The First Man-Made Man

So I read The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy not long ago, and I’m going to ‘fess up: this book really bothered me. The research seemed solid. The topic was interesting & book-worthy. But it was also somewhat repetitive, and I felt the plot arch was mis-played; you find out too much of the story upfront, & so there isn’t so much story to keep up the second half of the book.

But that’s not what bothered me so much: the tone of the book was remarkably condescending. The interview with the monk at the end just felt like a dick joke. & A lot of the time, the narration made me so uncomfortable I really just wanted to read the actual manuscript the first trans man wrote, instead. (Although from what I hear, no one seems to know if a copy exists at all anymore, or not.)

Don’t get me wrong: this is a valuable & interesting book & really gets at how remarkably new the tech was; I especially enjoyed the section on the early practitioners of plastic surgery. But it just felt to me that the author never really believed he was a guy at all, which strikes me as a remarkably unsympathetic way to write about not just transness, but about a trans man who was so inexorably alone as a trans person. Michael Dillon strikes me as a remarkable soul who had a tremendous amount of integrity and bravery, and frankly, this book gives you just enough about him to know that the book didn’t do him justice.