Mashblog: “She’s Not There”

Before we dive into Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoir, here’s some background information

What LGBTQ+ stands for

People often use LGBTQ+ to mean all of the communities included in the “LGBTTTQQIAA”:


+ Pansexual
+ Agender
+ Gender Queer
+ Bigender
+ Gender Variant
+ Pangender

Percent of adults that identify as transgender in the U.S (Williams Institute 2016)

“0.6% of U.S Adults identify as transgender… An estimated 1.4 million adults in the U.S identify as transgender” (Williams Institute 2016).

Celebrities you may know that identify as transgender

Left to right: Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Elliot Page, Jazz Jennings, Jenny Boylan

Laverne Cox made history by being the first transgender woman to be on the cover of Cosmopolitan

Laverne Cox on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine

“Trans women deserve to be loved out in the open and in the light,” Cox states in the issue. “Your voice matters, the truth of who you know yourselves to be matters. The truth will set you free!”

LAverne cox speaking on the topic of being transgender

Now that we have some knowledge on the transgender community, let’s look into one in particular: Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There!

Before: James Boylan

Picture of James Boylan

“Sometimes I’d go into the empty room next to mine and I’d put on some old dresses that hung in garment bags there. They smelled like mothballs. I’d stand around thinking, This is stupid, why am I doing this? And then think, Because I can’t not. Then I’d take the dresses off and go back to my room and think, You’re an idiot. Promise you’ll never do that again. Then I’d go back into the storeroom, try on a different one, and think, Idiot” (Boylan 30).

“This learned helplessness is often called internalized oppression because we have learned to become our own oppressors from within” (Harro 19).

Picture of James Boylan

During: James to Jenny Boylan

“Your claim that Jenny is real may be true, but it seems almost beside the point. That Jenny is the real you is something that I have to take on faith, because the evidence of my senses suggests the opposite. You may have chosen to be James every day for all those years, but the fact is that you got so good at it that the rest of us can’t quite make the shift” (Boylan 183).

Picture of Jenny Boylan (1974)

“But being with you can’t mean what it used to mean. I’m always going to miss my boyfriend, the person I married, the person I love. The fact that all of this is necessary for you doesn’t make it any less hard for me… Every success you’ve had as a woman is also a loss for me” (Boylan 217).

After: Jenny Boylan

“‘Now there used to be a James Boylan on campus,’ she said thoughtfully… ‘No,’ I said. I felt a little dizzy. I didn’t know what to say to her without lying. ‘He’s gone now,’ I said” (Boylan 18). 

Picture of Jenny Boylan (2019)
Jenny and her sons, Sean, and Zach (2009)

“Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way” (Rich 1).

Artist Statement

Jenny’s story about the epic highs and lows of changing genders is truly inspiring. It’s clearly prevalent that Jenny’s transition was far from easy but ended up being well worth it. Even in the face of losing everything, Jenny persevered, both by herself and with others, to make it out on the other end. Through the difficult times, Jenny and her community were able to practice love and acceptance. A significant takeaway is that love will always prevail. The love and support Jenny felt guided her towards being her true self. Jenny’s story is one of millions, and it is our obligation as friends, family members, classmates, humans, whoever we are to allow love to win.

Published by Ellie Lim

Hi! I'm Ellie, and I'm a Senior at Glenbrook North High School. Some of my interests include synchronized figure skating, spending time with my friends and family, and being with my dog. For synchro, I compete on behalf of Team USA!

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