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The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights

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When Deborah Rudacille learned that a close friend had decided to transition from female to male, she felt compelled to understand why. Coming at the controversial subject of transsexualism from several angles–historical, sociological, psychological, medical–Rudacille discovered that gender variance is anything but new, that changing one’s gender has been met with both acc When Deborah Rudacille learned that a close friend had decided to transition from female to male, she felt compelled to understand why. Coming at the controversial subject of transsexualism from several angles–historical, sociological, psychological, medical–Rudacille discovered that gender variance is anything but new, that changing one’s gender has been met with both acceptance and hostility through the years, and that gender identity, like sexual orientation, appears to be inborn, not learned, though in some people the sex of the body does not match the sex of the brain. Informed not only by meticulous research, but also by the author’s interviews with prominent members of the transgender community, The Riddle of Gender is a sympathetic and wise look at a sexual revolution that calls into question many of our most deeply held assumptions about what it means to be a man, a woman, and a human being. From the Trade Paperback edition.


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When Deborah Rudacille learned that a close friend had decided to transition from female to male, she felt compelled to understand why. Coming at the controversial subject of transsexualism from several angles–historical, sociological, psychological, medical–Rudacille discovered that gender variance is anything but new, that changing one’s gender has been met with both acc When Deborah Rudacille learned that a close friend had decided to transition from female to male, she felt compelled to understand why. Coming at the controversial subject of transsexualism from several angles–historical, sociological, psychological, medical–Rudacille discovered that gender variance is anything but new, that changing one’s gender has been met with both acceptance and hostility through the years, and that gender identity, like sexual orientation, appears to be inborn, not learned, though in some people the sex of the body does not match the sex of the brain. Informed not only by meticulous research, but also by the author’s interviews with prominent members of the transgender community, The Riddle of Gender is a sympathetic and wise look at a sexual revolution that calls into question many of our most deeply held assumptions about what it means to be a man, a woman, and a human being. From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rodney

