From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond.

Author:Morrison, Todd G.
Position:Book review
 
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From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond Morty Diamond (Editor) Manic D Press, San Francisco, 2004 168 pages, $13.95 (10.46 on Amazon)

From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond is an anthology of poetry and short essays written by individuals self-identifying as "gender variant, transgender, third gender, non-gender, monster trans, mtm, genderqueer, transman, trannyboy, ftm, and transsexual" (p. 8). As with most anthologies, readers will consider some entries to be better written, more insightful, and more provocative than other entries. I particularly enjoyed "Transgressive Lust," "The Conversation," "Thoughts on Transcending Stone," "Pecos Bill," "Often," "Wondering," "Father and Son," "Learning to Be Gay," and "Dear Breasts." Conversely, my interest in From the Inside Out lagged when I read the following: "American Transsexual Sacrifice," "A Trilogy of Horror and Transmutation," "Winter (Transition)," "If I Should Die Before I Wake ... Don't Let Me" and "Punk Rock Carnival Whores: A Story." (Given the latter's tangential linkage with gender--radical or otherwise--its inclusion in this anthology is particularly mysterious.) I trust that other readers may concur with (or reject) these assessments.

An important element of From the Inside Out is that it manages to avoid the obscurantism and tortuous prose characteristic of much academic writing on the subject of gender. (The various musings of scholars such as Judith Butler come to mind.) With refreshing clarity, most of the contributors particularize their disengagement from society's hegemonic system of gender; a system which demands congruence between the body and one's psychological understanding of oneself as masculine or feminine (an understanding that often is grounded in definitions promulgated by mainstream society). Contributors also articulate various strategies of resistance to the "rigid gender classifications" (p. 94) promoted by "binary-focused people" (p. 113). These strategies range from modifying the body (and, in so doing, attempting to establish "harmony" between sex and gender) to occupying a state of "otherness" in which one is neither male nor female. Although some of these strategies reflect an essentialist understanding of sex and gender, the book does not accord them less validity than those that are more constructionist. In this regard, the book is admirably...

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