Regardless of what incarnation you’re familiar with; there is likely not a person in this world who doesn’t have some general idea of the Frankenstein story. The original was written by Mary Shelley and has since gone on to be reproduced and reinterpreted through the years, primarily through movies, although the occasional television or stage production has popped up.
Perhaps the most iconic image that comes to mind for most people when we hear the word Frankenstein is the Boris Karloff monster image (as most people assume Frankenstein is the monster who doesn’t actually have a name).
Boris Karloff: Frankenstein
Perhaps some may call to mind the 1994 Robert DeNiro version instead.
Robert DeNiro in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
Television nerds might have enjoyed the very overt Frankenstein theme that ran through Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fourth season with the creation of Adam.
Adam from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
On a more comedic side, some newer audiences will see a reimagined Tim Burton/Disney version of Frankenweenie.
Disney and Tim Burton present Frankenweenie
Some older adults may have fond memories signing along to Puttin’ on the Ritz with the Young Frankenstein comedy.
Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks
Perhaps some good campy fun with Rocky Horror Picture Show, where Frank-N-Furter created Rocky.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Even older audiences will look back and remember seeing a version every week on the Munsters.
Whether your mind draws up one or more of these or creates its own version of what the monster looks like, it’s his story that I, and I’m sure many others, can have a surprising relation with. While I hate to trivialize such a true classic down to a singular descriptive sentence, it is, at its most core, a story about not fitting in, being misjudged, and being an outcast. Sure, we all have our awkward moments growing up – there wouldn’t be so many successful shows and movies about our teenage/high school years if we didn’t. But this goes far deeper and darker than fending off puberty inflicted woes. So, what’s the real draw and what does this have to do with being transgender? That’s the juicy part.
“GROWING UP I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME; ONLY THAT SOMETHING SEEMED TO BE WRONG.”
Growing up I had no idea what was wrong with me; only that something seemed to be wrong. It was like sharks smelling blood in the water – school kids could sense the ‘difference’ in me before I even knew what being different meant. None of us knew what the “different” thing was, only that I was not like all the others. I didn’t know what lesbian or gay was until the early 1990’s and I most certainly didn’t know what transgender was at that point. I figured my “different” must be that I was a lesbian and so I came out as such in the early 90’s – when I didn’t have any Internet or celebrity trailblazers in which to see anyone like myself. Ellen herself hadn’t even come out publicly at that point. I thought I found my niche, I found out why I was different, and I went along with that, rather blindly, for many years.
I was blind, though. I still didn’t know what transgender was until my 30’s, so my life as a lesbian seemed to be forced. It felt like I kind of understood myself but, at the same point, I still felt like an outsider, like “other.” I was stumbling through life with a shaky identity, and it wasn’t until my mid-30s that my world went topsy-turvy. I learned what transgender was, I learned that’s what I was, and I moved forward to making the changes I needed in order to be the real me.
“BUT STILL, WHAT DOES FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER AND MY JOURNEY AS A TRANSGENDER PERSON BOTH HAVE IN COMMON?”
But still, what does Frankenstein’s monster and my journey as a transgender person both have in common? As a child, I felt out of place. I felt like I was walking in someone else’s skin, that I was thinking with someone else’s brain – that my brain wasn’t connected with the right body, and everything was out of sorts. In school, I felt like I was being chased by angry villagers – which wasn’t too far from the truth. Especially after I came out as a lesbian. I was a clear and present target and since I was, in some way, “other” it was acceptable for my villagers to chase and torment me each day. Eventually, I fled by means of dropping out and I wandered. I wouldn’t say I was lost, but I was definitely trying to figure out who I was and what it all meant. Identifying as a lesbian was similar to the monster befriending the blind man – I was there, but I wasn’t really seen. I wasn’t seen because I wasn’t whole yet, and I didn’t feel like I should really be among the lesbians. Somehow, I was still “other.”
Two of the last three people I dated both said that for me to transition, it would make them “not lesbian” and that they were concerned with how others would perceive them. I put my transition on hold because of that, foolishly, but as the blind man’s family fled I transitioned. As the monster burned down the man’s house I burned down my connection to the lesbian sub-family I had known for over a decade and entered a strange new world, alone.
I now stand upon the precipice of changes. After years on HRT, my face is now one I don’t shrink away from seeing in mirrors. Soon I will have top surgery and, ironically, those large and glaring scars will make me feel more natural than the smooth but extruding chest I have now. I have removed a great deal of the internal scars by this point and now welcome the external ones because, through them, I will feel like I’m finally being put together correctly.