A transgender man chronicles his physical and psychological transition.
In 2017, author and social justice activist Carl (Artist-in-Residence/Emerson Coll.) was just seven months into testosterone hormone therapy when he began to be addressed as “sir” by service staff at a Manhattan hotel. It was a celebratory moment for the author, who was then just shy of his 51st birthday. Born Polly in Elkhart, Indiana, Carl spent “decades trying to know her, shape her into something that I can bear to live with,” but his life as a female was a futile battle with a persistent biological need to be male, which led to depression, rage, and multiple suicide attempts. Carl’s family life was equally complex and traumatic. He writes lucidly of early abusive behavior by his parents and, later in life, how their confusion and transphobia made becoming their son an uphill battle. His transition also began eroding his marriage when he completed an elective double mastectomy in 2013, yet his desperate need to finally “see more dimension to the world” and connect to his true gender persisted despite despair and misinterpretation. Throughout the memoir, Carl examines the nature of toxic and fragile masculinity and acknowledges lifelong issues with the problematic male gender. “I want to punch men long before I become a man,” he admits. Combining political debate and discourse on gender equality, the author’s elegant yet powerful prose will hopefully promote action from readers. His reflective memories often read like poetry, as when describing his own private process as an “evolving bodily transubstantiation where in one moment I am material subject matter to be consumed and in another I feel like a holy essence, my body and blood both sacrificed and blessed into being.” This moving narrative illuminates the joy, courage, necessity, and risk-taking of his gender transition and the ways his loved ones became affected and eventually enriched by it.
A passionate, eloquent memoir about how “complex stories of humanity [and] our capacity for imagination are what give us hope.”