Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Choices by M.N. Thomas

I don't suppose it would be much of a spoiler to disclose that "Choices" addresses gender transition. We note that Tim, our sweet, gifted and multi-talented protagonist, as a youth who just never quite fit in. Tim knows something is askew, but he can't quite get a handle on what it is. Traumatized by a sexual assault he experiences as a young teen, he has difficulty forming trusting close relationships with peers. Searching for identity and a place in the world, his own ingrained self-hatred and internalized homophobia cause him to completely destroy his relationship with a young woman who loves him, simply because she asks him a disturbing question.

When finally away at college and on his own, loneliness coupled with opportunity kicks in and Tim is slowly drawn to follow a path toward feminization. Leading the life of an ineffectual male by day, he moves more and more into a female role by night, eventually meeting people who totally support his gradual and graceful transition toward womanhood. The irony of it all and the power of this novel is that Tim never wants any part of this, but is somehow mysteriously and irresistibly drawn to it all.

"Choices" is another emotionally evocative book from M.N. Thomas, so be prepared to have it bring up some deep feelings. Evident is a kind of joy tinged with sadness as Tim slips slowly and inexorably away from the trappings of a not-too-satisfying male life, traversing a path toward eventual womanhood. There is a hollow and empty feeling relating to the knowledge of Tim's sad struggle to be a boy, his lost future as a man, and the forever changed nature of his relationship with the parents and siblings who loved him as Tim, particularly his dad.

Although "Choices" is not about the forced feminization of the main character depicted in the author's earlier works, it relates to these books in terms of Tim's actual "lack of choice" to transition. In this sense the title, "Choices" appears to have been ironic and perhaps purposely so. On the surface Tim seems faced with a choice, however, we observe that he really has no choice at all. Choice implies free will and in Tim's case, his decision to change gender roles really seemed to be a slam-dunk.

I won't go into the unusual circumstances behind Tim's transmogrification to Tiffany because that would definitely be a spoiler. However, we note that from early childhood Tim was quite conflicted. Feminine in his outlook, he constantly dealt with a morass of disturbing feelings about his gender and sexuality. By his early twenties he had begun his feminization process and a burgeoning female presentation ultimately finds him more and more out in the world as Tiffany. Later on there are the pronounced and vivid effects of the long-term use of female hormones. So, when a serious health concern sets off a family crisis, a resolution to the problem is indicated and finally achieved.

Gender transition for many is not that much of a choice, but an imperative. Tiffany eventually comes to terms with who she really is and in the process, finally finds her true love. However, she is not quite complete until she cleans up some of the demons of her past, offering the reader some excellent lessons to live by. The outcome of this book is vivid proof that one can get closure about any vexing issue even if others involved do not accept one's point of view. In the final analysis, Tiffany learns that completion is not about what others think. For Tiffany, completion is ultimately about what she thinks.

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