    Well... That one of the very few books about transgender and intersex history and activism published by a mainstream house is written by a cisgender woman with admittedly little knowledge or stakes is fairly symptomatic. Strengths: it is a very compassionate look at the gender variant experience of the the mid-twentieth century. The interviews between chapters give voice to members of the transgender community and convey a variety of experiences leading up to transition. HOWEVER, and this is a big Well... That one of the very few books about transgender and intersex history and activism published by a mainstream house is written by a cisgender woman with admittedly little knowledge or stakes is fairly symptomatic. Strengths: it is a very compassionate look at the gender variant experience of the the mid-twentieth century. The interviews between chapters give voice to members of the transgender community and convey a variety of experiences leading up to transition. HOWEVER, and this is a biggie, Rudacille is invested in the endocrine-disruptor model of gender variance (pollutants and other chemicals have caused hormonal fluctuations contributing to gender variance at odds with birth assignment). Holy shit, that's dangerous. And discredited. And she, a science writer (!), uses as evidence a rough anecdotal sampling of an online forum she frequented for a few months in the early 2000s. Woah, right? The idea of a pathology that could "fix" gender variance is an historically fraught ideology that has led to a lot of suffering, much of which she writes about at great length herself. I just don't get it. She walks this line of being critical of the medicalization of the transgender experience and medicalizing it herself. The other weakness (I guess it's a weakness, it's a thing at least), is a matter of audience. The early chapters, especially, are written from this mildly incredulous perspective, and many of the questions asked in the interview segments bear out this incredulousness. There is no doubt this book assumes a cisgender audience, and overcoming her own skepticism is one of the through-lines of the book. This would be a great book to give your aunt or someone as a way of developing compassion for the trans experience (as long as you provided the caveat to take the last chapter with a grain of salt). There's also a fairly binary view of gender, with the focus on MTF and FTM transitions, and very little discussion of that whole range of experiences in between, those whose identity and experiences don't quite square with either the male or female norms, those who may or may not seek out transition or public acknowledgement of their dysphoria or dysmorphia. As a gender variant child who grew into an androgynous adolescent, then into a gender-ambivalent adult, I found the chapter titled "Childhood, Interrupted" heartbreaking, familiar, and, well, There But for the Grace of God Go I. I'm lucky that I passed well enough I was able to keep my personal experience largely invisible throughout my life, and although that invisibility can be painful itself--it certainly is better than institutionalization! I was devastated by this chapter and the brutal experiences others have gone through for being who they are, and a lot of bigotry could perhaps be turned around by reading this chapter with empathy. Would I recommend this? Maybe. Not exclusively for sure, but there is some important history here in a very approachable presentation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    Gender is an increasingly important and consistently under-researched aspect of the human experience, one that most people have a narrow understanding of. As Rudacille points out in The Riddle of Gender, gender and anatomical sex, while most often a matching pair, are two different things. Extensive scientific research is woefully lacking and what little has been conducted over the past one hundred years was piecemeal and undermined by personal bias and politics. Because of this it's little wond Gender is an increasingly important and consistently under-researched aspect of the human experience, one that most people have a narrow understanding of. As Rudacille points out in The Riddle of Gender, gender and anatomical sex, while most often a matching pair, are two different things. Extensive scientific research is woefully lacking and what little has been conducted over the past one hundred years was piecemeal and undermined by personal bias and politics. Because of this it's little wonder we have only limited knowledge of what influences gender (everything from nature vs. nurture to the effect of hormones), and Rudacille makes an admirable attempt to present facts as well as theories from all sides of the issue. Unfortunately her presentation is a mess. She starts okay, but as she brings in additional points of view and other aspects only loosely related to the subject, she loses sight of her theme and stumbles. She seems unable to decide between an examination of the science or a review of cultural history, and the result is a chaotic mix of the two that combines decades of study with personal opinions and bias. With much of the early research riddled with errors of assumption and many later studies crippled by methodological problems, Rudacille faced an uphill battle in terms of solid science and isn't skilled enough to weave a factual narrative free of assumptions, opinions, or tangents. Very disappointing. I wanted to like this. A book examining gender was needed, but unfortunately, this isn't that book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    As a transgender woman myself, I started reading this book because I wanted to find the answers to some of the questions I had. I really enjoyed the first few chapters and interviews, but I'll admit that sometimes I felt like the questions she was posing in the interviews were a bit invasive. I understand that sometimes you have to ask difficult questions but I still cringed a few times while reading this book. I would recommend it only because I haven't found any other books yet that discuss tra As a transgender woman myself, I started reading this book because I wanted to find the answers to some of the questions I had. I really enjoyed the first few chapters and interviews, but I'll admit that sometimes I felt like the questions she was posing in the interviews were a bit invasive. I understand that sometimes you have to ask difficult questions but I still cringed a few times while reading this book. I would recommend it only because I haven't found any other books yet that discuss transgender history and culture, but I have a feeling that there are better books out there.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tope

    Argh I had most of a review written and then I lost it! Highlights: This is a bit of a choppy read. Not that a nonfiction book has to be just one thing, but it tries to be a history of trans and intersex people, a history of research on transgender and intersex conditions, a discussion of the current science of gender, a work of advocacy for both trans civil rights and the need for more research into biological causes of gender identity, AND a collection of interviews with trans people. The piec Argh I had most of a review written and then I lost it! Highlights: This is a bit of a choppy read. Not that a nonfiction book has to be just one thing, but it tries to be a history of trans and intersex people, a history of research on transgender and intersex conditions, a discussion of the current science of gender, a work of advocacy for both trans civil rights and the need for more research into biological causes of gender identity, AND a collection of interviews with trans people. The pieces don't really gel well together. But, each piece is worth reading, particularly the parts that focus on trans and intersex personal and social histories, and the interviews, which are very illuminating and quite touching. These really drive home how marginalized trans people are and how much widespread ignorance about gender variance perpetuates staggering levels of discrimination and violence against the trans community. The more sciency parts often get bogged down with frankly uninteresting technical details and in-depth histories of the "great men" pioneers of gender science and gender reassignment surgery.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gil

