Alice In Genderland

    • 12 posts
    May 29, 2012 8:04 PM BST

    I recently got a copy of this eBook written by Harvard-educated psychiatrist Richard Novic, a memoir about being a transvestite.  I found it a good read, very illuminating. The book is written very honestly and shows Richard Novic being truthful about his life choices both positive and negative.


    I'm not sure I agreed with some of the more manipulative tricks he used but I can see, to a lesser extent, how we all can sometimes play these headgames.


    There's a lot of ask for one thing and promise that's the extent of it, then push a bit further, (because it's not a massive step to take) promise again that this is the extent of it, then push a bit further, (because, again it's not a massive step further than where we are at the moment) and promise again that this will be the extent of it, repeat until we get exactly what we always wanted in the first place or, at worst, the ability to say "well she allowed me to do this, she must have known where it would lead"  and claim the high ground against her seeming pettiness.


    There's a brutal honesty to his self analysis that makes the book worthwhile and I would definitely recommend


    • Moderator
    • 13 posts
    July 24, 2012 1:58 PM BST
    Richard never shies away from sharing those difficult questions that plague us all, at one time or another, but he also doesn’t fall into the trap of assuming he has all the answers. In fact, one of the elements of his story that rang most true for me is the series of rules he comes up with to try and apply a logical, intellectual structure to what is entirely an irrational, emotional need for expression.
    • 4 posts
    August 11, 2012 9:08 AM BST
    I must admit to being torn by the book. On the one hand I was amazed by the life he constructed and on the other hand somewhat horrified. It seemed he got everything his way. Monday to Friday respected professional and then for the weekend a completely separate life including a male partner. It is a few years since I read the book but I cannot remember getting a feel on what his family felt. I was concerned about his "playing at prostitution" and wondered if I needed help with my gender issues is this the person I could rely on for solid advice. Alternatively it could be sour grapes on my part as to some he could be considered to be living the dream. I still think Jenny Boylan is the best!!!!
    • 35 posts
    July 12, 2013 6:53 PM BST

    Richard is a pioneer in transgender studies, and was one of the first to begin doing empirical studies, researching the experiences of thousands of transgendered people, ranging from cross-dressers to post-op transsexuals.  He also included research into FtM as well as MtF transgender issues.


    The story is his personal story.  Reading it, I found that I could relate to so much of his experiences, and at the same time, it helped me to see that I would need more than what he settled for.


    I find it interesting that people are upset at how he progressed through the issues.  What society, and often us, so often forget is how much manipulation, coercion, and even brutal FORCE is used to try force transgenders, especially MtF transgenders to be gender role conformant.


    In many ways, my parents were very supportive.  My mom taught me how to sew, crochet, knit, cook, do laundry, and in many ways become a wonderful housewife.  She even tried to help me get some clothes by taking me shopping with her when we were both the same size, and let me pick out the clothes I liked.  She'd usually wear it once or twice and then it would end up in the "donate" pile, meaning that I could keep it if I wanted.


    What I DIDN'T know, until just before my father died, was that they were trying to protect me from something really terrible.  Back in the 1950s and 1960s, even into the early 1970s, the treatement for transsexuals was electro-shock, and if that didn't work, a minor lobotomy, and if that failed, a full frontal lobotomy - living as a vegetable.


    Back in those days, Electroshock was more like torture.  They would strap you to the table, put a stick in your mouth so you didn't bite your tongue off, and then apply the voltage.  Untill you "zapped out", it was torture, muscles cramping, convulsing, and pain.  My mother had experienced it first hand from the time I was 2 until I was about 7.  The treatments were daily, and it often took 4-5 people to catch her, hold her down, and get her strapped down, she fought so bad.  They would tell her the next day that she wouldn't be getting another shock, but then they would have to strap her down again.  This happened every day for 30 days in a row, for over 3 years.  Mom has no memory of me for the first 3 years of my life.


    I was reading Richard's book when my father was dying.  I asked him about it, and he told me that this is why they had tried so hard NOT to let me dress or be a girl.  My dad also wanted to try and spare me the pain he had gone through when he was a "sissy".  He even lost any chance at promotion because he wore a pink tie to work.


    I often wish there had been someone I could have talked to about my desire to be a girl.  I went to many tharapists, some on a daily basis.  I was also in group therapy for almost 9 months on a daily basis.  Yet when I tried to share my desire to be a girl (I was 8-10) at the time, or a woman (at age 21), they told me that I couldn't even TALK about that, because it "wasn't appropriate".  Often the reaction was "We know about that, but you CANNOT talk about it, ever, with us".


