Saturday, March 16, 2013

Transgender People & Eugenides' Middlesex

I know -- I already posted about Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex in my earlier post about Detroit. Maybe I should've foreseen that there would be a fascinating transgender-focused article coming up in the news and used a different book for Motor City. Too late!

Anyway, here's a snippet from today's New York Times article "A Transgender Elected Official Reflects an Evolving Cuba:"
JOSÉ AGUSTÍN HERNÁNDEZ may not be precisely the kind of New Man whom Che Guevara pictured shaping Cuban socialism. Ms. Hernández, 48, who identifies as a woman and goes by Adela, would sooner cut a lazy bureaucrat to size with her sharp tongue than chop sugar cane with a machete. And you would more likely catch her hauling water to her house in platform heels than trudging the streets in fatigues and work boots. So Ms. Hernández was more than a little tickled when she became the first transgender person to be elected to public office in Cuba, a country whose government once viewed homosexuality as a dangerous aberration and, in the 1960s, packed gay men off to labor camps.

Unfortunately, I have only read one book about transgender people. Fortunately, that book is excellent. I highly recommend Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex:

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal." So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

1 comment:

  1. Here's another recent BBC article on transgender:

    Richard O'Brien: ‘I'm 70% man'
    By Jo Fidgen

    Richard O'Brien, writer of hit musical The Rocky Horror Show, delighted in shaking up the conservative sexual attitudes of the 1970s.

    His most famous creation, Dr Frank N Furter, brought the house down with his song Sweet Transvestite.

    But the show's creator was ashamed about his own long-held desire to be more feminine.

    "I was six-and-a-half and I said to my big brother that I wanted to be the fairy princess when I grew up. The look of disdain on his face made me pull down the shutters. I knew that I should never ever say that out loud again."

    For 50 years, O'Brien repressed the feeling. But "you can't just put the lid on things and pretend that they don't exist", he says.

    So a decade ago, he started taking the female hormone oestrogen - and is happy with the results.

    "It takes the edge off the masculine, testosterone-driven side of me and I like that very much. I think I've become a nicer person in some ways, slightly softer. For the first time in my life, I've started to put on a little bit of weight, which I like."

    He has also developed small breasts. But O'Brien is not intending to go further and have sex reassignment surgery.

    "I don't want to pretend to be something that I'm not. Anton Rodgers, the actor, said 'you're the third sex'. And I thought that's quite nice. I quite like that position.

    "It's my belief that we are on a continuum between male and female. There are people who are hardwired male and there are people who are hardwired female, but most of us are on that continuum and I believe myself probably to be about 70% male, 30% female."