Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bending the Bookshelf talks to Lianne Simon

Following up on his recent review of A Proper Young Lady (which we posted yesterday) and my earlier review of Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite (which was published in Frock magazine), Samuel sat down for a quick chat with Lianne Simon.

♥ On your web site blog, http://www.liannesimon.com, I note that you have interviewed numerous people in the past. Have you ever been interviewed before?

Yes. A number of times. Some of the book review bloggers have asked for an interview. My publisher did one. Even a couple of online radio programs.

♥ You've gone public about your intersex condition. When and why did you do so, and how has this affected your life?

Midway through reading Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, my editor said, “This is about you, isn't it?” I said, “yes,” but it took another year before I admitted I was intersex in a public forum.

My condition is similar to Jamie's in Confessions. I have a Y chromosome in some of my cells and not in others. That resulted in a mix of normal male and Turner Syndrome female. And a mix of testicular and ovarian tissue.

My mother changed my legal status to female in 1975. I spent most of the next twenty-five years hiding in plain sight as an ordinary woman. In 2000 I married a man who didn't care about my condition or my past. In 2010 I started writing. And in 2012 I started talking about intersex and my personal history in public.

I was terrified the first time. Even though the presentation was at PFLAG, I was sure there'd be someone there who knew me. But they listened with polite patience to me tell them about an intersex kid who wanted to follow Jesus. And halfway through, I saw a smiling face in the crowd. A gay man who worked for the same company as my husband. Afterward, I told him I was glad it was him in the crowd and not someone else.

Speaking about intersex brings home the reality of my condition. There's a cost to being transparent. A vulnerability. I no longer have a place to hide. Nor is it easy to forget what I am. And I never know how a friend will react when they find out.

In the past few months, several people from my church—including one of my elders—have run across my blog. I'm not sure yet how this will play out. What gives me peace is knowing that this is where my Savior wants me—living without a mask.

♥ When did you first realize that you had some physical characteristics that were different from most others?

I always had a strong sense of being other. My facial shape is characteristic of Turner Syndrome. As a child, I was always the smallest, and with my pixie face, thought I might be part elfin girl.

Boys were tall and strong and agile. I have spatial issues, so I got hurt playing with boys. Playing with girls was safer. And more fun, anyhow.

Mom bought me a tea set when I asked, and taught me to sew. But long hair was forbidden; they said I'd look like a girl. Well, yeah. Guess so.

Nobody told me I was intersex, though; my parents insisted I was a boy. I wasn't, but I knew I wasn't a girl either. Only later did I find out why I was so frail as a child. So small. So timid.

♥ In your second book, "A Proper Young Lady," Melanie, the female romantic interest of the main character, often visualizes protagonist Dani as the boy she once knew. In Melanie's case, it appears to help her to appease an internal need for a heterosexual relationship. Can you address the confused and/or disconnected feelings that an AIS-affected individual and her friends often have to deal with?

Historically, there's been a strong hetero-normative push from the medical profession. Vaginal intercourse was considered the gold standard; without it, you couldn't be healthy. So they attempted to force a binary sex on intersex bodies. And a binary gender as well.

One of the most difficult parts of growing up—for anyone, I think—is figuring out who you are. Melanie's childhood fantasies made sense when the girls were both young. She knew Daniel was only pretend—but that's what little kids do.

While Dani was away, she went from little boy with budding breasts to a grown woman. And that change was natural for her. That's what her body did on its own, and she was always comfortable with her body. But there's a touch of projected gender dysphoria for Melanie. She was in love with the little boy and friends with the girl. That Daniel was never real didn't matter to her dreams. Melanie's intersex friend was back, but the little boy was gone.

Melanie always considered herself heterosexual. Daniel was boy enough for their childhood games. And she could be friends with the intersex girl Dani. But loving Danièle would mean being homosexual. Or would it? Especially if Danièle was the father of Melanie's babies. How do sexual orientation rules even apply in a romance involving someone who's intersex?

♥ Has this been evidenced in your life? How?

I'm pretty sure my husband doesn't even think about it. He knows my past, but I'm a woman in his eyes. Since I'm well within the 'normal' range for women, I don't think about it much either.

♥ How has knowing your intersex diagnosis affected you?

When I first got a solid diagnosis, it explained everything. My small size and frailty as a child. My heart and kidney issues. Why I was different—you know—down there. Everything.

I got really angry when I found out that Turner Syndrome mosaicism was responsible for my feminine facial features. My pixie face. My face had a profound effect on my life. But I decided that I did like my face, after all, and wouldn't have wanted a more masculine one.

