Copyright © 2018 by James Leonard Park
Selected and reviewed
by James Park.
The books are organized by quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the opinions of this reviewer.
Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press,
1996) 212 pages
(ISBN: 0807079405; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F45 1996)
Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press,
1997) 218 pages
(ISBN: 0807079413; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.F44 1996)
This book embraces
several variations of sex and gender:
(in order of importance) transsexuals; homosexuals; cross-dressers;
intersexuals; people with unusual gender-personalities;
and people who transcend conventional sex-roles.
All of these are called "transgender" persons.
But this term is mainly useful for the political project
of winning civil rights for persons with such variations.
Scientifically, the term "transgender" is far too broad and vague
because it lumps all variations of sex and gender together,
without regard to the causes or reasons behind each variation.
(This book casts no light on such possible causes or reasons.)
purposes of this collection
of pictures, stories, and myths of 'transgender' people
is to build a positive image (and self-image)
of all variations of sex and gender.
The author has combed history and pre-history,
looking for positive stories about people (and gods)
with some variation from standard sex and gender:
myths from the major cultures of the world;
indigenous peoples of the New World;
Roman Catholic saints; modern history.
Feinberg also explores tolerance and intolerance
of such variations around the world.
Leslie Feinberg might
like to be referred to as "he"
in any review of this book,
but the present reviewer, knowing her only thru the printed word,
feels that she is more a strong woman in personality than a man.
The author was born female but now lives as a man.
(For more details, read the book.)
The facts of her own life do not distort what she reports
—except in her selection of only positive role-models—
but her interest in the subject was doubtless personal.
Warriors is not an
of people with variations of sex and gender.
Only positive examples and stories are included.
All the 'transgendered' people who suffered internally
or even killed themselves are omitted.
The only suffering acknowledged here is caused by other people
and authorities, who oppressed everyone
who did not fit the standard patterns of sex and gender.
But the purpose of the book is to present positive role-models,
not to present all sides of 'transgenderism'.
The author wants to make the world safer
for all variations of sex and gender.
People should not have to classify themselves by sex or gender.
And they should not have to follow life-paths
dictated by such classifications.
Feinberg seems to believe that sex and gender are free choices.
And we should all have the civil right to live any way we please.
Warriors is richly
with pictures on almost every page.
And the last section is over 30 pages of pictures and stories
of contemporary 'transgender' people.
For years to
come, this book will be a rich source
of stories and descriptions of variations of sex and gender.
Next, we need some careful, scientific analysis
of all phenomena related to sex and gender—and their variations.
Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana
1997) 695 pages
(ISBN: 0-253-33631-7; hardback)
(ISBN: 0-253-21259-6; paperback, 1999)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.D49 1997)
Holly Devor, interviewed 45 individuals
who were born as normal females but who later decided to become men
—socially, hormonally, & sometimes surgically.
She begins her
book with an historical review
of women who lived as men
long before sex-changes or transsexualism were invented.
These women had many different reasons for living as men.
contains several stunning pictures
of people who would always be taken for men:
beards, male-pattern balding, muscles, etc.
But all of these people were born female and later changed to men.
It is very hard to believe that these people ever lived as women
—or that they still have female genitals, which is usually the case.
Real first names are given with these pictures.
in order to protect
the participants in this study were all given pseudonyms.
Thus it is not possible to connect the pictures with the stories.
The author informs me that some of the participants are pictured.
Maybe a follow-up book, two decades into the 21 century,
would find the participants more willing
to have their pictures used along with their stories.
Some books on transsexuals do include 'before' and 'after' pictures
of the individuals who have changed sex.
Devor does not
endorse any single theory
of why some people want to change sex.
She reviews the scientific theories
but remains open to newer explanations that might emerge in the future.
The participants showed a variety of pathways to becoming men.
Some decided relatively late in life,
whereas others knew from an early age that they wanted to be male.
Family background does not provide a comprehensive explanation.
But it is an obvious place to begin looking.
Holly Devor spends quite a few pages exploring
the family backgrounds of the participants.
However, dysfunctional families are very common everywhere.
And most families-with-problems do not produce children
who want to change sex in adulthood.
Additional factors beyond alcoholism in the family,
child abuse, abandonment, or tomboyism must be the reasons
—because millions of other girls had similar backgrounds,
without wanting to become men in adulthood.
Most of the subjects
had a phase of teen-age sex with males.
Some got married and lived as wives and mothers for many years
before deciding to become men.
Almost all had a phase of lesbian identity
(including sex with other women) before they became men.
After their (years-long) transition to living as men,
they were much more satisfied to call themselves
heterosexual men than lesbian women.
(Some had other self-concepts after becoming men, such as gay man.)
