Things Not To Ask (A Trans Person)

Posted by – May 21, 2015

Things You've Always Wanted To Ask a Trans Person… But Probably Shouldn't

"What's the difference between transvestite and transgender?""Which bathroom do you use?""Have you had 'the op'?" "What do you do in bed?""Are you a drag queen?"We got together some people from the transgender community to pick out questions they often hear. We asked, so you don't have to!

Posted by BBC Free Speech on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

(if it’s not working, try this link.)

Mad Us: The End of Mad Men

Posted by – May 19, 2015

Mad Men isn’t about Joan or Peggy or Don or Betty or Roger or feminism or the 60s or NYC or advertising; it’s not about drinking or smoking or the clothes or the era.

It’s about mid-life and it’s for anyone who has woken up unhappy in some unnamable way after the age of 30. It’s for anyone who grew up knowing they were in for a bright future who woke up with a lot of things they wanted and some they didn’t and tried to get out from under this tremendous sense of disappointment. It’s for anyone who expected to live fiercely and die young who didn’t.

Don Draper is in his mid 30s when the show starts in 1960; it ends late in 1970. It is that decade – the decade of the midlife crisis, the U-curve. It’s the decade when you start to look around or are still in the middle of busily building your life – getting that job, the place to live, kids, spouse. It’s when you finally come up for air after aspiring to so much, of becoming an adult of whatever kind you are or avoiding becoming one altogether.

Is that all there is my friends? is what you ask. I have done these things, read these books, started my life, found love, lost it, found it again, with the same person or a new one, maybe settled for stable over passionate.

It is when your body first starts to tell you that maybe you drink too much or need to quit smoking but you don’t really feel old yet; it’s not until your 40s that you realize that perhaps that stiff knee is only going to get stiffer with time, that it’s never going to feel wholly better.

As a woman it’s the moment you realize you have probably already been the most attractive the culture will allow you to be – which has nothing whatsoever to do with how attractive you are, of course – but it’s also the moment when you realize you have some small authority in whatever your world.

You think about the plans you made and didn’t achieve and the ones you did and your friends’ plans and what they did and didn’t do. It’s when your friend who always wanted to be a writer becomes one and then realizes they got into it for all the wrong reasons or they got into it for the right reasons but those weren’t the ones that made them successful. It’s when the people who make money realize they need meaning and the people who have lived in the moment and for meaning realize they need some money.

It’s when you wonder if you should have married that guy you didn’t marry or whether that woman you did marry was the right one. It’s the decade when you realize you have young children and that your life is about them now, not so much about you, but it’s also the decade when you realize it never was about them but really about you – what you wanted to be as a parent and what you actually are. It’s about sitting on what it means not to be a parent when you realize you’re never going to be one.

It’s when you buy a metaphorical red sports car or dye your hair red or start running marathons even though you never have before.

That decade is when the sex you had in your 20s starts to look unnecessarily athletic and oddly unfocused. It’s when you wonder if you actually knew what turned you on and what didn’t and whether you actually ever experienced an orgasm the way you have more recently. It’s when you realize that getting older physically isn’t so much about your looks or gravity or love handles but about the quality of your skin. You look at young people and wonder if they know how dewy and newborn they look and why you didn’t realize that when it was true about you.

It’s the decade when people divide themselves into two groups – of those who have lost parents and those who haven’t, and the former group gets bigger every day, every month, and you wish it wouldn’t have to.

Mad Men is about all the bad choices that turned out to be great ones and the great ones that turned out to be delusions and the unwitting way you start to live more carefully even if you don’t intend to. It’s about being in love with the person you don’t have and resenting the person who loves you the most. It’s when wild celebrations start to hum with sadness and when sad things start to make you happy in ineffable ways.

Mad Men is about the people who give up everything to grasp some brass ring, about how things you know are going to go away actually do find a way to go away no matter how much you want to keep them. It’s about telling yourself that someone, somewhere has to be perfectly happy with the choices they’ve made and telling yourself that someone somewhere is a smug asshole who has only ever hurt other people.