    This is a very good book, particularly for people unfamiliar with gender theory and wanting to know more about modern conceptions of gender. Having both a wide variety of first hand experiences of transgendered individuals but also including a wide range of biological references and data it provides the reader with ample information to see both the human and statistical views of transgendered people. The one disappointment is the book is lacking in the complete representation of transgendered ind This is a very good book, particularly for people unfamiliar with gender theory and wanting to know more about modern conceptions of gender. Having both a wide variety of first hand experiences of transgendered individuals but also including a wide range of biological references and data it provides the reader with ample information to see both the human and statistical views of transgendered people. The one disappointment is the book is lacking in the complete representation of transgendered individuals (particularly in the agender or androgynous category). Again it is a good introduction especially for someone who only views gender in a binary form. But because of this lack of context the book looses out on a wide range of source material and primary scientific literature contrasts that it could have put forth. A decent read and a good source to find older primary literature though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lory Sakay

    This was such interesting read, explaining the background and history of research and the science of gender over the last century. It covered history of the lack of legal rights (and the few "wins" achieved), the exploration into endocrinology as a factor in transexual individuals, the failing approaches of physicians over time to correctly understand and address intersex people, and the stigmatizing of gender variant people by the field of psychiatry. Most fascinating was learning about the lik This was such interesting read, explaining the background and history of research and the science of gender over the last century. It covered history of the lack of legal rights (and the few "wins" achieved), the exploration into endocrinology as a factor in transexual individuals, the failing approaches of physicians over time to correctly understand and address intersex people, and the stigmatizing of gender variant people by the field of psychiatry. Most fascinating was learning about the likely impact that Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC's ), and specifically a medication known as DES, had on many generations from the 40's throughout the late 70's. I also especially appreciated the inclusion of alternating chapters of "conversations" with transgender individuals from various walks of life, who transitioned during a time in which gender was strictly viewed as binary and discrimination was significantly more extensive and accepted than it is today. This aspect of this book provided wonderful insight into these people's experiences and challenges and further supplemented the didactic nature of the other portion of the book. Although this book was published in 2000 and therefore is truly outdated, as there has been a significant increase in information, rights, and discussion on gender in the past twenty years, it still provided a necessary framework to further understand the history of transgender people. -yet we must still acknowledge, just as Rudacille concluded 20 years ago, that the "riddle" still has not been solved and completely understood. - this book also pointed me in the direction of reading other memoirs and reads. So intrigued to get to those to add to my understanding of how it might have been to be gender variant 50-60 years ago.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark Syron

    A book about trans people. About the way they may have been caused, legal issues, and rights. This book contains both science facts/theories and non-evidence based evidence. Which is what made it good. I liked how the book jumped from topics such as intersex and what to do with those children to interviews with a transgender person. I found it interesting in the whole hormone thing. In one chapter, Milton Dimond believes that there everyone is biased to a psychosexual format. Basically, the certa A book about trans people. About the way they may have been caused, legal issues, and rights. This book contains both science facts/theories and non-evidence based evidence. Which is what made it good. I liked how the book jumped from topics such as intersex and what to do with those children to interviews with a transgender person. I found it interesting in the whole hormone thing. In one chapter, Milton Dimond believes that there everyone is biased to a psychosexual format. Basically, the certain thing is genetic and it is the social experience that determines whether something, like gender identity, is expressed (find the section on page 135) The writing is not dry and tedious without too much jargon. I ended up making a lot of notes (5 pages worth) and really got into the topic, maybe because I am apart of the LGBT community.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    This covers the history of gender research, history of civil rights for transgendered people as well as interviews of transgendered doctors, activists and scientists.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    When I was in college I took a course called "Women and Men in American Society." Despite that title, we really studied issues of race, class, and gender. However, one of the things we really never covered were transgender issues. Later I watched the films "Boys Don't Cry" and "Transamerica" but still felt rather uneducated until I crossed paths with this book. Turns out that transgendered folks are the bastard stepchild of the LGBT movement–when any anti-discrimination laws are passed, they are When I was in college I took a course called "Women and Men in American Society." Despite that title, we really studied issues of race, class, and gender. However, one of the things we really never covered were transgender issues. Later I watched the films "Boys Don't Cry" and "Transamerica" but still felt rather uneducated until I crossed paths with this book. Turns out that transgendered folks are the bastard stepchild of the LGBT movement–when any anti-discrimination laws are passed, they are always passed without a transgender clause, as the gay community feels that a trans clause would kill any chance of the law passing. Did you know that the transgendered group started the Stonewall riots in 1969? This book gives us a wealth of really interesting historical information, including the story behind the first doctor to study alternative sexualities in Germany during the Weimar period (the first to separate homosexuality, transsexuals and cross-dressing as three separate things), whose work was later obliterated by the Nazis; and the intriguing case for DES, a chemical very similar to DDT that was given to pregnant women from approximately 1945-1979 to prevent miscarriage, sometime unbeknownst to them in the form of "pregnancy vitamins," but yielded bad results for the mother's offspring: a cluster of young women contracting a form of cancer that was previously seen only rarely, and in older women, and which could possibly also be related to male to female transexuality. Another fascinating chapter discussed treatments for children who were born with ambiguous genitalia, medical theory demanding at the time to raise that child strictly as one gender, executing several genital surgeries to "normalize" their genitalia without informing the child what was happening; only to have the adult child feel as they grow up that their body is at odds with their real gender. Interviews include professionals who transitioned after their academic career was established, a woman who had two successful military careers until word got out that her name used to be "Michael," and activists who have been around since Stonewall. Biology is full of variance–we all cannot be neatly placed in one of two categories. Even people who have female genitalia sometimes have what are stereotypically "male" personality characteristics and vice-versa. This was a completely fascinating book, and one that I wouldn't have otherwise chosen for myself if my fellow Bookcrosser hadn't suggested it to me. Thank you!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Lots of good info in here, non-judging. News to me was the effect of DES and other endocrine disrupting chemicals and sexual development in embryos. Good material for general consciousness-raising. For example, pp172-173 long list of terms people sometimes use to self-identify, including Two Spirit, agendered, pangendered, bike, transkid, P183 Beautiful answer to "Do women relate differently to you as a man?" and explanation of difference between male and female sexuality by FTM man. Ch 6 "Childho Lots of good info in here, non-judging. News to me was the effect of DES and other endocrine disrupting chemicals and sexual development in embryos. Good material for general consciousness-raising. For example, pp172-173 long list of terms people sometimes use to self-identify, including Two Spirit, agendered, pangendered, bike, transkid, P183 