Jun 06

LGBTQ Memoirs, Recent and Notable

For Pride Month, selected quotes from recent and notable LGBTQ memoirs:

“Queers do not come out of the minefield of homophobia without scars. We do not live through our families’ rejection of us, our stunted life options, the violence we’ve faced, the ways in which we’ve violated ourselves for survival, our harmful coping mechanisms, our lifesaving delusions, the altered brain chemistry we have sustained as a result of this, the low income and survival states we’ve endured as a result of society’s loathing, unharmed. Whatever of theses wounds I didn’t experience firsthand, my lovers did, and so I say that, for a time, it was not possible to have queer love that was not in some way damaged or defined by damage sustained, even as it desperately fought through that damage to access, hopefully, increasingly frequent moments of sustaining, lifesaving love, true love, and loyalty, and electric sex.” Michelle Tea, Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms (2018)

“The best way I can describe [being transgender] for myself […] is a constant feeling of homesickness. An unwavering ache in the pit of my stomach that only goes away when I can be seen and affirmed in the gender I’ve always felt myself to be. And unlike homesickness with location, which eventually diminishes as you get used to the new home, this homesickness only grows with time and separation.” Sarah McBride, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality (2018)

“Gay men are terrified of our own perspective. We love perspective, other people’s perspectives, rarely our own. We write for other people, we act and use other people’s words, we lip-synch and use other people’s voices. We fear using our own perspective because it endangers us. It lays our desires and weaknesses bare. Camouflage is our defense. But defense isn’t enough. It is survival, nothing more. It is managing your status as an object. Perspective is power.” Guy Branum, My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir through (Un) Popular Culture (2018)

“But here’s the remarkable thing about self-love: When you start to love yourself for the first time, when you start to truly embrace who you are—flaws and all—your scars start to look a lot more like beauty marks. The words that used to haunt you transform into badges of pride.” Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story (2019)

“Ninety-eight percent of discrimination is not overt. Ninety-eight percent of discrimination is infuriatingly subtle. You feel it in the lack of eye contact a person makes with you. You feel it in a noted absence of enthusiasm. You feel it in a hesitation or a slight physical tic. You feel it in a pause that goes on for just a moment too long. You feel it in an uncomfortable clearing of the throat. You feel it when, out of nowhere, the air is sucked from the room as if it’s a NASA vacuum chamber. You feel it everywhere, but there is rarely any hard evidence.” Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story (2019)

For more info about LGBTQ Pride, see this link. Other LGBTQ memoirs can be found here.

Oct 25

Gender Identity Cannot Not Be Erased: Author Quotes

The move would be tantamount to the government’s declaring there’s no such thing as “transgender” and would effectively exclude transgender and nonbinary people from basic civil rights protections currently guaranteed by federal law. HuffPost, regarding the Trump administration’s rumored plans “to redefine gender”

Protests regarding the above-cited news have been set into motion—see #WeWontBeErased, for example. (A complete breakdown of the leaked “anti-trans memo” is available at The Advocate.)

Another way to reach people is via education. “As trans activist Faye Seidler quipped, more Americans said they had seen a ghost than knew a transgender person, according to some polls” (Sarah McBride‘s 2018 Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality).

The following are quotes from other authors who’ve written effectively about transgender issues. For further information, click on the book titles.

Nicki Peter Petrikowski, editor, Critical Perspectives on Gender Identity (2016): “Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way. As a result, individuals fitting neatly into these expectations rarely if ever question what gender really means. They have never had to, because the system has worked for them.”

Julia Serano, in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (2010): “Whenever I hear someone who has not had a transsexual experience say that gender is just a construct or merely a performance, it always reminds me of that Stephen Colbert gag where he insists that he doesn’t see race. It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you’re not aware of the many ways in which you are privileged by it.”

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (2010): “We can’t ignore right-wing demagogues who insist that the word of the doctor who proclaims a child’s sex at birth somehow holds more sway over the reality of the body than the word of the person who inhabits it.”

Ian Thomas Malone, The Transgender Manifesto (2017): “If you’re in doubt as to whether or not a question is inappropriate, here’s a helpful tip. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable asking that question to a cisgender person. Generally speaking we as a society don’t go around asking people about their private parts. They’re called private for a reason.”

Janet MockRedefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (2014): “Self-definition and self-determination is about the many varied decisions that we make to compose and journey toward ourselves, about the audacity and strength to proclaim, create, and evolve into who we know ourselves to be. It’s okay if your personal definition is in a constant state of flux as you navigate the world.”

Christina Engela, in Inanna Rising: Women Forged in Fire (2015), edited by Amanda M. Lyons

Voting on things is democratic, yes – but not on deciding on whether or not people should be equal or have human rights. That isn’t democracy, it is mob rule.

