In this Christian romance set in 1970, the obstacles to happiness are first that Jamie has Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis, and second that her parents insist she is a boy. MGD means that some of her cells have XY chromosomes while others are missing the Y, a medical condition resulting in a body quite small even for a girl—elfin as Jamie thinks of it. Her body had nonfunctional ovaries and cancerous testis which had to be removed. She would need hormone replacement in order to experience puberty in either gender. Her parents want her to take testosterone which Jamie fears would turn her into a hairy dwarf.
Jamie is home-schooled to protect her from bullying and to instill in her a strong desire to be the boy her parents want. (At that time, much of the medical profession believed in the malleability of gender and advised parents to stifle any variant gender expression.) She prays for some resolution, and gets a scholarship and admission to college at 16. There she begins to encounter people who accept her as she is, so she sheds the Jamison pretense she has been using to please her father. She also falls in love with a friend’s brother who has enlisted for the war in Vietnam.
Because of the strong and pervasive element of Christian faith, this book has the potential to reach readers who might avoid LGBT-themed fiction. In so doing, it may open more eyes to the realization that gender identity and sexual orientation are not genitally determined. Jamie appears to believe that her medical condition justifies her gender identity/sexual orientation and thus avoids any suggestion of homosexuality, an attitude which fit the 1970s but can be jarring if the story is read as set in contemporary times. Nevertheless, Jamie’s anguish at being pressured to deny her core identity will ring true for readers who are transgender.
Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite helps fill some of the great void in accurate and readable stories about intersex people. Although intersex is often described as rare, the Intersex Society of North America states that one in every 100 births is of a person whose body differs from biological male or female. Every public library needs to be aware of serving this population.
Reviewer: Carolyn Caywood, Retired
Virginia Beach Public Library