This is the story of a cross-dressing killer for hire who is on the run from yet another cross-dressing killer for hire. Glen is actually a decent guy...moreThis is the story of a cross-dressing killer for hire who is on the run from yet another cross-dressing killer for hire. Glen is actually a decent guy (if you ignore his job) who loves being with women as much as he loves being one. As Glenda, he is passable, attractive, and more than willing to play the role expected of him. The Killer, meanwhile, is one sadistic son-of-a-bitch who targets women, rapes them, kills them, and then takes their clothing. He definitely does not make an attractive woman, and his jealousy plays a large part in his decision to take the contract on Glen.
The story is told in a broken, disjointed manner, incorporating Glen’s final prison confession, witness testimony, police reports, and assumptions or speculations on the part of the narrator. It’s a format that works well, and does a lot to set the overall tone. It’s interesting that Glen’s confession shifts gender, depending on whether he’s talking about Glen or Glenda, but never allows The Killer to be anything but masculine.
As you might expect from its pulp nature, and from the time in which it was written, this is a very politically incorrect read. Wood writes about GAYS, DRAGS, and (beat)NICKS – always in caps – and Glen thinks nothing of slugging a woman in the face for laughing at him. The police are racist, sexist, and homophobic, and the teenaged NICKS are rowdy little punks.
I picked this up as a novelty read, but I actually enjoyed it – not just as a curiosity, but as a hard-boiled crime novel . . . starring two men in drag.(less)
When it first appeared on the scene 6 years ago, Alice in Genderland was one of the first memoirs to deal proudly and openly with the subject of cross...moreWhen it first appeared on the scene 6 years ago, Alice in Genderland was one of the first memoirs to deal proudly and openly with the subject of crossdressing. No less relevant today, it has been updated and revised, making it worth revisiting.
Depending on where you are in your life, and how comfortable you are with your crossdressing, this can be a difficult read. Richard never shies away from sharing those difficult questions that plague us all, at one time or another, but he also doesn’t fall into the trap of assuming he has all the answers. In fact, one of the elements of his story that rang most true for me is the series of rules he comes up with to try and apply a logical, intellectual structure to what is entirely an irrational, emotional need for expression.
If you’ve ever flirted with questions of gender or sexuality, you can’t help but reflect back on your own life while reading Alice in Genderland, and if you don’t always like what you remember . . . well, that’s part of the process of self-discovery. This is a book that’s equal parts fascination and fear; delight and despair; humour and horror; and rationalization and revelation. There are clearly times where Richard didn’t like what he found, and instances where his revelations created significant problems in his life and his relationships, but that doesn’t make them any less valid . . . or important.
At the same time, for those of us who identity, this is a very empowering read, in that it illustrates that we really can find peace, we really can find acceptance, and we really can have the best of both worlds, if only we’re willing to commit to the effort. Nothing in life – except, possibly its challenges – is simply handed to us.
For me, reading about his early explorations was as uncomfortable as it was eye-opening. Time and time again I saw myself in his words, remembering the delight of slipping into that stolen pair of panties, or that borrowed ill-fitting bra. I vividly remembered the same sickening sensation of dropping from the heights of comfort to the depths of guilty remorse, carried along by the same desperate questions. The difference is, whereas I ultimately chose not to understand, not to care about the why or the how, Richard made that understanding a part of his (and Alice’s) identity. It didn’t always work for him – his initial explorations into psychiatric help clearly did more harm than good – but he always found a way to learn from even the worst experiences.
At no point, however, does Richard ever offer any direct advice, or ever suggest that anybody live as he has done. There’s a lot in his story that I wish I’d had the courage to accept earlier in my own life, but we all develop in our own way. The single biggest difference I see between the two of us that of the extrovert (Richard) and the introvert (myself), which accounts for our diverging paths. Ultimately, Richard sets himself up as a just one example of a crossdressing life, inviting us to take from his experiences what we will. Even if all we take from his story is the reassurance that we’re okay, and the hope that we might even be happy, then it’s totally worth the read.
In the end, what sets this memoir apart, and what makes it worth reading (and even rereading), is the humour that he brings to his story. Richard is not above making light of his mistakes, and is entirely comfortable in pointing out his own absurdities. Through him, we’re able to laugh – or, at least, smile – at our own mistakes, taking solace in the fact that we’re not alone. It’s not so much that humour is a coping mechanism for Richard, but that he can look back and find humour in the darkest places.
