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Whipping Girl, What Becomes You, and Love, Castro Street
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WHIPPING GIRL: A TRANSSEXUAL WOMAN ON SEXISM AND THE SCAPEGOATING OF FEMININITY

By Julia Serano

Seal Press

280 pages

$15.95

WHAT BECOMES YOU

By Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Raz

University of Nebraska Press

304 pages

$24.95

There are two main types of transgender books, Julia Serano says in the introduction to Whipping Girl. One is the memoir of transition, ending in surgery, and the other is the radical gender-trashing manifesto, in the style of Kate Bornstein.

But that may be changing. The past year has seen more mold-breaking work by trans authors than ever before, from the anthology Self-Organizing Men, edited by Jay Sennett, and Max Wolf Valerio's The Testosterone Files to Alicia E.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Goranson's Supervillainz. Now Serano is making a bid for another subgenre with Whipping Girl: the sharp-tongued blend of personal essay and political analysis. And April saw the publication of Aaron Raz Link's What Becomes You, the mutant offspring of the transgender autobiography, featuring strange observations, loopy introspection, and the occasional venture into manifesto — plus a tender 80-page coda by the author's mother. (Full disclosure: I'm the publisher of Other magazine, which excerpted both of these books before publication.)

Serano's Whipping Girl is a compelling critique of the pervasive misogyny that dogs trans women everywhere. Using the term trans-misogyny to describe the phenomenon, Serano argues that people don't dis transsexual women because they think we're "really" men but because of a loathing of femaleness and the feminine. Thus the media portrayals that showcase the "artificiality" of our female appearances and fixate on "before" and "after" photos — not to mention Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, acting like Star Trek's Data in heavy, smeary makeup. At the same time, queer gatekeepers and feminist pundits downplay femininity as artificial, in contrast to the straightforwardness of masculinity.

Meanwhile, Raz Link's What Becomes You takes the transgender memoir to places it's never gone before. The book follows the author's tortuous process of understanding and then realizing his male identity, but it's also an examination of conformity in general, a tour through a world of oddballs, geeks, and outcasts. Raz Link dubs these folks the "am-nots," as opposed to the "have-nots," and he shows, over and over, how reality is "whatever the person who's bigger than you says is true."

The book also demonstrates, in excruciating ...


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