood (ages 2-14) as a girl.
Nature Made Him is based mainly on interviews with David,
when he was an adult male in his early thirties,
and as many other people as John Colapinto could find
three decades after the story began.
When depending on recollections years after the events,
it now appears obvious that it was never a good decision
to try to raise David as a girl.
But David may now be remembering mainly the facts
that support his decision to live as a male again.
(In reading the life-stories of many sex-changed people,
we often note that the childhood recollections
almost always support the later decision to change sex.)
Here the adult David Reimer might want to remember
that he was always a boy,
even tho everyone around him tried to raise him as a girl.
However, we do
have some good records from her childhood
that show that Brenda always resisted having a vagina constructed.
She believed that she was a girl, but she did not want any more surgery.
Her sexual attractions (such as they were) were toward 'other' girls.
To this reviewer's
John Money never responded to this book,
which is highly critical of his role in advising the Reimer parents
to raise their damaged boy as a girl.
John Money is familiar with other cases of failed sex-changes,
in which the individual later decides to go back to the original sex.
In this case, there are three possible explanations for the failure:
(1) Perhaps 19
months was too late
to try to switch the sex of a child.
If the child has already begun to speak
and has heard itself referred to as either a "he" or a "she",
the imprinting of male/female self-designation might already have taken place.
David Reimer might have had some unarticulated awareness of being a boy
from his life before he was switched to being a girl at age 19 months.
(2) Even more
important, his parents and other adult relatives
were already very accustomed to thinking of Bruce as a boy.
Even tho they were all told to treat the new Brenda as a girl,
they knew the truth of his birth as a normal boy
and the circumcision accident which destroyed his penis,
and they might have communicated this family secret unconsciously.
David's father now reports that he knew the experiment was a failure
when Brenda was 7 or 8 years old.
(3) Even without
testicles to supply testosterone (the male hormone),
Brenda developed in ways that were remarkably like
her identical twin brother, Brian.
So Brenda's body might have compensated,
still producing a boy, because all his cells said XY,
rather than XX, which is the genotype for a normal girl.
If this was the case, his body was pulling one way,
even tho his socialization was pulling in the other direction.
When David learned
the secret of his birth, he was relieved
—and immediately set out plans for becoming a boy again.
He was given all the necessary hormonal and surgical treatments,
which have helped him to be nearly a normal male as of the year 2000.
All in all, this
is a very interesting case study.
But even the author admits at the end
that one case is not a sufficient basis for drawing a scientific conclusion,
John Colapinto was able to convince David Reimer to go public
at least in part because his case was being misused
to show the ease with which children could be raised as either sex.
Now that one
person has been willing to tell the whole story,
others will doubtless come forward with other case histories,
some confirming that nurture cannot overcome nature
and some showing that people can successfully switch
from one sex to the other.
It will be an interesting time for sexology.
Postscript 2004: David Reimer ultimately killed himself in 2004,
two years after the suicide of his twin brother.
We might never know whether his sex-change problems
were a factor in his decision to end his life at 38.
My Gender Workbook:
How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman,
the Real You, or Something Else Entirely
(New York: Routledge,
(ISBN: 0-415-91672-0; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-415-91673-9; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ1075.B69 1998)
The author was
born a man
and later had a sex-change to become a woman.
During her years living as a woman, she was a militant lesbian.
But later her female lover decided to become a man,
which ended their sexual and romantic relationship,
altho they have continued to be friends.
claims to be neither a man nor a woman
—or to be both sexes.
And the basic purpose of this book is to support all persons
who have some variation of sex and/or gender.
Bornstein argues for complete freedom
in all forms of 'gender' expression:
sex-change surgery; dressing as any sex;
having any gender-personality; any sex-roles;
any sexual relationships; any fantasies;
any pornography; & any (safe) sexual practices.
Gender Workbook is not a book of science or philosophy.
It is all performance: I can be any sex I want—and so can you.
Bornstein never faded into the female population,
becoming indistinguishable from other women.
(This is the wish of many transsexuals.
They want the new people in their lives
never to know that they were once the other sex.)
Rather Bornstein has become
a poster-child for the public transsexual,
or "gender outlaw" as s/he prefers to express it.
S/he has made a profession of promoting sex-change themes
on stage and online and of writing books about being able
to switch back and forth between being a man or a woman.
This book is
argumentative and outspoken.
And it contains many interesting quotations
from others who share the same opinion
that 'gender' is a cultural construct,
which now needs to be destroyed.
basic flaw of My
is that it confuses sex with gender on nearly every page.
Bornstein wants to use the word "sex"
to refer only to sexual behavior.
"Gender" is supposed to cover everything else.
Most enlightened people agree that gender-personality
(the ways in which we are 'masculine' and/or 'feminine')
is a cultural construct—and therefore very flexible.
Also we agree that social roles and behavior
assigned by society on the basis of sex (sex-roles)
are entirely arbitrary and therefore completely flexible.
But biological sex (whether our genes are XX or XY)
cannot be changed
because these genes exist in every cell of our bodies.
readers of this book will find much to think about,
stimulated by this militant advocate
of complete freedom in sex and gender expression.
S/he not only observes the many variations of sex and gender,
but s/he lives them every day.
revised 4-24-2009; 9-25-2010
Please send suggestions
to this transsexualism bibliography to:
James Park: e-mail: PARKx032@TC.UMN.EDU
Other comments are also welcome.
you would like to
read the first-person stories of a few transsexuals,
go the the Transsexualism—Autobiographies Bibliography.
bibliography is related
to several others in sexology.
Here is the complete list:
Variations of Sex and Gender B-V-SG
I. Intersex B-CRIT
II. Transsexualism B-TS
Transsexual Autobiographies B-TS-AB
III. Sex-Roles B-ROLE
IV. Gender-Personality B-GEND
V. Sexual Orientation B-ORNT
VI. Cross-Dressing B-TV
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