Jennifer Finney Boylan is an American novelist and activist born on June 22, 1958 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Although Boylan was born a biological male, she felt as though her natural body did not fit her true personality. It was a gnawing feeling that she endured all throughout her adolescence, but this urge to undergo a gender transition was strongly criticized by her peers. After graduating high school, she attended Wesleyan University to study English and later enrolled at Johns Hopkins University for her graduate degree. Yet, those underlying feelings of gender dysmorphia persisted. She eventually underwent gender transition surgery in 2000, fully embodying the nature of her true self.
In 2003, Jennifer Finney Boylan published a memoir entitled She’s Not There, which tells the story of her transition in a humorous and lighthearted manner. Although the nature of the topic is deeply personal, the author manages to balance the drama of her life with the joy of it. She does not censor any moments of her transition, documenting everything from her changing relationships with family to the hassle of taking estrogen pills.
Upon its publication, She’s Not There garnered positive reviews from critics and audiences for its moving depiction of a transgender woman’s life. Janet Maslin of The New York Times states that Boylan’s accomplishment is her ability to “draw the reader into extremely strange circumstances as if they were utterly normal.” Thus, Boylan is able to further tolerance and respect for the LGBTQ community in a society that is strongly divided on issues of sexuality.