But who could describe my fright when, on the next morning, I awoke and found myself feeling as if completely changed into a woman. — Case 129, Autobiography, from
Psychopathia Sexualis, a Medico-Forensic Study by Richard Von Krafft-Ebing
At the time the passage above was written, people who felt trapped in the wrong gender automatically became case-studies. Today they become the men and women they always felt they were. Transsexuals test our notions of what it is to be male or female and, more provocatively, what it means to be one self as opposed to another. “Their stories,” says Jonathan Ames, “hold the appeal of an adventurer’s tale.”
In Sexual Metamorphosis
, Ames presents the personal narratives of seventeen gender pioneers. Here is Christine Jorgensen, the first celebrity transsexual, greeting thousands of well-wishers from the stage of Madison Square Garden. Here is Caroline Cossey, former model and Bond (as in James) girl, being outed in the tabloid press. Here is novelist and English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan discussing her impending transformation with her heartbroken spouse and supportive yet confused colleagues. The result is a fascinating and compulsively readable book, filled with anguish, introspection and courage.