Book Review / My Brother, My Sister
Molly Haskell

At the age of sixty, Molly Haskell’s brother, Chevey, revealed that he had always identified as a woman. The new memoir chronicles her now-sister, Ellen’s, transition into womanhood. The book is fine enough; there are long quotations from Ellen, and I appreciated the space for her to have a voice. There is information regarding the specifics of the transition process, and Haskell’s writing is extremely honest. Though she considers herself to be liberal and forward-thinking, she’s frank about missing the brother she grew up with and the confusion she faces over Ellen’s decision. While her sincerity will be reassuring for other families dealing with loved ones’ transitions, that honesty occasionally comes across as na├»ve and is often troubling. Haskell’s language can be flippant (she refers to her new sister as a guy-gal) and out of touch; take, for example, her incessant use of transsexual, an archaic term made all the worse by her tendency to wax anthropological and refer to a hypothetical trans person as “the transsexual.” Her understanding of words like intersex, androgynous and genderqueer miss the mark—the last two are synonymous, she says, which isn’t quite true—and her conflation of gender and sexuality is equally frustrating. Most upsetting, though, is her opinion on Brandon Teena (the murdered trans-man portrayed by Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry); she goes so far as to say that Teena “invited the violence” by misleading his murderers about his gender. Yes, her memoir is honest, but a bit more sensitivity would have been nice.