David Valentine goes through his book talking about different experiences that many individuals have throughout their lifetime. For some, he discusses how they identify themselves in the world and the society that they live in while for others, he just gets to know and understand them and their life to his best abilities. In chapter three titled “I know what I am,” Valentine talks to multiple individuals and asks them how they identify themselves and also how they come to understand the terms transgender and transsexual. Mind you, these aren’t random people he found at the mall or grocery store who could know a little bit of information to a lot of information about trans identities; these are people who choose to embody and/or interact with individuals who identify as trans. Cherry is one of the people that he talks to that really caught my eye and I found myself thinking about her story after I finished reading. Cherry identifies herself as “female. I mean just because I have this penis doesn’t mean that I consider myself a man. I don’t even consider myself being born male, like I mean, I was just born with a penis, that’s the way I look at it. And I consider the penis a clitoris” (117).

I think that the way that Cherry has chosen to identify herself is so interesting because she has taken what she has been born with, a penis, and made it into what she needs it to be, a clitoris. I think that this way of thinking of yourself is so interesting and novel because she has made her body what she wants her body to be. She has not let gender stereotypes or any stereotypes for that matter determine her view of her own body. Isn’t that a great way of thinking of things? Letting your body be and represent what YOU want it to be, not letting what anyone else wants it to be influence you I can imagine is a very freeing way of thinking. She believes that just because she was born with male anatomy, this does not determine whether or not she is a man or a woman. She accepts that she has been born with a penis, even though she identifies as a female who ordinarily would lack this organ, and takes it and uses it to her advantage, sexual pleasure.

Valentine also talks about how because Cherry has participated with and been in contact with formalized contexts of community “which employ the understandings of ‘gay’ and ‘transgender'” she has been given the tools to see her identity in a different light than those who are not given or do not take advantage of these opportunities (118). Valentine talks about how Cherry uses her own life experiences to frame her transgender discourse as a “my process” (118). By using what she has learned through these different resources, she has been able to come to know her identity in a different way than others. Maybe by making more support groups, social service agencies, and clinics more available or more accepted as resources; more people may be able to come to know their identities in similar ways.

 

-Jenna Wise

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