Book review: From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland, by Louis Sullivan

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No. 1 & 2, Fall 1990/Winter 1991.

Cover of From Male to FemaleSullivan, Louis. From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland. Alyson Publications, 1990. Paper. $8.95. (1-55583-1508)

This is the story of a California journalist, born a woman in 1869, who passed as a man for thirty-six years, from 1900 – 1936. Sullivan concentrates on the transition period, 1897-1900, when Garland was known and discussed as being a woman dressed as a man. On a daily basis, Garland was written about or published her own work in the local newspapers and so was able to influence public opinion and address criticism. Garland said that she dressed asa man in order to be with men as an equal and form “male relationships.” During the years that Garland passed as a man, he sought out and befriended runaway boys and outcast men, giving away all that he earned. There is no evidence of romantic involvement with either men or women. Sullivan concludes that Garland felt he was a man in a woman’s body and in a brief epilogue, Sullivan discusses transexuality.

The book is well-written and Sullivan wisely uses Garland’s own writing about the time of transition. Garland’s writing is fresh and compassionate and it is a great loss that we do not have Garland’s private journals. Garland’s published writings make a good source for contemporary thought about cross-dressing and also might serve as inspiration for any nonconformist.

This book would be good for academic libraries as a historical source and for larger public libraries as an interesting read.

Reviewed by Bill Edminster
Gerber-hart Gay and Lesbian Library
Chicago, Illinois

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