Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)
The great travel writer Jan Morris was born James Morris. James Morris distinguished himself in the British military, became a successful and physically daring reporter, climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and established a reputation as a historian of the British empire. He was happily married, with several children. To all appearances, he was not only a man, but a man’s man.
Except that appearances, as James Morris had known from early childhood, can be deeply misleading. James Morris had known all his conscious life that at heart he was a woman.
Conundrum, one of the earliest books to discuss transsexuality with honesty and without prurience, tells the story of James Morris’s hidden life and how he decided to bring it into the open, as he resolved first on a hormone treatment and, second, on risky experimental surgery that would turn him into the woman that he truly was.
fulfilled as a mother if not as a wife, I would bide my time. I was afraid that even treatment by hormones, if it did not immediately sterilize me, would have some cruel effect upon children yet to be born; so I waited, intermittently visited some specialist whose contribution to transsexual knowledge I had read about, called on Dr. Benjamin when I was in New York, and settled gradually to the knowledge that here was a problem without absolute solution. I was wonderfully happy in other ways. I
street, as though for a moment or two I could levitate in real life. All this helped to make me younger. It was not merely a matter of seeming younger; except in the matter of plain chronology, it was actually true. I was enjoying that dream of the ages, a second youth. My skin was clearer, my cheeks were rosier, my tread was lighter, my figure was slimmer. More important, I was actually starting again. It was as though I had slipped the gears of life, returning to an earlier cycle for a second
slow words on my typewriter—read a headline from The Times in a delectable Chevalier accent—and eventually take an infinitely gentle look at his handiwork. “Très, très bons, you would nevair get surgery like that in England—you see, now you will be able to write!” For the first few days I felt altogether alone there. Contact with the world outside was not encouraged—“We will get anything for you, you have only to ask.” The bell beside my bed never did work, and when for the first time I
chipping its enameled rump. I restrain my annoyance, summon a fairly frosty smile, and make them all cups of tea, but I am thinking to myself, as they sheepishly help themselves to sugar, a harsh feminist thought. It would be a man, I think. Well it would, wouldn’t it? Such are the superficials of my new consciousness—and despite the little red horse I must add to them a frank enjoyment, which I think most honest women will admit to, of the small courtesies men now pay me, the standing up or
in time. The only interviewer who did throw me off my balance was an exceedingly clever and delightful girl from London, who besides being a detective’s daughter, and thus adept at the unnerving silence, knew far more about transsexualism than I did myself, and capped my every speculation with a proven statistic, or still worse a fact. So I was able to change my public identity in my own time. Presently I took to signing articles and reviews as Jan; also letters to The Times, whose letters