by Juliet Jacques (Verso, £14.99)
Brave, courageous, moving. These words can all be applied to Juliet Jacques’s memoir of her sex change, which is based on the Guardian columns that won her an Orwell Prize nomination. Yet the author might consider these rather trite descriptions: as Jacques makes clear, her decision to transition from male to female was a gradual process punctuated by moments of despair, family strife and the odd uplifting game of football. Jacques is keen to avoid being labelled either a victim or a hero.
Trans explores Jacques’s sense of being trapped in the wrong body—a trait she first became aware of at the age of 10. It is also a thoughtful dissection of gender politics. She holds little back: suicidal thoughts, the fear of verbal and physical abuse, the pain of electrolysis and the tender joy of buying her first bra with her mother. The only thing missing is romance. Perhaps due to her personal complications Jacques has never fallen in love, or perhaps she wants to protect the identity of her lovers, but it leaves the reader feeling dissatisfied. I understand that her sex change was to do with her sense of self, not who she fancies, but since sexuality is such a fundamental part of gender definition its absence makes it tricky to form a full picture of her life. Jacques is committed to not sensationalising her life, describing confessional journalism as “performance art.” In doing so, however, she creates an emotional distance between herself and the reader.