Adam Douglas

Save the Werewolf

Shapeshifters: A History


Reaktion Books 200pp £16 order from our bookshop

Once there were only men and women, or very occasionally a hermaphrodite. Nowadays people can define their gender as they please. Gender reassignment treatment is now so sophisticated that men who once looked stereotypically masculine can walk into whichever public toilet they choose with no one batting an eyelid. But is a transgender person like Caitlyn Jenner merely posing as a woman or has she shapeshifted?

For Shakespeare’s audiences, watching a boy actor dressing as a girl named Viola who dresses as a boy to woo another boy dressed as a woman called Olivia was funny. As Ricky Gervais has made a tedious habit of pointing out, we cannot laugh at Caitlyn Jenner without facing a backlash. But still transition causes anxiety. One part of us finds shapeshifting creative and fascinating, another finds it transgressive and unnatural.

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