Dear Readers, today we are being challenged on our beliefs. When we wear the label Christian, can we look inside our hearts and see others through the same lens as Christ? When He lived and walked among us in the flesh, He sought out people in pain, people rejected by society. Think of the stories of the lepers. These people were cast out of society because of fear and a lack of understanding about their medical condition. Yet, Jesus welcomed them with open arms and loved them and cherished them.
This brings me to my guest today. Lianne Simon has written a book that can challenge the most devoted of Christians about our views and thoughts on a subject that very few people know anything about. Yet, those who live with this medical condition experience the same rejection by society as the lepers in Christ’s time. Thousands of people in the United States alone are born with these conditions.
I encourage you to read on with an open heart and an open mind – through the lens that Jesus uses to view you.
Genre: Young Adult
Format: ebook, paperback
To become the man his parents expect, Jamie must leave behind the hopes and dreams of a little girl.
Endorsed by a leading researcher of disorders of sex development, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite is a unique coming-of-age story, an authentic portrayal of the issues faced by an intersex teen.
Jamie was born with a testis, an ovary, and a pixie face. What was between his legs left the doctors guessing at the baby’s sex. He could be like other boys after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone. At least that’s what his parents always say. But he sees an elfin princess in the mirror and male hormones would only put hair on her pretty face.
At sixteen, the four-foot-eleven soprano leaves a sheltered home school for a boys’ dorm at college. The elfin princess can live in the books Jameson reads and nobody has to find out he isn’t like other boys. But then a medical student tells him he should have been raised female. Suppressed childhood memories stir and Jamie begins a perilous journey to adulthood. The elfin princess can thrive, but will she risk losing her family and her education for a boy who may desert her or a toddler she may never be allowed to adopt?
1. Thanks for joining us today, Lianne. When and why did you begin writing?
Thanks for inviting me.
In school I didn’t much like Language Arts, and I have to confess that my head was in the clouds, my imagination running wild and crazy when I should have been listening to my teachers. But two years ago, the need to write—to learn the craft—overwhelmed me in my sleep. Not that I wanted to become an author, mind you. But a story bounced around inside my head, pushing aside other concerns, seeking a way out. I had to discover how to write it all down, and do so in a way that would glorify God.
2. Out of the blue? What was the inspiration for your book?
A number of years before that night, I’d met a toddler who had been born with one testis, one ovary, and ambiguous genitals. Standard practice back then was to have surgeons make the child look female between her legs. The theory said the child would be happy as a girl. The problem was surgery doesn’t guarantee gender. I’d also met a number of intersex adults and was appalled by the way some Christians had treated them. I’m hoping that my writing will, in some small way, contribute to the understanding of these conditions by Christians, and to the welfare of these kids.
3. What was your favorite part to write?
The first time my writing ever flowed—it bled out of me onto paper—was during a creative writing exercise I did as a part of Confessions. At the beginning of the novel, Jamie is sixteen, but there’s a flashback to his/her fifth birthday. The kids all came to the party dressed in costumes. Pirate. Ballerina. With the help of a cousin, Jamie’s imagination made it all real. She became an elfin princess. Even her father’s arrival wasn’t enough to quite bring her back to Earth. After reading that scene, an editor suggested rewriting the rest of the manuscript along similar lines.
4. So you built on that theme? An elfin princess? Really?
Yes. But keep in mind that Jamie’s medical condition resulted in short stature and a pixie face. At sixteen, she was only four foot eleven. Jamie’s cousin told her stories of the Fair Folk—the bean shìdh—and with Jamie’s wild imagination, being a half-elf changeling wasn’t too much of a stretch. It was that imagination, that ability to distance herself from reality, as well as her struggling faith in Christ, that helped her survive everything else in her life.
5. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s natural to fear the unknown. The different. The queer—and yes, I know Christians don’t like that word. Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite takes you inside the heart and mind of someone for whom society, and much of the Christian Church, has no place. Because they really were born that way. A hermaphrodite is someone who has one testis and one ovary, or two ovatestes. Simple as that. But when a person is physically a mix of male and female, they’re under enormous pressure to conform to one or the other. And often not in the direction they’d choose. As a Christian, I should be the first to show compassion. My sins nailed Christ to the cross just as much as anyone else’s. Anyone.
6. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That’s difficult. There are so many authors who inspire me. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s stories, especially The Secret Garden and A Little Princess hold a special place in my heart. It is that sort of a novel I wanted to emulate.
7. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Most of what I drew from my own childhood and from those of some intersex friends, were broad brush strokes rather than detailed incidents. For instance, I remained at about five percent on the growth charts for most of my childhood. That’s small enough that I was about the same size as a sister three years my junior. I also had a pixie face. Those things affected me in concrete ways that I made a part of Jamie’s character. Peggy, a friend who has Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, was raised as a boy. When she learned enough about her condition and her options, she transitioned to female. Much of the way Jamie is treated by doctors is based on the experiences of real intersex patients.
The truth of an intersex childhood is seen in Jamie’s character—her thoughts, feelings, and reactions. The plot flowed out of the characters and how they related to each other. I’m not sure that taking real-life incidents and stringing them all together would have been as realistic.
8. What is the most challenging part of being an indie author? The most rewarding?
Well, I guess I’m an indie author in the sense that my publisher isn’t one of the big six. MuseItUp Publishing is a small Canadian press with a great reputation and a progressive attitude. I’m blessed to be a part of their team and I especially appreciated working with their editors. MuseItUp, and especially Lea Schizas, has been more responsive to my ideas and concerns than I had any right to expect. I have no regrets at all about signing with them.
It’s interesting at times to explain that I’m not self-published. MuseItUp is fiscally conservative—they only print books as funds become available. So they let their authors opt out of print. MuseItUp does the editing and the e-book. Someone else handles print. Faie Miss Press is my micro-publisher, but all they really did was format the paperback.
Book bloggers, in general, have been very kind to me. A novel about a sensitive subject by a debut author? Well, it probably helps that I’ve had some of the best editing help available.
9. As an indie author, what would you say to a potential reader who has never read anything from an indie author?
I won’t buy any book without either a strong personal recommendation or a chance to read an excerpt. There are a number of great book bloggers out there. Find some whose reviews agree with you on books you’ve already read. If all else fails, there’s probably a library near you. But, yeah. Kick the tires before you buy. Indie or not.
Thanks so much for having me here, Karen!
Lianne Simon is a Christian housewife and author who spent more than a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of children born between the sexes. Lianne hopes that her writing will help raise awareness of the rare medical conditions now termed disorders of sex development. She and her husband live in Suwanee, Georgia with their cat and a small herd of dust bunnies. Lianne is a member of the Atlanta Writers’ Club. She is forever grateful to her wonderful editors at MuseItUp Publishing. Lianne loves to hear from her readers and may be contacted at LianneSimon AT Yahoo DOT com.