The transgender author delivers a unique, powerful rite-of-passage memoir.
Plenty of writers have written about the experience of making the transition from one gender to another, but most haven’t also dealt with child molestation, paternity issues and a mugging by a man who would soon commit murder—not to mention a partner who has mixed feelings about the author’s becoming a man. Resisting the inclination to sensationalize (or sentimentalize), McBee interweaves the various strands of the narrative, exercising plenty of restraint. The first section alternates between the author as a 10-year-old girl wrestling with sending a man to prison, and the mugging almost two decades later, when the author (who, still female, could pass for a man) is attacked with her partner by a stranger who would soon make headlines for another crime. In each case, there’s a theme of forgiveness, a quality of mercy that does not seem strained. “The world seemed to me a place of beautiful, damaged things and I wanted to love them all,” explains the author early on. Whether his father—or the mugger, for that matter—affected his attitude toward men in general and his decision, with deep ambivalence, to live a life after 30 as a transgender man isn’t subject to pat psychology here. Instead, the author writes in matter-of-fact detail about the tension and love shared with a fiancee and about self-discovery pilgrimages to explore bloodlines and paternity.
“The world is vicious and beautiful and, to some extent, unexplainable,” writes the author. “But that doesn’t stop us from wanting a story.” This is quite a story, masterfully rendered.