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Review of Claudine Griggs, Passage Through Trinidad (1995)

Review of Claudine Griggs, Passage Through Trinidad (1995)

©1995, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: To the best of my recollection this review appeared in 1995 or 1996 in The Journal of Gender Studies. I no longer have the issue, which is hardly surprising, since my collection of transgender and transsexual papers, journals, and books now resides in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library System. I’m trying to determine the year, issue, and page numbers.


Claudine Griggs. (1995). Passage Though Trinidad: Journal of a Surgical Sex Change. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co. Available from MacFarland & Co. Publishers, Box 621, Jefferson NC 28640.


Review of Claudine Griggs, Passage Through Trinidad

By Dallas Denny


The typical transexual autobiography is a catharsis and attempt at self-justification. Usually written in the period immediately after sex reassignment surgery, it tracks a life filled with pain, depression, suicidal thoughts, and dysfunction, ending with the author’s statement of belief that things will be much better now that surgery has been done– a statement which is often belied by a tone that suggests that not only has the author’s life not been improved by this procedure, but that issues long buried have been brought to the surface.

Claudine Griggs’ Passage Through Trinidad fits this mold. Although it begins not with her childhood, but on the date of her sudden decision, after years of living as a woman without surgery, to go through with the surgical procedure, like other transexual autobiographies, it ends in the immediate postoperative period. Griggs is more honest than most, for she acknowledges that the surgery has not made her life magically and suddenly better, but she never actually comes to the conclusion, as I did, that whatever it was that she had gained (something unclear at the time of her writing) was more than offset by what she had lost: her social identity at work as a nontransexual woman, about $11,000, and her peace of mind.

Those who are considering SRS would be well-advised to read this book, for it portrays in excruciating detail the surgical experience, from the planning for the trip up to and including every bowel movement during the recovery period. Surgery is no joke, and the postoperative experience can be less than pleasant. Readers should also be aware, however, that tolerance for pain and boredom varies from person to person, and that the experience of other transexual women might not be the same as Ms. Griggs’. She writes that she found herself unable to concentrate on the Eudora Welty novels she had brought with her. Welty is not what I would consider light reading under the best of circumstances; perhaps if Ms. Griggs had brought some Ross MacDonald or P.G. Wodehouse instead, she would have been better able to amuse herself. I find Stephen King’s novels difficult to put down; consequently, by making certain I was in the middle of The Stand when they came to wheel me away for my own surgery, it was a sure thing that I would be anxious to get back to the book. In fact, I was quite immersed in it almost as soon as I woke up after surgery.

Griggs found the surgical experience somewhat debilitating; at the time of writing, more than a month post-operative, she was still not up to speed. However, another transsexual woman, who had had the surgery only days before Griggs, was off and tearing as soon as she was allowed out of bed. Griggs also found dilation painful. Honey, it’s just masturbation! If you can’t stand to stick an inert piece of plastic in there, how are you gonna manage with other people’s body parts? Of course, that may not be an issue with Griggs, as she was in a long-term lesbian relationship at the time of her writing, and penetration might not be important to her. But it is for plenty of other transexual women, who also find dilation distasteful and painful. It’s as if their disgust with their male genitals carries over to their new female ones. It’s not surprising to me, as there’s no particular reason to believe, the transexual mythos notwithstanding, that a lifetime of distancing oneself from one’s genitals will be miraculously cured by a three hour surgical procedure. I suspect that the reason a large part of the 75% of postoperative transexual women who report being inorgasmic are so is not because they lack the nerve connections and clitoral erectile tisuse, but because they are unwilling or unable to experience their genitals in a positive way.

SRS can be an extremely postive experience in one’s life, or a disaster. Hopefully by now she will have figured out which.