Everybody should be equal in a democracy – that is the nature of a democracy.

Feb 04

“Redefining Realness”: Trans Writer Janet Mock’s Memoir

Out today is Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock. Mock was established as a writer in New York City before she publicly disclosed her transgender identity in 2011. At that time the story of Mock’s transition and coming out was published in Marie Claire.

Now, her new book delves into much more about her life. The publisher of Redefining Realness states:

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

In an interview last month with Autostraddle, Mock was asked what advice she’d give “to someone who is trying to live true to themselves or who is struggling with who they are”:

I think number one is tap into yourself and take your time… …(W)hat I would say to someone is don’t look to these big role models that now you hold up on a pedestal. Look to those who are right in process with you. Because you see that they’re taking their time, that it takes a long time to find yourself. So take your time finding yourself, take your time finding and honing your voice, if you’re a writer or storyteller or an artist, whatever that point of view is, and to really tap into yourself. And when I say tap into yourself, I mean like really find out who you are. Like beyond the labels that people may have embraced for themselves and find the labels that are you, you know?

Selected Reviews of Redefining Realness

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There and Stuck in the Middle With You: “Janet Mock’s groundbreaking book is testimony to the remarkable progress trans people have achieved over the last decade– and shines a bright light on the work that still needs to be done. Mock’s clear, lucid prose will open hearts and minds, and further the goals of equality and justice–not just for trans people, but for everyone. Redefining Realness is loving, searing, and true.”

Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History: “Redefining Realness overflows with the everyday magic of survival and resiliency in low income communities of color, of loving kindness bursting through the cracks of a hard reality, and of the life-sustaining bonds of family, friendships, and a powerful trans sisterhood.”

Kirkus Reviews: “From learning her father was addicted to crack to the childhood sexual abuse she sustained to the street sex she performed to gain enough money for her sex-change operation, Mock allows readers into the deepest and darkest moments of her life…It is an eye-opening and unapologetic story that is much greater than mere disclosure; it is a necessary assessment that a transgender person is as normal as any other person who claims the title of normalcy and that gender and body shape do not form a person’s identity.”

You can watch her book trailer below:

May 21

“A Queer and Pleasant Danger”: Newest Kate Bornstein Memoir

Kate Bornstein‘s new book A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today has been called by Kirkus Reviews “(a) nervy, expansive memoir from a pioneering gender activist.”

Bornstein, who has written several previous books about “gender outlaws,” also co-authored in 2006 Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide For Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws.

From the publisher’s description of A Queer and Pleasant Danger:

Scientologist, husband and father, tranny, sailor, slave, playwright, dyke, gender outlaw—these are just a few words which have defined Kate Bornstein during her extraordinary life. For the first time, it all comes together in A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein’s stunningly original memoir that’s set to change lives and enrapture readers.

The book can be seen as having at least three parts involving the following: what is was like growing up before transgender issues were well known, living as a Scientologist, and coming into her real self.

Born Albert Bornstein, he became involved with Scientology many years ago when not yet in acceptance of his transgender identity (Scientology apparently nurtures such suppression quite well). His later excommunication was due to an inadvertent failure on his part to hide something else—not about himself, but about a financial scam related to Scientology. Along with having to leave Scientology came the loss of his nine-year-old daughter, now an adult with her own children whom Bornstein has never met.

As Bornstein stated in a recent interview with Mother Jones about the period beyond Scientology:

I was diagnosed with PTSD, and I had night terrors for about 15 to 20 years after I left. This is when you know you’re dreaming and you can’t wake up. Those stopped after I started writing this book. It got down to nightmares, and now they’re just bad dreams, so speaking about it has been helping…

What I’ve read elsewhere is that Bornstein, who transitioned from male to female in 1986, four years following the excommunication, doesn’t actually subscribe anymore to the notion of a binary gender system and prefers a gender neutral pronoun system of ze for she/he and hir for him/her. From Mother Jones:

I don’t speak for all transsexuals or all transgender people. Certainly I honor anybody who wants to be a man and do the work of becoming a man. I honor anyone who mindfully becomes a woman. That’s cool. But, I really don’t get how there’s only two choices. There’s no two of anything else in the entire universe; why should there only be two genders? I don’t get it.

The following is from Kirkus Reviews (and doesn’t follow gender pronoun neutrality):

…the backbone of the book, and of Bornstein’s life, is her admonishment to ‘do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living.’

This cri de coeur, which appears in a letter to her estranged daughter and grandchildren, suggests that Bornstein has made real sacrifices to follow her own advice, and can therefore dispense it with integrity.