I wrote this book in the present tense, in the moments of a gender transition as they were happening. This would be an entirely different book had it been written in hindsight. I made this choice because there is a rawness and vulnerability in the moment that for me feels more honest, more truthful. Given the difficult reality for trans people to navigate “a livable life” as Judith Butler calls it, I felt a responsibility to come clean, to lay bare the messiness of a life, a trans life. I am flawed. I grieve. I seek connection. I’m lonely. I’m loved and I love.
As a trans person, I spent most of my life with my head in a book imagining other lives, other bodies, and other histories. My memoir is an amalgamation of all the books that kept me curious, kept me thinking it was worth it to keep going. Sometimes it was to dream myself a cowboy on the open prairie, sometimes a soldier with a rifle as tall as me, sometimes a priest giving other men hope of a God on the other side. But reading wasn’t just about imagining myself as a man, it was about imagining, period—a way of holding myself together until the day I could viscerally feel my own existence. Becoming a Man is about surviving, becoming embodied, and learning to live.
Check out the New York Times Magazine feature on Becoming A Man!
Nearing its final pages, I had scrawled so many questions in the margins that I began to question the nature of my curiosity. A new thought emerged: that this is one of the risks and delights of a good memoir. If the writer has done the job well, the reader falls in love — and one principal feature of love is that it craves access to every part of you.
His reflective memories often read like poetry…This moving narrative illuminates the joy, courage, necessity, and risk-taking of his gender transition and the ways his loved ones became affected and eventually enriched by it. A passionate, eloquent memoir about how 'complex stories of humanity [and] our capacity for imagination are what give us hope.
In this deeply personal and moving debut memoir, theater writer Carl shares the story of his difficult yet triumphant gender transition… Carl’s raw, thoughtful musings on the life he now lives—and how powerless he was as a woman (as a graduate student, Carl was nearly raped by another student), yet how privileged he suddenly is as a white man—are incisive and intimate… Carl’s honest, timely musings illustrate the deep ruminations that can arise about one’s assigned gender at birth and the gender one becomes. Carl’s thoughts about sexuality and his compassionate feelings for sexual assault survivors will captivate readers from the first page to the last.
In Becoming a Man, P. Carl movingly and incisively conveys experiences that range from self-perception to mortality itself; experiences that matter to all of us, regardless of our sexual identities. Becoming a Man is a profound human story.
Becoming a Man is a fierce and thoughtful memoir of a transitioning body. In grappling with his own biology, gender theory, politics, and relationships, P. Carl has proven himself an indispensable voice in the conversation around gender identity. His story is a galvanizing call to action: to love, embrace, and fight for transgender lives.
This book is both is devastatingly honest and a joyful triumph. P. Carl communicates empathy on a cellular level. Everyone interested in gender, the body, and the resilience of the human spirit should read his book. It is rare for a book to equally address the gut, the mind, the heart and the body with so much insight, honesty and love. Not only a memoir of a transition, this book is a searing look at what it means to be a man in America in 2019.
The acclaimed memoir is being adapted into a play! Premiering at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) in Boston, MA, the adaptation will be co-directed by Carl and Diane Paulus.