Tuesday, June 5, 2012

REVIEW: Bumbling into Body Hair by Everett Maroon

Although Everett Maroon's Bumbling into Body Hair is subtitled "A Transsexual's Memoir," he initially comes across as genderqueer (as opposed to transsexual), which adds a rather unique aspect to both the story and his development. There's a sense of self-discovery, self-definition, and (ultimately) self-recognition that accompanies the story, providing us with insight into the doubt and confusion that so many transgendered individuals experience, but are reluctant to share.

Make no mistake, by the end of the tale, Everett does successfully transition from female to male. That's not a spoiler, just an acknowledgement of the author's place within the story. It's okay if you're not quite sure what a transsexual is, or how one goes about becoming one, because for much of his life he didn't know either. It's only through his interactions with others, his often ill-conceived attempts at self-expression, and his conversations with a therapist that he comes to understand and accept the boy inside the geek.

This is an honest, heartfelt, and often self-depreciating journey, full of humour and heartache, marked by an awkward relationship triangle that seems to do as much to hold him back as it does to propel him forward. It's often a frustrating read, making you want to pull him aside for a heart-to-heart, but the way in which he bumbles through those challenges is what makes the read. There's no narrow-minded focus or pinpoint goal being pursued here, no realization of a lifelong dream. Instead, what we have is a personal journey through what makes a man . . . even if he wasn't quite born that way.

As I was reading it, I kept thinking that the book's only real failing was its lack of emotion. Everett comes across as upbeat, friendly, and optimistic, but I felt as if he wasn't being entirely open about the negative emotions in his life. Things like being rejected by family, being spit on by strangers on a bus, and breaking up with friends and lovers are almost shrugged off. The expressions of pain and sorrow that we know he must be feeling simply aren't shared with the reader. It wasn't until the last 50 pages or so, when he has a conversation about how differently men express their emotions, that it all clicked. That emotional detachment isn't a failing on his part, but a representation of his true gender.

Overall, an interesting story, and a unique perspective on the journey of gender. I think what I appreciated most was that while Everett may question his gender and his gender expression, he never wavers in his sexuality. He raises some interesting question as to whether being seen as a 'straight' couple negates his being a lesbian, but he never lets those questions interfere with his affections. All too often it seems the issue of sexuality gets all muddled up and confused with gender, the two intricately tied together, but Everett's journey is definitely one-sided . . . as it should be.

[Reviewed by Sally]

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