Most of them found changing sex to become men
(who could 'legitimately' have sex with straight women)
a much better self-concept than considering themselves lesbians.
Most wanted to fade into the male population
—being considered by everyone they met to be normal, everyday men.
However, their sex-partners knew that they still had female genitals.
includes full discussion of all the dimensions
of changing from women to men:
family, friends, psychological adjustments, new names,
clothes, manners, various hormonal and surgical treatments,
adjustments with sex-partners, etc.
Because they had lived at least a few years as women,
before they started living as men,
they rarely went to the extreme macho position or stereotype.
They were generally known as gentle and sensitive men.
Why did these (and other) women want to become men?
Surely they could have become more stable, deliberate,
self-confident, decisive, independent, autonomous,
courageous, disciplined, foresighted, & pragmatic
—several personality traits from the 'masculine', admirable column
of my Gender-Pattern Chart—without becoming men.
Many women do have these admirable personality characteristics.
So the desire to become the other sex
must be something more than the desire for personality change.
Holly Devor does not
believe that the motivation was primarily sexual
(in the sense of erotic fantasies, for example).
But we can still ask to what degree (or in which cases)
were these women motivated by their sexual yearnings?
Perhaps some found erotic responses deep within themselves
that told them that they already were men,
so they took the courageous step of radically changing their bodies
in order to match their imprinted sex-scripts.
(To learn more about this sex-script hypothesis, click those words.)
From this perspective,
perhaps this book could be seen
(at least in part) as a collection of stories about lesbian women
who decided to go "all the way"
—to become the-men-they-were in their sexual fantasies.
If we understood lesbianism—especially 'butch' lesbianism—better,
perhaps we would understand 'female-to-male transsexualism' better.
If we had a thousand 'butch' lesbians to study,
perhaps most would have sexual fantasies of themselves as men,
but only a few would want to become men.
And perhaps only a small number of these
would actually take the steps to begin living full-time as men.
(However, Holly Devor says that FTM
is definitely NOT a book about lesbians.)
Even more broadly,
this book might be a study of
45 individuals who were born as women
who later decided to live as men for a wide variety of reasons.
If we could have each story separate from the others,
the various reasons for wanting to live as men
might become more clear.
Will better public acceptance of lesbianism
(and other variations of sex and gender)
correspond with a decrease in the demand for sex-change?
Will some of the people studied in this book
later revert to a lesbian self-concept
instead of thinking of themselves as men?
Will same-sex marriage
also correlate with a decrease in 'transsexualism'?
In other words, as same-sex couples are more accepted by the public,
will fewer homosexuals feel the need to change sex?
Here is a basic
criticism of the book,
which can be corrected if Dr. Devor decides to do
follow-up studies 10 or 20 years later with these same participants:
Each woman-becoming-man should have a separate chapter.
This would have improved the narrative quality and interest of the book.
And it would have made the information
better raw material for other scientific analysis.
(The author does provide a Participant Index in the back of the book
that allows careful readers to trace
all mention of any individual throughout the book.
And frequent footnotes tell us
which specific participants are being discussed.)
Because the author
is a sociologist, she looked for general patterns,
especially in the family backgrounds of these women-becoming-men.
But because transsexualism is so extremely rare
—perhaps one person in 100,000—
collecting data about birth order, childhood trauma,
family structure and dynamics, etc.
contributes almost nothing to understanding
why these women decided to begin living as men.
and composite stories would make sense
for exploring a phenomenon that is quite common
—such as getting married or getting divorced—
but when bits and pieces from the lives of these 45 different individuals
are woven together into a composite FTM,
many useful facts might have been lost.
Because the author interviewed each subject personally,
she remembers each story separately.
But we—the readers—might find it difficult to remember
which pseudonym goes with which story.
The participants in this study might have had a wide variety
of highly individual reasons for wanting to live as men.
If so, these special reasons might have been lost in the attempt
to present a general picture of 'the female-to-male transsexual'.
Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society
presents only the positive dimensions of changing to live as men.
Social science will be very interested to learn
how these new men lived 10, 20, or 30 years after their changes.
(Of course, some of the participants
have already lived many years as men.)
study of transsexualism
has been greatly advanced
by this major contribution from Dr. Devor.
But this might be just the beginning of the story.
The Politics of Transgenderism
(San Francisco, CA: Cleis
(ISBN: 1-57344-072-8; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C35 1997)
Califia has created
the most useful summary to date
of all the facts and theories concerning transsexualism.
Sex Changes is based on a careful reading
of the most readily available books
and articles on transsexualism and related phenomena
—such as transvestism and homosexuality.
