FIXED FOR LIFE
The True Saga Of How Tom Became Sally
By Irene Preiss
To Excel Press
Pb $14.95, 287 pp
LAMBDA BOOK REPORT-Review
Skip the preface. In an attempt to define terms
and clarify the often cloudy language surrounding transsexuality and gender dysphoria, statements are made that might make one cross, like "A transvestite is one who dresses in the clothing of the opposite site sex for short periods of time because it's fun for them." (Am I going to have to tell my mother that her drag queen son is now a transvestite?)
That said, once you sink into the meat of the narrative, you'll find a riveting story full of surprise, self-realization, and all the conflicts that shape a good transsexual memoir. FIXED FOR LIFE recounts the saga of Tom, who joined the navy toward the end of WWII, and was on the road to a good mid-century American life that included wife, house, and kids. What lay between him and the fulfillment of that vision was his penchant for wearing women's clothes, and the satisfying feeling of acting like a woman in the process. For years he was a straight-laced naval officer, family man, and at times teacher and editor by day, then donned the trappings and vestments of Sally by night. Renting hotel rooms in San Francisco on the week-ends, Tom explored that side of himself, and at times left his family for long periods to attempt living as a woman. Sally's search for answers and identity finally led, after a decades-long journey, to gender-reassignment surgery when she was in her sixties. Her story is filled with life's rich details like surprisingly tolerant naval officers, and solace found in a suburban wig shop that practically serves as a normative center for the book.
FIXED FOR LIFE documents the struggle in
finding and joining the transsexual community, an
exceptionally difficult struggle for someone already established in the "mainstream." For at the same time Tom needed to be Sally, he still loved his wife (the second one; the first one was haggard), his children, and his career as both teacher and navy man. Preiss sheds light on those unique gender dysphorics who struggle somewhere between transvesticism and transsexuality. Particularly interesting is her examination of a straight man sexually attracted to women but who explores the attraction for men as hormonal and psychological changes of a new gender ensue. The "saga" of Tom and Sally is unique indeed, one in which he attempted a fetish and discovered a whole new identity in herself.
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