Tag Archives: transsexual

Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com


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Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)

A 2014 update of an article I wrote for a now-defunct forum in 2008

How many of you can recall Hans Christian Anderson’s fable about the Emperor duped by his own vanity parading about naked amongst his subjects?


The reason I mention this famous tale is that it frequently comes to mind when  encountering neophyte transitioning Male to Females (MtF’s).

The danger for the transitioning individual who fails to realistically evaluate her  ability to “pass” is two-fold. One: Much like that Emperor of old, she will likely  end up an object of ridicule. Two:  When the reality of her situation finally hits,  she can find herself emotionally devastated, spiralling into a severe bout of  depression.

While I am not advocating a “don’t transition if you can’t pass” policy of  transgender expression; I think it important to balance internal perceptions with  external realities for the reasons stated above.

Moreover, I think it incumbent upon the transitioner to maximize the success of her transition socially in order to legitimize transgender expression in the midst of a misinformed/dis-informed public.  Too often, I see outraged MtF’s criticizing society’s institutions for failing to acknowledge their inherent female status while the former still possess significant male physical attributes.

Although, we can all agree that society should offer no refuge for bigotry and ignorance; Neither should we expect a largely uninformed/dis-informed society to embrace such profound changes in its transgendered populace. I think it only fair and reasonable that we provide society the opportunity to come to terms with the intricacies involved in the process of transition.

God forbid that we should appear as modern examples of the naked Emperor along the lines of Little Britain’s Emily Howard (”Britain’s worst transvestite”) and Florence (the one with the moustache). The two of whom zealously hold fast to the standard “We’re Lay-dees” despite all appearances to the contrary.

The disconnect between internal perception and external reality is at once both obvious and painful as Miss Emily and faithful sidekick mince about England, failing repeatedly to convince a sceptical public that they are indeed, female. Sadly, these two “characters” represent a greater reality than many MtF transsexuals are willing to admit.

Simply put, “Methinks the lay-dees doth protest too much!”

Methinks the lay-dees doth protest too much!

Florence and Emily of “Little Britain”


Much of this touches upon the problematic gender binary strongly opposed by many if not most within the trans community. I have written elsewhere regarding the gender binary—


At any rate the issue is far from resolved. Recently, CNN commentator, Piers Morgan and transgender personality, Janet Mock ran afoul of one another due to the issue of self-identification vs. societal identification of gender. The trans community does not hold a monopoly on the notion of gender identity. It is common to all of us; and yes, even piers Morgan had to at some point resolve that question for himself.

Here you can see the decidedly awkward confrontation following the initial interview:

Basically, it all comes down to Piers working within a traditional binary of male and female and Janet arguing/defending/forwarding a notion of gender that is self-defined— genitalia notwithstanding. Personally, I felt the issue was far too nuanced for mainstream consumption. At the risk of advancing yet another metaphor we in the trans community too often expect the general public to join the fragmented gender arena with the precision of  a finishing carpenter when they are by in-large capable only of bringing the crudest of framing instruments to the discussion.

As an addendum to the topic of passing — Janet Mock advances the elevated idea that she is not trying to “pass” as anything. Rather, she is simply realizing the truth of “being”— in her case as a female. The disconnect occurs because the wider culture does not always add legitimacy to the individual’s perception of self. It can work fairly smoothly for someone like Janet Mock who presents within accepted societal perceptions of femininity. However, simply walking about and living life as a “laydeee” may run a little less smoothly for the Emily Howards of this world.


Filed under Transgender

Transgendered Athletes: The Fallon Fox Controversy

MMA fighter Fallon Fox

MMA fighter Fallon Fox

This is one of those “ugh” posts where as a transgendered writer I find myself reluctantly siding (at least in part) with critics of a transgendered “sister”. The short and quick of it is Fallon Fox (love her name) has exploded onto the Mixed Martial Arts scene with two crushing victories over other women; one last year, in May and the other just a few weeks ago, March 02, 2013. Her latest victim was dispatched in short order, just 39 seconds into Round 1 with a powerful knee to the head. Mixed Martial Arts is for me a bit of a guilty pleasure. However, my interest is pretty much limited to the Women’s game and I happily count myself amongst the amazing Ronda Rousey’s legions of fans. But, I digress.

