Understanding gender

2010-01-06 00:00

THIS book presents a fascinating array of personal stories which add to our understanding of diversity and gender. It is particularly timely after the Caster Semenya debacle in that it illuminates our understanding of the varieties of ways in which sexuality­ and gender are manifested.

The particular focus is on the experience of having being born into what feels like a wrongly sexed body, thus the stories centre on male to female and female to male transitioning. In doing so, the particular psychological pain of being forced to conform to society’s norms or to be viewed as “other­”­ is made clear, as are the processes available for external, hormonal and medical metamorphosis. The personal stories are interspersed with creative writing, reflections on the experience of families and friends of a transgender person, discussions on the effects of hormone treatment, and of what may still be unspoken or difficult to articulate.

The writings are the initiative of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action and Gender DynamiX, organisations that work for the acceptance of transgender people through increasing their visibility and thus providing role models for young people who may be struggling with these issues.

There is an informative glossary which intends to ensure that correct terminology is available and to clarify differences along the continuum of gender. The book includes a set of photographs of the contributors that avoid stereotype and sensationalism, portraying the basic humanity, dignity and bravery of the people concerned. A set of colour illustrations portrays a sense of the history of transgender people in South Africa. I found this book informative and poignant; a valuable addition to our understanding of what it is to be human­.

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