It’s about owning what you’re ashamed of and what others shame you for; it’s about how you live out the ways that you’re broken.

It’s about how you let go of what you once had.

It’s about when you want others to be happy because someone should be.

It’s when you stop competing with everyone else and realize you’ve never cared about anyone’s opinion but your own, anyway.

Mad Men
is a story about growing up and growing old, about the deep faith of cynics and the cheap virtue of idealists.

It’s painfully American and remarkably well dressed. It’s about happiness being that thing you have until you need more happiness. It’s about knowing which is the temporary bandage and which is the permanent wound.

It’s about knowing that that is all there is and that’s more than you ever dreamed was possible.

So let’s keep dancing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted by – May 17, 2015

In case the MRA guys calling for a boycott of the movie isn’t a good enough reason for you, I saw it last night and loved it. Maybe it will come as a surprise that I tend to like fast movies with a lot of explosions – but I do. It’s beyond that, though: the art of it is occasionally striking, the attention to detail is intense, and there were actually a couple of scenes that made me tear up. The world building strikes me as pretty damn complete, too.

& Of course Theron is unbelievable, but so is Hardy as Mad Max. Really, the dude grunts better, in character, than any other action hero I’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a high bar, but still.

Mostly it’s a dystopian vision of a movie – strong female characters, interesting commentary on patriarchal violence, and environmentalism.

Also, the MRA guys hate it. As a (male) friend of mine wrote, “I mean, I just kinda wanna give them each a cookie and pinch their cheeks, and tell them that they’re big, strong men and their mommies really did love them, and that it’s gonna be okay.”

But if you don’t believe me, go check out The Mary Sue review.

Birthday.

Posted by – May 13, 2015

So it is mine, today. My 46th. & As many of you know, I share it with my wife: we were born the same year, on the same day, but in two different states (and to two different sets of parents, of course).

There’s something about aging as a writer that makes you more impatient for your own time, so yesterday’s awesome response to my summer writing fund has cheered me immeasurably. I’m so thrilled that so many have responded so kindly, with suggestions for the kinds of things I might offer if I do that IndieGoGo campaign, but mostly because it means people want to read my next book.

I worry, you know, about being this odd cis person writing about trans issues. I don’t like to step on toes and try to follow most of the rules about being a good “ally” – and I put that in scare quotes because I don’t really feel like that. Lately I’ve been using “co conspirator” because it feels a lot more accurate.)

But thank you, all of you. The donations have been awesome & I hope they keep coming so I can stop worrying – that’s really the thing more than anything: getting more distracting thoughts out of your head so the writing can happen unimpeded. I’m really looking forward to surprising you all with what I come up with. This book, more than the others, feels important to me.

Do feel free to spread the word: every little bit counts. & In the meantime, I’m going to start my 46th year.

Helen’s Summer Writing Fund

Posted by – May 12, 2015

I’m working on my third book and have been, off & on for the last couple of years. I’ve changed the idea of it more than once and know that I’m going to be writing about some difficult and far ranging stuff – not just life post transition, life with a wife, but the rest, too: our ongoing libido mismatch, trans feminism, teaching, kink, masculinity. It is going to be the kind of book that I’m not going to get my head around until I’ve written a huge chunk of it, and that’s going to take some serious focus.

That said, the day has finally come. It’s a thing you feel, and I feel way overdue.

This is where you come in, readers.

Neither writing nor teaching pay particularly well, so most summers I’m looking for paid work – which is a huge distraction from the writing itself – and it’s making me impatient. I need some funds to get by so I can write all summer instead of finding work.

I’ve thought about doing a Patreon campaign or Kickstarter or the like, but after looking into those a little, I’m not sure I want to put on a whole sideshow when really I just need some funds to get through a summer.

What I want, most, is a little funding, and with it a shot in the arm from my lovely readers.

