Max Wolf Valerio

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Max Wolf Valerio (born February 16, 1957 in Heidelberg, West Germany) is a poet, memoir writer, essayist and actor. He has lived for many years in San Francisco, California. He is of Kainai (Blackfoot/Blood),[1] Sephardic Jewish, Conversos, and Northern European descent.

Valerio's 2006 memoir "The Testosterone Files" is one of his most prominent pieces of writing. It describes his transformation and experiences as a trans man. He also writes and performs poetry, and acts on both film and stage.

Early Life: Family[edit]

Growing up Max Valerio had fair skin, light eyes and light hair and was often confused for Russian, half-Chinese, Hungarian or as a white American.

Max Valerio’s mother came from Black Foot decent from the Kainai or Blood Band reserve and grew up on the Blood Reserve in Alberta, Canada.[2] Max Valerio was a part of the American Indian Movement and participated in marches and visited the Pine Ridge Reservation when it was under siege by the F.B.I after the Wounded Knee Occupation.[3] Valerio’s father's family can be traced back to 1694 with the De Vargas expedition and 1598 with the Onate expedition, making their way into what is now Northern New Mexico. Valerio’s father identifies as Spanish and his ancestry can be connected to Sephardic Jewish roots from Spain, Portugal and Italy. Valerio's father and he both researched their family tree using the help of cousins and research databases to attempt to find what background their ancestors were. The Valerio family can be traced from Spain and then migrated to Italy during the Spanish Inquisition, they were Conversos and eventually migrated to New Spain in the New World. The Valerios are of Sephardic Jewish descent and fled Spain because of the Spanish Inquisition.[4] Valerio’s father was in the US Army for 20 years, which caused them to move around a lot, usually moving every year and a half. They traveled all over the United States and Europe. Max was born in a United States Army hospital in Heidelberg Germany and then, traveled to San Francisco after a year and a half. They lived on the Presidio Army base while there before traveling on after another 18 months. Valerio lived in many states including Maryland, Washington, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado,as well as in Canada, and again in Germany as a child and teenager. [5]

Early Life: Before Transition[edit]

Growing up Valerio had a hard time relating to girls. He felt that he did not fit in because of his masculine nature and at times would offer to play male roles but it would not approved by the female counterparts that he was attempting to play with. He decided to identify himself as a lesbian as a teen because it made the most sense to him at the time. Max Valerio transitioned in 1989 from female to male. When Valerio identified himself as a lesbian, he was able to learn about the idea of feminism, became involved with left wing radical politics and was able to have a deeper understanding of the female identity.[6] Max Valerio’s political transformation was from left-wing radical and then to the Democrat party, and eventually to more libertarian/classic liberal and a member of the Republican party.[7]He identifies as a classic liberal.

The Testosterone Files[edit]

Max Wolf Valerio’s memoir The Testosterone Files describes the psychological, physiological, and social transformation that occurred in the first five years of his transition from female to male.[8] One of the main themes of the book is role of testosterone in his transition. This is because Valerio credits testosterone as the most definitive and crucial aspect of his transformation.[9] The book is organized into three parts: "Beginning," "Before Testosterone," and "After Testosterone."

The prologue is an important aspect of the book because Valerio uses an in depth narration of what it is like to be a transsexual to allow his readers to understand the trials and tribulations that one experiences when going through a sex change. In this section, Valerio wants people to understand that transsexuals are not simply just a branch of lesbian or gay. He wants people to understand that “transsexual identities must be defined and expressed on our own terms”.[10] In Valerio’s opinion, transsexuals voices and experiences, until more recently, are unheard and incompletely imagined which is one of the reasons he wanted to write this memoir.[11]

Part one is the section titled, The Beginning, which introduces you to Valerio as he begins his transition from female to male. Valerio discusses the physical changes occurring that have allowed him to understand what it feels like to experience biological masculinity. He talks about how others, as well as himself, have noticed the process of him “becoming more male”, or as Judith Butler would call it, gender performativity.[12] Valerio describes in detail the physical, sexual, and personal changes of becoming male, starting from his first shot of testosterone. Physical changes such as his voice becoming deeper and his hair becoming darker and coarser. Sexual changes such as heightened sex drive and sexual attraction to things that he was not attracted to before. Valerio’s personal changes were ones surrounding the fact that he had to accept that all that he was before, and all that made him who he was before, would not change although he is now a male.

