How to tell people? What to tell people? For anyone hiding and suppressing an important secret, Left-Hander in London offers a roadmap on how to go public and what reactions to expect. For friends, family and business associates, JJ Marie’s first-hand account will give you vital clues on how to respond to the coming out of a transgender, lesbian, gay or bisexual. While the reactions from some quarters will shock you, Left-Hander in London will reaffirm your faith in people’s basic goodness—and the importance of all of us being truly who we are.
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Reviews of the Book
In her wonderfully personal way, JJ has done a great job of conveying to the reader her transition process and how it affected her professional life. It’s a ‘must-read’ for everyone in today’s ever-changing business world.
Irwin Drucker, former Program Director GLBT and International Programs,
Supplier Diversity, IBM Global Procurement
A great, compassionate… textbook for those who feel they are “out of the mainstream”, and wanting to know how to negotiate the road to freedom.
Johnny Burke, host of The Johnny Burke Show on Fox 103.9 Radio in Flint Michigan
Just finished a great book. If you are LGBTQ, have friends, family, loved ones, coworkers who are (chances are you do), or just interested in expanding your mind (which is always good), check out “Left Hander in London” by JJ Gufreda. I met this wonderful, insightful, and inspirational woman in one of my human services classes. She is a force to be reckoned with! There are too many people being damaged by hate. It has got to stop. Everyone has a right to respect regardless of our differences.
Laura King Farmer
Drywall, Dudes and Dames: My Review of the New Book, Left Hander in London
First thought off the top of my head around the new book, Left Hander in London: wow. Where to begin?
Second thought: as a single woman of the Midwest who statistically and technically is more likely to be shot by a terrorist than find a mate, I definitely can relate to JJ’s tough battle, albeit a very different reason and rejection by society. (JJ is and has been married for over 30 years. I am still a mutant to some, being an awesome woman who doesn’t have a significant other…) JJ also compares her struggle to that of being left handed in the past (is that an analogy, or an allegory?)
Third thought: anyone who is curious about the life of a transgender should read this book.
I met JJ through a mutual friend, and I blogged about my meeting with her here before, but she’s the first transgender woman I’ve ever met. She was kind enough to share a copy of her book with me (and in the interest of full disclosure, I received a full electronic copy of her book for review). In reading her book, I have a new-found admiration for her and her 50-year struggle to finally become her freest, most true self.
JJ wrote this book in order to help others understand the journey of a transgender (in her case, from male to female)–and it is definitely not an easy road. She candidly discusses her 50 year anxiety around becoming her best self, her plan for coming out to her circles (family, friends, co-workers, and others), her religion (Catholicism) and the lack of tolerance by some in religion to her change.
She also compares the struggles of her change and the controversy surrounding it to that of other tough subjects, like abortion, and even gender discrimination. She, being uniquely positioned to view the world both as a man and a woman has some interesting and curious insights about how the other gender views us, and vice versa as well in the book (I’ll let you read the book and discover the drywall story for yourself).
But through her struggle, and getting past the controversy of being a transgender in Indiana, (which…eh hem…we all know Indiana is not exactly super open to change and trying new ideas on…) there’s a much bigger message in this book that I discovered, and we all need to ponder, which is one of: tolerance, acceptance, and unconditional love. Even JJ discovers that she herself struggles with tolerance in her life, before and after her own transition:
“God created everything and everyone. We are all made out of the same stuff. He made some black, some white, some Asian, some straight, some gay, some transgender, some asexual. Some are Muslims, some are Jews, some are Buddhists, some are Hindus, some don’t have an organized religion, some are Christians, etc. Rather than picking out the people or groups that I think God has judged or will judge negatively, I prefer to accept people as they are and love unconditionally. I am not saying I am good at it, but I’m trying.” (page 126)
I think we ALL could use a hefty dose of more tolerance and acceptance of each other in this day and age, myself included. I, too, am trying, just like JJ (and I’m not saying I’m good at it, either). Whether it is a man explaining to a woman how to hang drywall, a church or mosque accepting all, not just some, who want to worship there, or a transgender coming out and becoming who they feel they are in order to match the inside with the outside. I think that is the biggest and strongest message I received from the gift of reading JJ’s book. And I hope you might consider reading it too–because our society could use more tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love, just as JJ discovered on her own journey.
We’re not good at that, but we should definitely try.
Erin Albert, Business owner, writer, Assistant Professor, Author and Student.
Erin owns two companies (Pharm, LLC and Yuspie, LLC), and is the Director of the Ribordy Center
for Community Practice at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
In Left Hander in London, JJ Gufreda takes on two ambitious goals: relate her personal journey as a male-to-female transgender and provide a guidebook to help anyone (and everyone) understand not only the “T” part of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), but others in this still-persecuted community. She succeeds admirably.
JJ’s personal journey not only provides context for the larger picture, but also lends credibility to a life story that some might be tempted to dismiss as not of importance or having impact on their own lives. Getting to know JJ through LHIL, however, is to understand that she is not a character who lurks on the fringe of “normal” society. Quite the contrary: Joe Gufreda was (and JJ Marie Gufreda is) a loving and committed marital partner and parent to three children and a grandchild. Gufreda also continues to be a respected business consultant. What has changed for JJ – aside from her gender, of course – is her world view regarding religion, the value of diversity and acceptance, and the very nature of love and friendship (both of which, it turns out, must be unconditional if they are to survive).
