Transitioning

Need some beach reads this weekend to take you from summer to fall? Try a trans memoir and E. Lynn Harris’ parting potboiler

Nina-Here-Nor-There-author-CREDIT-Melinda-Bagatelos
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS | Krieger’s memoir tracks his passage from Nina to Nick.

Maybe you’ve always hated your nose, or your ears make you look like you’re part elephant. Or your lips are too pouty, your thighs too big, your arms too fat and you hate your butt.

You can change all of that, and then some.

But would you have the courage to alter the very things that define you to the rest of society?  In Nina Here nor There, you’ll see why one young man did.

When writer-blogger Nina Krieger landed in San Francisco’s Castro district, she felt welcomed. Her lesbian friends, the “A-gays,” folded her into their circle with parties. Old pals were glad to see Krieger, and she was glad to find an apartment with roommates she could tolerate. She even found a job that allowed her to continue writing.

But Krieger wasn’t happy. For years, she’d struggled with gender identity: She was not a lesbian, not exactly a woman … but she was, at least biologically. Being in the Castro gave her hope, though, and unwittingly, she had surrounded herself with people who could give her guidance: Greg, with his newly-flat chest and eagerness for life, was willing to share his experiences with surgery and testosterone shots; Jess, one of Krieger’s roommates, was transitioning and taught Krieger about “packing” and binding; Zippy, a long-time close friend, gave optimistic support.

“Before moving to the Castro, I’d thought becoming a man was as realistic as growing wings,” Krieger writes.

But living with her community gave Krieger the courage to try. Deciding that breasts were the worst part of who she was, Krieger bought minimizers and purchased the other body parts that she lacked. Little by little, she allowed her family careful peeks into the person she knew herself to be. She convinced herself that she belonged, yet she was uneasy. What exists between girl and boy? “I didn’t fully relate to either anymore,” Krieger writes.

Despite a fear of needles, unfazed by a list of realities, and heartbroken by a paternal lack of understanding, Krieger knew she had to find out.

Nina Here nor There is a bit of a conundrum. On one side, Krieger takes his readers by the hand, allowing us to see what he sees. As he explores the gender spectrum, we do, too. At the same time he’s seeing the blurred lines of woman and not-woman, we see it as well. The journey is a good one.

But by the time I got to the latter third of the book, I was good and ready for Nina to make up her mind. By then — just before the culmination of the story — Nina Here nor There becomes a struggle, both in content and story. And it’s with great relief that you’ll find what happens.

You have 24 hours in a day. Over 1,400 minutes, around 86,000 seconds, and you still can’t do everything you need to get done. Some days, you just want to clone yourself. With two of you, maybe you’d get finished. Double you, and you might actually get ahead.

Cobi Aiden Winslow just found his doppelganger in the last place he’d ever think to look. And in No One in the World, it might be the last thing he ever does.

Cobi always had whatever he wanted … except for one thing. From the moment he was adopted, he had maid service in a mansion in the best Chicago neighborhood. He had nice clothes, a law-school education, cars and antiques, but he didn’t have his father’s acceptance. Cobi was gay, and his father hated it.

But acceptance was never going to come. Cobi’s parents were killed in a plane crash, but not before telling him that he had a twin brother… somewhere. Absent a father’s love, a newfound brother was all Cobi could think about.

Sissy Winslow learned about the family business at her father’s elbow. She thought it would be hers someday, so when her parents’ will was read and her brother got half the shares, she was stunned. Cobi didn’t know a thing about Winslow Products. He was a lawyer, not a CEO. Worse yet, the will stipulated that Cobi had to be married to a woman by his 34th birthday or his share of the stocks would be sold. A takeover is imminent: Cobi turns 34 in less than a month and there is no woman on the horizon.

Quickly thinking, Sissy devises a plan to save the business. As she searches for a stylish, smart, society-worthy woman who can be bought, Cobi searches for his twin brother. But as he is finally reconnecting with a part of him he never knew about, he is also inviting trouble. Though he’s been successful in hiding it thus far, there was suddenly too many people who know he is gay. And that knowledge is going to cost him.