The criticisms laid to Ms. Fox’s account center on her status as a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. Critics (and there are many) state that as a transsexual woman she possesses innate physiological advantages over her opponents. Larger lungs, the ability to accrue greater musculature, and a heavier, denser skeletal frame are seen as providing her with an unfair competitive edge.

Although, Fallon states that medical science supports her legitimate claim to participation. I think that to some extent the jury is still out on that question. I have argued elsewhere on this blog that our status as male and female needs to be evaluated based on social criteria. In other words, if we as individuals, dress, present, and behave in a manner consistent with societal norms and expectations of a given sex then our respective governing authorities need to recognize that orientation and legally identify us as such.

However, in the world of sport where steroid use has been universally condemned–Lance Armstrong immediately comes to mind— then some scrutiny of transgendered athletes is fair. The basic question of whether Fallon Fox and other transgendered athletes have an inherent advantage should be examined.

I’m prepared to fall on my own sword in regards to this issue. As I have stated numerous times. I am female but I have a male past and because I transitioned later in life I have certain male features and undoubtedly some hard-wiring that is specifically male oriented. Would I eliminate these aspects of myself if I could? The answer is Yes, unreservedly so. However, the fact remains that physiologically I have certain male attributes that my cis-gendered sisters do not. I believe Fallon does as well.

While I am aware that the Olympic governing body has granted transsexuals the right to compete under the banner of their chosen sex. I believe that participation in any given competitive context needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This is simply common sense.

In the meantime, I urge for kindness and compassion from society at large— to dehumanize us is a disservice to our basic humanity. We are not “its”. Also the word “tranny” is not a good word for us. It is dehumanizing and almost always pejorative. Nor, is Fallon Fox a man; neither should she be viewed as one. She has availed herself of everything medical science currently offers to bring her physiology within female parameters (albeit, within a MMA context). Some of the anti-transgendered rhetoric thrown against her is appalling and should not be tolerated let alone condoned by anyone.

I wish her every success as an athlete but more importantly as a woman. This does not mean I endorse her competing against cis-gendered women. However, neither should she be forced to fight males either. Perhaps a bout against ostracized steroid abuser Christiane “Cyborg” Santos would be an equitable compromise?

At any rate, below are a few YouTube links featuring Fallon Fox in her own words and some of the harsher more prejudicial rants against her.

And a great sports website dedicated to the LGBT community with an article responding to another negative rant towards Fallon Fox.


Fallon Fox is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FallonFoxofficial

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Me and My Surgically Created Vulva: A Love Story

My own pride n’ joy was created under the gifted and extremely skilled hands of Dr. Pierre Brassard of Montreal, Quebec Canada


Before we *ahem* delve into the delights of my female anatomy you’ll probably want to move on if you are a younger person and/or are offended by words beginning with the letter V. I really do try and keep this site as family friendly as possible despite dealing with the nitty-gritty of transgendered life—but at times it’s simply impossible.

Okay, now that that my debt to social responsibility has been paid, I’d like to discuss the realities of life when one possesses a surgically created vulva. I’d use the more commonly used word, vagina, but apart from sounding like a certain Swedish automobile, vulva is the more accurate term insomuch as it encompasses more of the female anatomy including (but not limited to) the clitoris, and labia majora and minora—all of which I now possess.

Some may wonder why I would chose to discuss such a private and intimate subject in a public forum but the reason is quite simple. There remains a lot of misinformation and curiosity surrounding transsexuals—especially post-operative ones such as myself. So in the interest of furthering our collective knowledge and perhaps dispelling some falsehoods in the process I offer the following observations.

I was operated on by Dr. Pierre Brassard of the Clinique de chirurgie esthétique at 995, De Salaberry East Montréal Québec on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008. So as of this writing I am 4 years post-operative. Wow! does time ever fly!

The name of the procedure is called vaginoplasty. Various techniques exist but I’ll simply focus on the specific procedure employed by Dr. Brassard. And what better way to answer the details of Dr. Brassard’s technique than to do a quick cut and paste from his own website:

The technique used is the one step penile inversion. It is done under general or spinal anaesthesia as an inpatient in the hospital. The duration is 2 ½ hours. The scrotal skin is removed along with the testicles. The neoclitoris is fashioned from the tip of the penis (glans) keeping its blood and nerve supply (neurovascular island flap).

