by Jim Piechota
Nina Here Nor There by Nick Krieger; Beacon Press, $15
New York native turned San Franciscan Nick Krieger offers an edifying, passionate memoir detailing his gender odyssey from female to male, surrounded by close friends, family, and a life rich with newfound possibility.
His journey in Nina Here Nor There begins as "Nina" Krieger, a biological female comfortably ensconced in a lively circle of athletic lesbian friends and upper-crust "A gays." She's given up playing soccer to write website content and reflect on her many nomadic travels "backpacking in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, bicycling from Canada to Mexico." In other friendly circles, Krieger notices the increasing frequency of parties thrown as fundraisers for female-to-male transgender "top-surgery" for "genderqueer" acquaintances who had embarked on their own life-altering transformations. Soon enough, Nina begins to question her own contentment with a female physical body, becoming at odds with issues of gender, and realizing that her large, 36-C breasts simply aren't in sync with the masculine persona she has always strived for.
Krieger intricately unfolds the private machinations of becoming masculine in appearance by wearing a "tritop" binding undergarment to flatten breast tissue, donning a pliable, "pack-n-play" phallus to mimic the male crotch bulge, taking trips to Good Vibrations for strap-on dildos, and showing the nerve-wracking thought process and valiant courage necessary to have top-surgery performed. Girlfriend Ramona eagerly and patiently educates the initially insecure, fumbling, 29-year-old Krieger on "boyfriend skills" and the ins-and-outs of harnessed-dildo fucking. But, Krieger writes, "I wished sex seemed appealing; I felt like I was going spelunking with a lead pipe attached to my crotch." While these scenes won't provide any new information for readers already embarking on their own gender reassessments, the uninitiated and the curious will find these pages brimming with an enlightening, first-person experience that is both intriguing and educating.
The dialogue and free-flowing nature of the first sections of the book belie more heart-rending truths about Krieger's odyssey found in later portions. A visit from the author's mother and father is bittersweet and poignant, providing insight into the inherent struggle transgendered people encounter when addressing such sensitive subject matter with loving (or disillusioned) parents. What emerges is a powerful and moving portrait of one man's quest for happiness in finding the truest sense of himself. Krieger has produced an intimate memoir about how vital physical changes can beautify every aspect of life, inside and out.