Califia devotes chapters
the autobiographies of people who changed sex
(both the early, well-known books
and the more recent, less well-known);
scientific attempts to understand and 'treat' transsexualism;
problems in the feminist community
created by former men who have become women
—some now thinking of themselves as lesbians;
the sexual partners of transsexuals;
the political and social movements for acceptance
of all sex-and-gender minorities.
Because of its
of all the background books,
Sex Changes is an excellent place to begin reading
about transsexualism and related phenomena.
Transmen and FTMs:
Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities
(Urbana, IL: University of
1999) 201 pages
(ISBN: 0-252-02439-7; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-252-06825-4; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.C76 1999)
This book describes
the lives and problems
of women who have decided to live as men.
It is based on the author's own experience
and her extensive contacts with a few hundred
other FTM (female-to-male) transsexuals
—in FTM support groups beginning in 1983,
informal surveys, formal surveys, conferences for FTMs,
e-mail communications, phone conversations, etc.
The most concentrated work took place
in San Francisco in 1995-1998.
This book was
originally a PhD thesis,
so it contains comprehensive research into the history
of women who decided to pass as men for at least parts of their lives.
However, most of these women would not be considered transsexuals
by any of our modern conceptions.
advocates the right to change sex
in whatever degree suits the individual.
And this book will be useful mainly to
other women who are thinking about living as men.
It is more advocacy and support than science.
In fact, Cromwell sees the clinicians who control the sex-change gate
mostly as opponents and oppressors of her subjects.
She affirms again and again that 'pathology', 'disease', & 'disorder'
are not the correct concepts for transsexualism.
But she does not offer any alternative scientific explanations.
scientific professionals are not hostile
toward people with variations of sex and/or gender.
It would be good if authors such as Cromwell
would make this distinction
—and tell us which scientific theories they like best,
rather than rejecting all scientific approaches
and affirming whatever mythologies the variant individuals
embrace at any given time and place.
born-females now living as men
made this decision long before they started
any exploration of the scientific literature.
Thus, they often had firmly-established mythologies
of their own making, which explained (to their own satisfaction)
why they needed to live as men.
And often they cling to their beliefs as if they were religious dogmas.
In contrast to
earlier generations of transsexuals,
most of the subjects of this book did not want to fade into
the general population as ordinary, everyday, unremarkable men.
Most had only a few surgeries to become more like men,
such as having their breasts removed.
They often enjoyed their freedom to be either sex
as suited the situation or that particular phase of their lives.
For example, some were known as men on the job
but as butch lesbians in their social relationships.
Others wanted to be known in public as transsexuals
or some form of 'transgender' individuals.
And some even wished to be created intersexual individuals,
people who were born as normal biological females
but who later decided to modify their bodies
to some degree in the male direction.
were largely shaped
within the FTM community of their time and place
—late 1990s San Francisco.
Ten or twenty years later,
they might have different explanations of who they are
and new concepts and/or labels for themselves.
and FTMs definitely arises from
the grass-roots experience of hundreds of born-women
who for a variety of reasons decided
somewhere along the line they wanted to live as men.
This book is recommended both for people struggling
with such questions of sexual identity
and for professionals who are called upon to help them.
This book does not settle any questions of transsexualism,
but it is definitely an important part
of the literature about born-women who want to live as men.
Mildred L. Brown &
Chloe Ann Rounsley
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism
—For Families, Friends, Coworkers,
and Helping Professionals
(ISBN: 0-7879-0271-3; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.B76 1996)
is a California therapist
who has spent more than 20 years
working with transsexuals and their families
—more than 400 transsexuals in all.
She remains positive, affirming, & accepting thru-out.
Brown is convinced that transsexualism is "a medical condition",
not a psychological or psychiatric problem.
She accepts the belief that transsexuals were born that way.
Selves is written mainly for laypeople
—transsexuals themselves, their families and friends,
coworkers, & helping professionals
who have dealt with few or no transsexuals before.
The main chapters cover:
childhood; teen years; adulthood; therapy;
explaining the sex-change to co-workers, friends, & family;
& medical and surgical helps.
Altho she overwhelmingly
who tell her that they were born into the wrong bodies,
she has encountered people
who have "other conditions and problems"
who are "not transsexuals at all".
gives one page
to listing the following 10 conditions,
which do not qualify as transsexualism:
1. Gay men and lesbians
their sexual orientation with the desire to change sex.
2. Cross-dressers who
that they enjoy the clothes of the other sex so much
that they want to become the other sex.
3. Men and women who
with the gender-personalities and sex-roles
assigned by society because of their sex.
4. Men with severe
Because they cannot have sex as men,
some want to become woman.
5. Victims of sexual
assault or abuse,
who therefore want to distance themselves as much as possible
from the bodies in which they were victimized.