As an open and honest tale, it does include some very frank discussions of sexuality that some readers may be uncomfortable with. Graphic, yet never gratuitous, the recollection of Richard’s tentative experimentation and Alice’s more fulfilling experiences plays a significant role in how Richard has come to define himself both sexually, and in terms of gender. For those who have never been in the situation, it’s probably a hard concept to grasp, but I loved the honest exploration of an issue that is all too often ignored. Richard and Alice are both straight, according to the gender they’re expressing at the time, and that strange duality certainly strikes home. Some readers may wonder how it’s possible to be interested in both men and women, without being gay (or at least bisexual), but I think Richard does a wonderful job of explaining how sexuality and gender are not distinct issues.
In the end, Richard not only gets what it means to be a crossdresser who craves the full feminine experience, he doesn't apologize for the fact, or make excuses for how he expresses such cravings. That, alone, is empowering enough to demand a read, even if it’s just to find comforting in the confirmation that we’re not alone in even those most taboo feelings.(less)
A very short story . . . more a scene than anything else. Having said that, Snyder clearly conveys the joy of dressing and the thrill of transformatio...moreA very short story . . . more a scene than anything else. Having said that, Snyder clearly conveys the joy of dressing and the thrill of transformation. As for the sex, it's more subtle than you'd likely expect, but it's wonderfully described.(less)
Considering its length (about 30 pages), Jade manages to accomplish quite a bit with this story. We get to follow Tanner through his first crush, date...moreConsidering its length (about 30 pages), Jade manages to accomplish quite a bit with this story. We get to follow Tanner through his first crush, date, and sexual encounter; the confusing emotional aftermath of his deception; and the ultimate realisation (and reciprocation) of his lust. It’s definitely an experience worth sharing, and a book that will make you smile long after you’ve put it down.(less)
A surprisingly vanilla piece of non-fiction, the first half of the book is a casual accounting of Peter’s life and his struggles – family, professiona...moreA surprisingly vanilla piece of non-fiction, the first half of the book is a casual accounting of Peter’s life and his struggles – family, professional, financial, and personal.
Peter is very much a self-made man, despite (or, perhaps, because of) the crushing blows the world of finance has thrown his way. The struggle to reconcile his need for feminine expression with his masculine identify certainly colours his life, but it does not define it. More a means of expression than a separate identity, Susie has become Peter’s outlet . . . his release valve . . . his means of escape. She is a part of his life – at times more welcome than others – but this first half of the book really is the story of Peter.
Although the second half of the book is focussed on Susie, it’s as much about her clients and their catalogue of fetishes as it is about her. Being an escort is simply a job, a convenient way in which to earn a living. She clearly enjoys her self-expression, but never connects emotionally or romantically with her clients. If anything, she is more amused than aroused by her role in their fantasies.
Overall, Peter’s book – much like his life – strikes a careful balance between the two worlds in which he lives. There are clear limits to Susie’s expression, and natural barriers in place between her and Peter. She willingly takes on roles that, he freely admits, would result in violence if they were ever requested of him, but it’s a healthy sense of internal conflict that keeps Peter/Susie separate, rather than blurring the lines between them.(less)
Although I've chatted with Chris many times, and feel as if we've gotten to know each other well, I still had no idea what to expect of Confessions of...moreAlthough I've chatted with Chris many times, and feel as if we've gotten to know each other well, I still had no idea what to expect of Confessions of a Transvestite Prostitute. After all, Chris is just the narrator here . . . the go-between, if you will, responsible for bringing us Samantha's amazing story.
As stories go, there is definitely a lot of fantasy and fetish here, so much so that a casual reader could be forgiven for wondering how much of it is real. However, the more you read, the more you realise why that is - Samantha, unlike many of us, seized upon her fantasies early on, not only accepting them, but embracing them. Her story reads like a fantasy because it is one - it's a fantasy she has brought to life, and that is something truly remarkable. The early chapters, dealing with Sam's first adventures with crossdressing, are absolutely perfect. Perhaps it's because Samantha is telling her (his) own story, but that past comes across as something natural and beautiful. You can't help but smile with shared pleasure at Sam discovers the girl within, and chuckle softly (almost wistfully) as the simple pleasure of dressing triggers his first adolescent orgasm. The story of his first sexual experience with another boy is definitely a nervous read, wondering if he'll come through it okay, but all of the awkwardness and embarrassment eventually gives way to pure delight. A few years later, the story of his most spectacular public outing, guided by a group of college girls who decide to enter him in a transsexual beauty contest, is a definite highlight!
