Making the Leap.

AuthorLueders, Bill

I have read a lot of memoirs, some popular, others obscure. I'll tell you my top three: This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff, The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick, and My Mother Is Now Earth by Mark Anthony Rolo, a long-time contributor to The Progressive. If the list were a bit longer, I'd include Wild by Cheryl Strayed, An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, and maybe even the eponymous classic The Education of Henry Adams, still brilliant after all these years.

A great memoir takes us into the life of someone whose experience may be quite different than our own, and makes us feel the complicated reality of their own efforts to make sense of it. In that vein, P. Carl's new book, Becoming a Man, delivers a powerful blend of raw candor and tender vulnerability. In his memoir, Carl, who after a long career in theater is now an artist-in-residence at Emerson College in Boston, performs a remarkable feat of personal truth-telling.

The book is a celebration of self-discovery, as Carl, over a two-year period that coincides with the start of the Trump Administration, transitions from a queer woman to transgender man. He shares his joy at his new identity--this is, after all, what he has always wanted--as well as the challenges it presents to the relationships in his life.

Shortly after Carls transition, his wife, Lynette, learns that she has uterine cancer. She reacts with anger, not just at the cancer, but also at him. If he hadn't transitioned, they would still be "two women in this together." As it is, she feels alone. "I miss Polly," she tells their couples therapist, using the name of the woman she had known before the transition. Carl is defensive, focused on his own hurt feelings.

"I may not feel what Lynette is feeling, but I have spent my entire life around women, in love with women, performing as a daughter, sister, and lesbian lover," Carl writes. "How could anyone think I don't know how to care for Lynette, especially Lynette?"

This sort of heartbreaking...

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