Teeny Weenies And Other Short Subjects – Matt Kailey (Outskirts Press)

Buy it now from Outskirts Press

I’ve known Matt for several years; in fact, he is directly
responsible for the career I have today. We’ve worked together, bitched
together, workshopped together, fought over the office thermostat and
celebrated each others’ victories, and I’m happy to report the pieces that
comprise Teeny Weenies are among his best work yet.

I doubt I’m as well-read in transgender literature as Matt
is, but what I’ve read is largely serious—either politically strident or
excruciatingly detailed stories of personal journeys. This is all necessary and
inspirational, but no one seems to be writing anything humorous about
the transgender world, a subject that has as much potential for funny bits as
anything else. Matt Kailey fills that void nicely.

His last book, Just Add Hormones, dealt with his
transition, but most of these essays are about his childhood as Jennifer and
show the influences and thought processes that shaped his adult life. All these
reminisences are heartfelt and true, sketching a life of Midwestern wonderment,
confusion and certainty about all the wrong things—as in his skewed perception
of beauty in “There She Is,” about watching the Miss America beauty pageant as
a little girl.

Kailey’s humor is gentle; full of self-deprecation and
homespun truths rather than shameful snark—a welcome change from David Sedaris
and Augusten Burroughs. He is most comfortable poking fun at himself and his
foibles rather than pointing the finger at someone else. As expected, gender
confusion looms large in such pieces as “The Disappearance of Richard,” about a
childhood game Jennifer played with her girl friend Toby, “Boy Attacks,” and
“Queer Theory.” Kailey shines here, able to make you smile as your heart breaks
for this girl who cannot seem to find herself no matter where she looks.

Everything in this book is worth your attention but two
essays in particular deserve a special mention. “My Father’s Purse” is a
genuinely lyrical ode to Matt’s father as well as a lesson in gender roles and
their expression. My favorite, however, is “Most Changed Since High School,” a
piece about Kailey’s high school reunion. Brilliantly observed, Kailey’s
recollection of this event seems to bespeak a society that has moved toward
acceptance and tolerance—until he goes to the bathroom. The stall has no door,
and a spy is sent in to see if Matt is sitting or standing. His reaction to
this shamefully childish stunt?

I hold my head
level and walk back out into the onslaught of

voices, the
blur of faces in a fog of cigarette smoke, the

smacking of
pool balls against one another, the music that is

now just a
garbled screech from the aging overhead speakers,

and I show them
the confidence, the courage, and the comfort

of the world
that I brought along to share with them. I show them

the pride of a
life well lived, however it is lived. And I show them –

the minor inconveniences of living in a transsexual

always hoping for a door on a public bathroom stall –

what it means to be whole. 

It’s hard to read that ending without a tear in your eye—not
for the sadness of his experience but the peace and pride to be found in living
the life you were meant to have. 

This is beautifully written stuff, as funny as it is real,
and not only for transgender eyes. Gay, lesbian, intersexed, questioning,
queer—this is for everyone. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

Now, get back to work.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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