"Becoming Julie" is a poignant account of one woman's fight to be accepted for who she truly is. Not an unreasonable aspiration, but one we learn has been 50 years in the making, because Julie was born in the wrong body, a male body. "Becoming Julie" is about a life laid bare and is written with such total honesty that it takes your breath away.
I approached this book, as no doubt many will, with curiosity. What could Julie tell me that I didn't already know? What I didn't expect was to read of Julie's journey as it mirrored the pattern of my own life. We were born less than a year apart, in similarly insular communities. Yet I benefitted from the opportunities that growing up in the sixties and seventies afforded a woman of my generation, whilst Julie did not.
Julie's story tells of her struggle to be accepted from childhood through to the present day. Knowing she was different, even at primary school, she struggled to fit into her community and please her family for the next 40 years. She became a fire fighter, got married, re-located to the Isle of Coll off the Scottish mainland, worked on the ferries, and still does, all the time struggling with the woman inside herself and wanting to free her. We hear of long periods when she fought to maintain her male persona and suppress how she really felt to please everyone but herself. At other times she tells of the euphoria of escaping to the anonymity of the big city to experience a sense of freedom otherwise denied her.
"Becoming Julie" is not an easy read. Many people joined Julie at points on her journey. She speaks fondly of the wife she had and is still close to, but recognises the pain she has caused her. She speaks of parents and a sister who will never truly accept her, but also of an elder sister and a brother with whom she is now reconciled. She speaks of the doctors who supported her and enabled her to undertake the gender reassignment that finally made her whole, and of the island people who got behind her even if they didn't really understand what she was going through, or why. But there is also great sadness in Julie's story. She has experienced much loneliness in her life and received much ill treatment for no other reason than that she was different. And though Julie has achieved much more than might have seemed possible in the early chapters of this book, she is still learning to be who she really is. I, for one, say good luck to her!