In the Queue: A Man’s World
T Cooper ’94 has done an extraordinary thing. He has written a book about a subject that many people either find uncomfortable or uninteresting because it is so far removed from their own lives, and he has made it entertaining and consciousness expanding. Cooper’s latest book, Real Man Adventures, talks about the world of the transgender male, which is Cooper’s world. He takes us through his transition from female to male to the point today, where he is an adoring husband and stepfather to two children; he tells this story with humor and without dwelling on the intensely personal details that discussions of transgender sometimes do.
Reading Real Man Adventures is a little like eating a smorgasbord. The dishes are all different and served in a variety of ways, and when sampled in small portions, they are fully satisfying. Cooper’s chapters are similarly set out for sampling—highly varied, short, and delectable. There are interviews, lists, letters, descriptions of dreams, snippets of conversations. In a brief interview with his wife, he asks her to list five ways that he is “typically male.” First on the list: he’s “self-involved.” An interview with an LA police officer, who transitioned from female to male, includes a discussion about the fact that the officer transitioned into “America’s most hated (a black male)” and Cooper transitioned into “America’s most loved (a white male).”
In one chapter, a transcript of a telephone conversation between Cooper and a State Department official shows a frustrated Cooper, who had been living as a man for years, desperately trying to change the gender on his passport: “All those guys in Iraq, getting their genitals blown off by IEDs, do you make them change their passport from M to F when they come home, because they don’t have penises anymore?” he finally asked, because the rule required him to prove that he’d had complete sexual reassignment surgery. On a similar bent, another chapter is devoted to a survey Cooper conducted of 31 men about whether they pee standing up or sitting down, and one chapter lists “40 successful men my stature or shorter.” Among them: Jon Stewart and Justin Bieber.
Having experienced life as both genders, he certainly can speak with authority about the differences. He claims that men have it better. Males earn more income, do not get sexually assaulted or beaten, and have more power and clout in general, he says. And all men are members of the “Man Club,” of which there are many benefits: “In Man Club, if you raise your voice and express anger about something, other members of the club actually pay attention and often respond favorably.” And, “In Man Club, you really do talk about sports with strangers when at a loss for conversation.”
But, unfortunately, there is fear mixed in with the pleasure of being male, and these fears are also documented in Real Man Adventures, from incidents of transgender people being assaulted in public restrooms to being unmasked by airport body scanners. Cooper describes a nightmare in which he’s rushed to the hospital, bleeding, and the doctors and nurses are working feverishly to save him. As they cut away his pants, they discover he’s not what they expected, and the shock causes them to lose focus on saving his life.
Cooper wants people to understand that “I am happy and able to be myself in the world.” Although, he says, if he could ask for anything, he’d ask for a few more inches of height