E. Lynn Harris has been gone two years now, and in his preface, co-author RM Johnson says that he and Harris collaborated on this novel before Harris’ death.  So is this book reminiscent of Harris’ other books, or…?

No-One-in-the-WorldNo One in the World is spicier than Harris fans might be used to. There’s an underlying feeling of threat that’s irresistible and though you might think you know what’s going to happen, you’d be wrong. There were times when I thought the story briefly got a little silly, but I did like how it unfolded overall and how there were surprises in the creases.

If you’re looking for something quick to take to the beach for a three-day weekend, you can’t go wrong with this. No One in the World will grab you in a second, and you’ll want to read it all day.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The right time

Coming out is a personal decision, and each person has to find the right time and the right way for themselves. And while it can still be tough, it doesn’t have to be as tough as it used to be

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Coming out is still so very hard to do, especially if someone delays doing it for a very long time.

That’s what I learned recently when the 40-something-year-old son of a friend of mine confided to me that he had finally accepted his sexual orientation and now had a boyfriend. He broke the news to me by saying, “I’m involved in a new relationship with someone, and his name is … .”

The ironic part of all this is that my friend, his mother, told me when her son was about 13 years old that she was pretty sure he would be gay. She was an interior decorator, had lived in liberal cities prior to moving to Texas and had quite a few gay and lesbian friends.

I thought that she might be correct in her assessment.

Despite my friend’s worldliness and acceptance of her friends’ homosexuality, she expressed a concern that her son’s life would be much tougher if he indeed turned out to be gay.

We had this conversation about 20 years ago, so her assessment seemed reasonable enough at the time. I had to agree that being gay certainly hadn’t made my life any easier up to that point, especially in light of the raging AIDS epidemic that was killing many of my friends and scaring me to death.

As it turned out, her fears about him being gay seemed to be unfounded. He went off to college, met a girl, lived with her, left her and wound up marrying another girl.

Two of his best friends from high school with whom he grew up went on to come out and live as openly gay. One died of AIDS in the early 1990s.

My friend and I remarked on our surprise about how things had turned out, but we both generally acknowledged that we apparently had been incorrect in our assumptions that he would be gay.

Still, I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I wondered if he was bisexual.

My friend’s son and his wife had a child, and they moved away from Texas to the West Coast and a much more liberal environment. They seemed happy for a long time, but then my friend began to confide that her son was having emotional problems. In fact, he had become estranged from other members of his family after a conflict with them before he left Texas.

Finally, I heard that he and his wife had separated, then gotten divorced.

At the same time, my friend and I began drifting apart, even though we had been friends for a quarter-century. I noticed her politics were becoming more conservative. She told me that she didn’t think the country was ready for same-sex couples enjoying the right to become married.

I began to realize that her liberal attitudes were only skin deep, and I was disappointed by that.

When my friend’s son told me that he was gay, I promised not to say anything about it to anyone until he had charted his course of action. I did advise him that if he planned to tell his teenage son that I thought he should first tell his ex-wife, who had become his best friend after their divorce.

He also confided to me that when he was a teenager he had fooled around with one of his male friends, and that he had felt guilt and shame afterwards. He told me that after he accepted his homosexuality and began dating other men, it felt natural for him.

After a couple of months, he told his ex-wife. She took the news excellently, telling him that she wanted him to be happy. His son seemed to take it in stride while posing a lot of questions.

The funniest question he got from his son was, “Are you going to start wearing dresses now?”

Then he called his mother and told her, and she admitted that she had known it all of his life. She also began weeping and told him she was concerned that it would make his life much harder.

In an email to me, she said that she was not shocked by his revelation, but it did make her sad. She also expressed surprise that he had told his son.

I’ve always been of the opinion that people come out when it is the best time for them to do so. His personal time table required him to wait about 20 years longer than I did, but that was right for him. He adores his son, enjoys his close friendship with his ex-wife and hopefully will have a good relationship with another man to round out his life.

In short, I’m hoping he proves his mother wrong. It doesn’t have to make life tougher in this day and age.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright