The Woman I Was Not Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey / Edition 1

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Told with humor and flair, this is the autobiography of one transsexual's wild ride from boyhood as Alfred Brevard ("Buddy") Crenshaw in rural Tennessee to voluptuous female entertainer in Hollywood. Aleshia Brevard, as she is now known, underwent transitional surgery in Los Angeles in 1962, one of the first such operations in the United States. (The famous sexual surgery pioneer Harry Benjamin himself broke the news to Brevard's parents.)

Under the stage name Lee Shaw, Brevard worked as a drag queen at Finocchio's, a San Francisco club, doing Marilyn Monroe impersonations. (Like Marilyn, she sought romance all the time and had a string of entanglements with men.) Later, she worked as a stripper in Reno and as a Playboy Bunny at the Sunset Strip hutch.

After playing opposite Don Knotts in the movie The Love God, Brevard appeared in other films and broke into TV as a regular on the Red Skelton Show. She created the role of Tex on the daytime soap opera One Life To Live. As a woman, Brevard returned to teach theater at East Tennessee State, the same university she had attended as a boy.

This memoir is a rare pre-Women's Movement account of coming to terms with gender identity. Brevard writes frankly about the degree to which she organized her life around pleasing men, and how absurd it all seems to her now.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These days, it is understood that sometimes boys will be girls; in Alfred Brevard Crenshaw's case, he wanted to be a woman--and what a woman! Born in 1937 to a genteel Tennessee family, Crenshaw knew that he was different from an early age. In his early 20s, he fled to San Francisco, where he became a female impersonator and a hit, under the name Lee Shaw, at Finocchio's, the world-famous nightclub featuring top-line drag entertainment. But by the early 1960s, simply dressing up wasn't enough; Shaw wanted to undergo surgery to become a woman. His desire was so great that, even before he underwent the brand-new technique of transsexual surgery, he castrated himself (with the help of a friend) in his own kitchen to shut down his body's production of testosterone. After seeking safer, medical solutions to his gender dysphoria (namely, 11 hours of surgery), Lee emerged as Aleshia Brevard--a well-built knockout. Pursuing a career in entertainment, Aleshia became a burlesque queen, a Playboy bunny and a B-movie star, playing the lead against Don Knotts in The Love God. Brevard's story adds an entertaining curve to the growing body of literature--academic, scientific, theoretical and literary--on transgender experience, without the self-pity or sentimentality found in many such memoirs. 17 photos. (Mar. 26) Forecast: Written in a gossipy style reminiscent of 1950s movie-star autobiographies (which, at heart, it is), this book could break out beyond the publisher's more usual academic readership to lovers of celebrity tell-alls and B-movies. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Best known for her roles in B movies (one of her more memorable was as a Pussycat in Don Knotts's The Love God) and her work as a drag-show entertainer, Brevard (n Alfred Crenshaw) never felt at home in her body. In her autobiography, she relates the story of her remarkable life in sometimes funny, sometimes painful detail, from her gender-reassignment surgery and its aftermath to her stereotypically feminine employment (she was a Playboy Bunny for a time) and her three unhappy marriages. Her mother, Mozelle, and her best friend, Stormy (who also struggles with transgender issues), are staunch supporters thoughout her quest to become the "woman she was not born to be." Brevard's determination to make the life she craves is powerful, regardless of her gender, but the writing is uneven; additionally, the chatty, friendly tone she uses may come across as exaggeratedly intimate to readers. A better-written autobiography on the same theme is Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw (LJ 5/15/94). Kimberly L. Clarke, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
" entertaining and heartfelt journey from male to female, ostracism to acceptance, and obscurity to fame. ... Aleshia Brevard's journey is a brilliant, gutsy, and insightful look at a life simultaneously marginalized and in the spotlight."
Lambda Book Report

"The Woman I Was not Born to Be is not the kind of book one really expects from an academic press: no statistics, no elaborate theoretical structure. Nor is it the story of people whom history has utterly ignored. Mocked, crucified, tortured, and jailed, yes; ignored, no. But I'm glad Temple University Press chose to publish it: in academia as in real life, a reasonably well-adjusted, kind-hearted woman who was born male is not so common."
Amy Bloom, Wilson Quarterly

"Brevard's story adds an entertaining curve to the growing body of literature—academic scientific, theoretical and literary—on transgendered experience, without the self-pity or sentimentality found in many such memoirs....Written in a gossipy style reminiscent of 1950's movie-star autobiographies (which at heart, it is)."
Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566398404
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Aleshia Brevard continues to be active in theater as an actress and director.

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Table of Contents

1 Just for a Change 1
2 Farm Boy 23
3 Drag Queen 43
4 A Man in the House 63
5 Alfred, Adieu 81
6 The Coed 99
7 Burlesque Queen 109
8 Miss Congeniality 127
9 Call Me Mrs 145
10 Teacher! Teacher! 157
11 A Playboy Bunny 173
12 That Female Bunch 185
13 Fashion's Guru 199
14 Off-Broadway Baby 209
15 A Faceless Intruder 219
16 Mother's Final Gift 231
17 The Finished Product 239
Index 247
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What a woman, what a life, what a read!

    If you are eager to absorb yourself in a fascinating autobiography, look no further. Ms. Brevard's story is gripping, touching, entertaining, down-to-earth and just plain fun to read. Her casual conversational style includes a delightful sense of humor. Her adventures kept me turning page after page. I couldn't put it down. Don't miss reading about this very special person!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2001

    Sharing Ms. Brevard's Journey

    Her recollections brought me back 35+ years to 'transgender' history here in San Francisco. And,after meeting Ms. Brevard, her self esteem and graciousness added to the poignant tribulations and survival skills she innocently shares with the reader. A must for your tranny biographical collection. Claire

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