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Transgender books

The Trans Partner Handbook: A Guide for When Your Partner Transitions  

By Jo Green. Published by Jessica Kingsley (2017) 
Review by Barbie Hamlin

Written by the partner of a trans woman who runs an online support group for partners of trans people, this book aims to inform us on all aspects of transition for trans men, trans women and non-binary.  The topics include disclosure, mental health, coming out, loss and grief, sex and sexuality as well as the legal, medical and social practicalities of transitioning.

The author uses personal reflections contributed by over 15 trans partners in healthy and successful relationships to illuminate the points of the handbook. The chapters are set out with bold sub-headings so that the reader can easily look back, find and re-read a section. Likewise, there is no need to read a section that plainly does not apply to you.

Apart from the chapter dealing with medical transitioning where the vocabulary is necessarily specialized, the language used is unfussy and direct. The trans partners quoted seem to give honest views of their experiences and their feelings. I found the book readily accessible and quite quick to read.

Jo Green is keen to point out that not all the examples will be relevant in every trans partner’s experience.  We need to apply our own judgement as all journeys will be different. Nevertheless, this book is very thorough and gives clear factual information to its users as well as carefully worded advice.

My spouse completed her transition only 3 years ago and leading up to that time there was very little material written to support us in our venture.  I would have found this handbook of great help. Even now, I particularly appreciate the section on loss and grieving as there were times for me when the ride was bumpy!

There is a comprehensive Glossary of terms; a list of Resources and Books as well as a list of UK trans organisations offering support.  I am disappointed, though, that the Beaumont Society and Beaumont Partners do not receive a mention. The Society does operate a national support network for trans people and their partners.

In conclusion, I am delighted that this book exists to help partners just starting out. Take from it what you need and as Jo Green says, “Keep talking to one another and enjoy the journey.”

Becoming Nicole: The Extraordinary Transformation of an Ordinary Family

By Amy Ellis Nutt. Published in the UK on 2nd June 2016 by Atlantic Books at £12.99 
Review by Barbie Hamlin

Amy Ellis Nutt is a talented journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for her writing about the sinking of a fishing boat off the New Jersey coast. In Becoming Nicole she tells a different story; the tale of Wayne and Kelly Maines who adopted identical twin baby boys, Wyatt and Jonas. By the time they were toddlers Wyatt hated having a penis and knew that she was not a boy but a girl called Nicole. This book recounts the many challenges the family faced; from their own expectations to the prejudices and bigotry of the town and state in which they lived – Orono, Maine. Nicole and Jonas are still only 18 years old so this is certainly an up to the minute account of growing up transgender in the USA today.

Becoming Nicole is a true story and Kelly, Wayne, Jonas and Nicole have been very open in their many conversations with the author. They also shared their personal papers, diaries, medical records etc. and allowed the writer to talk with their doctors and lawyers. As the subtitle suggests this was an ordinary working class family that went through many extraordinary experiences. The book reveals how tough it is to bring up a transgender child, and how parents have to fight hard for their children’s rights. The father, Wayne, had been so excited when the twins were born as he imagined all the ways that he would be able to bond with his two sons through masculine pursuits like fishing and hunting through their growing-up. Consequently, he struggled to overcome his own feelings – let alone the prejudice of others – so that he could do his best for both of his children. Jonas accepted that he had a sister sooner than his parents could come to terms with having a daughter. However, it was not long before the whole family was working together to conquer all the obstacles they faced. Because it is a story about an American family the experiences are different from those that a British family might encounter – but not that different. It is a well written detailed account with eight pages of photographs of the twins and their parents.

Introducing Teddy: A story about being yourself 

Written by Jessica Walton. Illustrated by Dougal McPherson
Published by Bloomsbury on 2nd June 2016 at £6.99
Review by Barbie Hamlin

Introducing Teddy is a beautiful children’s picture book that tells the tale of Errol and his best friend Thomas, who is also his teddy bear. They play happily together every day until one sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is very sad and doesn’t feel like playing. Errol is very puzzled by this and persuades him to go to the park, but even the swings cannot cheer up Thomas. Eventually, the teddy reveals that he is worried that if he tells him what is on his mind Errol might not be his friend any more. When Errol promises him that he will always be his friend, Thomas tells him what he has been afraid to say; ‘In my heart, I’ve always known that I am a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.’ Does this resonate with you? Errol’s response is warm and kind, ‘I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.’ We all wish we had friends like that

This is a heart-warming tale about being yourself. It took me a long, long time to realise that I could be myself. Like the teddy I was afraid that friends and family might reject me. Of course, many people who are not trans are also anxious about being themselves so concerned are they to fit in with the expectations of friends and family. Perhaps if we had had books like Introducing Teddy in our formative years we could have become ourselves much sooner. If you have young children or grandchildren you might like to get them a copy of this book, or donate a copy to your local Foundation Stage class.