The labia majora are formed with some of the penis skin, the hood and the labia minora with urethral mucosa and penis skin.

The space for the vagina is dissected behind the meatus (urinary tube) between the bladder and the rectum. The penis skin is inverted to line the vagina and the thinned scrotal skin graft is sutured to the end of the penis skin tube. Hair roots on the scrotal skin graft are destroyed with the cauthery. A urinary catheter is put into the bladder, a packing of cotton covered with a condom is put inside the vagina. The prostate is not removed.

Source: http://srsmontreal.com/2009/09/08/vaginoplasty-description/

Well, I certainly hope that got your juices flowing. Yeesh!

After a few days the catheter and cotton covered condom is removed. And it’s a case of getting familiar with your own portable sitz bath and walking awkwardly (what we called, the Montreal straddle, hobble, waddle, etc…). The days immediately following surgery are not much fun to say the least. The most obvious challenge was sitting down to eat. I confess I did a lot of eating while standing at the dinner table. 🙂 Nonetheless, the near euphoria obtained from finally looking like a woman down there; not to mention the effect of post-operative medications contributed to a general state of well being.

The operative expression here (pardon the pun) is no regrets!

Obviously, the most frequently asked question about all this is can you orgasm? The answer is an unqualified, yes! I had my first inkling as to how things were going to work in this regard during the flight back from Montreal. Knowing I’d be out of commission for some period of time during my stay in Montreal I wisely brought along a few books to read. Notable among these was Holly Black’s excellent “Tithe” Trilogy (I blog about Melissa Marr and Holly Black elsewhere on this site). It’s an epic romance fantasy adventure seated within the urban faerie genre.

Holly is a great writer and there’s some mild but undeniably hot scenes in Tithe. Well, I came across one of these erotically tinged vignettes and reacted pretty much as you might expect a woman to react. My new anatomy responded with an involuntary spasm that sent an unmistakable signal of pleasure to the dopamine receptors in my brain. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I contentedly thought, “So this is how this is going to work!”

Just over a week post-op I was able to experience my first full-blown orgasm. The things I am aware of when it comes to my female orgasm as opposed to the ones I had as a male is that now I tingle all over my body and I’m aware of extra sensation both in my nipples and toes. While I have not had sex with a man post-op I have tried out a little vibrator I picked up at a sex-toy party one of the girls from work hosted. My only complaint—I should have purchased a larger model!

My clitoris is gloriously sensate but it can be super annoying if a stray pubic hair happens to come in contact with it; which has happened on occasion. Fortunately, it’s mostly just a little pleasure bud awaiting some gentle stimulation in order for it to perform as intended.

With regards to sex with men—I am in a permanent life-long committed relationship with a loving, attractive female so in my case that admittedly tantalizing prospect is off my bucket list. However, I welcome my post-op sisters who have had that experience and do not mind discussing it to post their comments here.

With regards to a related question: How deep is your vagina? In my case I have a depth of 5 inches which according to my gynecologist and Dr. Brassard is entirely satisfactory for male-female coitus. Of course, I can hear the comments of some men from here:

Not deep enough for me baby!”

These are the guys that show up at the local drugstore determined to buy the product designed especially for them:

Vanity marketing? Do you have these in XXL?
All Prices are Canadian 🙂

My vagina also lubricates. Part of the reason for that is the presence of my prostate gland. Does it bother me that the prostate wasn’t removed? Frankly yes, but the rationale for its presence postoperatively is that it does help lubricate my vulva. Keep in mind, my trust in Brassard’s expertise when it came to entrusting my self to his care was pretty near absolute. Therefore, his insistence on maintaining the overtly masculine gland was accepted albeit with a tinge of regret.

Does my vagina smell like a cisgendered woman’s? Yes. However, I lack some of the naturally occurring bacteria that help keep a woman’s vulva fresh smelling. Therefore I have to be more vigilant with regards to my hygiene. It’s not overly concerning, but something I need to be aware of. In my case, disposable wipes handle any outstanding issues nicely.