Beautiful answer to "Do women relate differently to you as a man?" and explanation of difference between male and female sexuality by FTM man. Ch 6 "Childhood, Interrupted" was especially helpful in understanding feelings of children and young people. P199 note parallel between psychiatric perceptions and treatment goals for transgendered people to those for gay and lesbian people before declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. "The overwhelming message from family, adult society, and youth peers says that gender nonconformity is a sick, mentally unstable condition to be feared, hated, and ridiculed." p284 Unitarians mentioned as being "very accepting." p291 Author responds to the question whether her own gender identity or sexual orientation had changed as a result of the things she had learned and the people she had met over the past few years. Her answer was no. "I am hardwired as a heterosexual woman, and I am comfortable with that identity; it feels authentic. However, I no longer view my sexual orientation and gender identity as 'normal,' generic, or 'regular.'" Nice narrative here. p292 Susan Stryker quote: Difference can be a real source of pleasure. The author adds, as her final words: if only we can overcome our ancient suspicion of diversity. In an era in which Americans are fighting and dying purportedly to free other people, perhaps we might take this one small step toward freeing ourselves by finally outlawing discrimination based on gender expression. What is freedom, after all, if it is not the freedom to be one's self? Copyright 2005--I want to read the update.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I find gender a fascinating topic. I remember being blown a way by Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinburg. It is about a transgender person who had trouble with forms that asked to check either Male or Female when neither one was right. Riddle is a series of essays, history and interviews with transgender people. It contains many sad stories and many success stories of the happiness that transitioning from one gender to another can bring. A big question is what bathroom do you use? Transgender peo I find gender a fascinating topic. I remember being blown a way by Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinburg. It is about a transgender person who had trouble with forms that asked to check either Male or Female when neither one was right. Riddle is a series of essays, history and interviews with transgender people. It contains many sad stories and many success stories of the happiness that transitioning from one gender to another can bring. A big question is what bathroom do you use? Transgender people are now saying that no surgery should be done until the individuals are of the age to express their feelings. "I remember them removing my penis, reducing to the size of a normal clitorus. The doctors basically lied to my parents to get them to allow the plastic surgery and administer hormones at puberty. Counseling sessions were more like brain washing, trying to convince me that I was a normal little girl." An interesting idea is that the rate of gender dysphoria is increasing because of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment. It is happening to animals as well as people. Estrogen or estrogen like compounds are found in many plastics. I can't say that I read the entire book but most of it. It was a great skim. "Even though transgenders had start the Stonewall riots, we were not welcome in the fight for gay and lesbian rights."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    This book brings tremendous value to the understanding of gender identity in the American culture. The author brings the best perspective for this subject - that of someone not part of the transgender community. Rudicille starts wher about 99-98% of America faces this subject...a novice with no understanding or experience with transgender people. She uses her scientific knowledge to dig into the subject because it touches someone close to her and she wanted to know and understand what this was a This book brings tremendous value to the understanding of gender identity in the American culture. The author brings the best perspective for this subject - that of someone not part of the transgender community. Rudicille starts wher about 99-98% of America faces this subject...a novice with no understanding or experience with transgender people. She uses her scientific knowledge to dig into the subject because it touches someone close to her and she wanted to know and understand what this was all about. Rudicille digs deeply into the body of knowledge and reaches out to all sides of the chasm between "normal" gendered people and those whom are gender variant. She brings tremendous insight to the question of gender identity, the riddle of gender. It is harsh to discredit the work of an excellent journalist who tackled a controversial topic that she admits she had not really considered until it touched her own life. This book is very difficult to take issue with and should help the rest of the country to learn what they really need to know before staking out a position on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Written in a readable style that allows both scientists and lay readers to follow the research bringing light to this subject. One of the best books I've encountered on this subject. A must read for everyone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Annamarie

