Writing up a book review of Hiding from Myself by Amber Rose Washington is perhaps one of the easiest ever. It can be a real pain having to get inside an author's thoughts sometimes, to work out precisely what they mean. No such problem with Hiding from Myself though - mainly because of the beautiful, joyous clarity of writing.
Hiding from Myself is a memoir of Amber's journey through life from being a depressed boy to becoming a woman after many decades. It touches on tragedy, health issues and humour in a compelling way that makes it a book difficult to put down. Amber (born Eddie) reflects on her early years with mixed emotions. A loving family and closeness to her mum to whom Eddie confided to at a very early age that he did not "feel right" as a boy.
As a trans woman and knowing at the age of five, I did not feel right as a kid, I could easily relate to this. We both did the same in wearing our sister's clothes at every possible opportunity, and on one occasion Eddie went as far as to ask his mum if he could wear his sister's nightgown which she kindly obliged. Amber writes "I didn't feel like a girl, nor did I feel female - I knew I was a girl. Since the age of five, when I could look at me sisters clothing & dolls and wonder why I could not have pretty things." On reprising the first chapter, I wrote in my notebook that Eddie was a great example of why kids should have access to Puberty Blockers. Something that in my country of birth, the UK is being made increasingly difficult for kids to obtain. At one point Amber also mentions his urge at school to line up with the girls, amazingly like Mia Violet, who states precisely the same in her book 'Yes, You are Trans Enough."
As Eddie gets older, his search for knowledge results in desperate visits to his local library. He discovers what the word "transgender" means and that Thailand is the leading country in offering surgery for trans folk. Like all of us, though, family issues get in the way, and Eddie points out that many members in his family are Catholic and disapprove of LGBT+ people. One of the book's most touching sections is Eddie's attempted suicide, sadly an all too common event in the trans world but fortunately in Eddie's case failed.
From setting the scene of Hiding from Myself, Amber then moves on to numerous short stories, three wives - three divorces, four kids (all boys) and at this point in this review I dont want to give away too much of each chapter. After all the point of a review is not to tell you, the reader what you will read!
That said, there are some highlights that I must share! Amber castigates certain verses in the bible - pointing out that the religious "pick and choose" what they want to observe. She points out that the bible was edited with editors picking and choosing what to include and exclude. She tells of personal relations with both women and men, travelling to exciting places and working on showbiz projects. How she self-medicated using hormones, coming to terms that she was a great dad but a lousy husband and very sadly of her mums passing, which hit Amber so very hard.
But then we get to chapter 14. Entitled "The Butterfly's First Flight" it explains in joyful detail of Amber coming out, the support she got from the majority of her friends if not all the relatives. One beautiful scene is when Amber is with a psychologist, correcting him about cross-dressing and saying "Yeah - you kinda come an expert on something when you are that something." Chapter 15 onwards describes the unconditional love from Ambers Dad, coming out to her sons, of an adventure to a theme park that resulted in the perfect "put down" when some woman complained Amber used the Ladies loo.
Amber touches on being misgendered several times, and I have to say I found that rather difficult to understand - because I have seen her and heard her talk and at first I took her as a cis-gendered woman and a trans allie not a trans woman like myself. Amber also talks about how trans folks opponents have introduced the terms "Gender and Trans ideology." This issue is a raw point for me. Both Amber and myself are BIOLOGY, not an ideology which is an 'idea' or an 'ideal.'
Currently, one of my goals is to call this out as much possible, and I have invested many hours researching it and writing an essay on this subject which you can read by clicking HERE.
The final chapters revolve around health issues, covid and stalled full transition. Chapter 21, in particular, opens exceedingly powerfully, and whilst I am not going to give the storyline away, my first tears started to flow.
To conclude, I loved Hiding from Myself by Amber Rose Washington - purchased via Amazon the kindle version costs me a ridiculous £5 something (about 7 USD). The paperback is more expensive, at £15.99. Link to Amazon click HERE.
I must admit this is the first book I have read on a tablet using the free Kindle app, and in no way did it lessen my enjoyment. Given the hours of entertainment, tears, joy and intrigue, Hiding from Myself is a must-read book. Ideal for the first-timer who wants to understand what life is actually like being transgender.
I loved it.
I hope you will too.
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