|Review By: Louise Hickman|
The old saying “A picture speaks a thousand words” is certainly true in the case of this very interesting collection of photographs and text by Loren Cameron. As Cameron states, the project began as a means to validate his one life, but he has achieved much more. As an FTM transsexual he has presented a well-rounded account of the process he underwent, giving the reader an insight into a world that usually remains hidden.
The book primarily focuses on Cameron’s own journey — from early girlhood through to his current place as a man. However, the collection includes shorts accounts and photographs of other FTMs, in addition to some information on the various surgical techniques available to enhance their appearance and function as men.
Having been more familiar with male to female transsexuals, I found this book a real eye opener. The humour of drag queens has sometimes masked the serious, emotional aspects that gender transition entails. Cameron shows that there is often a very painful side to changing the outer shell to reflect the life within.
The life stories that Cameron’s subjects have shared illustrate that becoming male has created a whole new set of problems. Many of these men identified as lesbian and were part of the lesbian community prior to changing gender. Becoming a man has generally meant a huge upheaval in their lifestyles. Kayt is Loren’s girlfriend and the book offers snippets of their lives and relationship. Kayt also identifies as FTM but is still a woman. She remains a part of the lesbian community and says: “I don’t feel comfortable just saying that I’m with a man. Yet it’s such a complex thing to go into when someone simply asks if I have a girlfriend. I mean, they take one look at me and ask ‘What’s her name?’ The don’t expect to get a major social education.”
Many of these men are now in heterosexual relationships with women. They have shared how this has affected their way of thinking and lifestyle. Max Valerio says: “It took me a few years to comfortably identify as a heterosexual man without qualifying it somehow.” This seems to be common to several contributors in the book.
Body Alchemy is valuable to anyone who wants to expand their awareness; it shows that FTM transsexuals come from all works of life and face enormous challenges in their lives. Some of the stories are positive, but the residue feeling of the book is that FTMs face difficulties and problems at every turn. Loren features strongly in the book and his experiences are often painful. I feel he could have balanced this account with some indication that all the pain was worth the effort. Having said that, many of the other people portrayed seem to have created lives where they can finally feel at home with themselves and their bodies. That has to be good thing in anyone’s language.
And the photography is fantastic!