I am, by training and life experience, a clinical psychologist, although I now prefer the title to be psycho/spiritual therapist. For personal reasons that I do not claim to fully understand, the issue of gender has long fascinated me. Currently, our society, the West, recognizes and defends a binary system of gender classification, i.e., you are either a boy or a girl. There are certain societal expectations of boys and girls, to which our culture clings more or less rigidly where ever you happen to find yourself and what religion or other mythical belief system to which you may belong.
Gender is usually confused with sex, which is an error and not a small one. For example, biologists of human beings, Prof. Anne-Fausto Sterling (Sexing the Body), who holds the Biology chair at Brown University among them, who can demonstrate quite easily that their are five sexes, not two. Since, as a culture, we are locked into a binary definition of gender, this can lead to many unfortunate consequences, some benign, some truly tragic. One quick example is the infant born with ambiguous genitalia, the obstetrician makes a decision (in most instances) right then and then and decides to determine the biological sex of the child instead of letting the parents choose (not the best idea) or letting the child come to discover as the child grows up to which sex they are most drawn. Some might even choose to remain intersexed, retaining the ambiguous genetalia out of personal preference.
This book is an amazing accomplishment. Slightly dated at having been published five yeas ago, it is still very powerful, very moving information. She does not pontificate about how bizarre this culture has become and that the case can clearly be made for eliminating the notion of gender at all, she lets members of the L(esbian)G(ay)B(i)T(ransgendered) or LGBT for short, speak for themselves. Ms. Girshick covers a wide range of areas of concern and fills out her text with copious quotes from those who are neither or both boy and/or girl speak for themselves.
The results are riveting. Beyond just the issue of the gender binary (or fundamentalism) she demonstrates how humans desire fundamental systems of reference; they want a belief system that is either/or, right/wrong, black/white and do not want the potential challenge a non-binary but more accurate system of reference to sex and gender.
She covers a wide range of topics, such as family, acceptance, biology, physiology, coming out, relationships, prejudice, politics and others with an exhilarating array of voices of experience in dealing with these matters. Assuming you are human and have a heart, you will come to tears, laugh and be befuddled as you read the life experiences of these very human beings find their way through life.
I don't consider it a flaw, but given the more wide-spread acceptance of male and female homosexuality, there is the strongest accent upon the transgendered. I promise you, if you read this book, you will come away with a greater understanding of a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend and/or co-worker and just what they may be going through. You will also find your own belief system challenged, no matter how open or accepting or liberal you may believe yourself to be.
If I could, I would give this book ten stars, I believe it is that important as a contribution to everyday life. I give this book my highest recommendation ever. Please read it.