JJ also weaves into the story — and in supplemental material — a practical “Field Guide” to help even the most “normal” amongst us understand not only our fellow life travelers, but our own biases and reactions. Frankly, I wondered if this dual-purpose approach would succeed, but it does indeed. JJ knows of where she speaks: as Joe and JJ who have, respectively, lived as a man and woman, as a father and grandmother, as a devout Catholic and as a free-thinking person of faith.
Yes, this book takes on some heavy stuff, but JJ delivers her perspective with pragmatism and a strong dose of humor. Think this book doesn’t have bearing on your own life? Think again. This fascinating and insightful work deserves your attention if you, or anyone you know, have ever struggled to lead an authentic life.
Bob Chenoweth, Writer and LGBT Business Executive
A joyful and exhilarating experience. An intimate insight into the joy and pain of a transgender person. Informative but also transformative, Ms Gufreda has a personal and conversational style that make reading of this volume easy and enjoyable. This book will be a great asset… for helping everyone know and understand how we can all live in unity, with diversity – provided love is there as the catalyst.
Friar Justin Belitz, Founding Director of The Franciscan Hermitage, Inc.,
a spiritual center dedicated to personal growth and development
I had to read your spellbinding book straight through, or I could not have slept. This was my first time to read a non-fiction book that really read with the facility of a novel. I loved it from the intro on, beginning with your kind consideration for the reader. I thought I knew pretty much about the subject matter, but learned, as you might guess, that I had much to learn – about the Consulting Business, as much as anything else! I loved your humor, the laughs it provoked. The Christian charity you maintained was beautiful. The truth about your personal treatment by the Church and by those who would “correct” you saddened me terribly, but hardly surprised me. I suspect that your insights regarding the Church’s motives might be right on target. The authorities are mightily afraid, and want to put out the fires. I think your “speaking in tongues” gifted you with the facility to become a “translator” for this book. My little experience with tongues has taught me that in the world every utterance, no matter how diverse, can be expressed harmoniously.
MaryJo Matheny , Christian-at-Large
As I was reading this book I folded the corners of pages that I felt had vital information that I would want to refer back to, and as it turns out there were thirty-two… I thought chapters 4 and 5 would be an excellent guide to coming out as transgender to family and friends. The sample letters, the rule to tell before they see, and the stress she puts on the empathy with the person who is getting this shocking news are very helpful. JJ brings up many points that many would not think of that improve the likelihood of positive outcomes.
I think explaining the process of coming out at work is absolutely vital. I think it is sad that many people because there has been no template or successful example to show the way that they move, cut ties, and start over with a new identity. When JJ talks about the importance of pioneering and not becoming invisible I just wanted to cheer! The progress being made in GLBT protections are a direct result of people advocating for themselves and telling their stories so people know that they know people who are affected by these policies. The Trans community has to become more visible for this to happen, but it is our responsibility to make it safe for them to do so.
(Left-Hander in London) is an easy read and JJ’s sense of humor comes through. I think it is great for helping you understand what it is to be Transgender but you still can’t assume the experience represents the entire population. It is a great blue print for the person with the “shocking news” and the people in their lives who hope to be supportive! I highly recommend it for anybody who is interested in GLBT issues. As JJ suggested, some people will not change, they will not attempt to understand but there are many who are just not aware. If increasing awareness creates empathy and understanding then writing a book (as difficult as I imagine it is) is well worth it. Thank you JJ Marie!!!
Elizabeth Schunn, Social Work Student and GLBT Advocate
I'm a 28-year-old male currently trying to figure out a way to successfully transition to female. I am currently in therapy and my therapist recommended that I read your book. I just finished it, and I wanted to write you and let you know how inspirational the book was for me, and say thank you for sharing your story. While I would say I am more spiritual than religious, I am the son of a Christian pastor so your chapters on the Catholic Church and Christian Moralists were very helpful to me in shedding insight on how my father might react to the news that I am transgender. One of my biggest fears in coming out to my parents is that they will take the Christian Moralist approach with me. I hope to share the book with my parents when I am ready to come out to them. I think you did an amazing job of explaining what it is like growing up transgender and the struggle of finally accepting it.
I also loved the letter you sent out to everyone. I thought the FAQ at the end was a great idea. If it's ok with you, I will probably use a similar letter when I am ready to come out.
Thanks again for sharing your story and for reading my email! I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
Portion of a letter received from a reader of Left-Hander in London
"I finally got to read your book, Left Hander in London, and I found very interesting as well as an excellent guide to showing compassion and understanding to others. I try each and every day to learn new things and incorporate new ideas and this approach to understanding others makes this quest so very special. The differences between us all are not that much in the great big scheme of life and your book demonstrates that clearly. It makes this very short time on earth more meaningful.”
Just finished a great book. If you are LGBTQ, have friends, family, loved ones, coworkers who are (chances are you do), or just interested in expanding your mind (which is always good), check out "Left Hander in London" by JJ Gufreda. I met this wonderful, insightful, and inspirational woman in one of my human services classes. She is a force to be reckoned with! There are too many people being damaged by hate. It has got to stop. Everyone has a right to respect regardless of our differences.
Laura King Farmer