Does my vulva look like a cisgendered woman’s? Again, the answer is yes. My wife can certainly affirm that but so can my gynecologist. Yes, I get one of those now too 🙂 I see him only infrequently but I must say I was delighted with his comments following my first appointment. I guess he did not have many post-operative patients but what he said warmed my heart—if not my vagina—those instruments are cold!

He looked up from where he had been inspecting Dr. Brassard’s handiwork and he said to me with a voice that resonated with a respect that bordered on awe.

“I want you to know that the man who did this was extremely [he then paused for dramatic effect] extremely skilled.”

Of course I had to ask outright—does it look like other vaginas you see?

The answer was an unqualified Yes.

Well, I think I could have floated out of the room at that point. I was certainly on cloud 9.

Again, I try and keep this blog generally accessible for all  but you can see examples of Brassard’s surgical outcomes at the following website:


Dr. Lawrence takes a critical and objective analysis of Brassard’s work but generally rates him highly. I know I certainly do!

In order to maintain my vagina’s depth I am required to dilate a recommended time of 15 minutes once a week, but life being what it is generally results in a more frequent schedule of once every two-weeks. It’s a bit uncomfortable as I have to insert a stent inside my delicate lady bits.

Ahhh… The Stuff Dreams are Made of

The dilators come in a variety of widths and you generally progress from smallest to largest as your new anatomy continues to heal. Since I have been post-op for so long I get to enjoy the company of “Mr. Big” the number 6 in the set I was given. Of course, when not in use they make lovely candle like decorations when displayed to effect! I’m joking! I’m joking!

Am I glad I had the operation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Again, I have “no regrets” at all. If I had to do it all over again, I would—but sooner! For me the whole process of transitioning has been like Goldilocks finding that specific bed, porridge, and chair and concluding just as she did that “this one is just right!”


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I am Woman: Glorious Wonderful Woman

The greatest desire for most male to female transsexuals is simply to take our place within that wonderful mosaic of women found everywhere

My 20th post! Thanks to everyone that’s dropped by for something other than nude pictures of Justin Bieber. My latest entry posits that most basic question: “Why on earth would you change you sex? And um… why choose the weaker sex of the two?” The simplest answer is the easiest to forward. I identity as a transwoman.

Now, everyone, including my worst critics get the “trans” part. What many don’t get is the woman part.

Sadly, we live in a culture inundated with disbelief. “No No”, they say. “You are a man. You are an XY chromosome combination and therefore you are a male. No ifs ands or buts, “buddy“. Ouch! That’ll leave a mark for sure. Fortunately, I have “some” science on my side and a good deal of history. First the history bit; do you know when the XY chromosome was discovered? If you didn’t, that’s ok, neither did I. But thanks to the ever resourceful “Google” search function I came across the following from no less an authority than the Encyclopedia  Britannica (online edition). Now for all you undergraduates mentally reciting your prof’s warning: “Encyclopedias are not credible sources” I say, Pffft! This is just a blog entry so relax. 🙂

Anyways, back to said Encyclopedia:

Clarence E. McClung,  (born April 6, 1870, Clayton, Calif., U.S.—died Jan. 17, 1946, Swarthmore, Pa.), American zoologist whose study of the mechanisms of heredity led to his 1901 hypothesis that an extra, or accessory, chromosome was the determiner of sex. The discovery of the sex-determining chromosome provided some of the earliest evidence that a given chromosome carries a definable set of hereditary traits. He also studied how the behaviour of chromosomes in the sex cells of different organisms affects their heredity.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353973/Clarence-E-McClung

1901! Wow!

So what this means is that anyone living before 1901 could not possibly have used the XY/XX chromosome differential as an arbiter in determining ones’ sex. But we still had males and females prior to 1901. How then could they tell if someone is male or female?

“Oh that’s easy we just look at them naked. Males have their magnificent albeit intimidating outdoor plumbing and females have their complex and sophisticated and oh so mysterious indoor plumbing.

But it’s not so easy as that. Various conditions can affect normal sexual development so that females develop male characteristics and vise versa. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is one such condition and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasiais  (CAH) is another.