And of course I realized that having a mix of testicular and ovarian tissue meant I was a hermaphrodite. That's almost as mythical as being an elf. For a while I wanted desperately to be like other people. But I'm not. And that's okay now.

♥ In your writings, you mention a possible genetic link to the syndrome. You reference the suicide of a relative of Dani, the main character in your latest book, whose parents made the gender determination for her with a surgical intervention early on in life. Does this represent an event from your own life experience or simply a commentary on past medical practices?

Danièle has Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. AIS is caused by one of a number of mutations on the X chromosome, affecting the function of the androgen receptors. So it is passed down through carrier mothers. A woman with AIS will often have sisters or aunts with the condition.

Standard procedure used to be early childhood feminizing surgery on the theory that such medical treatment would prevent gender issues. They thought that if the parents never doubted the child's gender, the child wouldn't either.

Gender doesn't quite work that way, however. Surgery, secrecy, shame—the three pillars of intersex treatment led to a generation of unhappy patients. And yes, some suicides.

♥ Realizing that the best practices medical approach to intersex conditions has by-and-large changed, what is your take on the current thinking of the medical establishment?

Unfortunately, the medical establishment is slow to change. The rise of support groups have led to some improvements, but much of that is driven by patients and parents rather than doctors.

♥ Did you have a person in your life on whom you based the character of Melanie?

Melanie's a composite of a number of friends I've had over the years. Had I been into girls, she's the one who would have captured my heart.

♥ Motorcycle accidents play a part in your two novels. Is this something from your own personal experience? 

In college I gave up trying to look like a boy. Until the school gave me a choice between counseling and expulsion. So I cut my hair super short and bought a motorcycle. I hadn't gone on hormones yet, though, so I didn't have any muscles. And I was really skinny—too light to use my weight to maintain control of the bike.

One day, my old British motorcycle took me airborne, and we tumbled down the road. Lying on my back, wondering why there was no pain, I heard a silent voice say I could either live for Jesus or die from my own foolishness. So I found a doctor who treated intersex and trans patients. After I refused testosterone, he told me society would accept me as a girl. So I went on estrogen and talked my mom into changing my legal status to female.

♥ From your writing, you seem well-versed on hospital procedure. Is this from your personal experience?

Almost three years ago, my husband had a traumatic brain injury. I spent two weeks in neuro intensive care, not knowing whether or not he'd survive. After his intracranial pressure stabilized, and the internal bleeding stopped, they brought him out of the coma. Two weeks later, they released him. He went through a month of outpatient physical therapy then. Today, he still has a scar where they drilled through his skull for the pressure sensor.

♥ When did you realize that you had talent as a writer?

The initial draft of Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite was written in third person. Before sending it off to an editor, I tried writing a prologue in first person—the main character describing one of her early birthday parties. For the first time in my life, the words flowed easily from my heart to the paper. That's when I discovered that I had to internalize my characters—to become them—to write well.

♥ You have self-published two novels. Do you ever think of offering your work to a major publishing house?

I spent quite a bit of time searching for an agent for Confessions. Some really liked my writing, but none seemed willing to risk an intersex main character. After I submitted my manuscript directly to publishers, I got three offers. MuseItUp Publishing is a small but traditional Canadian press. They are a digital-first publisher that allows their authors to self-publish a paperback if they don't want to wait. So that's what I did.

I was less patient with A Proper Young Lady. The industry changed, and I was no longer certain I wanted an agent.

♥ Are you currently working on writing anything else?

Yes. Outsider is a Fantasy, an alternate history in which a race of elves is reborn at the end of World War II due to the use of an experimental weapon. The fair folk change gender—not sex—during puberty, and only become one sex or the other after they mate. After seventy years of being quarantined, first contact is made when a human teen washes ashore. One of the young fair folk must bond with it to save its life. But doing so means giving up their dreams.

♥ There was an organization, the "Intersex Society of North America," now defunct. Is there a something that has taken its place? Where does someone get information about AIS?

I've met most of the founders. And you're right, ISNA is no longer an active organization. If you want information on intersex, and especially if you have an intersex child, it's important to contact a support group. AIS-DSD is one of the larger organizations. Their website is at aisdsd.org.

♥ I read on your web page that you are on the board of directors of "Pride School" in Atlanta. Please tell me about that.

Pride School Atlanta is a safe place for bullied kids to get an education. It's open to any kid. Any. PSA uses a “Free School” model that takes a progressive approach to education. You can find out more, or support them at www.prideschoolatlanta.org.

♥ Are you seeing more tolerance about gender issues among organized religion, in general? Has AIS affected your religious views?

