McGowen’s debut memoir traces the dual-gendered writer’s gradual realization that two singular souls, George and Georgia, “just happen to coexist” in the same body.
From a young age, George McGowen could sense, though not articulate, a split in his consciousness. Like other boys, he idolized Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, but he also felt more comfortable hanging out with girls. As an adult, George now knows he is dual-gendered—meaning he shares “a combined life” and body with a woman named Georgia. In an inspired twist, Georgia narrates the story of George’s life, often adding her colorful commentary to incidents such as little George’s first recognizing, with “a mix of his amazement and my jealousy,” that his anatomy differed from girls’. “There’s only one of me,” Georgia says. “I just happen to coexist in a male body with an equally singular man.” Though Georgia occasionally emerged during George’s childhood and adolescence—secretly dressing in his mother’s clothes as a kid, donning drag during his college fraternity’s skit night—George for the most part lived a buttoned-up Protestant life under controlling, conservative parents. After flunking out of college, George married a woman he impregnated, giving way to 12 tumultuous years that ended in a long-winded divorce. Soon thereafter, he met the love of his life, Marilyn Simms. Together, they indulged in copious amounts of cocaine and booze, which unlocked the dormant Georgia from George’s subconscious. Georgia terrified many of George’s friends, including Marilyn and George’s eventual AA sponsor, who encouraged him to ward off his impulses with a mantra of “Get thee behind me Satan.” McGowen’s book gracefully weaves together these stories of reconciliation: between George and Georgia; among George, Georgia, and Marilyn; and between McGowen and her Christian faith. Georgia’s road to acceptance takes compelling detours into everything from mourning a loved one to caring for a partner with manic depression. Though the book is engaging, it is stretched out due to a weakness for unnecessary detail: “The remainder of 1978 was reasonably uneventful. From the notes in his Daytimer, it appears that he and the kids flew to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving.”
A compassionate portrait of self-acceptance and gender identity.