I Am Only a Foreigner Because You Do Not Understand

Secret Acres Nov. 2023. 144p. ISBN 9798985586350. pap. $15.95. MEMOIR
In Flocks, Nichols wrote of their childhood misery growing up as a queer girl in an anti-gay Southern town, their eventual academic success, and finally receiving the social support that propelled the young woman to marry another woman, have children, and then transition to male body and identity in a triumphant self-integration. But then it all fell apart when a divorce, body dysphoria, and intense depression overwhelmed Nichols. How to soothe inner voices from the past that screamed of fragile parenting, plus disquieting sexual abuse that the child had suffered from men? Deciding that a masculine self-identity conveyed only an illusion of strength, Nichols ultimately turns to a “middle path” between genders as more honest and trustworthy for moving forward. As in Flocks, Nichols depicts their self as a rag doll with button eyes, injuries to the body translated into stuffing leaking out. But this volume’s black-and-gray drawings, in sometimes disquieting detail—depicting, e.g., their spinal disorder and their body-disintegration fantasies—telegraph a sharp and sobering shift from the full color of Flocks.
VERDICT This poignant meditation on a body that seems difficult to understand or love, but all too easily exploited, challenges readers to contemplate the complexity of human selves, including their own.
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