Marlowe’s (Under the Lion’s Paw, 2010, etc.) debut memoir offers a deeply honest account of what it was like growing up a boy in a girl’s body.
Marlowe, who calls himself Marti in his book, was born “Mary Ann” in Pittsburgh in 1932. Here, he chronicles the fascinating story of his growing up a transgender male, from his childhood with an abusive mother and stepfather in Pennsylvania to several years spent nearby under the care of a devoted aunt and uncle, all the way to his high school and post–high school years back under the watchful eye of his mother and a manipulative (second) stepfather. He then recalls his adult years: his dishonorable discharge from the Women in the Air Force for being gay, then a string of failed relationships, cross-country moves, lost jobs, family deaths, depressive episodes and struggles with alcoholism. Marlowe’s story is devastatingly honest. He speaks openly about knowing that he was the wrong gender when he was as young as 7: “I’m not a boy. But I am. I just look like a girl, because they make me wear dresses and long hair….Nobody knows what I am.” Marlowe also describes how the lack of awareness and understanding of transgenderism in America caused him to feel alienated in nearly every community—even into middle age—and hindered his ability to find a compatible romantic partner. His book is extremely well-written, and his earnest anecdotes of failed love—such as his decadeslong affair with a nun at Catholic boarding school—can be both heartbreaking and hilarious. While sometimes riddled with too many details and stories unrelated to his narrative about transgenderism, Marlowe’s book is relatable and candid, with the voice of a person too often oppressed and too little heard from.
An engaging, frank true-life tale that, though not always happy, is certainly hopeful.