One of these things is not like the other.

Sun. August 1, 2004 12:00 AM
by Jill Craig

Amy Bloom, author of Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude, tries to tell it like it is. In this three-part exploration of the totally marginalized and ignored members of communities often labeled as freaks and deviants, she combines facts and statistics with stories, and tops the whole thing off with a running commentary of her time spent exploring the subjects of this book.

The casual tone of Bloom’s own interactions with her subjects balances out the formality of stats and facts, and the tone allowed me to relate to her subjects not just as groups of people with certain characteristics, but as individuals. As members of a minority group, we lesbians know that retention of individual identity is so important; it prevents people from making judgments based on assumption or letting a single sex/gender related trait act as an indicator for the whole group population. Bloom does a great job of reminding us to examine each group member as an individual when she’s in the home of Mel and Peggy Rudd, a couple whose story opens the section of Normal called “Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses: Heterosexual Crossdressers.” Bloom visited the Rudds in Texas and describes the hallway of their sunny house as being plastered with posed photos of the couple with famous Republicans including the Reagans and the Bushes. She doesn’t comment on this at all; it takes a strong liberal to refrain from getting in the obvious jabs.

Normal is very readable nonfiction. In addition to discovering the secret lives of hetero crossdressers, I learned about other marginalized groups in “The Body Lies: Female-to-Male Transsexuals” and “Hermaphrodites With Attitude: The Intersexed.” Bloom fails to identify herself in relation to the queer community though, and the lack of perspective is a bit irritating. In the introduction Bloom mentions that she chose this topic from a list of her own unexplored curiosities, which made me wonder if perhaps she once viewed these people as freaks and deviants herself. If you can overcome wondering about Blooms own perspective, reading this book will help you develop your own point of view about different, lesser-known populations and finally answer all of your questions about prenatal hormone distribution. I know you’ve been losing sleep over it.

Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites With Attitude was published in 2002 by Random House.

Related: This book can be purchased at