Friday, October 9, 2009

Normal by Amy Bloom

normal Normal by Amy Bloom 2002 140 Pages 4/5 Gender issues seem to be something that we talk about more and more these days, and that can only be a good thing. The more we talk about something, the more something can be accepted. Sure, the more we talk, the more there is bound to be controversy that unfolds, but it allows the topic to be discussed. And I think that's what's important. Imagine a book subtitled Transexual CEO's, Crosdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitudes being openly talked about 50 years ago in a non hostile way. Don't think it would've happened. At least not in a wide venue. But I think we're ready to do that now. And Amy Bloom has given us this wonderful book to talk about. This is a short book and I guess that's my one complaint about it. That's the only reason it loses a star. I would've loved to see 100 more pages. The book has three main sections. The first looks at Female to Male transexuals, the second looks at Male crossdressers, and the third section examines the lives of Intersex individuals, or people born with ambiguous genitalia. I wish Bloom would've made this a more comprehensive volume. I wish she would've maybe addressed male to female transexuals as well, or maybe had a whole section focused on the idea of a gender continuum, an idea that's briefly mentioned, but never fully addressed. But let's focus on what actually gives the book 4 stars. Bloom's writing is extremely accessible. As I said, I would've loved another 100 pages of her writing. She's passionate about the issues that she addresses and it's obvious that she put a lot of time into this book. She spends time with these issues and doesn't hide her own emotions when writing about them. She asks the questions that we all want to know. What I loved about the book is that it's very interactive. Not only does Amy interview people who fit into each of the above categories, but she goes to their events, their conventions, their cruises and emerges herself in their lifestyles. Gets to know the people, the wives, the families, the friends. She paints a picture of what is like to live intersexed. She shows us that in essence these people are "normal". Not a sideshow freakshow like society has so often painted them to be. They lead normal lives. Sure, they have issues, they have things they deal with on a daily basis, but which one of us doesn't? My favorite thing about this book is that it challenges the idea of Normal. What is normal anyway? Amy shows us that when it comes to gender specifically, very few people fall into what society's picture of normal is. Gender is a continuum. Very few males are completely male and very few females are completely female. In their characteristics that is....we fall on a continuum. Most males will have some feminine traits, most females will have some male traits. Because a male likes to crochet does not mean that he's gay or crossdresses or wants to be a woman. Because a female likes to play football does not mean that she likes to dress like a boy, or that she's a lesbian or that she wants a penis. We can enjoy things that are typically of the other sex without wanting to be the other sex. I don't know that society has completely accepted this idea yet, but with the help of books like this, I think we're moving towards that direction.

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