The Transgender Debate: The Crisis Surrounding Gender Identity (Behind the Headlines) Paperback – 9 May 2000
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From the Author
Why read this book?
This short book is intended to be a resource primarily for non-trans people who wish to get a simple grasp on current transgender issues. Perfect for older high school students, university undergraduates from many fields who need a simple explanation to the back ground of their project work, and for family and friends of trans people who simply want to understand.
It addresses the historical, social, legal and medical issues surrounding the new community. The book throws light onto what are complex issues, clarifying them in a way that all those who think they know what gender roles mean, will be called to question the certainties they are no longer about.
Transgender has become a cultural obsession. From the high camp of Ru Paul to the working class transsexual icon, Hayley of the UK's longest running soap "Coronation Street", it pervades our lives. Yet for many it remains a freakish interest on the sidelines. For transsexual and transgender people, though, it is a reality bound up in complexities, legal contradictions, family discord, and a desperate need to explain what it means to be a man or a woman, or neither, or both.
About the Author
Stephen Whittle is a transman, who transitioned into the male role over 25 years ago. He has been deeply involved in the transsexual and transgender movement, and has written extensively in the area of transsexuals and the law.
Top customer reviews
I'm sure you can picture the scene. There I am .. halfway through trying to make the point that trans people have been around a bit longer than the "News of the World" or "Jerry Springer" added together, and suddenly I realise that all the names and dates between Deuteronomy and Dana International have suddenly deserted me! (Incidentally, how CAN trans be both an "invention of the late twentieth century" and the subject of some pretty stern words in the Old Testament ?)
Then there's the point that trans identities turn up in so many and varied civilisations. Who was it who studied the Chukchi of Siberia, and HOW many gender categories was it that they recognise ? How do you even SPELL "Wakawawine", let alone back the surprising revelation of so many different perspectives on human gender identity, without a handy reference to where your sceptical audience can go and read more for themselves ?
In short, there are so many times when what I've really yearned to have in my bag was a handy little summary of all this sort of information. A book that's small enough to carry along, but full of the things that the world needs to grasp if it is to fully understand the "trans phenomenon". The essentials for understanding a community which has so recently, with the aid of the Internet, sprung from obscurity into a fully-fledged worldwide movement with the political objective of freeing itself from the chains of other people's ignorance, indifference and intolerance.
Enter veteren trans campaigner, Dr Stephen Whittle. A man with the unusual distinction of having co-founded a radical Lesbian Group in the mid 70's before coming out as a trans man .. since which time he has studied and ascended the academic ladder as a lawyer, become father to four young children, taken his government to the European Court of Human Rights, founded the UK Trans Lobby Group Press for Change, appeared on television countless times .. and somehow managed to fit in the time to write a shelf-full of books and learned papers too.
Many trans people have found fame simply on account of who and what they are, but Dr Whittle belongs in that far more exclusive club .. that handful of trans men and women who are universally known and respected for their encyclopaedic knowledge of a subject and their contribution to making people think.
And it certainly demands a man with this much experience .. this consummate a grasp of his subject .. to compress so much, so readably, into such a small publication.
The Transgender Debate explains all the things a trans person knows and the rest of the world doesn't. From a starting point of explaining the most essential of terminology (the difference between sex, gender role and gender identity) Whittle goes on to introduce the people, in all their diversity.
One word, half a million very different personalities.
From here we journey through the facts and figures, historical and anthropological perspectives, to arrive at the issues confronting trans people today; The imperatives which thrust them together to make a campaigning community.
Finally, Whittle charts the history of that movement, through a hundred years of conceptual evolution to the present day.
So often as a campaigner I feel like saying to people, "Go away .. have the manners to read up about my subject and then come back for an informed discussion". The problem is that if they have to read half a library full of references to get to that point then you know they won't. And that's the delight of this little book, part of a "Behind the Headlines" series which sets out to explain the essentials of topics like Northern Ireland, Homelessness and Food Safety in a format that you can comfortably polish off in the space of one morning's commute.
I *am* biassed, of course. The author is not only a campaigning associate but also a man I am pleased to count as a friend. But this is no empty eulogy. I bought my review copy myself, and I'll be buying spare copies too .. to use as a way to demand that the people I talk to as a campaigner read up about me and my people first. Stephen's people. Our community.
Over the years I've bought many books about trans, and borrowed many more. This is first I've wanted to buy in bulk to give out.
Christine Burns Vice President Press for Change
As soon as I'd read this, I bought two more copies, so I can keep one with me & 'lend' out the others to people I feel the need to explain my perspective to.
It's short & to the point, just what I need to defuse some of those 'arguments' with people who just don't believe what I say!!
Think I'll have to buy more copies if the ones I lend out don't get returned!
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