Samantha's story is humorous, exciting, adventurous, and absolutely erotic. She comes across as such a sweet, sexy young woman that you really feel as if her friends and clients are the lucky ones. Whether she is entertaining a crossdresser and his wife, a fetishistic sissy, hot men, other transsexual prostitutes, or a charming lesbian couple, the stories are always as much about those she loves as they are about what she loves. There's definitely a strong sense of selflessness beneath her anything-goes, sexual exhibitionist exterior, and it serves her well in ultimately establishing her own business.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Samantha's story is what it reveals to the reader about the customs, prejudices, and attitudes of Asian society. If the fact of her living out her fantasies seems too good to be true, it's likely because you are (like myself) a North America reader looking in on her world from the outside. There is such a cultural and religious stigma associated with transcending gender in the West that the simple concept of public acceptance is hard to grasp. The company I work for has several offices overseas, and to never ceases to amaze (and delight me) to hear just how common and unremarkable transgendered souls can be, even in the workplace.
In the end, Samantha's story is a great one, and Chris does an amazing job of not only bringing it to us, but of packaging it so well. I absolutely loved it, and should I ever get the chance to do some travelling, I'd love to pop in and pay Samantha a visit, even if it's just to chat over coffee. In the meantime, I can't wait to give another of Chris' books a read!(less)
Although the book started off well, and seemed nicely paced, I found myself impatient with the narrative. Cherie’s writing has a very clean style that...moreAlthough the book started off well, and seemed nicely paced, I found myself impatient with the narrative. Cherie’s writing has a very clean style that lends itself particularly well to the genre, and I quickly found myself engaged by the ‘voice’ of Raylene. Yet, at the same time, I found myself frustrated with the literary device of a first-person narrator.
After the first few chapters, I was sorely tempted to just put the book down, move onto something else, and then come back to it later. I knew that if I did that, though, I’d likely never come back to it. So, I persevered, and I finally realised what was bothering me about the novel – I simply liked Raylene more as a narrator than I did as a character. Fortunately, I also realised what it was about the novel that ultimately managed to draw me in and keep me reading – the supporting characters.
The blind vampire, Ian, seems like little more than a plot device at first, but he is slowly and subtly developed into a sympathetic character. For all his superhuman strength, his mental powers, and his immortality, his blindness makes him human. Our sympathy for Ian even extends to his ghoul of an assistant – a character who could have better developed (he only really begins to develop a distinct personality towards the end), but who still works to remind us that Ian is NOT human, no matter how sympathetic he seems.
As for the homeless children squatting in Raylene’s warehouse, I was initially annoyed by their presence. The last thing I figured this story needed was a pair of brats who would serve only to get into danger and allow Raylene to betray the human compassion beneath her vampire exterior. Much to my delight, Pepper and Domino turned out to be decent characters on their own, and while Cherie uses their situation to heighten the tension, she never succumbs to the temptation to exploit them as a plot device.
What really sold me on the novel, though, was the introduction of Raylene’s drag queen sidekick. Yeah, I know, are you really surprised? Both an ex-Seal and an ex-son (his parents disowned him out after discovering a feather boa in his closet) who is looking for answers in the disappearance of his sister-turned-vampire, Adrian is by far the most complex and most interesting character in the novel. We first meet ‘him’ in full drag mode, bitchy and catty, and read to take the stage. We even get to enjoy a bit of his show, before he’s forced to lead Raylene on a crazy high-heeled escape through some of the nastiest back alleys in fiction. It would have been far too easy to play him as a caricature, but he’s as nasty as a man as he is naughty as a woman, and there’s a clear distinction between roles/personalities.
I think the plot could have benefited from a little less CIA silliness and a little more vampire nastiness, but that’s a personal preference. There is nice twist at the end when it’s revealed who is behind Project Bloodshot, but I think exploring that a little earlier on would have really given the story some edge. As it is, we’re left to ponder that twist and wonder how Cherie will tackle it in Raylene’s next adventure.
As for a next adventure, so long as Adrian is along for the ride, I just might be willing to entertain a sequel . . . but I’m not so sure Raylene could carry it on her own
If you've read any of his work (or any of my previous reviews), you know Mick is never what you would call 'safe' or 'mainstream'. His work is always...moreIf you've read any of his work (or any of my previous reviews), you know Mick is never what you would call 'safe' or 'mainstream'. His work is always edgy and difficult, presenting us with slices of life that may not be entirely pleasing to behold, but which are always compelling and fascinating. His writing is as unapologetic as it is honest, presenting us with people who are, for better or worse, simply living their lives, as opposed to characters playing a narrative role.
