Monday, 25 January 2016

"Annabel" by Kathleen Winter

What an interesting choice for the Amnesty International Book Club!
I had already read this book twice but decided to re-read it for this book discussion.  Every discussion is different, and the amnesty group gets more into social action and I wondered where that might lead.  This book is fiction.
Here's the plot:
Wayne Blake is a hermaphrodite-with male and female organs.  His Labrador, trapper father decides to raise him as a boy, with many pills containing male hormones.  But when he moves out on his own, he decides to throw away the pills and let nature take its course.  Some local boys find out about his situation and rape him. It is a horrendous scene and very disturbing.  But, I could understand that there could be young boys who would look at Wayne as a freak show and think it was great sport to torture him. The book ends with Wayne's father planning to drown the rapist. Actually, that was very touching because it showed how much the father cared for his child even though he had had great trouble understanding him.  But the father was willing to sacrifice his own life for retribution for the boy.

There were so many beautiful aspects of this book.  The writing was great.  There was a theme of bridges, when Thomasina, a woman who was present at his birth, sends postcards to Wayne and he takes an interest in structures.  Both Wayne and his friend Wally Michelin have a dream.  Wayne wants to build bridges.  Wally wants to be a singer and loves the music "Cantique de Jean Racine", but she has an accident and damages her vocal chords.
So it is a book of struggles, and the one that was addressed at this meeting was the treatment of hermaphrodites, and other sexual issues outside 'the norm'.
And so, it dealt with Bill C-279, that deals with gender identity. Amnesty wants to protect all LGBTI rights.  How can we do this? It brings up many issues, particularly in schools.  Certainly this topic needs much public education.
I had thought that sexual identity at birth could be solved by checking chromosomes.  I knew that XX was a female and XY was a male.  But, I have learned that it is not that simple. There are many variations.
In fact, one in 2,000 children is born with genitals that are 'confusing'.  There is a trend to wait and let the child decide on gender. That sounds better than all the surgeries that were performed in the past, but it will take some changes in thinking and organizing, such as a new category on official forms.

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