Grayality by Carey PW
Pride Publishing, 2022
Pate Boone was born Patricia, but he never felt he belonged in a woman’s body. His partially complete transition brings him both freedom and anxiety – freedom to express the man within, anxiety that someone will discover he still has female genitals.
Oakley Ogden was Pate’s lover, before the transition. Now, they’re closest of friends. When Oakley moves to the little town of Cloverleaf, Montana, to help his beloved grandmother in her battle with cancer, he invites Pate to join him. Both of them are looking for a fresh start, and in Cloverleaf, they find both new friends and new challenges.
Pate falls in love with Maybelle, a pretty eighteen-year-old college girl. Oakley finds himself drawn to sassy, gender-fluid drag performer Jody. Though Maybelle claims to be his girlfriend, Pate can’t let down his guard for fear she’ll reject him when she learns he’s transgender. Meanwhile, Oakley struggles to reconcile his conviction that he’s straight with his attraction to a person with a penis.
In a small rural community like Cloverleaf, it’s tough to keep secrets. Revelation of the truth brings heartache, prejudice and violence. Both Pate and Oakley need help in trusting their hearts and opening their minds to relationships that blur the rigid lines of gender.
About a month ago, I featured a promo post about Grayality on my blog. I liked the author’s subject and voice so much that I requested a review copy of the book from the publisher. I’m very glad that I did.
In this novel, Carey PW is brutally honest about the transgender experience. The visceral rejection of a female body – the physical and psychological roller coaster of transitioning – the fear of being outed - the doubts about whether you’ll ever be accepted or find love – this book made all of that real for me. Grayality is a romance, but it’s about as far as you can get from the fantasy/wish-fulfillment that characterizes much of the genre. A loving relationship takes hard work under any circumstances. The difficulties multiply when the object of your affections doesn’t fit into the societally-sanctioned gender pigeonhole.
Readers will empathize with Pate and Oakley, the focus characters in this tale, but I found secondary characters Jody and Stormy even more appealing. Both of them flaunt gender norms with a level of self-confidence that neither Pate nor Oakley has yet achieved. Jody in particular blends sexy femininity and casual masculinity. She’s completely comfortable in her own skin, but the author makes it clear that this comfort did not come easily.
If you’re looking for a feel-good MM romance that conforms to popular tropes – soul-mates, instant physical attraction, life in a queer-friendly world where you’re free to love whomever you choose – you probably won’t like Grayality. It’s too raw, too real.
I loved it.