By Nicholas Snow
Born the son of one of the world’s most famous and celebrated authors, Lannie Woulff is now a transgendered grandmother in her sixties. Huh? Yes, Lannie’s upbringing was “more a bit out of the ordinary, mostly stemming from the fact of my father’s literary stature.” Her father is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk, a detail she does not volunteer readily.
“One summer at the beach, when I was around four years old, I was hanging out with a couple of the other little boys and for some reason I just blurted out, ‘Oh, I wish I’d been born a girl!’
As you can imagine, they laughed like crazy and made fun of me and went around telling the entire gang that I was a sissy,” revealed Lannie. “This happened long before GLBT liberation, back when it was fatal to admit something like that. Naturally, the lesson I took away from that experience was to keep my mouth shut and stuff my feelings. I went deep into the closet, locked myself in with denial and substance abuse, and stayed there for almost thirty years.”
“In my mid-forties,” Lannie continued, “when I finally learned how to work a computer and go online, I soon discovered that there were many others like me, who felt the same way. I was stunned, frightened, fascinated, intrigued, and horrified. I’d barely ever heard the word ‘transsexual.’ But beyond any doubt, I knew this was my truth. Nothing was ever the same after that. Despite the tidal wave of disruptions and turmoil that ensued, I felt absolutely liberated.”
Having had my own misconceptions over the years, I asked Lannie what she believes are the most common misperceptions about transgender individuals.
“Aside from thinking that we all look like Terry Bradshaw in a peignoir,” she responded, “I think the biggest misconception people have is that we are all gay. But in fact, GID – Gender Identity Disorder – is about how you feel in your heart and your mind, and has nothing to do with sexual preference/orientation.
“One day as I sat pondering the paradoxical realities of switching genders, a thought suddenly flashed into my mind: ‘What if a male-to-female transsexual had unknowingly fathered a child back in his pre-transition days?’ In that instant, I knew I had discovered the makings of a whopping good suspense yarn, and ‘She’s My Dad’ was born.
“A cautionary tale about the consequences of blind prejudice, ‘She’s My Dad’ tells the story of a transsexual woman named Nickie Farrell, who, returning to her Northern Virginia alma mater to teach English to a new generation of scholars, is unaware that in the nearby town lives a son from an illicit love affair she had during her male undergraduate days,” explains the official synopsis.
Lannie, as I mentioned, does not like to talk about her famous father. Is this because she believes she would be perceived to be exploiting him? She responded, “People are free to perceive what they wish. Especially in today’s celebrity-obsessed world. I place a high value on privacy, as does everyone else in my family. Both of my parents were kind enough to read ‘She’s My Dad.’ I was enormously pleased by their reactions.
“Based solely on my own experience, I would simply say have patience, and be realistic. Patience is never an easy thing, but a hasty gender transition can prove absolutely fatal,” she advises other transgendered individuals.
“Take your time, do it by the book, and don’t cut medical corners. Just because you have the resources to buy a new set of genitalia within a year doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. As for being realistic, never forget that womanhood isn’t a fantasy, or a fetish, but a simple fact. If your idea of being female is a non-stop estrogen-fueled giggle of high heels, blue eye shadow, and sex, you’re on the wrong track. I’ve never yet met a woman who got turned on all day because she was wearing a bra. Forget the glamour and nonsense, and remember that women are just people.”
“She’s My Dad” is available at the usual online retailers – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and so forth – in hardcover, paperback and Kindle formats. Become a fan at Facebook.com/IolantheWoulff. For video interviews, search YouTube with the author’s name or visit www.iolanthewoulff.com.
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