Man into Woman – The First Sex Change: A Portrait of Lili Elbe

Edited by Niels Hoyer - Blue Boat Books – £7.50

Niels Hoyer was a friend of Einar and Gerda Wegener and they often talked to him about Einar’s alter ego, Lili. This book tells the story that was later turned into a best-selling novel and a film called The Danish Girl. Hoyer was invited by Lili to publish her diaries and letters about her experiences in becoming the woman she knew herself to be. Man into Woman was translated into English from the original German in 1933 not long after Lili died, but was out of print for a long time until this edition was published in 2004. It has been re-issued to coincide with the release of the film and includes several photographs.

This book will be interest to those who want to know the true story of Lili Elbe rather than the fictional one depicted in the film.  However, on Lili’s instructions, all the names apart from Lili’s have been changed to protect her family, friends and the others they encountered; so Einar and Gerda became Andreas and Grete Sparre. Clearly Lili was incredibly brave, and determined, to be the first to have gender reconstruction surgery. My friends think I was brave and my surgeon had performed the procedure over a thousand times before he got to me. Lili’s procedure was more complex and more ambitious than those carried out in the present day. In fact there were four operations in total, with time in between for her to recuperate and regain her strength. At first the book seems rather old fashioned, and of course it is because it tells the fascinating story of Lili and Gerda, their love for each other, and the challenges they faced, in their own words.

Transexed and transgendered people - A guide

ISBN 0 9525107 7 4 Gendys Publications

This publication is specifically for the existing and would be gender changer, for those who are variously intersexed, for those having gender difficulties amongst their children, and families facing the problems of having a transsexual in their families.

Transvestism and Cross Dressing - Current views

ISBN 0 9521357 6 0 Beaumont Trust

A collection of articles by professional writers and participants on Labels & Definitions, In the Closet, The Medical Bit, Culture History and Law, Counselling & Support, Coming Out.

My husband Betty - Love, Sex and Life with a Crossdresser

Primarily written by the wife of a Transgendered husband as a guide for other wives/partners, it goes a lot further than this and is recommended to anybody anywhere on the Male to Female ‘spectrum’ or outside looking in.   She covers all the issues to do with gender. She boldly wades into the issue of sexuality and never once tries to cloud it. At times she doesn’t try to hide her exasperation and anger but she always lets us know when she is being subjective. For this reason it is imperative to read the book from cover to cover.

My Journey: Sally to Shay by Shay Robertson

Fig Tree Industries, 2018
Jane Hamlin

As it states on the cover of this book, “This is the detailed and intimate autobiographical account of a personal transformation – from Sally to Shay.” It is a story of hope that is an excellent read, and totally engrossing. Once you start to read it, it is difficult to put down.

Complete with colour photographs, Shay has recounted in great detail his transition from someone who was very uncomfortable and confused with the body he found himself in, to a life he now describes as “brilliant”. The journey really was a roller-coaster ride; but reading this book could help any trans man who wants to make a similar journey, but does not know what is possible. It should be a ‘must read’ for everyone, but it would certainly be valuable reading for anyone wishing to raise their awareness of the difficulties, dangers, pains, frustrations and, yes, euphoria of such a personal transformation. Some may find it a little more explicit than is comfortable for them, but the surgical procedures are described in a clear and understandable way. No-one I know chooses to be trans. It is how we are born, it is who we are. We may be able to suppress it for a while, but it will not go away. Some of us love the versatility and opportunities of presenting as male or female depending on how the mood takes us, but others feel trapped in a body that does not fit, in a life that doesn’t seem to make sense. Shay felt like that and has written this book to help others. Like me, he wants everyone to believe in themselves and for each of us to have the courage to be who we want to be. The snag is that it is not easy. There can be broken hearts, and plenty of other ups and downs on the way. In writing this book Shay just wanted to pass on the thoughts and feelings he had during his transition to all those who may be interested or curious about transitioning. His story is well-written and inspirational.