While avoiding all the typical media portrayals of trans persons as victims or villains: "Undercover Girl" is an emotionally articulate and often complex memoir authored by psychologist Dr. Jill Davidson, a dedicated respected health care professional, with numerous colleagues, associates, a multitude of friends, and supported by a loving family.
John MacDonald was born (1955) too married observant Irish Catholic parents, and raised in East Orange, NJ. the youngest, with two brothers and a sister. He attended Catholic schools and spent his summers of relaxation/recreation on a 264 acre family farm located in Hartford, NY. He had no interest in sports, cars, athletics, hunting, fishing, or the science kits his father encouraged him to build. Instead he preferred the company of girls, reading, and helping his mother with cooking, baking, and household chores. As a teen, with a keen interest in psychology, John volunteered on a teen crisis line for many years, but was forced to quit over his father's opposition to the line referring students for abortion services. Winning the fully paid tuition NY State Regents Scholarship he attended the University of Buffalo, majoring in psychology.
While in college, John studied books/literature of trans issues and knew a few trans people, but never identified with them. He suffered from panic/anxiety attacks and sought therapy, not having an explanation for his therapists when asked: "Who are you?". John watched all the popular movies: "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest", "Terminal Man", "The Parallax View", they offered no insight to his anxiety issues, student teaching was particularly difficult. Experimenting in communal living John lived at the "Hippie House", he observed/attended in the Viet Nam anti-war protests/demonstrations in Newark, NJ. Following graduation John married Linda (1977) in a ceremony with her rabbi giving a Jewish/Catholic blessing. Their only daughter Rachel was born in 1984.
John and Linda moved to Austin Texas where John attended the University of Texas on a full scholarship from the National Institute of Mental Health. The program was challenging with half of the students from the prior class dropping out. John sought 10 week counseling sessions to help him manage the severe stress/anxiety his therapist felt was associated with identity and his desire to succeed/excel. The (RP) research proposals were due, John's was accepted, his dissertation was: "Reading Comprehension of Adolescents with Learning Disabilities". John's 1983 graduation was a memorable ceremony in The Tower Plaza with Lady Bird Johnson as the guest speaker.
After a brief teaching position at the University of Kentucky (EKU), John accepted a position as a school psychologist with the Seattle School District and moved his family to Poulsbo Washington, located across the Puget Sound from Seattle by ferry. They both loved the majestic area, with views of Mount Rainier, shimmering waters of the Sound, towering rustic Evergreen trees.
John wouldn't decide to transition (MtF) until many years had passed. Exploring his female identity, he began by joining the Emerald City Cross-Dressing Club, eventually coming out to Linda who understood/accepted his desire to present as female. Calling him her "Big Barbie", Linda helped him shop for clothes/shoes/accessories, apply make-up, etc. Linda's love and support were vital as he transitioned to Jill Davidson. Linda was also undergoing chemotherapy cancer treatments at the time, all things were especially challenging. It was very interesting to read about trans history, legal/medical terms and procedures. Jill revealed all the details of emotional and physical transformation, and covered an extensive amount of information in "Undercover Girl". This is a long review, I thought it was important to highlight Davidson's family stability, and academic/professional accomplishments, which were many.
Davidson, is a public school psychologist, and advocate for LGBT education and rights, and lives near the Seattle area.
Remembering: Sylvia Rivera ~ (1951-2002 ~ NYC, New York) ~ Victoria White (d. 09/12/10 Maplewood, NJ) ~ Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) November 20th ~