Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting to Ellen by Ellen Krug

The magnificent memoir, Getting to Ellen, clearly holds an honored place at or near the top of a handful of other fine autobiographical works by transgender individuals.

Subtitled "A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change," this book is so deeply touching in that it graphically describes the agonizing passage and transition of a deeply gender dysphoric, male-born person coming to grips with the true nature of her being. In so doing, Ellen Krug provides the reader with a vicarious and painful opportunity to face and grapple again with his or her own inner demons, be they in the form of gender variance or other pressing internal conflicts.

I liken this story of lost love and one person's struggle for gender congruence and sexual identity to a "Shakespearean Tragedy" in that it clearly fits the Wikipedia definition of that phrase. To paraphrase, "The protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize. Such tragic protagonists are capable of both good and evil and operate under the doctrine of free will where they are always able to back out, to redeem themselves, but must move unheedingly to their doom." Perhaps "doom" is a bit strong, but Getting to Ellen is such a compelling read because, like the ripples from a pebble dropped into a clear pond, we witness Ed moving inexorably toward a known conclusion in his emergence as Ellen, a change that we know will surely result in deep loss, pain and the need for a total attitude readjustment for so many. This is powerful stuff indeed.

Lastly, this book speaks clearly to the role of society, which in reality is a community composed of you and me, and the pressure we place on individuals to conform to a bi-gendered system. Fortunately, with the progress made in the gradual lifting of the societal stigma about being gay, perhaps some day our children, or our children's children, will feel free from birth to express themselves as who they really are, rather than conform to the harsh standards of others, ultimately bringing about such pain to themselves and their loved ones.

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