Saturday, January 8, 2011


I started reading a new book last night: Annabel (by Kathleen Winter).  It was one of the finalists for the 2010 Giller Prize which is what got me on to it in the first place.  I'm not very far yet but I'm far enough to know that this is going to be a very good book.

Basic story: a baby is born in a small, secluded town in Labrador.  The baby is born with both male and female genitalia.

Uh oh.

The parents agonize over what to do and then mom ends up at the big city hospital with her baby.  The doctor pulls out his ruler to measure the length of the baby's penis.  If it's a certain length, they will 'make' the baby a boy.  If it's not, it will be a girl.

No mention about what kind of person this baby may grow up to be if left to its own devices.  No mention about the fact that this little person may like to have a say in the matter.

The penis was long enough so the baby was christened Wayne and life got back to normal for everyone.

But I have a feeling that Wayne may not feel quite right in his skin as she grows up and am intrigued as to how she and the author are going to deal with it.

It's interesting.  I can imagine that being born with both sets of genitalia would be pretty devastating in many ways.  But it would also be a bit closer to reality in a lot of ways.  I see gender as one big ruler.  Extreme masculinity on one end, extreme femininity on the other.  Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes yet we all get assigned a gender and are asked to dress appropriately.

People don't fit neatly into boxes and the thought that a simple measuring stick can be used to determine someone's gender is pretty horrifying.  I hope Wayne finds some degree of comfort in his body but I'm guessing by the title of the book that she might not.  In which case, I hope he has the courage to be who she is.

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