Monday, March 19, 2007

Tale of the First Two Transsexuals

In an article I wrote for AlterNet that was meant to serve as an introduction to the many-splendored world of queer identities—about which, more later—I claimed that male-to-female gender reassignment surgeries have been around for longer, and consequently so have MTF transsexuals.

Well, slap my ass and call me Sally! It turns out the first ever transsexual was Michael Dillon, nĂ© Laura. He fell in love with a man who wanted to become a woman, and did—making her the first male-to-female transsexual. (Their love was predictably ill-fated.)

All of this is in a book reviewed in the New York Times, called The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution, by Pagan Kennedy.

The review is pretty interesting, but I'm a little disturbed by this pronouncement by the writer (Mary Roach, of Stiff fame):

I wanted to stand by [Dillon] through all 200 pages, but I fell hard for Dr. Gillies. It is no small feat to make a romance between the world’s first two transsexuals seem ho-hum, but Gillies almost manages…Gillies was altering not merely faces and bodies, but the very nature of surgery.

See, surgery that affects everyday people is more interesting that the intense plight and bravery of the first ever transsexuals, who served as Gillies' guinea pigs in order to live the lives they needed to. Or am I just being hypersensitive? And hypersensitivity is precisely the subject of my next blog post (OK after the one on Gates that I'm cross-posting from Mother Jones), so stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anacas said...

It seems from the review like the author erred so far on the side of not wanting to sensationalize the transpeople in the book that perhaps she sucked some of the life out of the story,while when writing about the doctor she felt free to play up the drama. Hard to tell without reading the book whether Mary Roach is at fault, or if it's an accurate assessment of the book... either way, I'm looking forward to reading it when I can get my hands on it.