Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social Worlds

By Ken Plummer | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

An invitation to a sociology of stories

I recount the facts, just as they happened, insofar as I am able to recollect them; this is all that I can do…a secret life must not leave out anything; there is nothing to be ashamed of…one can never know too much concerning human nature.

(Water, My Secret Life)

So here we are. Who am I? Why am I what I am? At the beginning of this book I told you how I feel about people trying to find reasons for me. I am what I am, and I fully embrace that. I’m just riding with the punches. I am human—much to the amazement of some people. Because people still place themselves on a pedestal and think they have the right to judge the inner feelings of another, that’s why I have had some rough times. People told me I was sick because I was not like them, and then proceeded to convince me of it and cure me at the same time. To tell you the truth, I was convinced for a while. Our system is set up to make the unusual like the usual. I fight against this. I am me, and the only person who carries the thoughts and actions the way that I do. Not that there are not other transexuals—there are. But I am the only one exactly like me, and I’m damn proud of it. But why does the world rebel against the fact that some people are different than they are? Why must I be punished for the failings of society?

(The closing paragraph of the sociological life history
of a transexual edited by Robert Bogdan:
Being Different: The Autobiography of Jane Fry (1974))

‘Stories’ have recently moved centre stage in social thought. In anthropology, they are seen as the pathways to understanding culture. In psychology, they are the bases of identity. In history, they provide the tropes for making sense of the past. In psychoanalysis, they provide ‘narrative truths’ for analysis. In philosophy they are the bases for new forms of ‘world-making’ and the key to creating communities. Even economics has recognised its ‘storied character’. 1 Everywhere, it seems, there is an interest in stories, and social scientists have now finally grasped this point. Sociologists may be the last to enter this field explicitly, although much of their work over the past century has in one way or the other implicitly been concerned both with the gathering of other people’s stories (through interviews and

-18-

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