Mental Health Bookclub discussion

The Well of Loneliness
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2016 Group Reads > The Well of Loneliness - Lesbian or Transgender?

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message 1: by Martha (new) - added it

Martha (marthais) This book is heralded as one of the great works of early Lesbian literature - and yet many people now see Stephen as a transgender man rather than a lesbian woman. What do you think? Does it matter?

Marina (sonnenbarke) As I wrote in my review, I am absolutely convinced that regarding Stephen as a lesbian woman is misleading. She definitely is a transgender man: she feels like a man from a very small age, acts like a man, dresses like a man, etc. She likes women because she's a transgender man, not because she's a lesbian. I don't think she's ever thought of herself as a lesbian. This book made me think of Conundrum, which is a memoir and was published later. In that book Jan Morris explains perfectly why and how she's always felt to be a woman (she was biologically born as a boy, then underwent an operation). While that book is far from being perfect, it delves into the issue in a much better way.

I believe it does matter whether Stephen is one or the other. The story is completely different from this other point of view.

message 3: by Martha (new) - added it

Martha (marthais) I only made it 100 pages, but I'd agree with the view that Stephen was actually a transgender man. I think the 'whether it matters' question is interesting - I agree that it changes the story depending on which one it is. Clearly it is important to differentiate between lesbian women and transgender men as these are totally different experiences.

On the other hand, at the time of writing (and still now), it was considered a key piece of work for lesbianism. I wonder what it means to be shifting the perspective from sexuality to gender and how that impacts the lesbian women who found this book to be very powerful in their journey for understanding themselves - particularly when the author is no longer alive to confirm or deny this perspective. It's an interesting one!

Marina (sonnenbarke) Yes, Martha, very interesting indeed. It would be interesting to hear a lesbian woman's perspective on this – how the book has impacted her, what she thought about this particular point, etc.

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