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Autobiography, Transsexual  
 
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Renée Richards achieved international notoriety when she was denied the opportunity to play professional women's tennis in the United States in the mid-1970s by the sport's governing bodies because she had received a male gender assignment at birth. Richards won the right to compete professionally as a woman, thus opening the door for other transsexual women, but her autobiography, Second Serve (1983), surprisingly spends little time discussing her court case or her pro tennis career. Instead, Richards devotes the majority of her memoir to discussing her struggle to accept her gender identity, which included three failed attempts to live as a man before she was finally able to acknowledge herself as a woman.

In comparison to Morris and Richards, U.S. journalist Nancy Hunt was less well-known both before and after her transition, and her autobiography, Mirror Image (1978), did not receive as much publicity as earlier transsexual narratives. Nevertheless, the work was groundbreaking, as more than previous memoirists, Hunt was willing to discuss her romantic life. In particular, she describes her relationship with her second wife, who was initially supportive but ultimately could not accept being involved with another woman.

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While the well-publicized autobiographies by Jorgensen, Morris, and Richards drew attention to the experiences of transsexual women, the lack of published narratives by transsexual men meant that their lives remained largely invisible from the 1960s through the 1980s.

One notable exception is Emergence: A Transsexual Autobiography (1977), Mario Martino's account of his struggles to reconcile his sense of himself as male with his conservative Catholic upbringing. Just as Cowell, Morris, Hunt, and many other transsexual women pursued traditionally masculine occupations and/or joined the military in order to conform to societal gender expectations and to try to escape their inner turmoil, so Martino entered a convent school, hoping to suppress his feelings and be more like a young woman. Not surprisingly, he was unsuccessful. Thereafter, Martino decided that he could not go through life as female and, adopting a concept from his religious upbringing, described being "born again" after having a mastectomy (surgical removal of breasts) and then phalloplasty (surgical creation of a penis).

Contemporary Transsexual Autobiographies

In the 1990s, the publication of Leslie Feinberg's semi-autobiographical novel Stone Butch Blues (1993) and Kate Bornstein's collection of personal essays and performance works Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (1994) helped a new generation of transsexual individuals see and better understand themselves.

In contrast to previous narratives, Feinberg's and Bornstein's texts are more overtly political, in that they forcefully argue for transgender rights and challenge binary gender categories.

Feinberg tells her early life story through the character of Jess Goldberg, a transgender youth who came out as a butch lesbian in the blue-collar factories and bars of the 1950s and 1960s, transitioned to male in order to survive during the early 1970s, and subsequently became someone who blurred gender boundaries.

Like Jess, Bornstein's "outlaw" status stemmed in part from her refusal to identify as either female or male at a time when few transgender writers were willing to claim that they were anything but one or another gender extreme. Bornstein calls into question the traditional transsexual paradigm of feeling "trapped in the wrong body," transitioning to one's "right" gender, and no longer seeing oneself as transsexual.

The popularity of Feinberg's and Bornstein's works, along with the rise of a transgender political and social movement and the growing visibility of transgender communities, led publishers to take a greater interest in transgender books, and an unprecedented number of transsexual autobiographies were published in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Among the most significant narratives by transsexual women published at this time are Deirdre McCloskey's Crossing: A Memoir (1999) and Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (2003).

Many transsexual autobiographers relate a similar story: from their earliest memories feeling themselves to be very different from others of their assigned gender, while growing up expressing themselves whenever possible as that different gender, learning about and meeting others of their gender identity, and eventually transitioning to their appropriate gender. McCloskey, however, constructed what she describes in Crossing as "a psychological dam against the realization, which suddenly [broke] . . . in mature adulthood."

The revelation not only surprised McCloskey, but also shocked members of her family, especially her sister, who twice had McCloskey forcibly committed for psychological examination. Fortunately for McCloskey, a leading U.S. economics professor, she had the support and the financial resources to overcome her sister's interference and was able to maintain her career after transitioning. But, as she describes in an especially moving section of her autobiography, McCloskey's marriage ended in a bitter divorce and her children no longer have contact with her.

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