Every novel is as unique as its author (um, with exceptions). Even though the writer insists that it’s fiction and she made it all up, a novel emerges from her memories, observations, emotions, passions, impressions.
A good bit of left-brain analysis transforms her experiences into interesting fiction, but the building blocks of the story come from a deeper place.
Cold Feet, my mystery novel from Five Star, was released this month. One of its ingredients?
Not what you’re thinking!
I’m talking about gender identity. Every three-year-old knows the answer to this question: “Are you a boy or a girl?” But do they always give the answer you expect?
A main character in Cold Feet is male-to-female transsexual. She has taken hormones and undergone numerous feminization surgeries. She’s as female as I am, except that she can’t have children and her cells have a Y chromosome – facts not visible to the eye.
Since I am not transsexual, and I’m not aware that I know any transsexuals, how did this character emerge from my psyche?
My mother was a clinical psychologist , and occasionally she’d mention an interesting case while keeping the details confidential. Several times she saw children with gender dysmorphia. Actually, she counseled the child’s parents who were worried and puzzled because Timmy wanted to wear a dress or Sally refused to put one on. Gender is part of a child’s identity. Starting around the age of three, a child knows: I am a girl. I am a boy. And sometimes that identity doesn’t agree with the child’s DNA. Just imagine the child’s struggle with parents, teachers, classmates. The bullying and shaming. To understand, watch some of these movies.
Once I worked in a building shared with other businesses. A co-worker whispered to me that a certain woman on the second floor was transsexual, and though I never spoke to the woman, I saw her many times. She was quiet, with beautiful long dark hair. She was a bit taller than the average woman but she looked and acted completely female. She was female. For most women, a birthright. For her, an extraordinary achievement.
Can you imagine the psychological agony of growing up in the wrong body, viewed by society as the wrong gender? The courage it would take to change? To put yourself through the cost and pain of chemical and surgical procedures to change your sex?
In Cold Feet, a sex-change surgeon talks about her work:
“It takes a long time, at least two years. The patient starts with hormones, which feminize the body. There’s a year of psychological counseling and evaluation. Then surgery converts the male to female. Other surgeries such as facial re-contouring and breast augmentation are sometimes performed. Electrolysis, to remove facial hair, or back hair if necessary. It’s different for everyone. . .
About one in five hundred boys is not [comfortable in his skin.] A few of them learn enough, and have the resources, to change. In the US today? The estimate is over thirty thousand people have had SRS. Many more attempt to be accepted by society as female, with hormone treatments and cross-dressing. The chances are high that you know someone passing as female who was born male. . .
Gender dysmorphia is roughly as common as cerebral palsy, or blindness, or cleft palate. Those conditions receive insurance coverage, research, and public support. The transsexual? Ignorance. Their lives are lonely.”
When readers meet my transsexual character in Cold Feet, I hope some of that ignorance can be dispelled. She is a flawed human being who makes mistakes like the rest of us. She has emotions and dreams, fears and desires. Her sex is only a small part of her identity, but after the SRS, her outside matches her inside. She is a whole person.
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My first mystery novel, Cold Feet (Five Star Cengage, ISBN 9781432826376), was published on January 16. My sleuth character, Stella Lavender, buys drugs undercover. She also investigates homicides. She doesn’t realize she’ll have to play both these roles when she attends an elegant outdoor wedding at a faux Scottish castle in rural North Carolina. But when the bride is found dead and a paranoid drug dealer puts the moves on her grandmother. Stella has to untie a complex knot of grief, betrayal, and secrets before the killer claims another victim.
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I’d love to hear what you think! Lots of ways to get in touch: Email me, stop by my website, subscribe to my blog , or like me on Facebook. If you’ve read Cold Feet, will you let me know: is she a fully realized character?