Jay Sennett |||

Gender Paradox: A Life, an Excerpt, Part 1

Gender Paradox: A Life is the title of my memoir. Below is the first part of a four part excerpt. I look forward to your feedback in the comments, and thank you! (Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4)


Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” Frederick Buechner

I walk towards my mailbox, stop, open it and pull out my mail. There seems to be more of it than I expect. A slight woman hurries behind me towards the elevator.I pull out flyers and catalogues and a credit card bill or two. The elevator doors open. Still more mail appears. The requisite time elapses and in the back of my head I know that the doors will close without me. If I dally longer, I will have to wait.

So I close and lock the mailbox door and dash to the elevator in three long steps. At 73 inches I had always been a tall woman. The distance is nothing for me. But the width of the door opening only allows me to insert my hand to push in the emergency closure device open. I push harder than I realize. The slight African-American woman raises her head to stare at me.

Absolute terror fills her face.

Don’t be afraid,” I want to say. I’m not the man you think I am. I used to be a woman six months ago.”


In 1996, about six months or so before my thirty-second birthday I began hormone replacement therapy. I injected soluble testosterone every two weeks. Within weeks wispy locks of hair sprouted over my face. Muscles burst forth on my chest and shoulders. I ate for two people most days of the week.

Most importantly, my voice deepened. I needed these changes. For years my body and I disagreed with one another. Inside I felt like a man. Outside, my body said, No, I’m a woman.” My body trumped whatever I felt and knew inside myself.

For years - in fact most of my life - I wanted to inhabit a body that felt male to me and also seemed male to the outside world. Until I mustered enough gumption to make the necessary changes to have my outside match my inside, I nurtured deep and abiding fantasies about living as a man: dating, dressing, ease of movement through public places, an end to the interrogations I endured from strangers when my voice - then high pitched - revealed what I tried to hide beneath male clothing and silence.

(Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4)

Up next Gratitude as a Political Practice Gender Paradox: A Life, An Excerpt, Part 2 Gender Paradox: A Life is the title of my memoir. Below is the first part of a four part excerpt. I look forward to your feedback in the comments,
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