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Perfidious Man

Radcliff Alistair Gregory says about himself, "I write poetry and non-fiction prose, published sporadically for 25 years in a variety of journals (including “Chroma”) and books, along with three collections of poetry under another name. Currently, I am doing a research PhD in cultural history at Loughborough University, and am in the process of organising the inaugural Polyverse Poetry Festival. My main focus of my academic research is in tracing the origins and evolution of gender-variance, with particular reference to transgenderism/transsexuality, during the 1887-1930 period, though it inevitably crosses paths with related material.

Perfidous_man One book I would recommend for something different is “Perfidious Man”; the introduction is by novelist Will Self, but the bulk of the book is his biography-from-interview of Stephen Whittle. He was one of the first people to begin the (very) long process of transforming from a biological female body to being fully male. He is also an eminent law academic, and high-achieving campaigner for the recent changes in the law that finally brought some legal rights to transsexual people that everyone else takes for granted.

Told through Whittle’s own words, and lavishly illustrated with photographs, the book presents a moving, but unapologetic, first-hand account of what it is like to go through one of the most drastic life changes in human experience. Reading this book is like watching a three-dimensional person gradually unfurl from a mouldy seed, almost the personal equivalent of the Big Bang.

This book differs from any other I have read on the subject in that it includes a sharp critique of self and motive, not only of the subjective variety, but also with an incisive academic clarity. Whittle challenges and analyses what the process actually means, personally, socially, and comparatively.

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I contacted Professor Whittle to tell him of this post and he emailed back with this reply. I know he will be reading the post, so if anyone wishes to reply I suggest you add it as a comment below:

Working with Will Self on this project was an opportunity to say something, but out of the context of an autobiography which I have always said I will never write, as I simply would feel unable to tell the full truth. about everything.

Will was entirely an object of glamour on his visits to my family. Every single one of us; my wife, the children, the au pair and myself, fell madly in love with him. His manner was so open, and so inviting for the confession, yet we trusted him completely. I felt no qualms about confessing all to him and knew he would do what was right. I truly enjoy the writing of my words, and know that for many trans men like me it has been an important part of their self evaluation.

The book caused me some considerable personal problems. My mother and siblings hated it, for the inclusion of their names - they did not want people to know they were associated with me. My mother hated what she called the lies about my father, but she was truly astonished to ultimately discover that he was a fantasist and liar. So were we all.  We realised his wartime stories had  all been told to us individually and alone, and as an apparent privilege that was ours and ours alone. But he had embellished them in ways which were totally fantasy, I knew about his apparent role in the D Day landings, my sister knew about his apparent role as one of the troops who entered Belsen, and so on, for each of us it was different. Yet we were to discover that he had never been in the army other than when doing National Service after the war.

For some time, my relationship with my birth family was very difficult. I was angry with my mother for ruining my vision of my father, and she was angry with the lies. She wrote to me a letter in which she said "It was the 1970s, it was difficult, I fed and clothed you, what more did you want?". I thought about the fact that she had never mentioned love, but it also forced me to think back to what the 1950s to 1970s were like, and I acknowledged that bringing up 5 children must have been very difficult, and probably too difficult to allow much love to enter the equation.  I wrote back saying I loved her, and gradually we got on an even footing, again but my youngest brother has never forgiven me for my part in Perfidious man.

As for Will, we still all love and adore him, and I was honoured to work with him on this project.

Read more about Stephen Whittle at Wiki.
Read an interview with Stephen Whittle here.
Find out more about Will Self here.
Pick up a second hand copy of the book here.
Or a new copy here.

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Comments

Caroline

A perfect post, in so many ways.

DJ Kirkby

Rad,
I don't have time to watch the video right now because I MUST buy a copy of this book before I leave for work today. Thank you.

Rachel Green

Super, Thanks for the review. I've bought a copy.

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