[Autogynephilia] Reviewing “Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies” :: An Introduction

[Picture] A stack of brightly covered books roughly making a rainbow

Photo by: Horia Varlan

Last week, I took some time to pen a letter to you, the reader of this blog. In that letter, I mentioned that I have found new motivation to create and write, and that I am interested in making writing a larger part of my life. Of course, if you happen to know me, you know that I would never risk saying something like this without some sort of plan to back it up. So, I would like to welcome you to my plan: the first series written for this blog!

All the way back at the beginning of January, I was just sitting around idly checking my email when I saw a message forwarded to me by an academic listserve that I am part of. In this email, Dr. James Cantor, a rather infamous figure in the field of transgender research, recommended a book for everyone to read about transgender issues. Being that this email was from James Cantor himself, I was already a bit wary of the type of book that he would recommend to a list full of academics interested in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* issues. However, once I opened the email, shit hit the fan. It would seem that the book that he felt best to recommend to this rather discerning crowd was none other than the most recent book by yet another hugely infamous figure in transgender research, Dr. Anne Lawrence, Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism.

[Picture] Cover for Men Trapped in Men's Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism

Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism

After taking a minute or two to cringe (and maybe dry heave) at the thought of Anne Lawrence’s works being offered as a positive resource for academics to gain accurate knowledge about transgender people, I penned a polite response back. Then, a few days later, I got another email in my inbox. This time from a Trans* positive researcher in the field. He offered me a chance to write a review of the book, and I jumped for it! I thought it a great opportunity to make use of an academic medium to explore and explain the internalized transphobia that saturates just about every word Anne Lawrence writes.

However, this isn’t what ended up happening. Instead, after only the first chapter, I am finding myself enthralled by the book, trapped by the nuggets of well-reasoned, rational points in a sea of transphobic language and biological determinism. And this is exactly the problem, unlike what I originally thought, this book seems to be rather complex. Sure, there are a huge number of problematic aspects of the book (and the research that it is based on), but there also seem to be good things that can still be gleaned from its pages.

So, instead of just simply reading the book through and bashing it for its more obvious faults, I have decided to take things slow and write reviews as I read. Hopefully, by doing things this way, I will be able to read the book in more depth, evaluate its points with more complexity, and allow my thoughts a chance to grow and naturally develop before I confine them to the pages of an academic review. This means, that, while I don’t plan on holding back on the more academic side of my writing, I do want to strive for a more expansive and revealing series of posts, in which I can play with ideas, dabble with theories, and say rather nonacademic (and sometimes even rather rude) things.

So, without any further delay, I would like to introduce you to the first series for this blog: Autogynephilia!