So here is my toe, in this water of patronage, to see if some of you might help me pay the bills so that I can write fulltime this summer. As some of you know, I wrote all of My Husband Betty in three months, and SNTMIM in six, so I’m optimistic about how much I can put together in a summer.

If you like what I do, what I write, and want to see what I will write, please let me know by donating something toward this summer fund. If it turns out to be a good idea, maybe I’ll do the official Kickstarter thing but in the meantime, if you can donate, do, and do let me know in the comments what kinds of things you might be willing to donate for – all of the official funding sites want me to promise people things, but outside of signed copies, I can’t imagine what I’d offer.

So here, for now, is a link to my PayPal account. It would cheer me endlessly to have your support.





Thank you. It means the world to me.

Salon Interview With Yours Truly

Posted by – May 10, 2015

I think this is the first time I’ve been in Salon, and look at that! A whole interview with me.

If you’ve come here from the Salon article, here are some of the resources/community I’ve been running for years.

The MHB Boards – is a private community open to trans people of all kinds and partners, children, parents (SOFFA) of trans people. Here’s more about them.

(en)gender partners – a private list only for partners of trans people. inclusive of trans masculine & trans feminine, genderqueer, wives of crossdressers, etc.

You’ll find other resources by searching my blog or clicking on the ‘trans partners’ tag.

Welcome!

Happy Mother’s Day

Posted by – May 10, 2015

This Mother’s Day Weekend

Posted by – May 9, 2015

I came across this beautiful letter by Amy Young – “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother’s Day)” and was really blown away.

She felt shamed in her church when mothers were asked to stand and she wasn’t one. I’ve seen similar posts all over my Facebook newsfeed – from those who survived toxic mothers to those who couldn’t have children or whose children have died or run away or who are lost to addiction.

The thing is, there’s a lot of mothering out there to do, and a lot to be had, and I think this gets at some of the million ways women have to contend with this category, this supposed birthright, this expectation.

I’ve never felt ‘less than’ as a non-mom — for me, it’s a victory that I withstood the pressure, having watched so many female friends who didn’t want children decide to have them — and I’d want to assert, out loud again, that not having children is not even a little terrible. I’m happy to have an identity that is not dependent on having given birth or even to mothering a child. I don’t feel my capacity for love or pain or selflessness is less. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on an essential experience of woman-ness, either; we are all women in different ways, and while being a mother may be what some women want more than any other thing, I think it’s hard to judge what you want in a culture that tells us, from birth, that we should want children or we are somehow deficient.

I’m not deficient. I’m a person who chose not to have children, and I’m very, very glad I did.

So here’s Amy Young’s list, which she wrote to “address the wide continuum of mothering”:


To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Tina Fey is a Miracle

Posted by – May 8, 2015

I know she’s a comedian & all, but this still took guts:

& Honestly, to hell with Spanx.

Cheated.

Posted by – May 4, 2015

My wife and I were lucky enough to score tickets to see The Replacements this past weekend in Milwaukee; neither of us had ever seen them back in the day and both of us were fans. And they were, as expected, amazing; Paul Westerburg’s voice still sounds incredible and the band was tight.

But today, while doing an interview – I’ll post info about it when it turns up – I realized something about even going to concerts that sucks these days: my wife can’t sing to me when we’re in public and use her full range; instead, it makes me nervous when she drops below a certain register instead of it making me happy. We can’t hold each other or kiss, much less make out, for fear of our own safety. I worry that she doesn’t have much of a spideysense for that too-drunk dude next to her who has started to stare at her or me or worse still, us, in that disconcerting too-drunk dude sort of way.

Mostly, though, what upsets me is the thinking about it. Yes, we both want to say to hell with all of it so she can sing anyway and we can make out where we want to and ignore too-drunk dudes because they are idiots. We want to be awesomely brave, progressive, proud queers who don’t give a shit.

But we’re not.

