Monday, November 12, 2018

#TransAwarenessWeek: Transgender Biographies & Memoirs: Part One

In honor of Trans Awareness Week, I want to shift gears for a bit and put the focus on the people, the lives, and the stories of the transgender community. Step away from the fiction and the fantasy and recognize those who have not only lived authentically, but been brave enough, bold enough, confident enough to share their stories.

I will have some new reviews coming up this week, but I wanted to kick things off by looking back at some of my favorite reads over the years.

Alice in Genderland by Richard J. Novic: When it first appeared on shelves, more than a dozen years ago now, this was one of the first memoirs to deal proudly and openly with the subject of crossdressing. I had the great pleasure of getting to know Richard/Alice many years ago, and still have my signed copy of the book on my shelves. They not only get what it means to be a crossdresser who craves the full feminine experience, but they don't apologize for the fact or make excuses for how they express such cravings. An empowering read, even if it’s just to find comfort in the confirmation that we are not alone in even our most taboo feelings.

Nails by Emma Johnson: I am pleased to say I knew Emma before she was Emma, and while we have never met in person, I remain a fan and an admirer. Written before her coming out, this is neither a happy book nor a feel-good story. It is a sad and anxious read, full of sorrow, doubt, and pain, but it is a powerful read, one that I could get out of my head, even after I finished reading it. I said in my original review that was not a story of coming out, but a prequel to that life-changing act . . . and I am delighted to say she is proudly living the sequel.

First Year Out: A Transition Story by Sabrina Symington: This is a graphic novel like no other, following Lily's journey from laser hair removal right through gender reassignment surgery, and dealing with a variety of topics along the way, including coming out, self-identity, family acceptance, voice training, hormones, dating, and more. I have since gotten the chance to know Sabrina a little bit, and have become a huge fan of her Life of Bria comics, but this was my first impression . . . and it was a fantastic one. It talks openly and honestly about transgender issues, without coming across as preachy or heavy-handed, and the artwork pulls no punches, never shying away from the struggles we face. Beautifully draw and well-told, however, it is full of more than enough joys to overcome the sorrows.

Am I Still The Victim by M.C. Questgend: I am delighted to call Muriel a friend, and I was both honored and flattered when she asked my advice in bringing her story back to print, with some updates and revisions along the way. Hers is a unique story, in that it is less about gender identity and more about the journey towards gender expression, with a shocking childhood of abuse at the heart of the story. Every reader will come at the story in their own way, and take something different away from it but, for me, it is a story of self-analysis and self-discovery . . . of coping, acceptance, and transformation. Ultimately, we see how she turned horrible negatives into something positive, salvaged the tiny little good parts of an atrocious experience, and found a path to peace, comfort, and understanding. It is not an easy read, but a valuable one.

Confessions Of A Transsexual Porn Star by Meghan Chavalier: This was one of my earliest reads, one of the very first reviews I ever posted, and it still resonates with me today. Meghan’s transsexualism is front and center, coloring her every experience, and influencing each step on her magnificent journey. It is not that she calls attention to it or shoves it in your face, it is just such an integral part of who she is that you can’t escape it. Her life is one of both struggles and triumphs, with an early rape experience ultimately balanced out by true love later on, and bipolar depression is a constant, haunting specter behind even her happiest moments. Whether you are interested in the transsexual experience or just the human experience, Meghan's story is definitely recommended.

Not Your Average American Girl by Christine Beatty: Christine is yet another good friend I have made over the years, somebody I already knew before reading her story (she was one of the first transsexual women to openly perform as a heavy metal musician, which is what originally brought her to my attention), so that made this an interesting reading experience. Hers is a story that opens from a rather tenuous state, introducing us to her at her most vulnerable, and inviting us to share the ups and downs that follow. Whether it is attempting to hide her femininity behind a military uniform, avoiding it with the pretense of a 'normal' heterosexual marriage, or flaunting it with a prostitute’s fetish attire, there is a common theme of looking for solace in all the wrong places. In the end, though, hers is a story of hope . . . of triumph . . . and of a spirit that refuses to be broken.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein: This was an amazing, intense, heartfelt read that goes far beyond questions of gender and sexuality to examine, really, what it means to be human. Really, it is three memoirs in one, as the extended title suggests - the true story of a nice Jewish boy (1) who joins the Church of Scientology (2) and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today (3). That third part, of course, was the most fascinating aspect of the book me, and even if it's filled with pains of its own, the sorrows of her transition are both honest and (largely) self-inflicted. Kate clearly struggled to become the woman she is today, and even if we know she is a stronger person for those struggles, they are still hard to share. As ultimately uplifting and inspiring as her story may be, however, it's framed by a sadness so deep, it's difficult to experience. She begins and ends the book with a virtual shout-out to her daughter, a heartfelt plea for understanding, acceptance, and simple acknowledgment, and I still tear up thinking about it.

