It’s self-explanatory. This is a good book for anyone struggling to understand transsexualism- whether you’re finding it difficult to accept a family member, a friend, or just trying to come to terms with your own gender identity- this book is the gentle nudge that can (probably) help. My uncle once told me that knowing someone personally, or becoming friends with a person who identifies as gay (or transsexual) is usually enough to teach someone that it’s nothing to be feared or ashamed of. For those who have yet to cross paths with a trans-identified person, this book can easily become that friend. With a simple, straight-forward approach, clinical sexologist Mildred Brown guides the reader directly into the hearts of those who live with mind/ body incongruence. Relying heavily on her extensive experience with transsexual patients and friends, Brown reveals the harsh reality and trauma that accompanied these transsexuals through childhood and adolescence. Brown includes stories and poetry that exposes the raw emotional pain of her patients; and this is what makes the book interesting. She also provides a list of resources at the end of her book for transsexuals who need support, which is much appreciated.
Notably, Brown expresses a deep compassion for MTF’s; but this isn’t to say that this book is useless for FTM’s. We all face similar obstacles and I’m certain that FTM’s can benefit from the insight this book has to offer. It’s a bit outdated, (especially the chapter on surgeries) but True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism (1996) contains stories and situations that stand outside of time. I highly recommend this book for those stubborn parents who may be in denial about their children’s true gender, or for anyone finding it impossible to cope with their loved one’s transition, or their own transition.
This book reminded me just how important it is to reach out to those who need help. As transgendered individuals, some of us are blessed to be surrounded by intelligent, open-minded people who can easily digest and understand what we teach them about gender dysphoria; but others are not so lucky to have receptive friends and family. Some of our trans brothers and sisters face ignorance and prejudice on a daily basis. My heart goes out to those brothers living isolated lives with their secret, or those living in remote areas where trans- support groups are inaccessible or non-existent.
On that note: All of us have to deal with being misunderstood. We all deal with prejudice and rejection. At some point in our transition, we will be knocked down hard. Sometimes we may feel helpless or pitiful, but none of us should ever feel alone. For anyone who feels this way right now, just remember you are not alone. No matter what the circumstances, there is always someone out there who has felt the way you’re feeling now, feared what you are afraid of, and cried over what you are crying over. Someone out there is going through what you are going through, or has been through similar circumstances. Know that there is always someone out there who understands the depths of depression. Even if you doubt this; even in your darkest moments when you feel invisible or non-existent- know that someone out there is thinking about you. They may not know you personally, but they have experienced what you are experiencing and have been just as frustrated and confused as you are. No, they have not lived your life, but they can relate to you on some level; will empathize with you as a human being.
I’ll close this review with a quote from this book which really hit home with me; it reminded me of how I once felt in a body that was becoming more and more female. It took me back to a time when I was confused and miserable and would lie in bed brooding over what I was, and terrified of what I might become one day. I never thought I’d be able to talk so freely about this; about this monstrous aspect of me that had to be kept secret. If someone had handed this book to me then, it may have helped me accept myself and possibly transition sooner than I did.
“Frequently the general public’s perception of transsexualism comes from movies or talk shows and contains only fragments of truth. People may harbor the false notion that transsexualism is a mental illness or a sexual perversion.”
You are not sick or sexually perverted because you are trans. Being trans has nothing to do with sexual orientation, sexual preference, or mental illness. There is nothing loathsome about your body. It may feel that way sometimes, but your body is natural like any other living body on Earth. There are extremely feminine bodies and extremely masculine bodies, and bodies that embrace both the masculine and the feminine. There are intersexed people; people who aren’t sure or don’t care what gender they are, and still others who feel like they are somewhere in between. There are people like me who admittedly feel all male, but at some point in their life will try their hardest to fit into a female mold and fail miserably. If you can relate, then know I’m writing to you. You are my brother, whether you know it or not.