    This was a fascinating book. Some of the interview chapters were a bit stilted and harder to get through, but the science and political research included here is amazing. I was horrified to read about the effects of DES on the children of those who took it, and intrigued at the possible connection to gender dysphoria. It seems that the research into transgender issues seems to focus primarily around MTF people, which was a bit disappointing. There are all of these interesting theories as to what This was a fascinating book. Some of the interview chapters were a bit stilted and harder to get through, but the science and political research included here is amazing. I was horrified to read about the effects of DES on the children of those who took it, and intrigued at the possible connection to gender dysphoria. It seems that the research into transgender issues seems to focus primarily around MTF people, which was a bit disappointing. There are all of these interesting theories as to what may effect an individual's gender identity, but they seem to revolve around people assigned male at birth, or with XY chromosomes. Until reading this book, I had not fully understood the catch-22 of including/excluding GID (gender identity disorder) in the DSM. Do we keep it in, as this is the main route that trans people have for accessing SRS through our medical system? Or do we eliminate it and de-pathologize trans-ness? Good book, lots to think about. If you like science, history, politics and personal stories all mixed together, I highly recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paula Mckinley

    This book is extremely important for everyone to read. As we are entering an age where equality is being debated within the United States, 'The Riddle of Gender' is an important read. This book focuses on the biological, social, economic, individual and community aspects of the Transgender group. Coming into this book I had no idea on what it meant to be transgendered. This book gave me a honest base that I am able to understand the needs, conflicts, and beliefs of the transgendered group. Also This book is extremely important for everyone to read. As we are entering an age where equality is being debated within the United States, 'The Riddle of Gender' is an important read. This book focuses on the biological, social, economic, individual and community aspects of the Transgender group. Coming into this book I had no idea on what it meant to be transgendered. This book gave me a honest base that I am able to understand the needs, conflicts, and beliefs of the transgendered group. Also how there is a huge gap of knowledge between heterosexual and homosexual knowledge of this group. Transgender are often lumped in with LGB and after reading this book I feel that this is unhelpful. As transgender have different medical, social, economical, legal, needs. That unfortunately are being denied with the two box inflexible idea of gender, sexuality, and body. For those without a huge science background this book might be a little difficult to read. However you need to read this book. As knowledge, compassion and understanding are needed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I returned this one to the library before I made it all the way through. The author took an interesting approach to trans issues, but sometimes I just can't do non-fiction. Her angle was that at some point she realized she knew absolutely nothing about transfolk, and that was going to try to learn as much as possible by writing a book. One thing I really liked was how she would do one chapter on say, genetics, then the next chapter would be an interview with a transperson. Then a chapter on lega I returned this one to the library before I made it all the way through. The author took an interesting approach to trans issues, but sometimes I just can't do non-fiction. Her angle was that at some point she realized she knew absolutely nothing about transfolk, and that was going to try to learn as much as possible by writing a book. One thing I really liked was how she would do one chapter on say, genetics, then the next chapter would be an interview with a transperson. Then a chapter on legal issues, then another interview. This is a good, accessible primer on transthings, but doesn't read as easily as other I'm-learning-as-I-write-this-book authors like Mary Roach. I get the impression that it's a quicker read if you're already up on gender theory. But yeah. A subject I really want to know more about, but this book didn't really do it for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Wow. I am very interested in the topics of sex and gender and sexuality. Reading this book was an enlightening experience. The title is fitting as the author does talk about the potential neurobiological, genetic, and environmental contributors to the understanding of one's own gender. She also talks about the context of our lives - we can't separate ourselves from the culture we've grown up in and which surrounds us almost every moment. So some nature vs. nuture discussions happening. The autho Wow. I am very interested in the topics of sex and gender and sexuality. Reading this book was an enlightening experience. The title is fitting as the author does talk about the potential neurobiological, genetic, and environmental contributors to the understanding of one's own gender. She also talks about the context of our lives - we can't separate ourselves from the culture we've grown up in and which surrounds us almost every moment. So some nature vs. nuture discussions happening. The author does interviews with some people who identify as trans in some way, or have felt that way in the past (maybe before their transition). I love hearing people explain about their experiences in and perspectives on life. Well written and engaging.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Miran

    Dense with information and completely fascinating. I loved reading about the different scientific approaches towards variances in gender & sexuality over the years, and how these influenced and were influenced by contemporary social movements. I appreciated Rudacille's tact when it came to subjects like social constructivism and biological determinism. She very clearly understands the need for a nuanced approach to LGBT (particularly trans) issues, especially given the ease with which research c Dense with information and completely fascinating. I loved reading about the different scientific approaches towards variances in gender & sexuality over the years, and how these influenced and were influenced by contemporary social movements. I appreciated Rudacille's tact when it came to subjects like social constructivism and biological determinism. She very clearly understands the need for a nuanced approach to LGBT (particularly trans) issues, especially given the ease with which research can be exaggerated or reduced by political groups in order to create an inaccurate--and therefore harmful-- social narrative.

  18. 4 out of 5

    shay

    this book had a lot of really good information in it and i learned a lot. my biggest annoyance with the book is that the author was all over the map sometimes. she didn't really stay focused and followed a lot of rabbit trails which, while very interesting, really strayed from her premise of writing about transgender people and trans rights. but the science of the book was fascinating and i learned about a lot of things that i hadn't read about before. so overall i would recommend this book, but this book had a lot of really good information in it and i learned a lot. my biggest annoyance with the book is that the author was all over the map sometimes. she didn't really stay focused and followed a lot of rabbit trails which, while very interesting, really strayed from her premise of writing about transgender people and trans rights. but the science of the book was fascinating and i learned about a lot of things that i hadn't read about before. so overall i would recommend this book, but i still wish she had stayed on topic a little better.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A book that really opened my mind a bit about transgender issues, and while it doesn't really solve the riddle, it did make me realize that the issue is more complex than I had previously understood. If you're looking for an answer on what to think or even how to think about gender, this book may frustrate you because it doesn't pretend to have one. But if you're like me -- open-minded but still not quite understanding, or even with some remaining knee-jerk prejudice about non-"normative" gender A book that really opened my mind a bit about transgender issues, and while it doesn't really solve the riddle, it did make me realize that the issue is more complex than I had previously understood. If you're looking for an answer on what to think or even how to think about gender, this book may frustrate you because it doesn't pretend to have one. But if you're like me -- open-minded but still not quite understanding, or even with some remaining knee-jerk prejudice about non-"normative" gender behaviors -- you'll probably appreciate having a little bit more food for thought on the topic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ceillie Simkiss