See the websites below for some images showing just how unreliable a cursory physical examination of an individual’s anatomy is in determining one’s true sex. I’d include them here but they are pretty graphic.

Source: http://imueos.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/adrenal-disorders-%E2%80%93-adrenogenital-syndrome/

Source: http://carolguze.com/text/442-6-sexual_differentiation.shtml

So basically, prior to 1901, sexual identification would be based simply on appearance since those living at the time lacked any other basis on which to assign one’s gender. In fact, even today that’s what it comes down to. Unless you know an individual’s medical history the woman sitting next to you may in fact be an XY male and vise versa.

But what about people like myself that lack any obvious physical determinant in identifying with the opposite sex. Well, we have some interesting research available on that front. It’s all a bit tedious but basically it comes down to possessing something akin to a “female brain”. A number of studies exist each focusing on some aspect of  the brain’s functioning.  Those interested can check out the Wikipedia entry on the causes here:


On a much more immediate level being able to live, interact, and function as a female is akin to Goldilocks finding that perfect chair, porridge, or  bed. This one is just right (cue contented sigh). I love being female! Sure, I have a male past but even then I had a strong feminine impulse—one I spent a lifetime suppressing. I was like Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. My transition was inevitable it was only a matter of time before I collapsed under the sheer pressure of it all.

The pull towards the feminine has been with me as long as I remember. Fear immobilized me. Fear of my parent’s reaction, that of friends, and to a lesser extent, society all worked to constrain me. Coming out as transgendered and specifically as a transsexual was really a means of releasing all that pressure. I knew who I was. I just decided to let the world in on my secret. The feminine impulse acted much like a boat’s rudder steering me unerringly into female waters.

As to being the weaker sex—well, yes women don’t possess the upper body strength that males do. They also have lighter smaller bones, lack brow bossing and have a greater fat to muscle ratio than males. It’s astounding that so many males have misappropriated that saying by applying it to every aspect of the female gender.  How incredibly misogynistic! How utterly foolish! and how fundamentally wrong such an assertion is.

The human story is replete with women who have sacrificed themselves for a higher good; stared death in the face; demonstrated enduring irreproachable faith and have inspired a hurting world to better itself. A woman’s ability to empathize with and comfort others is something to see and anyone fortunate to witness it should be humbled by the experience.

I remember back in “boy world” as I call it, sneaking away at social functions to sit with the women present, and listen happily to them chat away about their lives, the lives of their children, and their interests and concerns. Inevitably, my “buddies” would notice my absence and I’d be called back by the boys to watch the rest of the game or rehash some adolescent adventure we had undertaken. Thankfully, now I get to stay with the girls at these sort of events without fearing a call to join the men (cue contented sigh again).

I am not interested in male-bashing but I decry the way our society has systematically failed to value feminine traits, deeming them inferior to masculine ones. And men, remember, had one change in your XY chromosome pair occurred you’d never have needed those ongoing reminders to lower the toilet seat.  😉

I love my female friends trans and otherwise. Don’t envy the men ladies. Yes, they are exempt from the inconvenience, pain and discomfort of menstruation, hormonal storms, menopause, and the pain of child-birth. However, they cannot rejoice in the sensuousness of the female form—not like we can. Nor can they share the bond a woman has with her children. I love seeing my female friends with their children. There is an invisible but easily detectable energy that flows between them. It impacts me greatly. In other words, I get it.

I am certainly no beauty along the lines of a Jenna Talackova but I am still female and if I may allow myself a moment of self-satisfaction—confess to possessing a beauty of my own. I love people greatly. It brings tears to my eyes—such passion and feeling—never taken for granted and always humbled and thankful—that I am a woman.


Author unknown

The beauty of a woman; Is not in the clothes she wears,
The figure that she carries; Or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman; must be seen from in her eyes, Because that is the doorway to her heart, The place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman; is not in a facial mole, But true beauty in a woman; Is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives, The passion that she shows, And the beauty of a woman; With passing years – only grows!

