Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age

By Richard J. Novic, M.D.
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Reviewed by Karen Webb AND Highly recommended by Jon

When it comes to the transgendered world, there have been a lot of autobiographical books by a lot of people, and I’ve read just about all of them. But without a doubt, Alice in Genderland is the most haunting, real, brutally honest and emotionally riveting account I?ve come across. It was spellbinding; I just couldn?t put it down.

I read this crossdressing psychiatrist?s tale over the course of two days. Though my background is very different from Dr. Novic?s?I?m a mostly closeted African-American crossdresser from the South?I found so much I could relate to. And I experienced the full gamut of emotions from sidesplitting laughter to seemingly inescapable despair and back full circle. The author has a gift for sharing his identity in such a way that you feel as if you’ve merged with his psyche.

There are sections of Alice in Genderland I read with utter astonishment. Even now, I can hardly believe what Novic achieved toward his own self-realization. I watched in awe as Richard went from an uptight Ivy League jock to Alice, a night-crawling feline partying hearty on the L.A. TG scene, leaving all constrictions and inhibitions way behind.

Whether describing his early ill-fated attempts at therapy, the woes he endured with his first wife, bisexual experimentation leading to a horrific AIDS scare, the stress of coming out to parents and friends, his restlessness at crossdressing support groups, or his search for a soul mate who might appreciate both sides of him, the author lays it out in intriguing detail.

Throughout his lifelong quest for self-expression, Novic strikes me as someone who strives to know himself as best he can and then act on that knowledge. Many of us only accomplish this later in life after years of trying to deny our true birthright. It’s one thing to finally own up to it, yet quite another thing indeed, to accept it, enjoy it, and be proud of it?all while you?re still relatively fresh and young. Alice is a rare spirit, and I felt very close to her as I turned each riveting page, realizing how many of my own yearnings parallel hers.

Although Alice in Genderland is an outstanding TG memoir, at the same time, it’s almost like some kind of a warning. Get too close to the rabbit hole, and you too might fall. Like Alice in Wonderland, this Alice begins with simple curiosity and, before she knows it, she is plunging deep down a rabbit hole with no end in sight. Of course, most crossdressers will tell you that it’s more than simple curiosity that drives them, some seed already planted, some preexisting sensitivity. But Alice in Genderland is not about the why’s of being a crossdresser. It?s about one man?s struggle with what to do about it.

Dr. Novic originally saw his crossdressing as a deviant character flaw. But in fits and starts, it began to grow its way out of the dank nether regions of his mind. And in wonder, I watched as Alice blossomed into the living, breathing, lovely, and loving creature that had always existed as part of Richard’s personality and potential.

For me, this book redefined what we think we know about human sexuality. Novic challenges many of our conventional notions of what is okay or not in and out of the bedroom, in and out of relationships. Sex is the final frontier and along with death, the two things still considered taboo in American society, and ironically the two issues we all have most in common. And though Alice in Genderland doesn?t deal with death, it doesn?t shrink from sex.

By the last chapter, my heart was beating faster, and I had to completely revamp my mindset as to the labels straight, gay, bi, and trans (as well as TV, CD, TS, and DQ). The truth seems to be that each of us is a walking, talking set of contradictions and potentialities. And we certainly didn’t create ourselves; this is what we brought to the party of life. Woke up one day, and here we are, with all of our baggage. But the most fortunate among us are those who are able to take that baggage, whatever it may be, and translate it into a richer, fuller experience of life itself.

Alice is indeed one of those special people, and I’m a better, more open-minded person for reading her book. It offers a not-quite-so-freethinking TG like me invaluable insight and thrilling adventure and offers the world its first intimate look at a flourishing, happy crossdresser.