Danielle Marie Bergan has written an extraordinary book that deserves to be read by everyone who is watching society's rapid shift on gender equality and looking for reasons why there is an insistence by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals (LGBT) on their right to be treated as full and equal citizens, with all the legal protections that come with that citizenship.
Bergan is a transgender person, who, since her childhood, felt that she was more comfortable as a girl than being a boy.
Her story, told in the first person, chronicles a journey of exploration, confusion, pain and ultimate triumph as she discovers who she truly is and begins the challenging path to complete the physical transformation from the male to the female gender.
It's Always Okay to be Me
A Journey to Recovering Lost Hope
Danielle Marie Bergan
Raised in a strong Catholic household and attending parochial schools, Bergan was an alter boy, a star athlete, a fledging writer and even had a poem published in the New York Times in 1971 about the Vietnam War.
As she grew up, the dilemma of her alter ego became more real and pronounced. With her male Daniel trying to suppress the inner Danielle, Bergan moved far way from her home on the Mainland and struggled with alcohol and drug use as she tried to be the person she knew in her heart she was born to be.
The question of being a transgender individual burst upon the world scene in 1952 with the story of Christine Jorgenson, who went to Sweden for a sex-change operation. The news was stunning for its time and brought the question of gender identity to the front pages of the nation's morning papers.
However, Jorgenson was not the first person to undergo a sex-change operation. In fact, pioneering German doctors performed surgery of this type in the late 1920's and early 1930's.
Issues about sex have transfixed America since its beginning and has had mixed impacts on the nation. Sex-related scandals have brought down many a politician, or led to forgiveness by their constituents, allowing their public service to continue.
But, the salacious approach to sex in America, the hidden and real prejudices against those who are not what we like to call "normal," has had its terrible cost in lives hidden and lives destroyed.
Bergan's book is a good first step toward understanding that for her and for all of us, that it's "always okay to be me." For far too long, too many have been content with attaching labels, calling names and making backroom jokes about those we do not understand because they are different. But by living full, free and loving lives, they challenge our conceptions of who we are as a society.
Her book is at times sad, happy, loving, raw and riveting. But, it is always real and honest, which gives her story it's strength and ultimately takes us with her on the search for the lost hope of being free from fear and hiding in the shadows.
This is a story that belongs on the shelf of every person who has tried to take a similar journey or who wants to understand themselves, their family and their friends a little bit better, and to offer help instead of condemnation.
Put it on your summer must read list.