The timing of Michael M. Morisaki’s new novella, Sex Comes In Different Packages, could not have been better, as many in this country have finally awakened to the discrimination and misunderstanding surrounding gender identity.
Morisaki tells the story of Ray, a lonely California real estate salesman who desperately wants to be a woman. He lives a double life, swapping men’s clothes and mannerisms for a woman’s whenever it feels safe. He wrestles with the uncertainty of who he is and whether he should take the final, irreversible step to become a woman. Complicating matters are his male sexual urges towards women.
Morisaki is a strong writer, and he has the makings of a nuanced glimpse into the complex world of transgenderism. There are some deeply compelling moments here, such as when Ray tries to check into a hotel as a woman but his driver’s license has him pictured as a man. He is awash in relief when a wise clerk simply smiles and welcomes him without question. In another scene, he pays a female colleague to go to dinner with him and his visiting parents, knowing the assumptions they make will be false.
But while less is often more, in this case less is simply less. With a strong start, the short book quickly becomes rushed and incomplete. Huge swaths of the storyline are missing or undeveloped. For example, Ray meets and falls in love with Linda, a lesbian psychiatrist as he finalizes his journey to become the woman, Reyna. In one puzzling scene, Linda asks Reyna to again dress like a man, much to Ray’s discomfort. Instead of using it to delve deeper into both characters’ conflicted emotions, Morisaki just moves on. Their relationship rings false, and the early authenticity of the book disappears.
Ultimately, the book is too short to cover so much territory. There is potential for a powerful story here should the author decide to embrace it more fully.
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