    I think this is a good basic overview of all of the research and beliefs that has gone into what we know about being transgender. I would have preferred it to be a more cohesive book, organized by topic more instead of the strange mix of time & topic that Rudacille decided to go with. However, for someone who knows very little about the history of the movement, I think this is a good starting point. I think my favorite thing about this book was the interviews - I could read those all day, with m I think this is a good basic overview of all of the research and beliefs that has gone into what we know about being transgender. I would have preferred it to be a more cohesive book, organized by topic more instead of the strange mix of time & topic that Rudacille decided to go with. However, for someone who knows very little about the history of the movement, I think this is a good starting point. I think my favorite thing about this book was the interviews - I could read those all day, with more context and a more extensive interview for each person. It would be amazing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    Intermittently fascinating and boring, but always important. One of the very interesting parts of this book is that there is a big section on DES exposure. I did a pretty big DES project at work and had worked with many of the people that were interviewed in that section. As I think about the topic of gender and trans gender I see my interest (personally and professionally) go back to the 90s.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather Wright

    This was a really interesting book and I learned a lot from it. It does a good job of giving a general overview of the history of transgender persons, science, issues, activism, and rights. The writer has a background in science journalism, so the scientific parts are easy to understand for laypeople. I think this is a great starting point for someone interested in the topic because it gives the broad overview look as well is specific examples throughout.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This book came my way via a family gynecologist, who is herself trangendered and super cool. I found it to be an excellent intro to the subject, with chapters that give the perspectives of trans people, doctors, and activists, as well as some good chapters about biology, genetics, etc. I learned a ton from it and you will too if you read it!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    This is also a good book, this has a lot of history in it. It's amazing to know about the other individuals throughout history who lived opposite the gender they were born. The woman who wrote this book did so because a friend transitioned and she wanted to know more. This is also good one to give to family and friends. This is also a good book, this has a lot of history in it. It's amazing to know about the other individuals throughout history who lived opposite the gender they were born. The woman who wrote this book did so because a friend transitioned and she wanted to know more. This is also good one to give to family and friends.

  25. 4 out of 5

    6655321

    If it were not for some of the really interesting interviews (which Rudacille does not execute very well) i would say this book deserves 0 stars (especially because of its strong emphasis on discredited neuroscience and environmental estrogen exposure theories) but Susan Stryker in particular gives a pretty excellent interview.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I'm reading this as part of a feminist book group that I just joined. So far, so good! The author does an excellent job of mixing pretty heavy theory with real life experiences of transgendered peoples, which allows the work to really have an emotionally impact. I'm reading this as part of a feminist book group that I just joined. So far, so good! The author does an excellent job of mixing pretty heavy theory with real life experiences of transgendered peoples, which allows the work to really have an emotionally impact.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre

    An enlightening book, a little dated (2005, pre-DSM-V) but brilliant and extraordinarily interesting. A real page-turner, I couldn't put it down. The focus is really on the science (both biological and social/psychological). An enlightening book, a little dated (2005, pre-DSM-V) but brilliant and extraordinarily interesting. A real page-turner, I couldn't put it down. The focus is really on the science (both biological and social/psychological).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Red

    There's a lot of 'history' here. I just read How Sex Changed, so there's a lot of repeat info. Still, it's not all the same, and it's nice to have a slightly different angle. There's a lot of 'history' here. I just read How Sex Changed, so there's a lot of repeat info. Still, it's not all the same, and it's nice to have a slightly different angle.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Thought provoking, provides a different outlook on the issues.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jaina

    This is the first of it's kind...the inside from the outsider's POV. This is the first of it's kind...the inside from the outsider's POV.

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