Source: http://feelinfeminine.com/?p=736

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Faeries, Fiction, and Feminism: The Truth of the Batman Princess

katielovestrent's The Batman Princess

Katielovesrent’s The Batman Princess

I love what have come to be known as Urban Faerie-Tales. They constitute a genre related to the Twilight phenomenon but instead of sparkly vampires the focus is on those magical beings collectively known as “The Fey”. It’s a sub-genre within the wider milieu of Young Adult fiction that has exploded in popularity thanks to Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

I’m a self-confessed fangirl; especially of Melissa Marr and Holly Black whose Wicked Lovely and Tithe series introduced me to the genre.

My two faves!

So, wherein lies the attraction? For me, it’s deeply personal. I am transgendered. When I first began transitioning in late 2005 I began a radical process of liberation and personal transformation that allowed a flood of desires and interests to find expression that previously had been almost entirely stifled.

I underwent the big operation in June 2008 at the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Pierre Brassard was the gifted surgeon who handled the delicate operation. I am forever in his debt. As part of my pre-flight/pre-surgical preparation I recognized the need for something to read both on the plane and to help pass time while I recovered from the invasive surgical procedure.

With that in mind, I strolled into my local Chapters bookstore and made my way downstairs to the Young Adult section. Now, I’m in my 50’s **cough** but wandering into the Young Adult section of a bookstore is completely suited to my personality as anyone who knows me will testify. I have a quote on my Facebook page that reads: “Rachel’s like a big kid isn’t she?” courtesy of my dear friend, Mallory. And she is correct. I am, indeed, like a big kid. I like to say “I’m about 14 in girl years.” LOL 🙂

Anyways, I knew basically what I wanted to read. I wanted to read an adventure book about faeries! However, in my mind’s eye the kinds of faeries I wanted to read about weren’t like Disney’s Tinkerbell (although, I think she’s great). No, I was thinking of faeries more along the lines of Legolas, the oh-so-cool Elf from The Lord of the Rings. However, I also wanted a female protagonist. Since I was in the process of joining the girls’ team it was important to me (and it remains so) that I read about female characters and female centered adventures.

Fortunately, a young Chapter’s employee came to my rescue, having spotted me wandering misguidedly about the myriad stacks of books. She asked me what I was looking for and I explained that I was interested in books about faeries. I also solicited her advice on what young people considered to be amongst the best or most popular. She rambled off a few titles but soon led me over to where Holly Black’s “Tithe” series was located.

“Tithe” is a trilogy. It consists of  Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. It was tempting to read them as soon as I got home but I resisted—valiantly so 😉

I was in the middle of reading something else by the time I was due to arrive in Montreal. Honestly, I have no recollection of what it was. However, I definitely remember, “Tithe”. It was a revelation!

Holly Black is a gifted writer, possibly known most for her work collaborating on the popular Spiderwick Chronicles. But for me, she will forever be known, and perhaps unfairly defined by, her work within the sub-genre of Faerie fiction.

Why do I enjoy Faerie fiction so much? I think, for me, it’s a perfect blend of feminine sensibility and edgy, magical, mystical adventure. In the hands of a Holly Black or Melissa Marr it is potent stuff. My son loves classical literature and tells me that Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” touches upon the universal theme of transformation. doubtless, Ovid’s influence is felt in the world of Faerie fiction; however, subtle that influence may be.

Undeniably my own transformation from male to female is one of the most profound journeys of transformation a human being can make. Frequently, within Faerie fiction one finds plot elements involving physical transformations. More often than not, the female protagonist moves from human to faerie, or has some long dormant faerie pedigree that is awakened at some point during the telling. Obviously, this kind of motif resonates powerfully with individuals such as myself.

There exists within Faerie fiction an almost perfect blend of masculine and feminine sensibilities. Yet, too often, I think, feminine traits are decried in a patriarchically infused culture. What a shame! Transsexuals are often criticized for reinforcing a status quo in which females are relegated as sex-objects, and as mere extensions of a male matrix. Proponents of Radical Feminism have been particularly out-spoken in their criticism of transgendered male-to-females.  What a shame! And yet, I believe the beauty and glory of feminine sensibilities are innate and should be afforded equal respect alongside the very boldest manifestations of masculinity.

