Beginning with Jay Prosser's Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality, scholars have rightly treated gender transition narratives as cultural objects distinct from homosexual coming-out stories; however, existing scholarship rarely sets these two objects against each other for comparison and contrast. This study examines the evolution of transgender memoir with an eye for comparison to the coming-out story. Central questions include: How are gender transition narratives affected by transgender authors' perceived need to prove their gender identity to public audiences? Has the development of transgender self writing been hindered by the unique concern about using the “correct” language required by clinicians to receive medical treatment? Most importantly, how does the issue of “passing”—living convincingly enough in a target gender that one is not effectively “out”—change how authors define their goals on both a personal and a political level? Is the goal to come out or to come in? This article focuses on gender transition narratives published in the twenty-first century, demonstrating how the genre has changed by examining several texts, including Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There and Jamison Green's Becoming a Visible Man. I conclude that the gender transition narrative has grown away from the imposed medical narrative of the twentieth century as transsexual memoirists have claimed the role of authors of their own lives. In the process the transsexual experience itself has changed, and the gender transition narrative is growing to resemble the coming-out story more than ever before.
Rhiannon Catherwood; Coming In? The Evolution of the Transsexual Memoir in the Twenty-First Century. Genre 1 April 2015; 48 (1): 35–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2837284
Download citation file: