Morgan in the Mirror – Jane Fynes-Clinton, Courier-Mail columnist
Brisbane – Australia – April 2007
The blurring of gender lines and exploration of sexual identity issues seem to have attracted more than their share of public attention in recent times. First, there was the media hoohaa over Alex, a 13-year-old girl whom the Family Court gave permission to grow up as a boy. Then reality TV tapped the public’s interest and introduced Miriam, a Mexican female model who grew up as a boy.
Even ABC-TV’s Play School has weighed in, with a story about a little girl going on an outing with her two mothers.
Author C.C Saint-Clair explores the tetchy notions of transgender and gender identity to the nth degree in Morgan in the Mirror. She puts meat on the bones and a face to the name and gives us a central character so multi-layered, so deep and so real that Saint-Clair succeeds in challenging her audience to rethink, re-evaluate and discover a new level of compassion for those caught in a gender conflict, and those who love them.
Saint-Clair’s previous half a dozen novels revolve around lesbian themes. And in exploring transgenderism in this offering, she has retained her brutal, poetic style and integrates compassion for the characters with honest observation.
Morgan is a 23-year-old female-to-male transgender engineering student at The University of Queensland. His struggle to explore his gender, discover himself and become the person feels he truly believes he is, is painstakingly described and his relationships profoundly explored. Saint-Clair explores the notion that sexuality is not a fixed state and people are not either/or. Instead, she asserts, genders have “always existed as mere stations along a rich and gloriously multicoloured continuum”. And Morgan in the Mirror makes a compelling argument for this notion.
Saint-Clair does not preach or justify and at times the way her storytelling is uncomfortably brutal. The dialogue between the characters of this novel is often confronting and even obscene. Parts of the text are peppered with the F and the C words.
This book is not largely for readers who chose to live, eat, breathe and read in the mainstream, but for those who dare to explore.
Morgan in the Mirror is certainly erotic, but rather than staying merely with the homosexual activities that so fascinate the heterosexual community, Saint-Clair explores the agony and ecstasy of a character tormented and conflicted by social expectations. The gut-wrenching grief of a family’s love lost plagues Morgan, as does being the constant subject of social revulsion and curiosity.
Beyond a pure exploration of the sexuality theme, Saint-Clair also pens a strong storyline, one that stands alone as interesting, well told and well constructed.
While the topics tackled in Morgan in the Mirror mean its readership will be largely restricted to those in the gender twilight zone, that would be a pity because Saint-Clair’s treatment of Morgan is so compassionate and complete that this is a book that should be read by parents and friends of anyone questioning their gender identity. Reading this book will certainly bring a deeper understanding of their loved one’s circumstances.
You just have to get past the foul language and erotica.
Warning: Yes, this novel does occasionally contain strong language. Parts of the text have, indeed, been peppered with the “F” and the “C” words to create the impression of a totally frank dialogue between my characters [in their early 20s]. Considering the intimate nature of the plot, they do need to get ‘down and personal’ in regards to matters of a sexual nature.