Author Q&A

Gender transition isn’t something people think of as a funny experience. Where does humor fit into this memoir?

When I came to understand that I needed to transition away from being a woman, I read pretty ravenously about the process, others who’d done it, the medical expectations, and the legal reality. And I dove into online discussions, like I write about in the book. But so much of it was dead serious, or focused on the limitations of the process. There wasn’t anything that I came across at the time that was lighthearted or that poked fun at any of it. I find that a sense of humor winds up being a way of finding strength in tough circumstances, so humor is the lens for the whole memoir, just as it served me well as I transitioned.

Why did cellophane ever seem like a good way to bind your chest?

More than one person told me it would work. I think they were binding a very small chest with it. It really works a lot better in the abstract than in real life. I found that out pretty quickly.

What’s the main message of the book?

Demand respect for yourself. Life really is too short to let others dictate who you are and who you ought to be. Most people don’t have to go as far as becoming the opposite gender or declaring they’re something other than the sex they were assigned at birth. So if some of us can turn our worlds upside down like this, the rest of us should be able to demand respect for who we are, too. Meanwhile, gender as we’ve constructed it is funny. Those are the salient points.

What do you have in arm’s reach when you sit down to write?

A coffee beverage of some sort, fully caffeinated, my iPod, laptop, notebook, couple of pens. I like to keep the list short so I’m portable and can write most anywhere.

When did you think you should put your sex change experience into a book?

I spent a lot of time on the Internet when I was figuring things out for myself, so I actually started writing about some of the process then. Certainly I wrote about a lot of the medical drama, over on LiveJournal and a few discussion boards. I needed to laugh to get through some of the more challenging moments. A few of those experiences made it into the book. It wasn’t until I landed in Washington State, though, that I seriously thought about turning it all into a memoir.

How long did you write Bumbling, and what period does it cover?

I took about a year to write Bumbling and make several revisions to the text. It covers the first weeks I seriously started to consider gender transition, through the social and medical process, and then after I’d told everyone in my personal life. That’s a period of about five years. So folks anxious to see me recount junior high, you’re out of luck. And nobody needs to go there, anyway.

What happened after Bumbling ends? What’s the next chapter?

My partner and I moved across the country to tiny Walla Walla, Washington, which incidentally, is where Bugs Bunny wound up after he made a wrong turn at Albuquerque. And then we started trying to have a baby. I’m pretty sure there’s another memoir in there, because that was a hell of an experience.

Photo credit: Kurtis Hough

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