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Being seen

By |2004-12-23T09:00:00-05:00December 23rd, 2004|Uncategorized|

Review by Dawn Wolfe

Just as there is not only one way to live one’s gender, there is no one category into which to fit Jamison Green’s book, “Becoming a Visible Man.” Equal parts history, memoir and manifesto, with a healthy dose of medical reference thrown in, “Visible Man” could well be considered the must-read book for trans people and trans allies alike.
Green himself has definitely “been there, done that.” Legally male since 1991, Green has devoted a large part of his post-transition life to activism. A former executive director of FTM International, Green has appeared in several films, in print as both a subject and an author, and as an internationally-sought speaker.
While “Visible Man” concentrates, as might be expected, on the FTM experience, Green’s powers of introspection and his ability to share his vulnerability in print make it quite clear that, first and foremost, the trans experience is a human experience. Granted that no one who has not lived the trans experience can fully comprehend it – but how could any person who has struggled to live and be recognized as his or her authentic self fail to relate to these words?
“By claiming our identity as men or women who are also transpeople, by asserting that our different bodies are just as normal for us as anyone else’s is for them, by insisting that our right to express our own gender, to modify our bodies and shape our identities, is as inalienable as our right to know our true religion, we claim our humanity and our right to be treated equally under law and within the purviews of morality and culture.”
Throughout the book, Green gracefully intersperses his personal history with that of the FTM trans community, helpful facts about the logistics of transitioning from female to male, and commentary about the internal and external barriers of gender expectations. While sometimes glossing over his own role in some of the internal conflicts within the FTM community, Green still manages to convey a sense of both the tumult and the promise of that community’s growth and evolution.
The power that ties this book together, however, does not lie in its examination of the history of a community discovering itself, but in Green’s exploration of gender:
“…just allowing little Betty to be called Bob and to participate in some “boys'” activities, if that’s what she wants, could easily allow Betty to see that she’d rather be Betty after all, if that were the truth for her. The “danger” of course, is that Betty might just really like being Bob. But is that really a danger? Why? Are we really so unsure of our gender identities that we think everyone would want to change their sex if they could? If that’s the case, we’d better take a closer look at our assumptions about gender, sex, and identity.”
While Green’s book is literally several helpful tools in one, the greatest gift of “Visible Man” is the ways in which Green’s words shatter the reader’s preconceived notions of “man,” “woman,” “straight,” “gay,” “bi,” and even “trans.” By sharing his personal journey with such insight, passion and eloquence, Green challenges us to look at, and perhaps discard, all of the categories of human we’ve artificially created to keep ourselves apart.
{ITAL “Becoming a Visible Man”
By Jamison Green
Vanderbilt University Press, 2004}

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.