Monday, September 24, 2001

Never Enough Trans-Anything Department

Note: It's been a rough week for me, so I hope my absence hasn't been too keenly felt.

"I regard my body as a canvas on which I intend to draw---" --Andrew Martin

Many of you, I am sure, heard of the Robin Williams vehicle Bicentennial Man that came out a couple of years ago. The story, in short, is that of a robot's attempts over two centuries to become an ordinary human. I haven't seen the movie and so will not dwell on it.

However, I recently found--literally--a copy of the novel that inspired that movie. Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg's The Positronic Man is an engrossing read, to the extent that I have read it twice straight through and plan on a third reading before I put it down.

Now, I have always liked old-school science fiction. Sure, most of it shows modernist trains of thought that seem quaint in the age of post-modern, transhumanist science fiction. And that shows in the exaggerated representation of human conservatism present throughout. All the same, The Positronic Man rang true for me in one important aspect: his transformation from robot to human has many parallels with my own transsexuality.

As the robot Andrew Martin grew into his humanity, so I too find myself growing into my femininity. Andrew once settled for being creative and artistic--an amazing thing for a robot--then began wearing clothes, then began changing his outer form to reflect his ever-growing yearning to be seen as a man, battling prejudice the whole way. I once settled for simply expressing my female self in a male context, then began to crossdress, then began taking hormones, all the while struggling to overcome prejudice against the transgendered. Andrew used to settle for remarking on how humanlike he was for a robot and ended with the world declaring him fully human. I used to think of myself as a male with female traits but now realize that, more than anything else, I want to be recognized as a woman. Andrew's desire to be human was so great that he designed prosthetic organs; my desire to be female is so great that I am eagerly waiting for the day when biotechnology will be able to engineer a complete female reproductive tract.

And so I eagerly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to understand what it is like to have started out as one kind of person and, through repeated efforts and despite social resistance, bravely recreates themselves as another kind of person entirely. Plus, it's a quick read, so you now have no excuse.

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