I really enjoyed reading Louann Brizendine’s, “The Female Brain”. It’s a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to men and women alike. In it, the author relates how a feminist friend of hers wished to raise a daughter free of gender-stamped toys. In a sincere effort to raise her daughter free of such limitations she avoided giving her dolls, tea sets, and other such stereotypical “girl toys”. Her little girl did , however, own a  typical boy’s toy in the form of a red fire engine. I actually gave my copy away to a friend, but fortunately I found a great quote taken from this part of the book:

She walked into her daughter’s room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth saying, “Don’t worry, little truckie, everything will be all right.”

This isn’t socialization. This little girl didn’t cuddle her “truckie” because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they’re born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=2274147&page=1#.T8ozusWwXM0

Wow! I love that. Of course, as a transwoman. I relate strongly to notions of a hardwired female brain. I like to describe it as the small female rudder that determined my masculine boat’s journey into feminine waters. I thank God for it! I urge women to embrace their femininity. As the old song goes, “I enjoy being a girl” and so should every woman that feels that impetus.

However, it’s also about choice and it’s about freedom. Some cisgendered females by their own admission lack that kind of hardwired feminine sensibility. I get that. I was born in a male body so I understand that a woman may feel more masculine than feminine. Obviously, we should recognize her right to define herself as she is.

Nonetheless, let us not decry feminine impulses to emote, nurture, comfort, and embrace a desire to be pretty, and desirable. It’s all part of being a feminine woman or a feminine man as the case may be. For me, those characteristics are to be respected and valued. Melissa Marr has written on numerous occasions that her motive in writing what turned out to be the 5 part Wicked Lovely series was to create something specifically that her daughter might enjoy. I am so happy she did.

And now to the lovely heroine that headlines this particular entry—the Batman Princess. Is she not the most adorable thing? This little girl is the daughter of a woman who recognizes the simple, but profound truth, that her daughter is being true to herself. For a Halloween costume her daughter expressed a desire to be the Batman Princess.

No, not Batgirl, but a Batman Princess. It makes perfect sense to me. When my three-year old is dressed in her Dora the Explorer shoes, shirt, and jacket, she says “I’m a Dora Princess!” Once she called me a princess simply because I was wearing a hat. “Princess” just means “fancy”. Can you be a Batman Princess? Yes, of course. The crafting blogger Donkey’s Alright understands this.

Source: http://www.neatorama.com/neatobambino/2012/02/10/batman-princess-costume/

This little girl is the living embodiment of  an innocent, honest, truthful, representation of self. She is the personification of an edgy yet feminine presentation that should bring a smile of encouragement to anyone recognizing the integrity that rests at the core of this darling girl’s soul.

We can learn from her. After-all, aren’t the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, and a host of other edgy-yet-feminine heroines simply grown-up versions of the Batman Princess?

Jesus, himself, is undoubtedly a fan of our little Batman Princess.

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

Matthew 19:14 New Living Translation (©2007)

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Jenna Talackova and the Miss Universe Pageant: Who Wins and Who Loses?

On the eve of the Canadian leg of of the Miss Universe Pageant, all the media attention remains fixed on Jenna Talackova, the transgendered contestant that took on Donald Trump’s glittering showcase of feminine allure and won. Well sort of. The problem is that Jenna has been forced to dance along a rather narrow and extremely slippery runway. On the one-hand her presence and the knowledge that she is transgendered has brought the world’s attention bowing at her pretty feet. On the other, she is not viewed simply as a woman but rather as a transgendered woman.

While all the attention is undoubtedly welcomed from a career perspective and as an opportunity to promote transgender awareness, the negative impact for Jenna on a very personal level is the very real challenge to her identity as a woman, albeit as an extremely attractive woman.

For most male to female transsexuals the ultimate goal is to simply disappear and take our place amongst our cisgendered sisters, shoulder-to-shoulder as it were, completely indistinguishable from any other woman. It’s a difficult challenge for most anyone born with an XY chromosome combination and made even more difficult for those socialized in the gender role normally associated with that particular pattern.

