The story begins with the harsh contrast between a 10 year old lying in the comfort of his own bed, full of innocent prayers for God to turn him into a girl overnight, and 47 year old laying on the cold floor of a jail cell, tortured by questions about what left him broken and bleeding . . . and where he goes from there. It’s a shocking contrast, and one that serves to set our expectations for what’s to follow.
Make no mistake, both Jack & Jacquelina are responsible for actions that many readers may find distasteful, but you can’t help but understand – and even appreciate – the thoughts, feelings, and desires behind those acts. We may shy away from stories of anonymous, public sex; heavy drinking; acts of violence, and dangerous, expensive indulgences with transsexual escorts; but we can’t help but confront the doubts, feelings, and insecurities behind them. Clearly, we don’t all deal with our issues in the same way, but there’s a commonality to our issues that’s important.
Something that may jump out at a lot of readers is the terminology and phrases that are used throughout the book. Jack makes no attempt to be politically correct, to pick and choose his words, or to tailor his comments not to offend. He uses terms that he himself admits may be controversial, but which are honest reflections of the world in which Jack & Jacquelina have battled for so long. As uncomfortable as they may make some reads, it’s important to note that he never uses terms like ‘shemale’ maliciously, and never refers to anyone as a ‘tranny’ out of spite. Instead, he adheres to the lexicon that shaped his development, the words that defined him and those around him at the time, regardless of how they may be viewed today.
Over the course of the story, we see Jack & Jacquelina battle for supremacy, with both controlling aspects of his life, but neither representing the whole of who he is. Eventually, he comes to a conclusion that I suspect many readers may share . . . and others might wish they could:
“I am both Jack and Jacquelina. I do not have to choose between the two. When I feel like Jack, I’ll dress as Jack. When I feel like Jacquelina, I’ll dress as Jacquelina. I’m both male and female, depending on my mood.”
In Jack’s case, his crossdressing started out rather innocently – despite those childhood dreams of femininity – as a bold, daring, exhibitionistic form of self-expression. It only evolved into an addiction, and became paired with his other addictions, because of his personality. Throughout his life – and the course of the story – Jack ‘blames’ a lot of things for his problems. Genetics, hormones, and chemicals in the brain are all suspect. Similarly, the inability of those around us to acknowledge, understand, and accept anything that varies from the norm is presented as an easy target for blame. Ultimately, however, this is a story of personal responsibility, one that acknowledges blame and excuses are “a bit of a cop-out.”
While those of us who fall anywhere outside the rigidly defined binary of male/female can be said to have something important in common, some bond that connects us, a key theme of Jack’s story is that, deep down, we are all different. We are human, we are complex, and we are individuals. We cannot be easily defined or explain away, and we need to allow ourselves the freedom to explore, and to discover just who and what we are. For most of us, those explorations aren’t likely to lead us to the extremes that he experienced as Jacquelina, but if they should, we can take some solace in the fact that we are not alone.
Jack’s is a difficult story, full of as many highs and lows, and one that may be seen to have an rather open-ended, happy-for-now ending. Like so many of the great stories of addictions, this is a story of a long, winding road-trip through the emotional and sexual psyche. There’s no promise of eternal bliss, no easy answers provided to the question of gender, and no definitive declaration of what makes a transvestite versus transsexual. Instead, it’s simply the story of a journey – one that is not yet complete – and the lessons learned along the way.