And we know straight people don’t entirely get it; as I’ve said many times, I thought, as an LGBTQ ally, that I understood, but I didn’t. Yet a lot of same sex couples don’t get it either because they haven’t lived on the heteronormative side of the fence or haven’t for a very long time. Our heterosexual past, as it were, is always present; that guy I met, our ability to make out in public, it all happened, and with each other, and not very long ago. So we find ourselves between the demanding ethics of LGBTQ* politics and well-intentioned but clueless straight people.

What I resent, mostly, is that a simple urge to kiss my partner because she is smiling so hugely because oh wow we’re watching the goddamned Replacements, I wind up in my head thinking about what to do or how to do it and then getting angry that I have to think about it at all, feeling guilty, talking myself out of feeling guilty, coming up with another (non verbal) way to tell her I’m happy she’s happy, and by then I’m noticing too-drunk dude who is listing creepily in our direction and the whole thing starts all over again.

Mostly we both feel cheated of our lives, of the life we had together, and even though it’s no one’s fault. there it is.

Happy May Day.

Posted by – May 1, 2015

Justice Alito’s Wrong

Posted by – April 30, 2015

A reporter just called me and asked me to respond to this quote:

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, how do you account for the fact that, as far as I’m aware, until the end of the 20th century, there never was a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex? Now, can we infer from that that those nations and those cultures all thought that there was some rational, practical purpose for defining marriage in that way or is it your argument that they were all operating independently based solely on irrational stereotypes and prejudice?

Silly, silly man. Of course there have been, both nations and cultures, who have married people of the same sex. Some of those people weren’t of the same gender, but that’s not what he said now, is it? I expect SCOTUS justices to be exacting in their language, and if doesn’t know the difference between sex and gender, he has no business making such blanket statements.

I’ll let you know if the article comes out.

Anti Cop?

Posted by – April 29, 2015

One of the issues that always comes up when police brutality becomes visible – as it has been consistently for this past year – and especially when that police brutality is expressed racially – is that somehow being for justice and against racism makes a person anti-cop.

I grew up white working class so I grew up with men (and maybe some women) who became cops. They were good guys, brave guys, often guys who weren’t scared of a whole lot. They have my unending respect for being willing to step up and try to do some good in the world. Some of my crossdressing friends are police officers or are in other law enforcement. I went to HS with a federal agent whose job scares the fuck out of me, but I’m glad he’s the kind of smart, brave man who can do it.

I’ve worked with the Appleton PD on quite a few occasions. A few of them I count as friends but certainly as colleagues in community building. We throw everything, as a culture, that we don’t want to deal with at them – racism, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, theft, and – as was pointed out to me recently – all of the mental health issues our system isn’t acknowledging, much less dealing with. They are given precious few resources to “solve” a whole swath of problems, and if we listened to compassionate police more about what is needed, we’d hear a lot about educational opportunity, community participation, access to mental health services, even social justice. They know it. They see it.

But I really really dislike having it assumed that as someone whose heart breaks over the broken spine of a young, poor, disenfranchised man of color in Baltimore that somehow I don’t care about cops. I’ve personally had both good experiences — I am, after all, white, currently middle class & newly middle aged — and not so good ones (because I am also queer, female, and have been, many times in my life, a protestor). That is, I am assumed to be on the side of law & order because of some of my identity, and assumed to be suspect because of other parts of myself.

Freddie Gray had pretty much of nothing about him that told the cops he might be on the side of law & order. We create these binaries of identity, assume kinds of legitimacy or don’t, but the issue is that we tend to put an awful lot of muscle and guns and power on the side of those who have more power.

To me the issue isn’t the cops the same way the issue isn’t the media. Both are reflections of our current systems of order and power – who, in a nutshell, is assumed to be okay, who is assumed to be a good citizen, who might be given a second chance, and who gets the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is, poor people live in public. Their lives are, as a result, seen more easily, examined more closely, judged more often. Mental health issues go untreated – even undiagnosed. Addiction likewise.

And so we send in the cops to clean up the messes we’ve created, created not because we’re bad people, not because we’re Republican or Democrats, but that we’ve created in letting these systems that assume some people are okay and some people aren’t, often based on their gender or orientation or race or immigration status.

