This is a short and interesting book that the author, a former urologist at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center in the 1960s and 70s, describes as “a work of historical fiction.” It details the “stories” of three MTF transsexuals who were a part of a pioneering sex reassignment program there. I placed quotation marks around the word “stories,” because it appears that in writing this book, the author who must by now be in his 70s, referred back to his detailed surgical notes surrounding the actual surgical procedures and then projected his imagination to extrapolate vignettes about these three people, so they are not true stories, as the author explains at the start.
I found the book to be basically interesting and particularly (and most surprisingly to me), I very much enjoyed the actual clinical descriptions of the sex reassignment procedures. There was a certain scientific aloofness and dispassion to these reports that made them almost titillating. I think this was the case because of the radical and life-changing nature of the surgeries described in such a nonchalant and matter-of-fact manner by this physician/author. The three tales about the individuals who became the doctor’s patients were also quite good, but I found them to be rather uneven accounts, with one story in particular being very interesting, while the other two were much less so.
The author attempts to “normalize” the transgender condition as being unresponsive to a “cure” through psychotherapy or other means, so that is a positive. However, there seems to be an implication that a surgical intervention is the only way that transgender individuals can live a fulfilled and happy life, an idea that harkens way back to the time that Dr. Merrill was in practice at the SRS clinic in Minnesota. It seems that there are any number of interventions and adjustments that a transgender person can apply, short of surgery. Lastly, and maybe it’s just me, but there were two references to “Jews” in this book that I thought were gratuitous and unnecessary. All in all though, “Trapped” is a good, interesting and pretty quick read.
[Reviewed by Samuel]