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Review of Tsing Lee, Mother of All She-Boys (2000)

Review of Tsing Lee, Mother of All She-Boys (2000)

©2000, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2000). Review of Paige Turner’s Tsing Lee: Mother of all she-boys. Transgender Tapestry, 90, pp. 58-59.

Source: Turner, Paige. (1999). Tsing Lee: Mother of all she-boys. Plymouth, MA: Diogenes Press.





Tsing Lee: Mother of All She-Boys

Review By Dallas Denny


Although I had approached FanFair ’99 primarily with the thought of promoting my novel, Tsing Lee, I soon discovered a multitude of kindred spirits…. In short order I found myself getting into the spirit of things. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge presented to me by people such as Ariadne [Kane] and Virginia [Prince] (i.e., “What do you hope to accomplish with this novel? ” My answer? “To change the political, social, and cultural landscape of America.”)


My biggest surprise, however, was the amount of interest I engendered as a “former” cross-dresser of over 50 years. I felt completely at ease discussing my compulsive/obsessive need to crossdress.


—Paige Turner


It was at Fantasia Fair that I saw him, at the Vixen, the lesbian bar in the Pilgrim House. He was a pleasant gray-haired man in a suit and Tweety-Bird tie, proudly standing in front of a display of books, a crowd of crossdressers and transsexuals and lesbians swirling around him and largely ignoring him as he stood there with a radiant smile.

Since I was involved in running the Fair, I walked over and introduced myself. He said his nom de plume was Paige Turner and he was plugging his new book, Tsing Lee. He waxed enthusiastic about his work, saying it commingled elements of fetishistic crossdressing and transsexualism with radical politics and built to an apocalyptic finish in which the world ended. “Oooh-kay,” I thought, picking up the book and looking at its lurid red dragon cover. “I did the layout myself, but I hired an artist to do the cover. Do you think the penis in the design is too subtle?” Paige asked anxiously. “The jacket designer thought it might hurt sales if it was too obvious, but I’m afraid some readers won’t notice it.”

I didn’t see a penis at first glance, but considering the subject matter, I said, “I think subtle is better. Definitely.” Paige beamed.

Regular readers of this magazine might know Fantasia Fair is a transgender convention held every October in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod. What was new about the 1999 conference, however, was a move away from the old “sorority” model toward a new open “Transgender Week” model, in which those interested in attending need not spend thousand of dollars; rather, anyone who wanted could come and buy tickets only for the events they wished; moreover, they would be free to arrange and publicize any event or market any product they wished.

And here, at the Tuesday night post-Sissy Show open house at the Vixen, was an entrepreneurial Paige Turner, exemplifying that spirit.

Paige promoted his book all evening, smiling all the while. He was so absurdly cheerful that he tended to worry some of the attendees, who weren’t used to anyone so consistently pleasant.

Since I was one of the few people who hadn’t ignored Paige and his book, he wound up having a drink at my table, and in fact bought a round. Soon he and my friend Donna Johnston were deep into a conversation about military aeronautics.

The next day I introduced Paige to Rose Ryan, who was staffing the IFGE bookstore. Rose was visibly skeptical as Paige, wearing the same Tweety-Bird tie, spoke grandiloquently about his book, but after he left I grinned and said, “Probably, it’s horrible. Maybe it’s good. I’m making no assumptions.”

Shortly afterwards I wandered into the Fair office, where Donna who was busily talking airplanes with Paige. At some point I asked Paige why he had written a book with a transgender theme. “I used to be a dresser,” he said.

Oooh-kay, I said to myself. Used to be.

Paige stayed for the rest of the conference, buying tickets for the Sarah Davis Beuchner concert, the Follies, and the other events, talking about his book but also eying the large-sized shoes for sale in the Fair’s thrift store. It was clear =he was sorely tempted, but he never dressed. Nor did he seem to have any ties other than the one with Tweety-Bird. Several of the Fairgoers, afraid, perhaps, that he might be a trans-fan, asked me nervously, “Who IS that guy?” “Paige Turner,” I would reply.

Toward the end of the week I found myself walking with Paige down Commercial Street. He was talking about his crossdressing, about how compulsive he had been about it, how it had messed up his life, how he was taking anti-depressants. “They’re obviously working,” I told him, thinking of his perpetual smile.

As we passed his rooming house and he stopped to turn in, I posed the question that had been on my mind all week. “You realize, don’t you, Paige, that there’s no used-to-be about it. You may not be dressing at present, but you’re still a crossdresser. You’ll always be a crossdresser. You’ve sublimated your urges, pouring all your energy into first writing your book, then doing the layout, then publishing it, and now publicizing it, but the need to dress is still there and will always be there. You realize that, don’t you?”

He looked at me, eyes wide, his everpresent grin on his face. “Of course!” he exclaimed.

After the Fair was over, after I had returned home and unpacked, I picked up the novel with the red cover with the disguised penis (I never did find the darn thing!), and started to read.

The careful reader will have realized by now that this is more a review of Paige himself than of his book, but for the curious, Tsing Lee was as he had described it. It started out in true TV fiction style with an almost magical transformation, as an adolescent Tsing Lee became a stunningly beautiful young woman; developed into an chronicle of Tsing’s sexual exploits with both men, women, and other transgendered characters; and gradually evolved into a bizarre political novel in which a nuclear war is orchestrated by the leaders of a peculiar underground church. It was literate and readable, with more than a few of the clever turns of phrase and neologisms that mark a talented writer.

Since I am in general no fan of TV fiction, I’ll reserve my opinion and say that those who love transformation stories and strange politics should enjoy it. While Tsing Lee may leave the political, social, and cultural landscape of America relatively unaltered, it should, for fans of TV fiction, prove to be a real, ahem, page turner.