Looks aren’t everything. There’s a good chance that someone had reminded you of that fact during your dating years: the outside pales in comparison to the inner person you should love. Appearance rarely matters . . . except (as in the memoir This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher) when you’re forced to live with the wrong one.
At four years old, Lori Shenher knew that lining up with the girls in kindergarten was somehow wrong. She wasn’t a girl; she belonged with the boys.
But that wasn’t the first inkling that something was different about Lori. Even her grandma had pointed out that she looked like a boy. As she grew, things got more complicated: as often as possible, she dressed in boys’ clothing or androgynous fashions, because girls’ clothes felt like a lie. She was okay with people thinking she was a boy, but it also made her uncomfortable.
She was a teenager before she learned that there were other people like her, and she devoured information about Renée Richards and Christine Jorgensen. During a summer job, she met a trans man and was fascinated. Was it possible that she might someday do what they did? Thinking that scared her.
To help deal with her feelings, Shenher threw herself into sports and attended college in Calgary, and then in Alberta, on sports scholarships. She was a shining star on the basketball court until she sustained several painful injuries and began drinking heavily. She was later diagnosed with depression, which may have also explained why she gave up a journalism career to move to Vancouver—first to check out a transgender clinic, and then to apply for work with the Vancouver police force.
And life settled down. Shenher met a woman she loved, and they had a commitment ceremony and started a family. But those old familiar feelings of inadequacy and misery kept nagging at Shenher, even as she tried hard to tamp them down.
While the idea of transitioning was terrifying, so was the idea of living as a woman for the rest of her life.
First thing you need to know: This One Looks Like a Boy is quite a detailed story, which can be both good and bad. Author Lorimer Shenher begins with his birth and recounts his life story in plodding, almost year-by-year detail that often seems tangential. It’s entertaining for a while, but—fair warning—don’t be surprised if you eventually find yourself skimming paragraphs in search of more action.
And yet, this book is one of the better, more definitive explanations of the feelings of isolation that trans individuals might experience, and one of the finer accounts of the do-I-or-don’t-I swings that sometimes linger without resolution. Shenher’s words ache, and readers get a real sense of what it’s like to know-not-know whether you should live as a man or a woman.
Read or not? Ultimately, it’ll come down to how much you crave action: This One Looks Like a Boy doesn’t have much of it, but for the right reader it’s definitely worth a look.
This article appears in the July 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.