SELF-MADE WOMAN by Denise Chanterelle DuBois


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A transgender actress and businesswoman tells the no-holds-barred story of her transition from male to female.

DuBois experienced her transgender awakening at age 4. Her parents put her in a dress—the only dry garment available—after they rescued her from drowning, and she realized, “I was a girl and the dress would always be part of me.” Over time, she also became aware that she was an exhibitionist who craved punishment from dominant females. Dressing up in women’s clothes in secret and taking her sister’s birth control pills to help her look more feminine, she hid her sexuality from her parents, especially her cruel, alcoholic father. In college, DuBois did drugs and stole women’s clothes instead of going to class; she also developed a taste for submissive role-playing. Her life became increasingly erratic when she moved to San Diego. Now a drug addict, she started selling and was eventually arrested for dealing. At the same time, she began efforts to transition, but her history of drug abuse made her ineligible for hormone replacement therapy. Desperate to put her messy past behind her, she married a woman to whom she revealed that it had been her “drug-addled world”—rather than her core identity—that had given rise to her desire to transition. The pair moved to Oregon where they lived the straight life that DuBois thought would save her but only drove her to drink and do drugs in secret. A family crisis tore the fragile bonds that held them together. Unmoored but realizing she needed to finish the therapy she had begun in San Diego, DuBois began the painful but ultimately liberating process of coming out in midlife. While the chronology of the story is sometimes confusing, the narrative is nevertheless quite compelling. The author’s resilience and ability to come to terms with her difficult, sometimes-bizarre past are both inspiring and life-affirming.

A fierce, unsparing memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-299-31390-6
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2017


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