Review of Gender Shock

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Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female
by Phyllis Burke
Doubleday, New York. 1996.
ISBN 0-385-47717-1

The dedication to Gender Shock reads "For the children who hear a different drummer, and those who love them." From the this point on Burke (author of the novel Atomic Candy) begins an examination of sex roles through the three lenses of behavior, appearance and science. These lenses provide the sections to her examination with a final section in summation called Gender Independence.

Quickly Burke moves to uncover, in our "enlightened age" of sex roles, some truely horrific research being done on children under the popular diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. In her behavior section she chronicals the Feminine Boy Project at UCLA by following Kraig, a four year old boy "caught" putting on his infant sister's clothing onto stuffed animals. His case was used as for the framework of Dr. Richard Green's (research director at the Feminine Boy Project) book The "Sissy" Boy Syndrome, 1987 and Handbook For Child and Adolecent Problems, 1995.

Burke chronicals the plight of other children caught up in Gender Indentity Disorder that led to hospitalization and involuntary internment in mental institutions.

As she switches to an examination of "Appearance" she looks at such alternative learning places as Diane Torr's "Drag King Workshop" and Miss Vera's Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls. It is in this section Burke examines the relationship between the body, gender identity and sexuality.

Next her thoughful examination explores the science behind gender and sex roles. One of the most invaluable messages, for me, is her re-definition of male/female as moving from a dualistic polarity to a continuum, i.e. from "Male OR Female" to "Male AND Female".

This concept is fully presented in the final section Gender Independence. Ms. Burke, a thoughtful and talented writer, brings her insight to an alternative (and a much more sane view) of gender and sex identity. I enjoyed - and learned - from her work.

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