P. Carl's New Memoir Untangles What It Means To Be A Man In 2020

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Author P. Carl. (Courtesy Asia Kepka)
Author P. Carl. (Courtesy Asia Kepka)

P. Carl says he's lived a double life. The first as a woman, for 50 years. Now as a man. In his new memoir, he tries to untangle both of those lives.

The book is called “Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition."

Carl is a distinguished artist in residence at Emerson College in Boston and the Anschutz fellow at Princeton University for Spring 2020.

Interview Highlights

On why he wanted to write a memoir about his experience transitioning: 

"I wanted to write it for a couple of reasons. The first being there is so little out there about trans experience. So I think any time you're adding to the stories that are missing in our culture, that might be helpful somewhere down the line.

The other, I think, was to really chronicle in some ways this experience of living as a woman for so long because I transitioned so late and then seeing sort of the world from the other side. So this idea of double consciousness, of sort of living parallel lives and that that was a real interest to me in terms of both thinking and experience.

"Becoming A Man: The Story Of A Transition" by P. Carl. (Courtesy: Simon & Schuster Publicity)
"Becoming A Man: The Story Of A Transition" by P. Carl. (Courtesy: Simon & Schuster Publicity)

On the past few years of his life, living in and experiencing masculine spaces: 

"I call it 'becoming' because it is a process of becoming. I really like masculinity. I like being a guy. I like places where guys hang out. I like locker rooms and bars and and that kind of thing. Those are interesting places. They're complex, as our most spaces where men are talking among men. And so, in some ways, I'm somebody who's just watching and learning and wanting to figure out where my voice [fits] in places like that. [As] you read in the book, I'm very honest. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I join in as I was trying to figure out what it meant to fit in."

On how he views the "toxic" behavior that sometime pervade those spaces: 

"When you sit in those spaces, you have to decide how many times you're gonna break in for a conversation. And you have to really think about 'What's my role here as a good man?' I was both stunned by how not far we've come in some of our conversations about women in those spaces. I was also in some way sympathetic. It's a very strong draw to just kind of nod your head, even if you don't agree."

On how he weighs when he wants to identify and out himself as queer or as a trans man, versus moments when he just wants to exist in the world as a man: 

"One thing I feel is if I go into a barbershop and pass as the man I feel I am — that [my] not being out as trans may inhibit somebody who doesn't pass, but still feels no less a man. So for me, I'm always weighing my responsibility to make space for other people to live as themselves. That's partly why I took the risk of writing the book and putting it out there and then weighing these [other] moments when I just want to sit and have my haircut. It's not always the same answer every time."

This segment aired on February 18, 2020.

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