I feel weird reviewing this because it’s not a story, this is real and it’s an autobiography about Joe/Joella. Although listed as an LGBT+ book, this is not about trans or genderfluid/non-binary people. This does, however, cover a lot about the gender spectrum. Joe was born without fully formed organs and some were missing entirely, including his genitalia. He was described by doctors as “intersex”. He was then told being raised a girl might be easier for him as it would be easier to create “female” genitals rather than construct male genitals. Throughout the book is about Joe’s struggles to be accepted as a girl while feeling like a boy, and how he questions gender as a whole.
It starts off being quite offensive to anyone on the gender spectrum:
“It’s really only a matter of different clothes, isn’t it?” she said when mum and dad explained what they’d been told. “Joel is still the same baby, they’re just telling you that he should have been wearing pink instead of blue”
“I’ve always said he’s too pretty to be a boy anyhow”
“Once I was asleep she put all of my boy’s clothes into a bin bag and got out the pile of girls’ things”
“It registered with mum that it was very boyish of me to be so interested in cars”
Obviously, it was really hurtful and not fun at all to read these with largely took up the first half of the story. As Joe started to understand himself more and how he felt, he brought up much better points on gender that were much less hurtful and harmful and the discussion of gender was a much better one:
“It became apparent that very many babies – up to one in 1000, according to some researchers – is born with an “intersex” characteristic. People can be born with the internal workings of one sex and the external appearance of another or with the genitals of a man but the chromosomes of a woman.”
“It was quite usual for babies with male chromosomes to be assigned to the female sex and vice versa”
“The chromosome test, like everything else we look at, should not be treated in isolation. The notion of there being two distinct and separate genders is becoming very outdated thanks to today’s science so we really must treat these results as a small part of the entire picture”
“Gender is a spectrum with males that have a penis, testes and XY chromosomes at one end and females that have a clitoris, labia, womb and XX chromosomes at the other and all kinds of variations inbetween”
“I think my case proves that gender is far more than a matter of clothes or conditioning. I was raised a girl in every way but I was absolutely a boy”
Although I personally see some things wrong here, like labeling genitalia “female” and “male” and saying some things are female and some things are male, etc., I think the points made were great ones. The book overall just had a gradual discussion on what gender is, more so than his other conditions but he did touch a lot on how not having a naturally formed digestive system did get in the way of his life sometimes and things like that.
It was very blunt, matter of fact and casual. It was kind of like he was sitting down at the table and just talking about what had happened to him over a drink. Although there was some parts that felt like kind of long-winded, and there were things that were repeated and that was kind of annoying. For most of the story, though, the writing style felt very friendly.
I know this wasn’t too long, but again it’s kind of hard to write reviews on autobiographies and something so personal and it got so dark near the end too that I wouldn’t really want to add to the negative media Joe has been fed a large portion of his life. I think this is an interesting take on the gender spectrum. From what I know, there’s a lot that isn’t really…right with this, but I think it’s a good starting point. It’s super emotional. I think I gave this three stars, but I would still recommend it. It’s not what I expected but I don’t think I can really blame the author for that.
Until next time,