I Rise - The Transformation of Toni Newman by Toni Newman: This is fresh (and refreshing) addition to the growing realm of transgender memoirs, being the story of someone who is proudly black, proudly gay, and proudly transsexual. What immediately strikes you when reading Toni's story is that it is neither the story of a victim, nor that of a life fashioned out of the need to escape something or someone in her past. Instead, it’s a story of simply becoming herself, of realizing who she always was inside. Toni’s story is exciting, full of drama, celebrity encounters, and a career that could just as easily have sprung from the pages of an erotic novel. It is also a story that is deeply moving, sometimes sorrowful, but always inspiring.

Tomorrow I will follow up with a second selection of titles, gleaned from my years as a contributor to Frock Magazine - reviews many of you may not have had the pleasure of reading before.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

#TGCaption - Just let it happen (#feminization #femboi #gay)

TG Captions are one of my favorite forms of storytelling. There is no narrative fluff, no extraneous details, just the hook, the twist, and the climax.

Feeling rather playful with this one. Is it a happy tale of self-discovery? A darker tale of transformation and control? Can you trust what Rob(in) says? And what's with Glen's final words? You tell me . . . where does this go next?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

#TGCaption - False Impressions (#transformation #transsexual)

TG Captions are one of my favorite forms of storytelling. There is no narrative fluff, no extraneous details, just the hook, the twist, and the climax.

Did you see that twist coming? Were you expecting something darker, more sinister? I know Frank was, and that was the expectation that I wanted to play with. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Freebie Fetish Friday - Putting the TG in TGIF!

Well, if it's Friday, then it must be time to bend our way into the weekend with Freebie Fetish Friday.

Every Friday I search through the weekend's free titles on Amazon, looking for those that might be of interest to similarly bent 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, or covert it with Calibre to load onto a Kobo, iPad, or anything else.

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


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Edge by Drew A. Lennox (#bdsm #romance #erotica)

My oh my, Edge - the first book of Discovering BDSM by Drew A. Lennox - was absolutely wonderful! Romantic and realistic, it had a fantastic couple I just fell in love with, and was told so beautifully, I longed to see Charlie accept Xander's collar, and yet I never wanted the book to end.

Edge is a romance between an experienced Dom and a woman who is as vanilla as they come. It is the very definition of a slow-burn romance, and one that progresses quite naturally from social media, to text messages, to phone calls, to dinner dates, to . . . well, so much more. Normally, I am not a fan of stories that are so heavy on conversation transcripts, but here that narrative style really works, largely because Lennox intersperses those exchanges with the characters' thoughts, revealing hidden subtexts and teasing the next stage of their relationship.

As for the BDSM aspect, this may very well be one of the best novice explorations I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Xander carefully chooses how and when to reveal his lifestyle to Charlie, and is understanding when she is initially shocked and resistant. There is no pressure there, and her hesitation does not derail their relationship. Instead, it leads to a discussion about the lifestyle, and a slow process of vetting, which is marked by tasks, questions, and long-distance punishments. Through it all Lennox does a wonderful job of capturing Charlie's excitement, her fears, her desires, and her concerns, allowing us to believe in her transformation into a woman who craves the collar.

Largely non-sexual, Edge is still exceptionally erotic, and it makes for a fantastic exploration of submissive sexuality. While I suspect there are whips and chains in their future, this period of vetting is all about verbal commands, simple tasks, the denial of coffee as punishment, and the use of masturbatory edging to increase the need for Xander's touch. This is a story about a lifestyle, about a deeper relationship that involves being owned and care for, not about one-off games or dungeon fantasies. I have never walked away from a book that I so genuinely felt I could live, right now, right here, without altering anything about my life, and that is the best kind of romantic fantasy . . . the one we can dream of attaining.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

HIM HER ME YOU US: A Transgender Story by Savannah Blue (#transgender #fiction)

I feel bad for not liking HIM HER ME YOU US: A Transgender Story more than I did. There is no doubt that Savannah Blue is a wonderful author. She has a strong grasp of people and personalities, and a flair for dialogue and conflict. Technically, her novel is a well-written story, but my issues with River kept me from enjoying it.

River is a sad, angry, unlikable man, given to confrontation, and prone to rough-edged conversations. I did not like him as a character or as a narrator, and that made this a really hard novel to engage with. He rubbed me wrong in just about every scene, so much so that I had trouble separating River's scorn from Blue's opinions, and I found myself questioning what she meant versus what he said. In addition, for a story that hinges on questions of identity, and which pivots around a relationship, I had trouble caring about either.

On the plus side, Blue managed to do something unique with a story about writing, a trope that I find troublesome at best. Books about authors just seem self-indulgent, but by tying River's story to the story of River, this succeeds where so many others fail. The connections and the parallels are there, and the two stories together make for a stronger book. It is just a shame I could not identify better with River (although I did like the brutal honesty of Eli).

HIM HER ME YOU US was a problematic book for me, but a well-written novel that I hope appeals more to other readers than it did to me.

Lover of words. Poetry glutton. Cynic. Idealist. Art collector. Lip gloss addict. Wife. Mommy. NERD. Madwoman. Music fan. Book whore. Beach bum. Water rat. Wine drinker. Bermudian. Las Vegas resident-wannabe. Hopeless romantic. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

TS, I Love You: Weekend Sleepover by Kay Brandt (#romance #erotica #transsexual #lesbian)

TS, I Love You is a new series of short stories by the amazing Kay Brandt, in which she brings her erotic and romantic storytelling prowess to a transsexual relationship. I have been looking forward to this for a while now, ever since she first teased the idea, and I am delighted to say the stories are just as beautiful as I had hoped.

In reading the first two chapters of TS, I Love You I was struck by how Brandt divided the storytelling while using it to blur the gender binary. Unconditional Love totally climaxed around what lies between Presley's legs, but Wanting More was all about climaxing between Annmarie's thighs. It should come as no surprise then that Weekend Sleepover is all about the mutual climax between each other's thighs, although it stops shy of the ultimate consummation of their lust.

This third story does a wonderful job of weaving together threads of friendship and romance, and mixing the honest discussion of feelings with talking dirty. It is a powerful, passionate story, and one that suggests there is more to this relationship than just fetish infatuation. There are some small moments here that made me smile, as Brant deftly explores the difference between gender biology and gender identity, and others that made me quiver and tremble with excitement over the physical manifestation of lust.

Although we are only a few short stories into the relationship, TS, I Love You feels like a full-fledged novel, with more character development and emotional bonding than readers might expect.

Kay Brandt is a seductive storyteller, award-winning adult filmmaker and bestselling author, delivering a passionate blend of story and explicit, graphic content. Kay's current creative passions include writing/directing a new genre of adult films based on erotic books.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Trans Life Survivors by Walt Heyer (#transgender #nonfiction)

Another Swing and a Miss.

With his book, “Trans Life Survivors", author Walt Heyer has now written at least six books on this subject, several of which, including this one, this reviewer has read. Mr. Heyer, who is a self-described “sex-change regretter,” continues to weave his cautionary tale, book after book. Why even care about the issue to this extent?

For the author, it appears to be a very personal thing. At the time of his greatest gender turmoil, Mr. Heyer, who had then lived as a woman for seven years, indicated he was suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, compounded by another serious problem, which is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. He believes that his mental health was the major factor in his ill-advised decision to transition, including undergoing SRS and having breast implants. Other areas of blame fall to a "greedy and inept" medical establishment and to the transgender community itself, the later the author feels greases the path, making transition an almost necessary imperative for those who are gender challenged. In addition to being unduly influenced towards embracing a female gender role by the TG community, the author claims that he was misguided by a self-serving psychiatrist who, as the author later learned, also had a clandestine substance abuse problem. The unfortunate thing for Mr. Heyer was that his sex change had taken place when one of his female alter-egos was the operative persona.

Taken as a group, these issues beg the question, "Where is the author's personal responsibility in all of this?"

What is the big “charge” for Mr. Heyer and the other so called "SRS objectors" who review his books if certain individuals choose to follow their own path? What the positive reviewers of Mr. Heyer's books on don’t really get is that, in spite of Mr. Heyer’s obviously sincere personal regret about his sex change, and the regret of some others he references in his book, there are thousands of struggling people for whom this course of action is their lone salvation. Count your lucky stars if you are not among them.

In this writer's opinion, the sole benefit of Mr. Heyer's books as a whole is that clinicians need to be certain to exercise more prudence with patients and explore every possibility prior to transition. Of course, the same thing goes for prospective transitioners. It is the belief of this writer that this is what the vast majority of professionals and those who are gender variant do anyway. The course of action is rarely totally clear. There may be some with regrets, but the common belief is that most of those who transition gender roles do not ultimately question their decision. It is this writer's view that gender stigmas are the result of societal and patriarchal stereotypes, fostered by the rigid thinking and self-righteousness of many. This is what causes most of the underlying emotional problems seen in transgender individuals. One can’t attribute suicide rates solely to gender dysphoria or sex change.  The major and underlying problem is that if we, as a society, could be more accepting of individual differences as a whole, this discussion would not exist, and people could live in peace in the gender role they choose, much freer of emotional distress.

Lastly, and for this writer least of all, from a technical standpoint, Mr. Heyer's current book contains numerous repetitions that fully served to annoy. In addition, he throws technical lingo around as though he is a trained and fully qualified practitioner in this field, which he is not.