But no, the fault is not often with the police except for when they – as their own community – protect and defend practices that prey on the least of us. And the least of us, in the US, are still black and poor with less access to good educations, who are often living in families rife with addiction, mental health, disability, and untreated and undiagnosed medical conditions. And maybe it’s because sometimes it’s obvious to me that the only thing separating me and them, my family’s ancestors from theirs, is the color of my skin.

Stay safe, Baltimore: and by that I mean not just the protestors but the police too.

Today I Want: Thoughts on Baltimore

Posted by – April 28, 2015

Today I want for more of us to see what I see in black men. There is something so humble and simultaneously proud, the kind of humble that living in a system that tells you to keep your head down and your mouth shut, the kind of humble poor people have, and yet, too, I see the pride, the fire of dignity that has to be kept nearly invisible from most, a fire like the pilot light of a gas stove, full of power to destroy but full of power too, to lead and to defend.

Today I wish I could remove the gauze on the eyes of so many white people I know, who see thugs where there are only scamps, who see anger where there is only frustration and sadness. There is something to spending your 20s in Harlem as a young, stupid, white woman; the way older black men just laughed quietly when I was getting hit on and didn’t know it; the young teenagers eager to prove themselves by asking a terrified white girl whose dick she was there to suck; the young boys with those big eyes and big ears and big brains who have a snowball’s chance in hell of using any of those to live in the world and make it more awesome. We’ve all lost, for so many years, so much of this human potential because white people can’t get past being afraid.

Maybe it’s having grown up working class and white, raised by a grandma who was in a janitor’s union, but there is something about black men — who never get to be men and yet who are despite everything.

Stay safe, Baltimore.

Important “Stealth” Voice

Posted by – April 27, 2015

I put “stealth” in quotes because it bothers me as a term; it implies a kind of sneakiness that has nothing to do with the goals of the women and men who live their lives who no one knows are trans. They are men and women, they are happy or unhappy, but they are not lying or deceiving anyone.

They are one group whose voices are not heard precisely because they can’t be, so I’m more than super thrilled to have been directed to this one, by one of my readers, who is smart and funny and warm and angry. It’s really great stuff. Like this piece:

Many years ago, I read a throw-away line from someone on an internet forum: “Early transitioners face discrimination before transition, and assimilate afterwards. It’s the opposite for late transitioners.” This rang really true for me. As a child, and most especially as a teen, I really copped it from all angles because of my complete inability to hide my gender identity. My parents, classmates, teachers… It reached something of a crescendo around transition, where I spent a year or so being visibly trans, then faded away as I assimilated. I think the converse happens for people who are able to cope as teens. They get by, are even stratospherically successful like Cate. But the consequences of this success are that they’ll have much more difficulty assimilating post-transition. They’ll often be visibly trans the rest of their lives, or simply have so much baggage from before transition that they can’t get past.

and this:

So more on me. I had a pretty rough childhood due to gender stuff. As a result I’m estranged from my parents and most of my siblings. I haven’t seen or talked to my parents in more than twenty years. My mum passed away a couple of years ago (I didn’t go to the funeral) and I was relieved more than sad. Relieved that the one sibling who I do maintain vague contact will give up on his periodic attempts to reconcile the family.

Anyway, like a surprisingly large number of queer kids I got in trouble as a teen, had a couple of babies, and did the shotgun wedding thing. Like most queer kids in that situation it didn’t stick. Getting married only postponed the inevitable, and then only by a couple of years. I divorced and transitioned at 23, went back to uni, got my shit in a pile and made a decent life for myself.

I just hope she keeps writing.

Partner’s Blues

Posted by – April 26, 2015

Here’s a smart piece about dating someone who is still uncomfortable with their own gender issues, who embraces and then rejects them, and how one partner tried to come to terms with that – but didn’t.