Jenna is one of the fortunate few for whom “stealth” living could have been a viable option. By stealth I mean the ability to live beneath the world’s scrutiny with regards to her surgical past. She “passes”; that is she looks and acts just as she appears to be, a beautiful woman indistinguishable from any other aspiring beauty queen. But, she was “outed” and so has had to run the gauntlet of media scrutiny suffering the transphobic barbs of Donald Trump, and the hateful ignorant put-downs of a largely misinformed public.

For many transgendered women stealth is not an option. It certainly isn’t for me. I do reasonably well in that regard but still, escaping the scrutiny of the public at large remains a decidedly unrealistic goal. So to some extent, Jenna is “wearing one for the team” taking the criticism in graceful stride while promoting transgender awareness and furthering tolerance in a world reluctant to be so.

Of course the big winner in all this brouhaha is Donald Trump, himself. The Miss Universe Pageant and others like it are viewed by many as antiquated spectacles out of touch with women’s rights and new millennium sensibilities. Ratings have been down in past years and Ms.Talackova’s arrival on the scene could not be more welcomed. She has been a media winfall for the pageant and even Trump with all his millions must be thinking: “You can’t pay for this kind of publicity”.

Jillian Page of the Montreal Gazette recently lamented:

We’ve talked about this before: the word “transgender” is not necessary. In fact, it is considered to be discriminatory by many people. But the media are having a field day with the Jenna Talackova story, and as several senior editors have told me, the “transgender” angle is the hook — they would not be reporting this story if Jenna had been a “natural-born woman,” whatever that means.

(source: http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/author/jillianpage21/)

Sadly, I am forced to agree with Jillian’s editors. One need only look at Alex Nino Gheciu’s National Post article emblazoned with the provocative and oh so delightfully salacious title: “Jenna Talackova: Buying Undies and Stealing the Spotlight” to understand all one needs to know about the media’s take on all this.

Gheciu’s article is a blow by blow account of a Miss Universe sponsored shopping spree in which Ms.Talackova’s transgendered presence is clearly seen as the glittering jewel in the crown of whatever media coverage the pageant has been able to generate:

4:15 p.m. The media swarm continues to follow Ms. Talackova through the mall, almost shoving other contestants out of the way in the process.

4:35 p.m. Majd Souti, 26, and Kuyan Elliot, 19, take their time shopping at Sephora, ordering around employees who scurry to find them just the right shades of blush. They’ve been left mostly left unnoticed by reporters, but harbour no hard feelings toward Ms. Talackova. “As long as the judging is fair and we’re all treated equally,” says Ms. Souti. “It’ll just make winning that much better and losing not too bitter because you’re losing to strong competition.” Adds Ms. Elliot: “I’m proud of her for having the strength to do this. She’s honestly, like, a really amazing person.”


Sadly, the actual judging will not be fair regardless of outcome. Simply put, the knowledge that Jenna underwent sex-change surgery is too big a hurdle for most people to overcome. Even with the most positive spin: “Wow! I can’t believe that absolute fox used to be a guy.” it remains a case of “she used to be”. Can the judges dispel all thoughts regarding Jenna’s past given the media exposure she’s received? Let’s face it even criminal trials have been ruled mistrials due to media exposure influencing a jury’s decision. Will the Miss Universe judges be able to overcome media influence in this case? I sincerely doubt it.

Will we ever see a time when the words trans-woman or transgendered woman fall into disuse? Honestly, I can only see that happening when medical science and social consciousness reach a level where transgendered women are “completely” indistinguishable from their cisgendered sisters—in every dimension: menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, menopause and all that attends those functions as well as in presentation and sociopsychological expression.

So who wins here?

Donald Trump is the obvious winner. His biggest hope has to be that Jenna wins the Canadian title so he can reap the benefits of her presence in the big show. Even if she takes the Canadian title and puts in an appearance for the Miss Universe Pageant it’s a one off and things will settle down once Jenna passes through (barring the unlikely event that she wins the whole thing).

For Jenna, herself, it’s book deals, fashion photo-spreads, and offers from certain men’s magazines. If she wins the title, critics will say she only won because she’s a transsexual. If she fails to place high enough it will be thought she faced unfair discrimination because of media exposure. The truth is, Jenna is not seen and will not be seen in the same light as her competitors.

And on that account, no one wins.

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