Lay on a merry spread

The Timaru Herald - - $ -

The abil­ity to change gen­der is a fea­ture of our age. The first pi­o­neer­ing re­as­sign­ment surgery (male to fe­male) oc­curred in Ber­lin in 1930. In the 21st cen­tury, such oper­a­tions are rou­tine.

Be­gin­ning with Chris­tine Jor­gen­son’s au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ar­ti­cle The Story of my Life in 1953, there have been many mem­oirs of


Raise blades on your lawn mower – longer grass is bet­ter able to with­stand drought (should the promised long, hot sum­mer ar­rive).

Plant flow­ers for bees and other pol­li­na­tors, such as echi­nacea, echinops, laven­der, Michael­mas daisies, salvias, sol­idago, and pen­ste­mons. Good herbs for the bees in­clude basil, oregano, rose­mary, sage, and thyme.

Sweet peas (like other legumes) flower best if picked reg­u­larly and of­ten… the more you pick, the more they flower.

Pop in an­nu­als to fill any gaps in the flower bor­der. Or sow di­rect fast-grow­ing, late-flow­er­ing hardy ones, such as alyssum, cal­en­dula, clarkia, cos­mos, gode­tia, marigolds, nigella, and zin­nia.

Mulch flower beds with com­post or pea straw to con­serve mois­ture and sup­press weeds. Tulips and hy­acinths will ben­e­fit from a mulch to help keep the soil cool. Or lift the bulbs and store in a dry, cool place till re­plant­ing in au­tumn.

Keep dead­head­ing roses and water deeply to en­sure a se­cond flush of blooms. When pick­ing roses for the vase, make the cut just above a five-fin­gered leaf – and sum­mer-prune the shrub at the same time! In re­peat and con­tin­u­ous-bloom­ing va­ri­eties, this will help en­sure a great dis­play into au­tumn. male to fe­male re­as­sign­ment. There have been fewer first-per­son his­to­ries of fe­male to male tran­si­tions. Thomas Page McBee is one of the re­cent writ­ers who is re­shap­ing so­cial views.

Born a woman, McBee is now a mar­ried man and a jour­nal­ist. His se­cond mem­oir, Am­a­teur: A True Story About What Makes A Man uses his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a char­ity box­ing match at Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York as a pre­text to un­tan­gle the links be­tween mas­culin­ity and vi­o­lence. It is an ap­proach­able and thought­ful ac­count.

In­ject­ing him­self with testos­terone each month, McBee is phys­i­cally fa­mil­iar with the chem­i­cal ba­sis of gen­der. As a con­se­quence of his hor­mone shots, he has a beard and a mas­cu­line body shape. Testos­terone has also forced him to con­front male vi­o­lence: how much is hor­monal, and how much is cul­tur­ally in­stilled?

Am­a­teur, how­ever, is not sim­ply McBee’s story. He works out and trains in two New York City gyms. His book is of­ten the story of men to­gether. They com­pete. They share. They teach. His spar­ring part­ners, train­ers, friends and the worlds they in­habit are acutely ob­served.

Feed del­phini­ums with weak liq­uid fer­tiliser. Stake tall peren­ni­als to pre­vent wind dam­age to flower spikes.

Prune de­cid­u­ous mag­no­lias once in full leaf.

Feed in­door plants with a liq­uid plant food or a slow-re­lease fer­tiliser, and step up wa­ter­ing.


Or­gan­ise bird net­ting for berry fruits and cher­ries.

Plant out pump­kins, giv­ing them rich soil, sun, mois­ture and plenty of space – one plant could (all go­ing well) take up to three square me­tres.

Plant aubergines, cu­cum­bers, mel­ons, pep­pers, and cu­cum­bers in rich soil in a warm, sunny, shel­tered spot.

Water fruit trees deeply and reg­u­larly to en­cour­age good-size fruit. Sum­mer prune ex­cess growth on pipfruit trees to con­tain growth and con­trol tree size. As well, se­lec­tive tip prun­ing of lat­eral branches im­proves the next year’s crop.

Sum­mer-prune new goose­berry bushes. Aim for an open bush by re­mov­ing the weak­est in­ward­fac­ing branches.

Keep the base of fruit trees weed free – weeds com­pete with other plants for nu­tri­ents and mois­ture and, in ex­treme cases, light and air­flow. They can also har­bour pests and dis­eases. Re­move weeds by hand then spread a 5cm layer of or­ganic mulch – such as pea straw, com­post or leaf mould – around the root zone but away from the trunk. Mulches also help the soil re­tain mois­ture. – Mary Lovell-Smith

So too is McBee’s wife, Jess, with her doubts and af­fir­ma­tions. The story of their re­la­tion­ship is a vi­tal un­der­cur­rent to the book. Her be­lief in ‘‘the per­son be­neath rather than the ap­pear­ance’’ is a prac­ti­cal take-home mes­sage.

McBee’s sta­tus as an out­sider – where only a few peo­ple know his real story and his birth-gen­der – means he sees things in the world of box­ing that oth­ers would not. His per­sonal his­tory re­quires an aware­ness of ex­pec­ta­tions and in­ter­ac­tions that open up fresh per­spec­tives in an old de­bate.

While Am­a­teur goes to au­thor­i­ties in the fields of gen­der and ag­gres­sion for in­for­ma­tion, it is also will­ing to de­bate their views.

McBee’s mem­oir is a paced and sus­pense­ful read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. With its fo­cus on prepa­ra­tions for a com­pe­ti­tion and the fi­nal event it­self, the book be­comes more than an ex­plo­ration of gen­der. The fleshy thuds of Madi­son Square Gar­den’s box­ing arena are trans­lated onto the page.

In an era where gen­der has be­come such a trig­ger­ing sub­ject, Am­a­teur pro­vides a re­fresh­ing al­ter­nate ver­sion. It is a book which ably demon­strates how cen­tral the de­bate is to modern life – and how lit­tle it should re­ally mat­ter. – David Herkt


Salmon tartare with cu­cum­ber & wasabi, left. Spiced cherry & cider com­pote is de­li­cious with cider-glazed ham.

Leave grass longer, so it is able to with­stand drought.

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