When i was pregnant i read books….every book i could get my hands on. I absorbed the wisdom of earth mothers and drank raspberry leaf tea until i was sickened of it. I read mainstream gestational bibles. I even read midwifery manuals….the best of which was a 1930s one in which it described in horrifying detail how to cheesewire a dead foetus to bits in order to get it out.
Faced with anything major in life….thats what i do….i research…i absorb information. What i don’t tend to do is talk to people, talk around things…and that i’m finding extends to reading books about experiences.
Not when i’m this close to the subject matter.
One persons experience is never the same as anothers, we can find common reference points in anothers experience, but are as likely to look for differences as for similarities. The differences can even extinguish the similarities for me.
So, I’ve been buying books.
First up is Man into Woman the transformation of the painter Einar Wegener into Lili Elbe in 1931. The worlds first sex change.
I’m part way through this its compiled from Lili’s own manuscripts and letters and is fascinating.
This one i’ve read before, i read it about a year ago. I read it cover to cover and hardly put it down. I remember it made me cry and i remember when i finished it askingJohn if he’d got it from the library for me for a reason. Was there something he wanted to tell me?
I also remember him saying it had been a random choice off the shelf as he often does for me at the library and that it was also several months before he clicked about his gender issues.
I could see so much of the person i loved in this book.
I’ve bought it this time for his daughter to read as its written from a daughters perspective. A daughter in her early teens when she was let in on her fathers cross dressing secret, a daughter who in her early twenties accompanied her father to the hospital for final surgery.
I hope our daughter can find something in the book to help her through this…even if its just that changing gender can make for a happier and more loving parent in the longrun.
I skimmed this book when it arrived last week….it now doesn’t have the same resonance for me. I’m looking at the differences not the similarites.
Which brings me to She’s not the Man I Married. I was so looking forward to this book, to savouring it, to finding common experience, to all sorts of things. Its hailed as THE book written from the perspective of the partner of a trans woman.
A couple of times in the first couple of chapters i stopped reading and cried at some very perceptive points but then i realised Betty (the trans in focus) is still ‘just’ cross dressing.
There is no ‘just’ about it really but cross dressing, even cross dressing full time doesn’t start to scratch the enormity of ‘crossing over’.
I wanted to read someones experience of partnering someone through transition….not someone partnering someone ‘thinking about it’ whilst dressing full time.
I suspect at her present rate the author (Helen Boyd) will wring at least a half dozen books out of the process. Sort of a JK Rowling of trans experience books.
That may be unfair….i did give up on the book part way through and just dip in and out of the back half to see how it ends.
But as i wrote at the start of all this…everyones experience is different.
I know my journey with Jane is atypical in that there wasn’t a slow build up of cross dressing…
What i’d like to read is less a book of ‘personal experience’ more a handbook, that ties in with the medical process and all the researchy stuff i love to absorb. The hardstanding guts of process is what is common to us all regardless of personal experiences.
I want chapters on ‘my partner cross dresses’ next to a chapter on ‘my partner never cross dressed’.
I want the world to make sense.
I want there to be a book that next time someone sits down to break the news of their transness to their partner they can hand it over and it can become a guide.
Not a grasping for shared experiences amongst personal outpourings but a guide…with an index….a contents page and further reading.
Books like Helen Boyds and blogs like mine are fine from the outside of the experience but when you are on the inside you just want help making your new reality make sense.
As an afterthought i might add that having read every pregnancy manual under the sun i went on to have two children both by ceasarean section…. the one chapter i used to skip becuase ‘it wasn’t going to happen to me’.