During last year's Translesbigayapalooza, I wrote a post about the first lesbian book and the first gay book I ever read. Afterwards, I realized:
"D'oh! I should have written about
the first TRANS book I ever read too!"
So, on the principle of better late than never, here it is!
In her early life, Jan Morris was James Morris, a well-known Welsh historian, author and travel writer. He was also the reporter embedded with Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 when they reached the summit of Everest. A former soldier and British spy as well, James Morris began transitioning in 1964 at the age of 38. In 1974 Jan Morris released her autobiography Conundrum about her life path from male to female. The famous opening words of the book are:
"I was three or perhaps four years old
when I realized that I had been born
into the wrong body, and should really be a girl.
I remember the moment well, and it is
the earliest memory of my life."
In the 1970s, openly transsexual/transgender people were still pretty rare and the book became a sensation and a best-seller. I think Jan Morris's honest and moving account helped many people, including me, understand this profound journey better than we might otherwise have.
In 1949, James Morris had married Elizabeth Tuckniss and they had 5 children together. British law forced the couple to divorce following Jan Morris's transition (because same-sex marriage was illegal), but their relationship endured and they remain a couple to this day, 71 years later.
Now 93, Jan Morris's latest book Thinking Again: A Diary has just been published in the UK and will be released in North America in a few months. Among her many honours, she has been named by The Advocate as one of its 2020 Women of the Year.