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Did He Just Call Me a Monster?

Invisible MonstersLord knows I appreciate a title that has a little pizzazz and controversy, but it stops short when I and my demographic are referred to as “monsters”. Specifically, Invisible Monsters. The title was used by hard boiled author Chuck Palahniuk, a darling of the Maxim crowd with a nearly unpronounceable last name. Seriously, can someone tell me how to say that? The Wikipedia pronunciation guide spells it out in Cyrillic, something I also don’t know how to pronounce correctly. Not that I’m much better in English. Seriously, if you ever have the misfortune to hear me speak, I guarantee you come away confirming my suspected idiocy.

Invisible Monsters, without giving too much away because some of you may rush out to download it to your Kindle, is the tale of 2 social outcasts. One is the narrator who was shot in the face and had her jaw blown off. Her companion is an alleged transsexual, who unlike any trans woman I have ever met, decided to go with the very drag queen moniker of Brandy Alexander. Then again, Pala… Palahuk… whatever, has a habit of naming characters after liquor, so maybe it’s just that. Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. I’m reasonably sure if the fundamentalist right or RadFem debased themselves to read this, they would nod their heads and say, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Now is the part where I’m going to give some stuff away, but not the big shocker of a twist ending. If you want to stop reading and go devour the novel before coming back, I totally won’t hold it against you. Seriously, I won’t even know. My contract with the NSA just went sour. The evolution of a young runaway into (not kidding here) The Queen Supreme, is worthy of any given troll on a website comments section. By the way, is it too much to ask to have trolls here at Michellelianna? Instead I get all these lovely, well thought out and reasoned comments that never seem to inspire a rage and bile chunked vomit of responses. I digress.

Brandy’s story begins with a young gay male who is sexually molested by both his father and a policeman. I can’t believe he didn’t manage to work a priest in there, but this was drafted before that whole ball of evil came to world consciousness. After running away, he is eventually taken in by 3 drag queens who adopted the performing name, The Rhea Sisters. I remember one of them going by ‘Dia’ and another by ‘Gona’. Get it? Ugh. Under their care, young Brandy is convinced to transition with the sister’s paying for all the operations and somehow circumventing WPATH all together. Now here is the real kicker. Brandy went along with this even though she doesn’t consider herself transgender! She’s simply looking for a new identity because she doesn’t care for the old one. Holy shit.

To put all the pieces together, transsexuals are the result of child sex abuse and homosexuality, who have been influenced and cajoled to transition by other trans as a means to adopt a new identity. Is it possible that Chuck Palooka.. [whatever!] and Shelia Jeffrey’s are really one in the same? I understand he’s a writer who likes to push the edges, which is fine, but his portrayal is akin to me writing a book about cabal of Jewish elders in cahoots to poison wells, steal Christian children for their blood and openly gloat how they managed to off Jesus as they polish their horns. I believe strongly in free speech, but some things are just not cool. Sure, it was the first thing he wrote and the public was still very much in the dark, but he just released a remix of the work without any tweaking in this area.

Should we rise in protest? Write angry letters to the publisher or even the author? Um, no. Our time is much better served educating the public on what the truth really is rather than nitpicking with someone who is only going to claim artistic license or character-specific, non-global circumstances. I just thought you all should know in case you were browsing for literature under the keyword ‘transgender’ and in for a nasty surprise. One of his other works, Rant, I found to be both very clever and entertaining, so go figure.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

8 responses »

  1. I think there’s a lot to make trans persons justifiably upset in Invisible Monsters, but I do feel the need to correct a few things I’ve read here.

    First, his name is not just made up or obscure; it’s Ukranian and not at all uncommon, though indeed difficult to pronounce (even his audiobooks disagree, some using “pa-la-knee-yuk” and others “Paul-a-nook”).

    Second, the title is not calling transgendered people “monsters”; the title refers to the cisgender narrator primarily, and she applies it to herself and others, but not any transgendered characters. It’s also a meta reference to the reader and consumers of pop culture, as well as God, genetics and society, the “invisible monsters” who shape us against our will.

    Last, you’ve got a couple things wrong about Brandy. One, it’s strongly implied that he is not gay, but rather is kicked out by his parents because they believe him to be gay after he contracts an STD from the sexually abusive cop. Two, he is not abused by his father. That story starts to sound like a sexual abuse story, with his father coming into his room late at night, but it’s one of several anecdotes about his father’s questionable morality in providing for his nearly impoverished family. His father came into his room and woke him up to take him to the site of a wrecked freight train to loot as much as they could before security arrives.

    The central conceit of Brandy’s character – that she isn’t really trans but considers SRS the most drastic form of self mutilation possible – is quite enough to criticise the book in regards to its portrayal of some transgender individuals. But the parental abuse thing just didn’t happen in the book – her dad is a bit of a thief and a swindler, but not sexually abusive.

    Reply
    • Thanks “John”! Sorry for the quotes, but your tremendous insight (seriously, very well explained) makes me wonder if this reply might be from Chuck himself? I concede that I may have misread portions of the book and missed some of the subtle points. Still though, if I did, I’m sure I’m not quite alone and in public opinion (non-binding in a court of law) “that’s what I heard” seems to trump “that’s not what I said”. If this is Chuck, I’d just like to take a moment to gush how much I freakin’ loved ‘Rant’! You had me at ‘Tina Something’. 🙂

      Reply
      • I agree with John, and I would also like to add that there is another transgender character named Evie who realized her gender identity on her own accord and is happy as a girl. Unlike Brandy (or Shane, as he/she doesn’t really want to be Brandy, after all, so I’m not sure which name or pronoun is more correct), Evie is an actual trans person.
        People may have problems because she may not be portrayed as a completely stable person, but really, who in this book is? Besides, one thing she does seem to be secure in is her gender identity, and no one can even tell she’s trans until near the end of the book, when the main characters meet her mother.
        Additionally, when Evie’s mom refers to her as Evan and uses a male pronoun, Brandy sternly corrects her, which means she does recognize that trans people exist. Personally, I don’t find this book transophobic at all, but it definitely is a sensitive subject.

        Reply
  2. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    For the record, I WAS sexually abused by a male family friend when I was a little boy. Did that make me who I am today? Ermm, I don’t think so, considering I wanted to play with dolls and dress up in girls clothes long before then.

    Seems to me that Chuck Madeupname knows about as much about gender identity as he does about child abuse or homosexuality for that matter – zilch.

    Reply
  3. What first came to mind when I read your post was:

    “Everyone is somebody’s freak.”

    I am trying to nurture a very old friendship back to life, a fellow who has been like an older brother to me. He steadfastly cannot accept my transition (he cannot even accept my transsexuality). A fundamentalist Christian, he, as a college mathematics professor, successfully made the case for me to turn to Jesus for life and liberty. We have done a LOT of life together, and now he treats me like a toxic, blasphemous monster. (Oh, but he still loves me). So, to him, I am my old name and gender (knowing better who and what I am than God and I do myself). Yet, there must still be something there, because he accepted my gentle suggestion to visit him and his “new” wife and catch-up on old times. I want to help him understand that the person he grew to love is still here…

    AND I am turning-over in my mind the sorts of angry confrontational things he will do to me in private and in public (all of which involve vehemently informing me and others what kind of sinful monster, freak-of-a-MAN I am). I have decided that the best answer to any of that, to anything really, is to be who I am, gently, firmly, joyfully, without apology, for there is no shame in who I am: a woman, a transsexual woman.

    …Why am I bothering?? Can he imagine how *toxic* he already is to me?? My older, less healed self would have cut myself off from him and noted that this has confirmed all that I ever knew about people: sooner or later, they would learn who I *really* am, and they will reject me. But I have seen such thinking for the prison that it is, and I step out of the cell and into the daylight of…JOY…

    I am too healed to ever go back to those black places.

    …I have become myself, a childlike woman, ten years younger than myself as a “man” while he has grown closer to the grave, souring in his bigotries, his intellectual honesty tattered. In truth, I feel sorry for him, and want to help him be lifted out of himself, as he helped me three decades ago. His best friends have died away; his last one, “murdered” by me in my transition: oh the ironies of old-age, to find that your best friend is a resurrected transsexual woman.

    “Everyone is somebody’s freak.”

    Reply
    • Oh, so very true! I can definitely relate going through a somewhat
      similar situation. I had a very good friend at work for a number of
      years. When I came out, there was instant rejection, a firm cutting of
      ties, and even a nasty comment right here on my very own blog. Out of
      nowhere he reestablished contact on LinkedIn (he unfriended me there
      after coming out, though did leave the glowing recommendation I wrote
      for him up) and wanted to have lunch. I grudgingly agreed. He was out
      of work again, and I had no idea if this was a true attempt to mend
      fences, or he was really scraping the bottom of the barrel for job
      hunting assistance. What an awkward lunch! Not a word was spoken of
      the previous year, but I did keep in mind that he’s a man and they
      often have difficulty speaking of feelings and such. What will be
      interesting to see is if I’m dropped once again when he finds a
      position. Time will tell, but like you, whatever the truth of the
      matter is, I have grown beyond him.

      Reply

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