Part two which is the section title, Before Testosterone, narrates what led Valerio to decide that changing sex was the right path for him. This section of the book describes cultural and ethnic background of both his mother and father. As a child Valerio had much difficulty with his mother’s acceptance that he was not happy being a girl. Valerio talks about one of his relationships that lead him to discover that being a lesbian, and sex between two women, did not arouse him.[13] He discovered that his attraction towards women wasn’t a lesbian attraction rather that it was a heterosexual attraction, one from a man to a woman. The beginning chapters in this section detail many of Valerio’s relationships and friendships that helped him to accept his true desire of wanting to become a male. The later chapters detail more of the physical changes that he believed needed to be taken care of for him to ultimately appear as male such as binding his breasts, and wearing mens underwear as well as stuffing it.[14]

Part three, which is the section titled After Testosterone, is one written so that the readers can feel Valerio’s emotional, social, and perceptual transformation from female to male. The beginning chapters of this section narrates Valerio’s acceptance of becoming a male. His body is physically transitioning and he is adapting to doing and experiencing ‘male’ things such as shaving, adapting to a deeper voice, and having straight women make advances towards him [15] He also discusses the emotional experiences of telling everyone who didn’t yet already know that he was becoming a male. He describes an in detail encounter of coming out as transsexual to one of his female co-workers as a way to narrate the difficulty of identity politics when transitioning [16] With this woman, Valerio experienced his first intimate encounter with a female since transitioning to a male . Valerio also narrates his perceptual experiences of not actually having a penis, but being physically male otherwise [17] The book ends off with his discovery of his Adams apple that has grown from the testosterone which signifies his excitement and recognition that this transition was exactly what Max needed to be happy with himself.

Works[edit]

  • The Testosterone Files: My social and hormonal transition from female to male (Memoir, 2006)
  • This Bridge We Call Home (Anthology, 2002)
  • The Phallus Palace (Anthology, 2002)
  • Male Lust (Anthology, 2000)
  • This Bridge Called My Back (Anthology, 1981 [pre-transition])
  • "Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics" (Poetry Anthology, 2013)
  • "Animal Magnetism" (chapbook of poems, 1984 [pre-transition])

Filmography[edit]

  • Unhung Heroes (Film, 2002)
  • Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting (Documentary, 1999)
  • Female Misbehavior feature length film featuring the short film: "Max" (Documentary, 1992)
  • "You Don't Know Dick: Courageous Hearts of Transsexual Men" (Documentary, 1997)
  • "Octopus Alarm" (Documentary, 2005)
  • "Straight White Male" (Documentary, 2011)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Exile: Vision Quest at the Edge of Identity." Queer Cultural Center. Retrieved 4 Aug 2012.
  2. ^ Valerio, Max. "Society for Crypto Judaic Studies." Home. 1 Jan. 2000. http://www.cryptojews.com/EmergingFragments
  3. ^ Valerio, Max. "Society for Crypto Judaic Studies." Home. 1 Jan. 2000. <http://www.cryptojews.com/EmergingFragments
  4. ^ Valerio, Max. "Society for Crypto Judaic Studies." Home. 1 Jan. 2000. <http://www.cryptojews.com/EmergingFragments
  5. ^ Valerio, Max, “The Testorone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male” (Seal Press, 2006)
  6. ^ Boyd, Helen. "Five Questions With... Max Wolf Valerio." EnGender. 29 Nov. 2006. <http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/2006/11/29/five-questions-with-max-wolf-valerio/>.
  7. ^ Berg, Alex. "Voter Identification Laws Create Unique Problems For Transgender Voters." The Daily Beast. November 2, 2012http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/02/voter-identification-laws-create-unique-problems-for-transgender-voters.html.
  8. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  9. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  10. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  11. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  12. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  13. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  14. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  15. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  16. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).
  17. ^ Max Valerio, The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male (Seal Press, 2006).

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]