Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age, by Richard J. Novic. iUniverse, 2005.

by Samantha P.

AliceBookWhat an interesting book! Dr. Novic really does “tell it all,” from his early childhood right through to the present, including his sexual encounters with men while in feminine mode.

His love and caring for his life partner and for their children is made very clear right from the opening pages of the book, a theme carried right through to the end. The balance he and his wife have struck in their married life as they come to grips with Alice, transgenderism and crossdressing is absolutely remarkable.

The common perception is that transgenderism is a choice. In answer to the question, “Is crossdressing a choice?” he clearly states, “Crossdressing is a choice, but being a crossdresser is not.”

In Alice in Genderland, Dr. Novic addresses just about every issue a crossdressing transgender faces in his/her life. In dealing with the issue of “passing” he says, “One good thing about not passing is that it forces you to grow as a person. If I had passed with ease, I probably would’ve continued to think I was doing something bad but getting away with it. I wouldn’t have been spurred on to get comfortable and even proud of being a crossdresser. Similarly, transsexuals who’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that they aren’t just like any other women tend to be better adjusted.”

Throughout, Dr. Novic emphasizes the worries and cares common to life partners of just about every transgender. At one point in describing one of his wife’s deepest concerns he says, “She worried that I might be gay but unable to face it. ‘Perhaps you’re rushing deeper and deeper into your relationship with me,’ she would fret, ‘so you don’t have to face your true desires. Then maybe years later, you’ll wake up and realize that you have to leave me and our kids to be with a man.'”

His rationale for crossdressing, he explains, is that, “… women’s lib had proclaimed for years that it was all right for a woman to do anything men did. So I reasoned it was ok for me to do something women did — get dolled up and dine out.”

He goes on to explain, “Of course I should be free to express my femininity any way I saw fit ” on my own. But if I wanted to be Melissa’s husband, she had to have some say in the matter so I didn’t drift too far from being the kind of person she’d want to spend her life with. Throughout our years together, I’ve been very grateful for her tolerance given the norms of our culture, but still sometimes chafed at how she restricted my self-expression. Now, I realize that as an individual she was only negotiating for what she needed in order to be happy over the long run — and thank god she did.”

Advice for the crossdresser? There’s a lot in this book, usually emphasized by descriptions of personal experience. For example, “One of the best remedies for homophobia and transphobia, I learned, is to come out and put a human face on the words gay, lesbian, crossdresser, and transsexual. That way people can know us for the human beings we are rather than the demons we’re made out to be.” And, “… whenever I had met a potential friend, I’d thought, Is this the kind of person who would like me if they really knew me? and then acted accordingly.”

In his concluding remarks he addresses all who have “secret” problems. “Maybe you have your own indelible curse, which you strive to turn into a blessing? Or maybe someone you love does? If so, I hope my story has nourished and inspired you. One by one, we can make a difference.”

Open and honest, this is a book well worth reading. However… I’m not sure I would want to give it to my wife… just yet!