    A also went through many of the same trials and ordeals as Alice/Richard - being beat up by the boys, losing girl-friends, losing a fiance', even losing my job and later my children.  At one point, I didn't see my children for over 3 years, even though I had stopped transition so that I would have visitation.  I couldn't even make decisions like wanting them to have a computer and access to the Internet.


    I've written my own story, Debbie's Secret Life, which addresses some of these issues as well.


    We often hear about the transsexual who transitions, but we rarely hear the story of those transsexuals who feel forced to live in "stealth mode", fearful that if ANYONE knew their secret, that they would lose EVERYTHING.  I have said it felt like being a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany.  You could act like what you weren't, but if anyone found out who you were, it couldbe worse than death.


    Shortly after dad's death, I went back to therapy.  It only took a few sessions for the therapist to see how much happier I was as Debbie, and how uncomfortable I was with being Rex (I came as both).

  • M G
    • 373 posts
    May 8, 2014 7:08 PM BST
    Might have to read this one.
    • 35 posts
    August 28, 2014 1:48 AM BST

    I have to admit, I found many parts of Richard's book hard to read, because they reminded me so much of myself.  The secret hiding places, telling your lover or spouse as little as you can about how you REALLY feel because you love them and don't want to lose them.


    I was a type 6 transsexual from the time I was 6 years old.  It took a great deal of effort just to TRY to PASS as a guy - my birth gender.  In my case, I did tell my parents, when I was six, but my parents found out that the "cure" was the electro-shock and lobotomy Richard talks about at the end of his book.  I was reading Richard's book while tending my dad just before his death.  I asked him if that was why they didn't support my transition when I was young.  Dad told me that mom had already gone through that horror and she'd do anything to keep you from having to endure even a little of it.  Back in 1961, a boy who wanted to be a girl was considered psychotic, to be treated with extreme measures, to break him of the delusions of wanting to be a woman.  After all, no sane man would want to be a girl, would they?


    Even though Christine Jorgensen was famous by then, much of the medical research and treatment was not.  Even most medical professionals did not know that there were doctors in United States Hospitals like Johns Hopkins that perform sex change operations and provided HRT.


    At the same time, I struggled with the whole "open marriage" concept.  My first wife wanted me to be faithful, but she wanted a "real man" as a lover.  Too often, an "open marriage" seems to be a "one way door".


    Richard has been a pioneer in providing empirical research into transsexuals, and as a result, more research has been done with some amazing and alarming discoveries.  In the few years since his book was published, with references to his original research, more studies, some with over 1 million respondents, have been conducted.  The suicide rates were quite shocking, as were the mortality and morbidity rates, especially of those who had been denied support for transition.  This was sharply contrasted by the successes and health of those who had transitioned.  The studies were so overwhelming and convincing that the APA and AMA have now adopted a policy that it is UNETHICAL to try and force a true transsexual to be gender conformant.


    There are a few other excellent books that provide more medical and professional viewpoints.  "The Squirrel Cage" for example, is written by someone who did transition, and has done further empirical studies.


    I remember a time when even going to the downtown public library, the biggest library in the state, I couldn't find even a single book on what we now call transgender issues - fiction or non-fiction.  Today, on Amazon, there are over 300 books with transgender themes available on Kindle.  The quality ranges from bad porn to brilliantly written drama.  The world has changed so much.  I'm so glad it has.


    When I read Richard's book, I was seriously considering attempting transition again.  I had tried when I was in my thirties, but had to abort when my ex-wife threatened to make sure I never saw my children again, but would still have to pay child support. She had connections through her church and the sister of her new husband into social workers, courts, and judges.


    When my dad was about to die, he told me "If I can't give you anything else, I want you to have this, BE YOURSELF, IF THAT'S DEBBIE, then BE DEBBIE!".  He had seen Debbie's postings on facebook, had friended both Debbie and Rex, and he realized that the reason he never really knew his son was because she was his daughter.  We had about 5 days together before he passed, and we loved each other more in those last few days that we had in all the time before.  Dad always loved me, but always wondered why I was so "phony", like an actor, a clown, hiding behind an emotional mask.  When I was finally free to take down the mask, I could be authentic with him, and he loved it, and loved me.  His only regret was that he hadn't gotten to know Debbie sooner.




    This post was edited by Deborah Ballard at August 28, 2014 1:51 AM BST