If one result of the sexual abuse is that
they cannot function sexually as the sex in which they were born,
they hope that becoming the other sex
will put all the trauma behind them.
6. Persons who dislike
they have fallen into in their original sex
—eg rape, child-molestation, exhibitionism,
and other anti-social and/or criminal behavior.
They want to get rid of the parts of their bodies
—usually penises—that have led them astray.
7. Criminals who wish
to change their
to escape capture by the police.
8. Munchausen syndrome:
People who crave medical attention,
even tho there is nothing wrong with them.
9. Individuals with
who have delusions that they are the other sex.
10. Individuals with
At least one personality believes it is the other sex.
But a sex-change could create serious problems
for the other personalities.
Selves contains lots of practical advice
concerning all of the problems transsexuals will encounter
in the process of changing to the other sex:
announcing one's plans to family, friend, & co-workers,
being re-trained to behave as the other sex,
hormonal and surgical procedures, & financial problems.
Altho this book
does not advance
our scientific understanding of transsexualism,
it does deal comprehensively and compassionately
with the day-to-day problems encountered by people
who are changing from one sex to the other.
The Body Narratives of Transsexuality
(New York: Columbia
University Press, 1998) 270 pages
(ISBN: 0-231-10934-2; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-231-10935-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ77.9.P76 1998)
Jay Prosser was
born a female but now lives as a man.
The books discussed here were mostly written by radical feminists.
Besides advocating the same opportunities for women as granted to men,
Prosser also advocates the freedom to change sex
—or to present oneself as an intermediate sex between female and male.
Thus, this book grew out of a personal and passionate involvement
with the cause of sex-and-gender liberation.
research for Second
Skins was a reading
autobiographies of people who have changed from one sex to the other
—and some important works of transsexual fiction.
Jay Prosser is aware of the pressure to fabricate
a standard transsexual story
in order to convince the sex-change psychologists and surgeons.
And later these stories are elaborated into full-blown autobiographies,
but still with the purpose of justifying a sex-change.
Narratives are very important to transsexuals,
first because they must 'remember'
always wanting to be the other sex from childhood.
exploring the psychological reasons
for wanting to change sex.
And any discussion of the subjects' sexual orientations,
sexual responses, & sexual relationship is mostly absent.
Such an exploration might have revealed that most of the butch lesbians
discussed in this book were trying to understand
why they have sexual fantasies of themselves as male.
Early imprinting of sex-scripts might have been a better explanation
in many cases than 'transsexuality'.
A major gap in the research behind this book is modern scientific sexology.
The author does review old-fashioned explanations and some Freud.
the changing models
of these variations of sex and gender:
In the early 1900s, these people were called "inverts"
—meaning that they had "contrary sexual desires";
then they were "homosexuals";
finally some prefer to think of themselves as "transsexuals"
—and even later as "transgender persons".
In the early
days of 'transsexuality'—beginning in the middle 1900s—
most transsexuals wanted to become completely the other sex.
When this book was written—at the end of the 1990s—
a new self-concept was emerging:
"Transgender" people want to make
what used to be a transition into an identity.
These persons do not want to fade into the general population.
They want to be known publicly as "transgender"
—somewhere between the two sexes,
perhaps with the freedom to shift back and forth at will.
For a while they called themselves "preoperative transsexuals"
or "nonoperative transsexuals".
And they greatly outnumber the people
who have undergone sex-change surgery.
might not be the best people to consult
when trying to create a better model for these phenomena.
They might be too passionately involved in justifying their own choices.
But at least such autobiographies
provides lots of raw material for later scientific analysis.
All in all, Second
Skins is an important
to the fast-growing literature of transsexualism and transgenderism.
2014, this bibliography on transsexualism was divided into two files.
Continue reading More Books on Transsexualism.
In order to keep room for expansion of each section,
the second file begins numbering at 20.
revised 4-24-2009; 9-25-2010;
1-23-2014; 2-27-2014; 5-19-2014; 6-18-2014; 6-22-2014; 4-26-2018;
If you would like to read the first-person stories of a few transsexuals,
go the the Transsexualism—Autobiographies Bibliography.
bibliography is related
to several others in sexology.
Here is the complete list:
Variations of Sex and Gender B-V-SG
I. Intersex B-CRIT
II. Transsexualism B-TS
Transsexual Autobiographies B-TS-AB
III. Sex-Roles B-ROLE
IV. Gender-Personality B-GEND
V. Sexual Orientation B-ORNT
VI. Cross-Dressing B-TV
Return to the SEXOLOGY page.
Go to the Book
to discover 350 other reviews
organized into more than 60 bibliographies.
the beginning of this website
James Leonard Park—Free Library