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Autobiography, Transsexual  
page: 1  2  3  

Jennifer Finney Boylan, a professor of English at a small New England college and a comic novelist, likewise received a largely supportive response from academic colleagues and students. But unlike McCloskey, Boylan was also able to maintain her marriage after transitioning, and with her wife, she continues to raise two children.

Another major difference between the lives of McCloskey and Boylan is how they express their gender identities. McCloskey states that she carefully seeks to present herself as female to avoid being read as male by birth and rejected as not a "real woman." In contrast, Boylan recognizes that she retains a number of "masculine" traits, such as playing in a rock band and telling jokes, but refuses to be ashamed of these interests. She notes that many other women engage in these pursuits as well, and that such activities are only considered to be gender markers because of her transsexual history.

Trans Men

The late 1990s and early 2000s also saw a spate of autobiographies published by transsexual men, beginning with Mark Rees's Dear Sir or Madam (1996).

Rees sought to enter the Anglican priesthood, but was denied admittance because, using the judgment in April Ashley's case, the British government considered him female, and the church at that time did not ordain women. In response, Rees brought the government before the European Court of Human Rights. Although the court ruled against him in 1986, Rees recounts in his autobiography that he felt liberated. As a result of publicity about the case, he no longer had to live in fear that others would discover his past.

Perhaps because relatively few narratives have been published by transsexual men, two recent autobiographies seek to inform readers about trans male lives in general, and not just the authors' own experiences.

In Becoming a Visible Man (2004), Jamison Green describes the process by which he acknowledged and accepted himself as a man in the 1980s and 1990s within the context of the development of a U.S. trans male community, in which he became a leader. Discussing his experiences and feelings along with the concerns of other transsexual men, Green devotes chapters to medical treatment; relationships with parents, children, and partners; and societal images and stereotypes.

Matt Kailey's Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience (2005) is also a helpful introductory text for readers unfamiliar with the lives of trans men. Kailey makes good use of his background as a social worker and middle-school English teacher by writing an engaging and accessible autobiography. Particularly insightful is Kailey's discussion of how he was treated differently when he was seen as a man instead of as a woman.

Brett Genny Beemyn

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literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Gay Male

In its first century of existence, gay male autobiography has become increasingly more open, frank, and unapologetic.

literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Lesbian

In the first century of its existence, lesbian autobiography has moved from being coded to being outspoken, and it is both wide ranging and contradictory in the stories that it tells.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

arts >> Ashley, April

Outed as a transsexual in 1961, the indomitable April Ashley rose from poverty to become a glamorous entertainer and top model who married into the British aristocracy and later became a transgender activist.

arts >> Beyer, Georgina

As the first open transgender person in New Zealand to be elected to the offices of mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer has evinced courage, humor, and personal honesty.

social sciences >> Bornstein, Kate

One of the best-known transgender activists, Kate Bornstein, in works that are accessible and frequently humorous, challenges audiences to buck the gender system.

arts >> Close, Roberta

One of the world's most famous transsexual celebrities, Brazilian model, actress, and television performer Roberta Close has challenged the laws of her country that prevent her from defining her own gender.

literature >> Dillon, Michael

Michael Dillon, the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male, was a man of singular determination who articulated his life as an evolving struggle toward corporeal, intellectual, and spiritual integrity.

arts >> Elbe, Lili

Einar Wegener, a male Danish painter of some renown, became Lili Elbe, one of the world's first male-to-female transsexuals to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.

social sciences >> Erickson, Reed

An early female-to-male transsexual, Reed Erickson is best known for his philanthropy, which greatly benefited glbtq causes in the 1960s and 1970s.

social sciences >> European Commission on Human Rights / European Court of Human Rights

The European Commission on Human Rights was the first international human rights organization to condemn homophobia; the European Court of Human Rights, which replaced the Commission, has also helped enforce glbtq rights.

literature >> Feinberg, Leslie

Political organizer, grassroots historian, and accomplished writer, Leslie Feinberg is a pioneer of transgender activism and culture.

social sciences >> Genderqueer

Genderqueer is a term for people who feel that their gender identities or gender expression do not correspond to the gender assigned to them at birth, but who do not want to transition to the "opposite" gender.

arts >> Jorgensen, Christine

Actress, singer, and writer Christine Jorgenson was not the first male-to-female transsexual to undergo sex reassignment surgery, but the publicity surrounding her case enabled her to educate the public about the differences between homosexuality, transvestism, and transsexualtiy.

arts >> Mahlsdorf, Charlotte von

Preservationist and museum founder Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was admired by many for her bravery in the face of persecution and for her openness as a transgender public figure in perilous times.

literature >> Morris, Jan

The talented and prolific Anglo-Welsh journalist, historian, and travel writer Jan Morris was one of the first transsexuals to tell her story publicly in a memoir.

arts >> Richards, Renee

Transsexual tennis player Renee Richards successfully sued the United States Tennis Association when it barred her from competing in the U.S. Women's Open, establishing an important precedent for the rights of transsexual athletes.


Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Boylan, Jennifer Finney. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.

Cowell, Roberta. Roberta Cowell's Story by Herself. London: William Heinemann, 1954.

Elbe, Lili. Man into Woman: An Authentic Record of a Change of Sex. Niels Hoyer, ed; H. J. Stenning, trans. London: Jarrold Publisher's, 1933.

Fallowell, Duncan, and April Ashley. April Ashley's Odyssey. London: Jonathan Cape, 1982.

Feinberg, Leslie. Stone Butch Blues. Ithaca, N. Y.: Firebrand, 1993.

Green, Jamison. Becoming a Visible Man. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004.

Hunt, Nancy. Mirror Image. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1978.

Jorgensen, Christine. Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography. New York: P.S. Eriksson, 1967.

Kailey, Matt. Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

Martino, Mario. Emergence: A Transsexual Autobiography. New York: Crown Publishers, 1977.

McCloskey, Deirdre N. Crossing: A Memoir. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Morris, Jan. Conundrum. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

Rees, Mark. Dear Sir or Madam: The Autobiography of a Female-to-Male Transsexual. London: Cassell, 1996.

Richards, Renee, with John Ames. Second Serve: The Renee Richards Story. New York: Stein and Day, 1983.

"Roberta Cowell: The First British Transsexual." >


    Citation Information
    Author: Beemyn, Brett Genny  
    Entry Title: Autobiography, Transsexual  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated May 19, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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