In Between by Jane HoppenA sensitive exploration of the I in LGBTQI

The blurb of this well-written book by debut author Jane Hoppen caught my attention and I took the chance to buy it: “Never have there been only two genders – male and female. A third gender, denied by society and hidden by the medical community, has always existed, and that is what Sophie Schmidt discovers when, at the age of fourteen, she learns the truth of how she was born”.

I was curious at first because, as the blurb so aptly states, the “third gender” is a well-kept secret even in today’s society, and it was the first novel I chanced upon on this subject in our rainbow literature. And soon I was lost in this well-paced and deep story. 

There is the local doctor in rural America and the unsuspecting parents who are confronted with a baby totally outside their expertise and experience. Hoppen makes a great case that they all tried to do what they thought best.

The journey of Sophie Schmidt is told incredibly vividly and believably and my heart went out to her: The growing sense of being somehow “different”, the feelings of betrayal, and then, finally, the discovery of self and the possibility of love (I hesitate to call it lesbian love since it would deny Sophie her identity as someone who is intersex with a female phenotype).

Again, no judgement, but a sensitive, tender, and often heart-warming exploration into the life and emotions of someone in Sophie’s “shoes”.

And there are great secondary characters, too. Let me mention her mother, her father, her sister, and the farmhand who himself has to struggle for happiness. As a counterpoint, we meet her bigoted grandmother.

And nature on the farm and its effects serve as another character and subtly make the point that nature can not be denied.

In Between is a great fictional exploration into the subject of being born intersex and thought-provoking. It made me understand that someone born intersex is truly in-between. And it engaged me as a reader emotionally as only good fiction can. In the end, I would have wished for some more pages – but maybe this is a mark of a good read. It leaves the reader wishing for more.