As an amateur historian and an archivist I’ve always had and read a fair sampling of trans themed books, especially memoirs. I’ve watched their evolution ever since the expurgated and self censored “Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography”.
So straight, so square so different from my messy late 1960s life of sex, drugs, rock n roll and radical politics. Canary Conn’s book in the early 1970s hinted at a life a tad edgier and closer to the lives that were being lived by my friends and myself.
But where oh where wre the books with the real stuff of life? The stuff that caused Jim Carroll to open his book “Forced Entries” with an epigram attributed to Anatole France, “All writers of confessions, from Augustine on down, have always remained a little in love with their sins.”
To make matters worse many of the autobiographies were by people with whom I felt I had very little in common. Renee Richards, Roberta Cowell, Jan Morris, Nancy Hunt. No one ever writes about giving a blow job to a lead singer or lead guitar for an invite back to the Continental Riot House for the after gig party or for the pass that let me say the magic words, “I’m with the band.” Indeed the emphasis is so on ladylike as to often come across as being afraid to mention any carnal desires and lusts.
Oh no most of these memoirs were more about being born privileged and having spent their callow youth in a uniform rather than having hot sex with a boyfriend who had deserted after returning from Vietnam. No one mentioned the dressing to give the doctor a hard-on because we knew that was the surest way to get him (and it was most often a him) to write a hormone script or agree to do our operation.
It was as if actively enjoying our lives was something taboo and heaven forbid we should actually enjoy sex. Then in the early 1980s April Ashley’s book came out and with it came a sense that it was actually possible for us to both have fun with our lives and enjoy sex. Coincidentally April’s book treated her operation as a point in her life and not as the climax.
The same with Aleshia Brevard’s, Leslie Townsend and Rosalyne Blumenstein. At last people had started telling their stories in a way that didn’t sugar coat them as much. Some talked about abusive relationships post SRS others talked about having substance issues.
In writing honestly about our lives we get to see the variety of twists and turn they take and yet see the common point that resonate. Because even as alien as some of the biographies of those who come out in middle age are to my adult life there are the same element we all tend to experience as children.
Knowing both young and older emergers has caused me to see the pathologicalization laid forth by the dicks like BB & L for the bullshit that it is.