I've found a curious schizophrenia in some Christian denominations. For instance, the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention appears to believe that gender issues are understandable for those of us who are intersex, but those who are transgender are in open, willful rebellion against God.

I've shared my history. And what I believe the Bible says about both intersex and transgender issues. Matthew 19:12, for instance, says that some 'eunuchs' are that way from their mother's womb, (i.e. intersex) some are made that way by men (i.e. castrata), and some become eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

You have to understand that, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, a male who is castrated or whose penis is cut off is no longer legally male. So the third type of eunuch mentioned in Matthew 19:12 is changing his legal sexual status by modifying his genitals. For the sake of the Kingdom. In Matthew 19, Jesus goes on to say that not everyone can accept that. Few Christians I know can accept that at face value. But that's what it says.

♥ I have read some people in the transgender community state that their condition is akin to being intersex, not in a physical sense, but in a psychological one. How do you relate to those who are transgender and do you feel a kinship with them?

Many intersex children have a gender forced upon them, sometimes surgically or hormonally. That's not the same as asking for the hormones or surgery because you desperately need them.

Some of us who don't have surgery as a child still end up requesting a change in legal status. But the reasons tend to be different between intersex and transgender people. One factor for me was the desire to be left alone. When I started living as a girl people stopped questioning my gender. My emotional issues disappeared.

I couldn't father a child, nor even a woman penetrate. My skin remained soft long past the time a man would have grown a beard. It's difficult for me to comprehend someone giving up a body that had a normal puberty, that can have vaginal intercourse without surgery, and can reproduce. I longed for all of that.

On the other hand, I rejected testosterone because I didn't want to get broad shoulders, muscles, and facial hair. I liked my body's feminine characteristics. So I understand that going through the wrong puberty would be a torment.

♥ Is there something I haven't asked you that you would like to share?

A few people have questioned why Dr. Pierson would do some of the things she did. Why she was willing to help Melanie and Danièle with a surrogacy. Dr. Pierson knew both girls' mothers from their childhoods. Melanie's sister has the complete form of AIS. Danièle's aunt had PAIS. Dr. Pierson was their doctor as well. Her history with intersex patients goes all the way back to the 1970s. To someone she met when she was a medical student. Jamie.

♥ Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. All the best to you in your future endeavors.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.


A heartfelt thanks to Lianne Simon for agreeing to join us today, and to Samuel for taking the time to arrange the interview and bring us all together!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Proper Young Lady by Lianne Simon

"A Proper Young Lady," by Lianne Simon is a book, that in part, concerns itself with people coming to terms with who they really are. It is a deep and touching novel that focuses on a young adult born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. This topic is presented in such a sensitive way that the reader can genuinely understand and imagine what the experience of having this syndrome is like. In addition to the gender variant protagonist Dani, here is also a second key character, Dani's childhood friend, also involved in her own struggle for identity, but in some very different ways. The two are deeply bonded in friendship and a promise made when they were very young looms large for these friends as it weaves itself throughout the story.

This is a poetic novel that carries with it an almost ethereal feeling. It is a work of romance, replete with longing, unfulfilled expectations and thwarted dreams. There are some rather unusual twists and turns as it rushes toward a dramatic conclusion, leaving the reader hanging until the end. On another level this is a book that examines some of our deeply ingrained societal prejudices, particularly concerning sexuality and gender. It is rich in character development and written in a unique style whereby the reader is privileged to experience and be like the proverbial “fly on the wall,” as witness to the innermost thoughts and feelings of the central characters. You couldn't ask for much more in a novel.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sacrifice by Cooper

Author Cooper always seems to have some higher principle or point to make with his writings. Employing the realistic backdrop of high school and college football, Cooper weaves a story of gender transition, which for one smallish individual, served to strengthen his passing and ground game. In "Sacrifice,"protagonist Courtney is a fine, although too small and not-quite-good enough for a college scholarship kind of quarterback. Just as the Greek god Hercules found colossal strength in his long hair, our smallish hero, with the assistance of his female love interest, finds strength through feminization. The more girlish he becomes the better player he turns out to be.

Just in case the analogy is not apparent, our hero's natural male characteristics such as his libido and machismo are actually sapping his strength. Is there a moral in this?  For Courtney, his total feminization provides the strength to succeed and proves to be the answer. "Sacrifice" is an excellent story with some on-point football knowledge. I particularly liked the author’s Doug Flutie reference.  For those who are not football fans, the diminutive (by football standards) Flutie rose to prominence during his college football career at Boston College in the 1980s, where he received the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest honor, before going into an all-star career in the CFL. His "Hail Mary" touchdown pass against Miami in 1984, dubbed "The Pass", is considered among the most memorable moments in sports.