Vienna Dolorosa is certainly one of his most difficult works, but this time the sense of discomfort comes as much from the historical context of the story, as it does from the story itself. Set in 1930s Vienna, the story takes place under a cloud of political and social oppression, with the Nazis sweeping into town to prepare for the arrival of Hitler.
As you might expect from Mick's work, the characters in his novel are not exactly those to welcome a visit from the Fuehrer's regime with open arms. Frau Friska is a transvestite hotel manager who has already fled one wave of oppression, finding a new home in Vienna. Petya is one of the young transvestite prostitutes who work her back rooms, while Kaufmann is a degenerate old man who (literally) loved one of Petya's fellow 'girls' to death. Wanda is an ample bosomed lesbian who, despite her disgust with men, loves to flaunt herself for their attention, while Kurt is an oh-so-serious young man with the impossible task of reconciling his homosexuality with his support for the Nazi cause.
Unlike Mick's more contemporary work, this is most definitely not an erotic read. When we are presented with scenes of sexual exhibition, it's either tainted by the circumstances of the Nazi invasion, or presented as an example of human cruelty (both by the Nazis and by those they've oppressed). This is a story that's painfully aware of its place in history, although one that chooses to critique by example, rather than succumb to narrative grandstanding.
None of the characters here are perfect (although Frau Friska and Petya are certainly worthy of our respect), and some are downright distasteful (Kaufmann elicits some sympathy, but the hotel guest who takes incestuous advantage of his daughter does not), but it's clear that none of them deserve the cruelties descending upon them. At lot of the violence does happen off the page, but there are notable exceptions (such as the castration of poor, conflicted Kurt) that are so physically and emotionally powerful that you need to put the book down and walk away for a bit.
This is a book that's entirely too sad, deeply depressing, and almost entirely without hope - and, considering the historical context, that's precisely as it should be. While we may want happy endings for many of these characters, we are painfully aware of the fact that such hopes are entirely unrealistic. A chosen few do make it through the end of the book, but to what fate we will never know. As difficult a read as it may be, however, this is an important book. While the themes of religious/social/cultural discrimination during the Nazi era have been explored quite thoroughly, those of gender/sexual discrimination are more often hinted at than brought into the open. Mick has chosen to tackle a tough subject here, and he does so thoughtfully and honestly.
It's been said often enough that history is doomed to repeat itself, which is precisely why we need people like Mick to keep reminding us of why that must never happen.(less)
If you’re a regular reader/visitor, you’ll know I don’t normally interject a lot of hyperbole into my reviews. Generally, I try to keep them well-grou...moreIf you’re a regular reader/visitor, you’ll know I don’t normally interject a lot of hyperbole into my reviews. Generally, I try to keep them well-grounded and professional, with just enough personality to add a little colour and (hopefully) make them a more interesting read. With that in mind, I beg your indulgence for just a moment, as I try to sum up Tristan Taormino’s Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica in a few words:
I could go on – after all, there are 22 letters I haven’t alliterated yet – but you get the point. On a list of my top 10 reads for the year, Tristan is looking down upon her peers from a very high perch indeed!
As she states in her introduction, this is a collection of “erotica by, for and about transfolk, FTMs, MTFs, genderqueers, gender outlaws, as well as two-spirit, intersex, and gender-variant people.” Almost immediately, you notice these are stories where gender (in all its forms) is almost taken for granted, without the ‘surprise confession’ or ‘shocking reveal’ common to mainstream erotica/porn, and without the arbitrary focus on simply passing or being acknowledged. This is a collection where trans lovers can feel intimately and comfortably at home amidst stories of being treasured, loved, desired, and adored.
Considering the wide variety of authors, genders, and subjects explored, I’m pleased to say there’s not a single story here that didn’t, on some level, resonate with me. Indeed, they are all wonderful, but there were certainly some stand-outs that I must call attention to:
"The Therapist and the Whore" by Giselle Renarde - Giselle at her romantic and thought-provoking best, turning the tables on our expectations with a kind, lovable, transsexual whore who serves as a remarkably effective bedroom therapist.
