Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview (plus giveaway): Alice Novic

Welcome to our latest Spring Celebration interview, the first part of an in-depth chat with the amazing Alice Novic, author of the classic transgender memoir Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age.

For those of you who have been following along, you'll remember that Amnesia Sparkles from GenderFun.com shared her thoughts on the book earlier this month.

Alice has graciously agreed to stop by and take part in a very detailed interview, and will be returning next month to continue our conversation. Before we get into that, though, let's take a look at Alice in Genderland:

Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of AgeAlice in Genderland tells the story of Dr. Richard Novic, Harvard-educated psychiatrist and crossdresser. No memoir like it has ever been published. Most of the time, he is a man at the office or a husband and father at home. But one evening a week, she is a woman about town, shopping, dining, dancing, and dating a man for over six years. And it’s all out in the open. Although he now leads a richly expressive life, Dr. Novic suffered since childhood with a secret, a desire he was in no way equipped to handle, but one that eventually burst through his denial, a few months before his wedding day. Just once, he felt, while he still could, he had to know how it felt like to be a woman. Like Alice in Wonderland, his curiosity led him to fall headlong down a rabbit hole, through desperate straits, mind-opening surprises, heart-rending changes, and boundless love. By the time he was back on his feet, he was a different person, living a lifestyle he hadn't known existed. Anyone who has struggled to figure out who they are and how they want to live will see themselves in this powerful life story.

I'll be sharing my thoughts on the book next month (before Alice returns to complete our chat), but let's get on to the reason we're all gathered here today . . . the lovely, charming, and beautiful woman behind the book:

♥ Thanks again for stopping by, Alice - I'm so excited you were able to fit us into your schedule. For starters, especially for those who may be new to you and your writing, please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a happily married Harvard educated psychiatrist with two pre-teen kids and a long-term male lover. Oh, and I’m a crossdresser, one who spent five years glued to a keyboard making sure the world had at least one serious crossdressing memoir.

♥ If that's not an introduction that's guaranteed to keep people reading, I'm not sure what is! Can you tell us what was it that first prompted you to write Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age?

7 Secrets of Successful CrossdressersBy 2000, the popularity of my advice column in Girl Talk magazine had proven that folks in our community were interested in the positive, clear, but not always politically correct, ways I’d found to look at things. At first I intended to expand these ideas into a book along the lines of Lacey Leigh’s Seven Secrets of Successful Crossdressers.

But then two things happened. First, my wife, Melissa, thought it would be much more interesting for people to read about how real experience had led me to certain conclusions, rather than simply provide them with the accumulated wisdom of a young smart-aleck psychiatrist.

Second, as I considered writing more of a memoir than a treatise, I discovered that, but for one small exception, no one had ever published the life story of a crossdresser. I welcomed the chance to give us a voice and share my experience and training with peers who might never see me in the office. That was my mission.

♥ Although six years doesn’t really seem like that long ago, your book was a novelty at the time, a brave foot forward for the transgender community. What was the initial reaction to it from friends and family?

Most of my non-trans friends work around the music and motion picture industries here in L. A. They loved the idea and encouraged me to embark on the project. In fact, their eagerness to learn more about me and my transgendered life led me to overestimate how much mainstream interest there might be.

I was utterly bewildered, when the first literary agent I spoke to asked, “What’s the hook?” What she meant, I ultimately realized, was “Why should a mainstreamer bother to read this?” I didn’t understand that the hook for my friends - and family for that matter - was that they already knew me to some extent hence were eager to soak up all the juicy details. The kind of hooks most agents suggested, though, would have turned my book from “Queer as Folk” into “Will and Grace.” I just wasn’t willing to do that.

People in Melissa’s family were as supportive as my friends and readily saw the value in what I was doing. Lis and I, though, asked most of them, in the end, not to read the book because it might be embarrassing for her. Folks in my family, on the other hand, knew what kind of mission I was on but didn’t want to hear much about it. My being a crossdresser just didn’t fit in with the proud picture they had of me as a son or brother.

♥ You clearly went into this with open eyes of your own, but did publishing your book open any eyes around you or change any of your day-to-day interactions?

No, not really, I’m glad to report, but that was, after all, part of the plan. Once I realized that it was going to be difficult to garner much mainstream interest, I decided to offer my trans readers more candor and excitement and to limit the risks I would take in marketing my book to the masses. There’d be no Oprah interviews - even if she begged me - nor ads in the “American Journal of Psychiatry.” In doing so, I caused far less disruption to my professional and private life than many might imagine. Basically, I live the same life now as I was living at the end of Alice in Genderland, except that I’m more focused on my kids and not actively writing.

♥  In one of your articles, you define yourself as an “inbetweenie, neither male nor female, but truly and deeply trans.” I love the idea that it’s okay to simply be different and to find comfort in your own personal situation. How much pressure do you feel from others to commit to standard role, and how do you find such satisfaction in being an inbetweenie?

I absolutely see myself as an inbetweenie and don’t feel much pressure to skew my self-image to male or female. However, in the six days a week I spend at home or at work in male form, I refer to myself as a person but allow people to presume that I’m just a regular, non-trans man. I basically don’t get it into it, except once in a while if Melissa tries to lump me in with men in general.

