Tuesday, June 29, 2010

REVIEW: Goddess (Memoir of a Transsexual) by Raquel Reyes

Like I've mentioned before, I am an absolute bookslut. There are few things in life more relaxing than curling up with a good book and escaping into the author's world. Admittedly, I'm also a bit of an obsessive-compulsive, which explains why I've spent so much time creating databases and spreadsheets to index my library over the years.

About a year ago, I decided it was time to do something with that index . . . to share my love of books with the world. Hence, Bibrary.com was born. What started out as a simple index of LGBTQ friendly books has become something so much more. Currently, I'm working on revamping the site to incorporate my overall vision. As part of that process, I've decided to revisit some of my earlier book reviews and share them here, via my blog, to help increase exposure to both.

I could have chosen any number of books to review first, but none are quite so fitting as Raquel Reyes' Goddess: Memoir of a Transsexual. It was my first transsexual memoir, my first book review on the Bibrary, and my first exposure to an author kind enough to reach out to me and discuss my impressions of her book.

Even after discussing it with Ms. Reyes, I still have mixed feelings about it. I throroughly enjoyed it, but still remain disappointed at the same time. In hindsight, however, I realise that my disappointment has absolutely nothing to do with the book, but everything to do with my own expectations.

With the exception of a few key chapters, the fact that Raquel is a transsexual is almost inconsequential to the story. There's no exploration of how or why she felt different as a child, no early experimentations with femininity, and no real development of gender. Instead, we're introduced to a 'pretty' boy whom we stick with for a few chapters, before we're given a very touching coming out scene, and then it's a very quick jump from 'pretty' boy to full-on transsexual.

At the time of reading it, I was disappointed that there was no transition to embrace, to identify with, and (to be totally honest) to envy. Designer brands are name-dropped here and there but, as readers, we never get to share in the joy of transforming.

Having discussed those very same concerns with Raquel, I realise now that was entirely the point. As she put it to me, "I am a person first, a transsexual second." For her, becoming a woman was not about resolving issues of gender identity, but simply about living the lifestyle she wanted.

Once I understood that this was a 'life' story and not a 'transsexual' story, I thoroughly enjoyed it. She has lived an absolutely amazing life, full of fantastic people. I was quite literally shocked at the depths of some of the horrors she experienced, and shed more than a few tears for both her sorrows and for her triumphs. I came to love her friends, and her family, even if I found myself shaking my head over some of the choices she made for herself. Had Raquel spent half as much time describing the thrill of dressing, or the joys sex, as she did the rush of her drug addictions, this could have been an intensely erotic read.

While I'm still saddened that's not the case, it's once again a matter of expectations interfering with the experience of the story. Raquel's story is honest and unapologetic, intensely personal, and (yes) profound. It's the story of her life, as she lived it, and it's the difficult parts that sometimes give it meaning.

When it's all said and done, would I recommend it as a good read? Absolutely, but with the caveat that this is less the memoir of a transsexual, and more the confessions of a gay party girl.