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Conundrum by Jan Morris
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it was amazing
bookshelves: all-time-favorites, queer-and-or-trans, memoir-bio-autobio

Understanding my identity as a transwoman came about for me in the late 2000's, and thus most of what I read and learned from was on the internet and not set down in ink and binding. Of the trans memoirs I've held in my hands, this ties with Jamison Green's Becoming a Visible Man as my favorite. Whereas Mr. Green's is a more political, academic and recent work, and is imminently more suited as inspiration and fodder for the kinds of public speaking work I've been fortunate to engage in, it is also a work that betters helps me understand who I am now, as opposed to who I was for those first 20-or-so years.

Who I was for my first 20-or-so years was frightened, confused. I had no terminology, no ability to use rationality to heal myself, no notion of the trans movement or even the belief that anyone existed with my affliction other than poor me. I would not meet a person who self-identified as trans, or even hear the word "transgender," until I was in college. So in those bright brief moments where I was not hating myself and permitted my mind to envision my desires, what did I see? I saw a beautiful red-haired woman who held me from behind, eyes closed, her chin on my shoulder. She would tell me that it was okay, that she and I would meet one day. Sometimes, she had wings.

Author Jan Morris, transitioning as she did in the 60's and 70's, did not have the internet, or books, or movement. She had instead her mind, her desire, and a psycho-spiritual flare for processing the universe that was her omnipresent guide. It is her very lovely brain that means oh so much to me. Because I will never be that person who did not know the word "trans" again. I will never be that scared girl who stayed alive because of the images and visions her brain gave her to keep her going. To make her believe in...in anything, anything at all. Anything that wasn't you were born, you will die, and always in between shall remain unfulfilled.

This book is wise and insightful, filled with words by an old soul, and is a valuable text because it isn't born out of our current debates between whether trans is real or not, whether a minority's rights are worth affirming or not, whether we should call ourselves this word or that word. While there are older stories of gender variance than this, this for me is my ur-trans narrative. A pre-everything story that is as different from our trans discussion now as a shaman's tale over bonfire is from a vlog. It is an important chapter in a history that has too few entries and long-form memoirists whose works were put down before the 80's.

Do give this beautiful work the time of day. It is short, as filling as a big dinner, and as warm as a cuddle.

P.S. My undying thanks to Wilton Barnhardt for referring me to this work many years ago. I needed it, then as now.

P.P.S. Kim Fu's recent fiction work, For Today I Am a Boy, is likewise recommended if you enjoy trans-related books in this vein. And if you enjoyed this or Mr. Green's book, I would also recommend you check out Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
May 23, 2014 – Shelved
June 28, 2014 – Shelved as: all-time-favorites
September 18, 2014 – Shelved as: queer-and-or-trans
December 2, 2014 – Shelved as: memoir-bio-autobio

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