"Shoes Are Meant to Get You Somewhere" by Dean Scarborough - Plays to the clothes fetishist in me, complete with ballet slippers, stockings and garters, and a tightly laced corset, but it's also a remarkable literary dance of gender exploration.
"Taking the Toll" by Kiki DeLovely - Deliciously naughty and provocative, a tale of a young woman who is aroused by Sunday morning church bells, and her genderqueer lover who is only too happy to put her in a schoolgirl uniform and hear her confession.
"Dixie Belle" by Kate Bornstein - A gloriously genderqueer sequel to Huckleberry Finn, with young Huck settling quite contentedly into a new career as Miss Sarah Grangerford, high-class N'awlins whore. It's been years since I last read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, but Kate recaptures the magic perfectly.
"The Visible Woman" by Rachel K. Zall - This is a story that begins with an in-your-face fantasy of public confrontation, settles into a lovely domestic scene of transsexual bliss, and ends with the lovers playing to the voyeuristic public outside their apartment window.
"Canadian Slim" by Shawna Virago - Still erotic without being overtly sexual, this is the heart-warming story of a transsexual who has tired of being the fetish/freak secret partner, and who has found love with a fellow transsexual who fits her perfectly.
"Self-Reflection" by Tobi Hill-Meyer - Trippy and bizarre, this is one I'm cautious of saying too much about, but it doesn't get much sexier or self-aware than a post-op transsexual visiting her pre-op transsexual self for a little show-and-sell.
"Face Pack" by Penelope Mansfield - This is a bold, blatantly sexual story that challenges the pornographic mainstream, claiming the bukkake experience as a visual validation of the narrator's new-found femininity. It takes an act most would seem as vulgar or degrading, and transforms it into something cleansing and rewarding.
Not only are the stories contained here erotic, imaginative, and exciting, but they are also beautifully written. As Tristan asks in her introduction, “our language is severely limited when it comes to describing the bodies of transpeople,” and there is a significant challenge in writing stories that are both erotic and respectful. Fortunately, the authors here have the words to do so, and the talent to use those words well.
I’d like to leave you with a brief passage from Rachel K. Zall’s "The Visible Woman" that sums it up better than I ever could:
A stranger looking at us now would call us “MTFs” instead of women, would name us by our genitalia—“pre-op,” “nonop”—would call us trans before they called us anything else, if they did call us anything else. A stranger would call our bodies gender ambiguous: her cock about to enter me, my clit poking out of her fist, her tiny breasts on her large rib cage and the shadow across my cheeks and chin. A stranger would say that, and that stranger would be wrong: our bodies aren’t ambiguous at all, only the meanings people misapply to them. She’s a woman and her beautiful body is a woman’s body; I am a woman and seeing how beautiful her body is makes me think my body might be beautiful too.
Take Me There indeed . . . I just hope, somewhere down the line, Tristan chooses to take us there again.(less)
The Egyptian Slave is such a sexy read - my only complaint is that I wanted more! Mem and Toomela are not only great characters, but a great couple as...moreThe Egyptian Slave is such a sexy read - my only complaint is that I wanted more! Mem and Toomela are not only great characters, but a great couple as well, and their erotic dance of secrets and seduction is quite lovely to behold.
Mem is an Egyptian noble who is accustomed to a life of leisure and luxury. He is rude, callous, and even a little bit cruel . . . the very epitome of noble arrogance. He’s also handsome, virile, and utterly bored with the endless parade of women who have ceased to arouse him. He has never thought of himself as gay, but there’s something about his slave-girl’s boyish charm that inflames his passion, promising a swift and surprising return to his virile ways. What begins as an act of sexual conquest soon becomes one of romantic seduction, with the two engaging in a game of sexual one-upmanship.
As for that slave-girl, Toomela is beautiful and obedient, but entirely too haughty to be a proper slave. Neither a proper slave nor the girl he appears to be, Toomela voluntarily gave up his life as a merchant for the chance to be owned by Mem. His haughtiness serves as a mask for his insecurity, but it also helps to accentuate his sexual submissiveness. Fortunately, Mem’s passions are inflamed, rather than extinguished by his secrets, and together they guarantee that the young noble will never have to worry about his virility again.
In addition to being a very erotic tale, the story also has its romantic moments. There’s a definite implication that Mem has found his true love, which is the one thing power and prestige cannot buy. As for Toomela, he may not have been born a girl, but he takes to the suggested role of pampered princess as well as any slave could dream.
DISCLAIMER: This book was received from the publisher for the purpose of a review on Queer Magazine online.(less)