Monday, February 8, 2016

His Name Is Rebecca by Rebecca De Havalland

Gender dysphoria and sexual abuse appear to have been at the roots of the dysfunction described in author, Rebecca De Havalland’s memoir, “His Name Is Rebecca.” This is a book about a person who suffered sexual abuse as a child with severe emotional issues resulting, all in a context of gender variance. These events and issues lead to a life of broken relationships, drug and alcohol addiction, despair and, we hope, eventual recovery. Although sex change features prominently in this story about a life that covers the better part of six decades, for this reader, gender transition was not the main focal point. The author, a person who achieved a modicum of fame during the latter decades of the 20th century, was a hairstylist and also ran modeling agencies in England and Ireland. However, she was seemingly more often known for a notoriety fueled by her drug and alcohol-related exploits.

This book about the author’s life depicts extreme contrasts. There is drinking, drugs and a myriad of relapses and recoveries. The author hits bottom and just when you think that this is as low as she can go, she plunges even lower. There are an assortment of physical ailments such as broken bones, failure of heart, liver and other major organs. There is healing and lots of help from friends, resulting in near-miraculous “nine lives” recoveries. Work enterprises galore are begun, fail and then fall by the way side. Stacks of money are made, burned through and/or lost. There are lovers and friends galore. The cycle repeats itself constantly. There is the death of a lover, a dysfunctional family, loss of a child through divorce and then the ultimate and moving reunion and eventual business partnership with that child. This is an interesting, painfully honest and self-analytical memoir. It is also a cautionary tale and well worth the read.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Freebie Fiction Friday - Putting the TG in TGIF!

Well, if it's Friday, then that must been it's time for Freebie Fiction Friday . . . time to put the 'TG' in TGIF (and the 'FD' in Friday)!

Every Friday I take the initiative to search through thew newly free titles on Amazon, and to identify those that might be of interest to trans* readers, fans, and lovers. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still download the titles through one of Amazon's free reading applications, and covert it (if need be) with Calibre. I can tell you I do most of my reading on my tablet, using Kindle for PC, and it works beautifully.

Please do be sure to check the price before downloading anything, though, as most freebies are limited time offers, and some are specific to certain regions.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cuckolding Her Sissy Husband by Domina Dixon

Although it deals with different characters and tells a new story, Cuckolding Her Sissy Husband could almost serve as a spiritual sequel to Emasculating Her Husband. Where that story saw a proud, macho jerk broken by his wife, emasculated and lovingly humiliated, this one introduces us to a husband who has already become his wife's sissy, and whose humiliation is taken to the next level.

Domina Dixon takes us from spanking, to pegging, to cuckolding in quick succession, with a story that focuses on the power and pleasure of femininity, but which also gets inside the head of the submissive sissy. Richard does not enjoy his humiliation, but he secretly likes it, creating an awkward internal divide. I would have liked more scenes from his perspective, to understand how his emasculation feels, but I know that is not the focus.

The relationship here is not as loving as in the last book - in fact, Charlotte is a woman I disliked almost as much as I admired - but I quite liked the introduction of one of Richard's old coworkers into his humiliation. She rounds out the story nicely, and the final chapter with Charlotte's new lover is cuckolding done right.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Emasculating Her Husband by Domina Dixon

With Emasculating Her Husband, Domina Dixon begins by taking one of our greatest fears and turns into one of our wildest fantasies. Patrick is horrified to be caught indulging in a little crossdressing and self-bondage, but as angry as she initially is about his lies and his secrets, Theresa soon recognizes an opportunity to take complete control of their relationship.

That is, of course, where the feminization comes in . . . but it is with the involvement of her niece that the emasculation begins. Betraying your sissy urges before your wife is one thing, but having her college-aged niece actively participate takes the humiliation to a whole other level.

What I loved most about this story is that it is done (almost) entirely without cruelty. Even in their darkest, wildest, kinkiest moments, Theresa still loves her sissified hubby. She takes total control over him and their life together, forcing him into chastity and pegging him mercilessly, but it is all about the erotic thrill of the power exchange. Where the cruelty comes in is with Megan, but it makes sense given her temporary place in the house.

As for Patrick, I loved the fact that he was not instantly broken or magically revealed to be the perfect submissive. He knows, deep down, that he is a sissy, so he overcompensates by being a macho jerk. When the emasculation begins, he fights his urges, resents it, and despises himself for allowing it to happen, but he also wants it, needs it, and enjoys it. His wife takes him farther than he ever dreamed - and even introduces a few fetishes I was surprised by - but it all makes for a well-written, sexy, powerful story.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fourplay Fetish Feature: An Interview with Domina Dixon

Continuing our Fourplay Fetish Feature on her erotic female domination and forced feminization fiction, Domina Dixon has graciously agreed to stop by for a chat about her fantasies, fetishes, and fiction.

