Man Under Construction
Notes on transsexuality
In the autumn of 2012, Maxim Februari, known until then as writer and philosopher Marjolijn Februari, announced his intention to live as a man. In Man Under Construction he describes how the news was greeted: the unease, the interest and the slightly too comradely tone in which people suddenly started to address him. Whatever the reaction, there was always an element of ignorance. Hardly anyone seemed to understand what a sex change actually involves or how best to react to it.
In his outstanding and perceptive book, Februari contemplates the many questions he had to deal with during his transition, on subjects ranging from the effects of testosterone, the sexual organs and love to the legal position and matters of linguistic usage: should we say transgender or transsexual? He meticulously dissects these issues without making them any less personal.
Februari analyses our impressions of effeminate men and butch women, and examines apparent acceptance and actual prejudice. Curiously, to gain access to medical treatment you are required to demonstrate that you are psychologically disturbed, since you need to be diagnosed as suffering from a ‘gender identity disorder’, and the book examines the implications of this requirement. Then there are the far-reaching demands of officialdom, which must be met so that, for example, ‘you can go on holiday with a passport that gives your correct gender’.
Februari’s account of his own transition is fascinating. Although the process of changing sex is of course a lengthy one, the outside world experiences it as a fairly abrupt switch. From one day to the next, as the testosterone took effect, Februari started to find himself addressed as a man rather than as a woman. ‘What had changed?’ he asks himself. ‘In the intervening twenty-four hours I hadn’t had a haircut, I wasn’t wearing different clothes; it was just that the testosterone had altered the subtle signals by which my body suggested its sex.’
Februari’s characteristically clear, philosophical outlook, combined with his personal, sometimes moving, sometimes funny experiences make this account unique. He analyses and describes, charts and inquires. Above all, he makes us think.
- Answers many common and uncommon questions.
- Discusses the social niceties of language and etiquette.