Robin Williams’ Top 10 Reasons To Be An Episcopalian:
10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.
2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.
British author Madeline Bell’s series of twelve – so far – Gabby novels chronicles the misadventures of a young British cycling phenom from the cusp of turning thirteen to the end of his fifteenth summer. Along the way, Drew develops as a force to be reckoned with in the field of Junior cycling. Drew also develops in other ways to be discussed later. Drew is cursed with the misfortune of being cute, a description that sets his teeth on edge. The appellation is not used in the context of “I met this really cute boy named Drew Bond” but rather in the “Drew is such a cute girl and I’m jealous of her” frame of reference. In fact, Drew is regularly mistaken for a girl and the fact that he winds up in female costume from time to time does not help matters at all. At first, it was all a bit of a lark; attend a school dance with his – mostly female – mates dressed as characters from Japanese Anime but that has brought with it a whole set of problems, not the least being that one of his good mates, Clive, takes a fancy to the new girl in town.
Even when he was young, Drew’s sister used him as a dress-up doll and that tradition continues in his circle of friends who are mostly female. His appearances as ‘Gabby’ become more and more frequent and of longer duration. A six week student exchange trip to America and allowing his cousin to do part of his packing lands Drew in ‘Gabby’ mode for most of the trip. There are a (very) few discerning adults who twig that this cute teen-aged girl is really a boy but their numbers are reduced as the series progresses and even those who do know the score are still wont to think of him as a her. His family’s relocation to Germany offers a chance at a fresh start as Drew but unfortunately, that change fails to bring the expected relief. His new instructors tend to think of him as Fraulein Bond and his circle of friends there is almost exclusively female. Most – if not all – of his school mates think of Drew as a cute – if somewhat tomboyish – girl and when he is chosen by the great and the good of his town as their ‘Wine Queen’ for the coming year, all hopes of resurrecting ‘Drew’ seem to go out the window.
It appears that nature has conspired against him as well. Drew has had some increasingly worrisome medical concerns. At first, it was anemia that played havoc with his endurance. Then he began developing breasts. The doctors were concerned that puberty had yet to begin. Trouble was, it already had. It took a cat scan at a German clinic to reveal that Drew had ovaries and a uterus. But wasn’t Drew a boy? Well, yes and no. A karyotype of his chromosomes revealed that Drew had Klinefelter’s syndrome.
For those of you who slept through high school and/or college biology, a brief explanation follows. If science tends to make your eyes glaze over, you are welcome to skip the next 2 paragraphs.
Most humans have two chromosomes that determine whether they are male or female and are commonly known as the X and Y chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes whilst Males have an X and a Y. People with Klinefelter’s have three sex chromosomes; XXY. This is the result of a ‘sticky’ X chromosome that follows its partner during Meiosis rather than staying with the other 22 chromosomes that will comprise the ovum or the sperm cell. When fertilization occurs, the resulting embryo will have three sex chromosomes; XXY. On the whole, most individuals will develop as males and live normal lives without knowing of their genetic condition. Some will develop the various traits associated with the syndrome and a small minority will develop as either intersex or female.
To complicate matters a bit, one of the two X chromosomes becomes inactive following fertilization. Nonetheless, this inactive chromosome does influence things. Females with only one sex chromosome have Turner’s syndrome and are subject to a whole raft of physiological problems. See The Physiological and Behavioral Manifestations of Abnormal Numbers of Sex Chromosomes in Humans. H. Parsons, 1973 – NC Wesleyan College.
Drew Bond is one of that minority who develops as an Intersex child with a strong female bias. He looked all the world like a male in his pre-teen years but as puberty entered the picture, secondary sex characteristics and gender identity complicate things. Though Drew may express indignation at his lot in life, staunchly proclaiming his male-ness, his body and brain have other ideas. As the series progresses, his appearance and behaviour becomes more typical of a teen-aged girl rather than a boy. As his cycling prowess increases, so does his obvious femininity. Even Drew recognises that he has no future as a male but that does not mean he has to like what fate has ordained and he rages against the coming of the pink. Resistance is futile.
Madeline Bell has created an addictive series of stories in her Gabby novels and it is quite entertaining to see the scrapes her hero(ine) gets him/herself into. While the series is aimed at young adults, older ones can and do easily get hooked and bewail the fact that Ms. Bell cannot turn out the next installment as fast as they would like her to. The author caters to an international audience with illustrations and footnotes that help explain linguistic, cultural and geographic differences. Ms. Bell also provides the reader with an intimate look into the world of bicycle racing. Who knew that there was so much strategy involved? At the end of the day, Drew’s stories helped make this year’s Tour de France much more interesting.
The series is not without its flaws, however as the earlier installments suffer from spelling and punctuation errors. While Madeline Bell has released a few revised editions of earlier installments, many of the errors remain. Things are remarkably better in the later installments but still, some problems persist. The stories are told in a combination of both first and third person and while it seems to work overall, there are instances where it is difficult to determine just whom is speaking.
Flaws aside, The Gabby Series is a fun and enthralling read for both young and old and well worth the time spent. If anything, they are difficult to put down, even for a few minutes. As a final note, Madeline Bell donates a portion of the proceeds from each book to a British charity which provides support for gender variant children and for that, the author deserves a special round of applause.