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.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.

One Comment

  1. Having just finished Julia Seranos book last night I’m not surprised that even authors that I like have serious blindspots about dealing with trans. I think it will be a wonderful day when actual transpeople are allowed to tell our stories.

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