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Review of Tracie O’Keefe & Katrina Fox (Eds.), Finding the Real Me (2004)

Review of Tracie O’Keefe & Katrina Fox (Eds.), Finding the Real Me (2004)

©2004, 2013 by Dallas Denny & Taylor & Francis, Inc. The official version of the review is available online at Taylor & Francis Online.

Source: Dallas Denny. (2004). Book review: Finding the real me: True tales of sex and gender diversity, edited by Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox. Journal of Sex Research, 41(4), p. 410.




Journal of Sex Research Pages (PDF)



A Chorus of Transgender Voices

By Dallas Denny


Tracie O’Keefe & Katrina Fox (Eds.). (2003). Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex and Gender Diversity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Challenging our own sense of self, looking inward to find who we are, using the process of autobiography that we know so well, is producing some very interesting answers that challenge the very binary structure of the complacent world in which gender was invented, and by which it has become obsessed.

—From Foreword by Stephen Whittle, p. xi

Strange as it may seem, before the 1990s gender-variant people—those who were out of the closet, at any rate—made almost no contributions to the professional literature of gender variance. Exceptions that come to mind are Magnus Hirschfeld in turn-of-the century Germany and transgenderist Charles (now Virginia) Prince, who presented at sexology conferences and authored and co-authored a number of articles in medical journals from the late 1950s on (cf Prince, 1957). With regard to transsexuals, there were no exceptions—not a single transsexual had written or edited a text, or been even the second or third author of a journal article.

Transsexuals nonetheless made their voices known. They did so by writing autobiographies. Between 1952 and the end of the millennium as many as 100 different transsexual autobiographies were published. Even as medical journals speculated on the causes of transsexualism and debated the advantages of different surgical techniques, transsexual men and women were revealing in print their innermost feelings and describing the steps they took to find comfort in their lives—and, in considerable numbers, the public was reading and learning about transsexualism and adjusting its attitudes.

Today, of course, transsexuals and other transgendered people have a significant voice in the literature of gender variance. Despite this, there is a continuing demand for transsexual autobiographies, and they continue to be published in significant numbers (cf Boylan, 2003), and continue to influence public attitudes.

This is not the case with nontranssexual transgendered people, however. It’s almost as if the criterion for acceptance for publication of an autobiography is a three-hour genital operation. The personal stories of crossdressers and transgenderists—and for that matter, intersexed people—are rare.

Fortunately, there are several collections with autobiographical chapters by nontranssexual gender-variant individuals (GIC of Colorado, 1996; Matzner, 2001). Although here, too, there are few contributions by crossdressers (perhaps this is in part because many individuals who would once have called themselves crossdressers now embrace a transgender identity), they provide a variety of perspectives on the transgender experience. Although transsexuals are liberally represented in these collections, many of the chapters are written by individuals who have not had and do not plan to have genital surgery—and many are by those born female.

Now Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox bring us a third collection of short autobiographies, Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex and Gender Diversity. In just under 300 pages, 26 gender-variant people, some assigned as male at birth and some as female, tell their stories with dignity, aplomb, and, often, wit.

Within this limited space, the editors do a remarkable job of illustrating their term “sex and gender diversity.” Indeed, the authors are a diverse lot, young and old, natal male and natal female, from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Europe, and Japan. Their occupations range from sales and marketing to writer and poet to broadcasting to chef to sex worker; several are students. Some identity as transsexual, some as transgendered, some as neither man nor woman, one as physically intersexed; one identifies as “bisexual metagender, post-Christian theologian, pagan spiritualist, and lycanthrope” (p. 283). Possibly one half are transsexual, although some who are crossliving full-time claim transgender rather than transsexual status. One author writes of regretting hir decision to have surgery. Race is not addressed, but I know several of the authors are Asian.

Alienation is a common theme in the chapters. The older authors, who grew up in a period where gender variance was ignored or punished and opportunities for self-education were scarce, speak to this, but even the young authors, like Cynthya BrianKate, describe their experiences of not fitting in, being bullied and attacked, and searching for support. Another theme is change—toward the masculine, toward the feminine, or toward androgyny. Yet another themes are sexuality—many of the authors describe their attempts to make sense of their sexual attractions in the light of their evolving gender identities—and struggles with religious beliefs and interpersonal relationships. Some of the authors describe the great lengths to which they went to ignore, conquer, or deny their transgender feelings.

O’Keefe’s and Fox’ editing skills manifest in the fact that they do not show—the words of the authors flow easily and naturally, so the reader becomes easily lost in their stories. Without a doubt, this required effort. Each chapter is equally gripping, and each gives a different perspective on gender variance and the processes of coming out and transition. The humanness of the authors shows clearly; these are ordinary people in an extraordinary situation, doing their best to make sense of their lives and feelings.

In bringing together this chorus of voices of “sex and gender diverse” individuals, Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox have given sexologists a rare insight into the lives of transgendered and transsexual people.


Boylan, J.B. (2003). She’s not there: A life in two genders. New York: Broadway Books.

Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Inc. (1996). Trans-Scriptions: A collection of stories, poems, and artwork by & for the transgendered community, so that you may know us. Denver, CO: GIC of Colorado, Inc.

Matzner, A. (2001). ‘O au no keia: Voices from Hawai’i’s mahu and transgender communities. XLibris.

Prince, C.V. (1957). Homosexuality, transvestism and transsexualism: Reflections on their etiology and differentiation. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 11, 80-85.