Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity by Alex Drummond


I came across this book through a post on Genderfork.com, and upon seeing the cover immediately identified with the author. I promptly purchased the Kindle version of this book and read through it over the next couple of days. This is my first shot at doing any sort of book review, but hopefully I can communicate my thoughts about it with some manner of eloquence.

They say to never judge a book by it's cover, but for a moment here I want to do exactly that. The cover to this book works amazingly well for presenting a summary of what will be found inside. Though it's a subtle detail, I love the use of blue and pink in the title, it feels very thoughful. The photo of the author is both eye-catching and very informative, as although his outfit could certainly be classed as "girly", his beard and lack of any fake parts or padding tell us that this isn't just going to be a book about traditional cross-dressing. Personally, I didn't really need to look any further than this cover to know I was interested in reading what he had to say.

The book starts with a preface, wherein the author both outlines what he hopes to accomplish with the book and tries to familiarize readers with the terms & ideas within. It's very successful in easing us into the language of the book, and it was very helpful to know just what the intentions in writing this book were before diving in. This book, ultimately, is about exploring the space between genders, looking outside the traditional male / female binary. It's about recognizing that gender presentation does not have to be so rigid, and that we should strive to be ourselves, not just some caricature of male or female that is often times forced upon us.

The book is dividing into two sections, "Doing Transgender" and "Transgender Theory". The first section, "Doing Transgender", is an account of Alex's personal journey of self-discovery, starting all the way from childhood up to his current happenings. I found this section extremely fascinating, as I was really able to relate to a lot of the situations and feelings the author shared. The doubts, fears, and concerns that Alex shared in this book are things that all who break the gender binary have felt at some point, so getting a look into his life and reading about how he overcame it all to discover and ultimately become himself was both inspiring and helpful. This particular section of the book was my favorite part, as I love to hear about how others found their courage and spread their own wings. I highly recommend purchasing this book just for this section alone.

The second section, "Transgender Theory", is an academic look at transgender topics. It can get a bit heady at times (as the author warns), but he succeeds in finding a way to communicate the ideas in a way that should be accessible to all. The section covers a lot of ground, focusing on both historical conceptualizations and contemporary ideas and scientific theory behind transgender identities, and how our current understanding of said identities is still developing. This chapter goes a long way in explaining just how far we've both come and still need to go in gaining understanding and acceptance of transgender identities as a society. The section is a lot to take in, but it's very informative and helpful for understanding how we can help to break the gender binaries and inspire people to be themselves and to accept others.

Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity is a compelling, thought-provoking book for not just those interested in transgender topics, but for any reader. This is a book that anyone could read and gain a much better understanding of an often misunderstood and at times maligned segment of our society. Alex Drummond's story of self-discovery and acceptance is heartfelt and important, and I highly recommend giving this book a read.

You can find Grrl Alex: A Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Additionally, Alex Drummond has a personal blog which you can find here, and he is also on Twitter

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