Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The great travel writer Jan Morris was born James Morris. James Morris distinguished himself in the British military, became a successful and physically daring reporter, climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and established a reputation as a historian of the British empire. He was happily married, with several children. To all appearances, he was not only a man, but a man’s man.
Except that appearances, as James Morris had known from early childhood, can be deeply misleading. James Morris had known all his conscious life that at heart he was a woman.
Conundrum, one of the earliest books to discuss transsexuality with honesty and without prurience, tells the story of James Morris’s hidden life and how he decided to bring it into the open, as he resolved first on a hormone treatment and, second, on risky experimental surgery that would turn him into the woman that he truly was.
nonpersons even to themselves. FIVE IDENTITY · PRECEDENTS OF SORTS · DR. BENJAMIN · “TO ALTER THE BODY!” It is only in hindsight that I compare myself with those numbed and alienated prisoners. I was so blithe in many ways in my youth, and enjoyed so many advantages, that the conflict within me did not rage, but rather festered. I was subject to periods of melancholic depression, which grew fiercer as I grew older, but I looked on the bright side generally, and adhered to the belief,
elevating force; young men are no longer ashamed of weaknesses; the stiff upper lip is no longer an ideal, only a music hall sally. The barrier between the genders is flimsier now, and no expedition will ever again go to the Himalayas so thoroughly masculine as Hunt’s. It embarrasses me rather to have to admit that from that day to this, none has gone there more successfully. I need not belabor my sense of alienation from this formidable team. I liked most of its members very much, and have
none, and through the curtain I diffidently go, to stand there at the bifurcation of the passengers undetermined. An awful moment passes. Everyone seems to be looking at me. Then “Move along there, lady, please, don’t hold up the traffic”— and instantly I join the female queue, am gently and (as it proves) not all that skillfully frisked by a girl who thanks me for my co-operation, and emerge from another small crisis pleased (for of course I have hoped for this conclusion all along) but shaken
purposes a woman, that idea may in turn be made to give way to a higher ideal—that there is neither man nor woman.” This quotation was sent to me by Henry from India, and it greatly comforted me, for of the problems that remained to me after Casablanca, much the most serious concerned my children. I would not know how these unusual events would affect them—nor shall I know, I suppose, for years to come. But at least I had not antagonized them. All four had been my staunchest allies throughout
that it was altogether of itself, sans cause, sans meaning. It is only in writing this book that I have delved so deeply into my own emotions. Yet nothing I have discovered there has shaken my conviction, and if I were trapped in that cage again nothing would keep me from my goal, however fearful its prospect, however hopeless the odds. I would search the earth for surgeons, I would bribe barbers or abortionists, I would take a knife and do it myself, without fear, without qualms, without a