Alex as Well is a rare thing in literature – it is the story of an intersex person grappling with their gender identity and the rights of intersex people to choose their own gender.
Alex has been raised as a boy for fourteen years – boy’s school, boy’s clothes, and hormonal medication to keep their body male.
But Alex isn’t a boy. Her parents got it wrong. Alex is a girl.
The novel follows Alex’s decision to live openly as a girl, exploring her expression of gender, alongside a complex representation of parents resistant to these changes. Brugman creates interesting, complex characters in Alex’s parents, and even lends the point-of-view narrative to her mother on occasions. The greatest criticiser of Alex’s decisions, Alex’s mother is openly transphobic and controlling, with mental health issues of her own, and thus is a convincing, often unlikeable antagonist.
Stories of intersex lives are dramatically under-represented in literature, and I feel that Alex as Well presents a good story alongside an in-depth exploration of the stigma that intersex and trans people face from their own family, themselves and the wider world. I do feel that the narrative device that positions Boy Alex as a separate person doesn’t always hit the mark, and I feel results in a conflation of intersex and trans identities with multiple personality disorders or schizophrenia. However, it is a good first start for teenagers wishing to understand more about intersex and trans lives, and how mental health inter-relates to understanding who you are.
Interested? Read it here.
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