♥ Thank you so much for taking the time to join us, Domina. We are so very delighted to have you! For those readers who have yet to encounter your work, can you give us a brief introduction?

Thank you for interviewing me, Sally. I’m really flattered that you asked! During the day, I'm a pretty normal teacher at a local college. At night, however, I slip into a pair of black spike heels and I become my alter-ego, who has been publishing female domination/feminization books on Amazon for a few years now.

♥ You’ve been published for about 3 years now, with multiple stories available. What was it that prompted you to begin writing?

Believe it or not, Ann Michelle got me started. I love her books. So, a few years back, I emailed her to tell her that. We began chatting and soon enough, she was encouraging me to start writing my own books. I decided to give it a chance and the rest, as they say, is history.

♥ If it’s not too personal a question, where does your experience with female domination and transvestism begin, and are there any real-life experiences that have made it into your stories?

I’ve felt a desire for both for as far as I could remember. I honestly have no idea where this comes from, but I’ve always felt drawn to strong women and it’s always made me tingle, for lack of a better word, to feel like I’m being dominated. The transvestism first began somewhere in my teens and it seemed connected to girlfriends. Whenever I dated a girl, I soon found myself longing to wear her clothes and then for her to discovery me.

In terms of real life, there are a few minor things that have worked their way into my books, but nothing dramatic at this point.

♥ Forced feminization, emasculation, and cuckolding are recurring themes in your work. What do you think is the appeal in being ‘forced’ to break social taboos and indulge our most intimate selves?

I think the “forced” aspect makes it easier to go further. I think there is a lot of fear that many of us are struggling with – fear of rejection and fear of “going too far.” The forced aspect removes both fears and makes it easier because someone else is doing it. But at the same time, it gives us a level of comfort that we can tell ourselves, “this wasn’t really my idea,” even if it was. I also think that genuine loss of control is perhaps the most exciting aspect of submission and that can only be found when the character we see as ourselves loses control and is forced to go further than they wanted.

♥ To take it one step further, what do you see as being the difference between ‘mere’ forced feminization and true emasculation? Is it that emasculation strips away an identity, while crossdressing builds one, or is there something more intimate to it? 

Great question. I think forced feminization is either about freedom or humiliation. It’s freedom if you take a man who wants to be feminized but can’t do it himself and you make him do what he really wants to do deep down. In that case, the male personality is replaced by a female one, but happily.

It’s about humiliation if you force a man who is proud of his manhood (or insecure in his manhood) and make him risk exposure having been feminized. In that case, the male persona remains and must “answer” for what the man has been made to do. The humiliation is external as it comes from being surrounded by people who know about your manhood having been humiliated.

Emasculation is a different form of humiliation. Emasculation is about making the male persona into a prisoner in a feminized existence by taking away the man’s ability to ever assert his masculinity again. Here, the humiliation is more internal as it comes from the man knowing that he has lost power and prestige and is now “inferior” to what he had been before.

♥ If we might ask, where does your personal appeal lie – is it in the role of the dominant female, or that of the submissive male?

Without a doubt, as a submissive male. I absolutely fantasize about being controlled by a strong woman who wants to make me feel controlled.

♥ Erotic fiction transports us into our fantasies, allowing us to live them vicariously. If it’s not too personal, where does the lifestyle end and the fantasy begin for you?

I suppose it ends when you get into those day to day things that aren’t as sexy as they sound in books. In other words, it’s super sexy in fantasy to be dressed as a sissy maid and ordered to clean your Mistress’s house. But it’s not so much fun to clean a bathroom in high heels as your girlfriend is out with her friends.

♥ If we could ask one more personal question, is there a personal fetish or a fantasy that you haven’t yet explored in your fiction?

There is one I’ll probably never write about because I’m not even sure how to handle it: male pregnancy. I’ve occasionally fantasized about being made to bear my girlfriend’s children, but I honestly wouldn’t know how to write that.

♥ On that note, looking towards a more intensely submissive future, what can readers look forward to seeing from you next?

It’s hard for me to tell because I sometimes find that my stories don’t work out the way I intend them too when I start them. Right now though, I’m working on fairly realistic story of a husband submitting to his wife. I’m also working on a story with Ann Michelle of all people! That one’s about a bet and I love that I get a chance to work with her!

♥ Ooh, we'll definitely look forward to that. Thanks again for taking the time to join us!