This:

The wall I’m talking about is plastered together with our society’s definitions of a man, a woman, a person, and a relationship. You’ve probably hit this wall, too, perhaps without recognizing it. Women may have hit it when trying to assert their desires in relationships. Men may have hit it when trying to be emotionally vulnerable with their partners. And while it would be so easy to say I was just physically incapable of a romantic relationship with a self-identified woman, I find it more likely that this wall divided Ryan and I from each other and blocked my view of a future between us.

Even now, it’s blocking my story from you, the reader, because the right words to describe Ryan and me and our relationship simply don’t exist. There’s no word for someone who usually lives as a man but feels more like a woman but really is neither or both or somewhere in between. There’s no word for the sexual orientation of someone who accidentally fell in love with a woman in the process of falling in love with a man. Instead, I’m forced to leave you with a muddled mix of he’s and she’s and no answers.

This approach/avoidance thing is not uncommon, of course, but when you’re trying to date someone who is doing it… well, partners call it “the roller coaster”.

You can get more of a sense of this experience in Linda Thompson’s sympathetic piece about being married to Jenner, in the early stages when the star athlete was beginning to approach the idea of being trans.

Why I Didn’t Even Watch

Posted by – April 25, 2015

I know B. Jenner is exciting and trans people are exciting and – well, not so much for me. As I was saying to my wife recently, I wish the only people who did work on trans people found them incredibly boring and ordinary — otherwise the whole “look at this weird exotic thing” happens and it always depresses me.

Aside from the obvious tropes, Allyson Robinson wrote a good piece about why she didn’t watch, which I’m going to summarize: 1) Jenner coming out doesn’t change the work that needs to be done, 2) If anything, Jenner coming out has just increased the work to be done, and 3) the media is a poor tool for the work because it is always, always based on consumerism and advertising dollars. But do go read the whole thing as she makes key points on each of these issues, and her analysis of the usefulness connects right back to why the Trans Documentary Drinking Game exists in the first place.

Also, there’s this: Jenner’s a Republican, and I can honestly say that is disheartening even if it’s not surprising; there are quite a lot of trans Republicans out there, and I think they’re pretty much deluded that the Republican party will be open to defending trans rights — especially at this moment in time where nearly a dozen Republicans have drafted bills that encourage people to report trans people for using the “wrong” bathroom in public places, with some of them offering as much as a $4k bounty.

Wealthy celebrity athletes and reality shows don’t interest me much either.

But mostly, what Robinson says: there’s work to be done and there will be more as a result. So I’m glad for Jenner and glad for anyone whose families come around a little and glad for new allies who will help in the future, but in the meantime: back to it.

B. Jenner

Posted by – April 24, 2015

We love you, and welcome you with open arms, & know that being #famouswhiletrans is its own level of difficult.

Me & My Ball #michfest

Posted by – April 23, 2015

Lisa Vogel announced yesterday that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, now in its 40th year, will depart the stage this year; the 40th will be the last.

An event that has empowered so many women, one of the last amazing coming-to-consciouness feminist events, is shutting down because they can’t just take the one tiny leap of admitting trans women openly and willingly.

Trans women will no doubt be blamed for the end of this event, when really, as Autumn Sandeen put it, “…trans womyn have attended MichFest for many years — trans womyn who identify themselves as womyn-born-womyn. She doesn’t have to change the change the womyn-born-womyn intention, she just needs to say ‘Trans womyn who identify as womyn-born-womyn are welcome at MichFest.’”

But they couldn’t, and didn’t: If me and my ball don’t pitch, me and my ball don’t play.

Heartbreaking that after all these years and all this dialogue, their answer was to give up and shut the doors.

NYC

Posted by – April 8, 2015

We’re off to NYC for a few days to participate in kinship ritual (my nephew’s getting married) & will be back in WI Monday night.

In the meantime, check out this interview with none other than Catharane A. MacKinnon on trans inclusion, wherein she states, “Simone de Beauvoir said one is not born, one becomes a woman. Now we’re supposed to care how, as if being a woman suddenly became a turf to be defended.” Great stuff.

Then too there’s this trailer for a new documentary about non-binary gender traditions.