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

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain,’ by Portia de Rossi

Atria Books (2010), $26, 308 pp.

There’s a fine line between “want” and “need.” When you were a kid, you didn’t need another cookie, or that creamy glass with holiday garnish. And definitely, you didn’t need the calories. But oh, you wanted them.

So imagine denying yourself those and almost all other foods. Imagine living on 300 calories a day. Then read Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi’s remarkable memoir.

Amanda Rogers was a smart kid who aspired to become a lawyer in her native Australia, until the modeling bug bit her and she quickly decided that the runway was the way to run. She convinced her mother to drive her to an interview, and she convinced executives that, at age 12, she could handle the world of high fashion. Though she felt uncomfortable and self-conscious about perceived body flaws, she persevered, changing her name to Portia de Rossi.

Later, when given the chance to be in a movie, de Rossi was surprised that she loved acting, though she wasn’t confident about her beauty. She thought her face was too round, her cheeks too fat, her thighs too chubby. Her weight yo-yoed. Wardrobe tailors on the Ally McBeal set were kept busy with alterations. De Rossi was mortified.

But that wasn’t her only source of personal loathing. She had always known that she was gay, but it wasn’t discussed. She married, but the union ended when he learned the truth at couple’s therapy. Co-workers weren’t told because de Rossi feared for her job. She denied her feelings and lived in terror of being outed.

Embarking on a nutritionist-recommended low-calorie diet didn’t quell the diet demon in de Rossi’s mind, so she went on a program all her own.

She meticulously weighed each ounce of food, fretted over “hidden calories,” and obsessively avoided anything that might add to her daily intake.

On the day she hit 82 pounds, she said that celebration was in order but, “first I had to silence the drill sergeant that reminded me of that extra inch of fat. First I had to get rid of that.”

As with many memoirs like Unbearable Lightness, I had two very dissimilar feelings while reading it. First, this book reeks with pain. De Rossi is very clear about the bruising thoughts and negativity that she felt in hiding so many personal aspects of her life, and though this book has a make-you-grin, wonderfully happy ending, getting there hurts.

Second, it hurts to read not just because of the pain de Rossi relays, but because it can be slow. In the end, de Rossi’s pantry held a paltry handful of items, for instance, and that fact was hammered home in many ways, many times.

Still, if you’ve ever lived too long with a secret that ate you alive, read this. You won’t just want Unbearable Lightness, you need it.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Jessica + Hunter Are Probably Thankful For Thighs That Don’t Touch, Too

I'm not sure which tips of Jessica and Hunter I'm going to use first: Their fashion advice (drip yourself in designers; chicken and turkey feathers) or their cooking recipes (stuffing, with vodka, Twinkies, Starbucks Via, and of course As Seen On TV's fat burning pills). And you thought overeating would make you puke.

CONTINUED »


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