In the day or so I spend out as a woman dining or dating, I’m fine with folks presuming I’m a regular woman, but that doesn’t seem to happen too much - and my powers of denial just aren’t what they used to be. So in that case, I do feel pressure but not pressure to declare myself man or woman, but to see myself as most people see me: a trans woman, a very special, awkward kind of woman, like a dwarf woman. It’s still a bit distressing, but it’s reality and part of being the kind of person I am.

On the inside, accepting myself as an inbetweenie feels natural and liberating . . . like being a bisexual. I can like whoever and whatever I like without causing me to freak out and reach for the nearest shot glass or panic pill. Yes, I’m mostly into geeky male things like science and history and am even a half-decent pistol shot. And yes, I love things like shape, movement, emotions, and, that most feminine of obsessions, relationships. My non-T friends may see me as a walking contradiction, but I feel completely free to shop down the meat aisle and vegetable aisle.

♥ That is probably one of the most honest and refreshing personal outlooks I can imagine, and I love it. You’ve talked about evolving, how your gender identity and sexual interests have changed over time. How much of that has been a challenge to deal with, and how much a joy to discover?

Yes, like many of us trans folk, I have changed dramatically over time, and that’s certainly had its challenges. Going from conventional masculine man to slightly foofy but still wholesome Tri-Ess man to awfully-close-to-TS bisexual sent shock waves through me and anyone attached to me, like the two major women in my life.

My panic over experimenting sexually crushed my ex-wife so badly I had to end things for the sake of both of us. Later, my continued revisions to my wish list seriously shook Melissa and her sense what she wanted in life until we ultimately worked it out. Don’t try this lightly at home: it requires serious communication and self-control.

Despite these challenges, being true to the freak I am inside has made my life meaningful and full of adventure. It has transported me from a dull gray world into some kind of lush, pulsing Avatar place, where I’ve known the joy of sampling an astounding array of life options before discovering who and what I care about the most. I believe non-trans people too can come of age like this but we, at least, have a bigger sign pointing the way.

To be continued . . .


A huge "thank you" to Alice Novic for stopping by. You can check her out on the web at http://www.aliceingenderland.com/.

Oh, and be sure to come back next month when we'll finish our chat, and I'll share my own thoughts on Alice in Genderland.


With Alice Novic here to help usher in the last week of our Spring Celebration, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on either her book or her interview.

Don't forget, this is also your chance to become eligible for this week's giveaway, so be sure to include your email address in your comment. Of course, you don't have to be a follower to win, but being a follower will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know in your comment if you're a new follower or an old favourite).


  1. Interesting interview. I've got to get this book and find out how you live. I'm hooked just from this interview.

  2. I feel like we've been left with a cliffhanger! Very interesting, looking forward to reading this.

  3. Now I want to read part two of the interview. This is the first time I've heard about this book and will look for it.

    new follower

  4. Guess by this time I must be an "Old Favourite."

    Found the interview with Alice Novic to be really fascinating! A while back, I had the distinct privilege of having an insightful, in-person conversation with Dr. Novic. Walked away from this tête-à-tête with an expanded understanding of crossdressing and all its nuances. I was also fortunate enough to have obtained an autographed copy of Alice in Genderland; which now has a prominent place in my ,small but growing, GLBT library.

    Of course, I learned much,much more after actually reading this well-designed and authoritatively written book!

    Please add me to this week's (final) drawing.

    Sincerely yours,

    Diana ( justdiana@optonline.net )

  5. I'm delighted that Bibrary Bookslut has interviewed author Dr. Richard Novic MD, and when finished with this comment I will eagerly dive back into the interview, Part II.

    I stumbled upon "Alice in Genderland" almost by accident on Amazon as I cast about in some dispair for a way to express my own need to be feminine and crossdress that I had suppressed for so many unhappy years, and fell headlong down the rabbit hole of total absorption in Dr. Richard Novic's, aka. Alice's, remarkable story, a story of discovery, self-awareness and adventure that almost defies belief.

    The revelation, among several in the book, that stood out the most for me was the author's achievement not only of acceptance and comfort with his transgendered self, but the insight borne of optimism, a healthy inner strength, and his/her experiments and adventures to gain understanding, that his feminine persona as Alice was a "gift," to be explored and enjoyed fully, even including the natural erotic needs of a woman. As Alice put it, "I want to be the best woman I can be, and do all the things a woman does."

    I believe all of this would not have been possible without the extraordinary (and very rare) support and enlightened love of his wife, and the mother of his two children, Melissa.

    "Alice in Genderland" made such an impression on me that I still dwell on and envy Alice's exciting story daily. The book, written in an accessible, breezy and frequently humorous style, is essential reading.

  6. Dear Bibrary Bookslut,

    My comment is the one above, by "Anonymous". (It appears that this comment will also have to be labeled "Anonymous.") I don't believe in writing my words anonymously. I was hoping to place my name and email address above my comment, but a message kept popping up that said: "URL contains illegal characters." My email address does not contain illegal characters. It is my legal, legitimate email address.

    Elaine M.