Year: 2004

Happy New Year!

Posted by – December 31, 2004

A very, very Happy New Year to all! All best in 2005!

Please be responsible: don’t drink and drive.

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What I Wish

Posted by – December 29, 2004

As it turns out, the U.S. government has pledged less money to aid those desperate folks in South Asia than we’re planning on spending on the inauguration.

What I wish:

* that we had a president I’d be happy about inaugurating.
* that I could go to South Asia and work to help make things better.
* that we’d all call off all the freaking wars and killing going on to help clean up the whole area, clean the water tables, and set up a system to warn people of disasters like this, so they can at least survive with their families & a set of clothes, if nothing else.

Some days it feels like the planet herself is trying to let us know that we’re jackasses, and we keep not listening.

But you can urge Pres. Bush to up the U.S.’ contribution.

A tired and sad,
Helen

Namaste

Posted by – December 28, 2004

I’m not the type to ask for prayers, ever, for anything, but Southeast Asia is a place near and dear to my heart. It’s going to take years for them to recover.

Please donate to your charity of choice (Betty & I favor Doctors Without Borders).

Reading Judith Butler on the D Train

Posted by – December 28, 2004

I know I’m not the only one excited by a Christmas gift of gender theory – not only, but not common, either. A slim volume, bound in oily paper.

But how is it – despite my excitement – that once I start to read I start to yawn? Radical performativity and challenges to authorship make me want to stretch like my cat on our bed, him in the sun through our back bedroom window, me on the D train, rays streaming in off the white chips of ice in the East River and on the sludge piles on the Brooklyn side. White light/no heat.

Despite theory, on the train I name genders. Shy momma’s boy, effete hipster, resilient Malay matriarch. Aren’t we all different gendered, even while we pass for one or the other? Does the crisis only happen when everyone sees “man” when one feels “woman,” or vice versa? Or do we just assume that everyone only sees two, like some kind of post-apocalyptic god, cleaving some to the left, some to the right? What do most people see? I try to remember back, from when I didn’t think of gender, and what comes to me is a time when I was on a different train, the Long Island Railroad, and I was about 17. An aging conductor was the first to take my monthly ticket, and he punched it M. I know I changed it later, but I also know I’d wondered if I should, or not. Would all the conductors think me male, or had the lights blinked off for a moment for one semi-blind conductor? If I had it changed, and they still read me as M, – what then? (I had it changed, thinking somehow that my combat boots and shaved head and flannel shirts would still, somehow, by some miracle, be read as F.)

No one reads me now as M, but I still know I’m only passing.

Partner Research

Posted by – December 26, 2004

Hello all!

I could use your help.

I’ve posted a questionnaire for partners/SOs/SOFFAs of transpeople in order to help aid and direct my research for two upcoming essays and possibly/probably for the next book.

I’ve posted it in the MHB Message Boards and would love for people to post it on other message boards, Yahoo! groups, and listservs.

Thanks to all!

Helen Boyd

Merry Christmas!

Posted by – December 24, 2004

A very, very Merry Christmas to all!

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Book Television (Canada)

Posted by – December 23, 2004

still from the Richler Ink show

For the month of January, Book Television in Canada will be “sexing up” their shows, which includes an interview with a male proponent of cunnilingus, Tom Wolfe, and us!

Find out more about the show at the Book Televsion website: www.booktelevision.com/richlerink/index.cfm

Transgender Activists Celebrate Victory in New York City

Posted by – December 23, 2004

Transgender advocates and activists are celebrating the release of Guidelines Regarding Gender Identity Discrimination from the New York City Commission on Human Rights this week. These guidelines interpret the Human Rights Law and are designed to educate the public about the prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity and expression that became part of New York City human rights law with the passage of Int. No. 24, the transgender rights bill signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Local Law 3 of 2002 in April of that year.
More

New York Times review of Betty’s Show

Posted by – December 23, 2004

an excerpt from The New York Times review of the show Betty is currently acting in:

This is perhaps Ms. Adamson’s greatest insight. Kafka’s writing is tinged with sadomasochism and voyeurism like the best pulp fiction, and this production is saturated in sex. In desire as well as law, everything is provisional, declarations are nothing but proposals, and the apparent is just as good as, if not better than, the real. This noir reading is at its most effective in a comically creepy scene when Joseph K. visits the garret of the court portraitist, Titorelli, played by a throaty, androgynous Jason C****.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by – December 19, 2004

A very happy holiday season to one & all!

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Lambda Lit Nomination / 4th Printing

Posted by – December 11, 2004

My Husband Betty has just been nominated for the 17th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, in two categories: Memoir/Autobiography, and Transgender/GenderQueer.

You can see all the nominated books and categories at Lambda’s website.

I’m thrilled and honored and really, really excited – what a Christmas present! As it turns out, it was just the needed push for the book to hit its 4th printing, too!

Donations

Posted by – December 10, 2004

Hello friends and readers,

This is the least comfortable request I’ve ever made, but we’ve spent way more money doing the book thing than we expected. Since we’d like to keep doing what we’re doing – education, outreach, and advocacy – we could use some help: keeping up this website, running the MHB Message Boards, getting to conferences. Contrary to popular opinion, there isn’t any money in writing books! There is, however, a lot of money spent promoting books, and attending conferences, and no-one’s paying me to hold anyone’s hand or to answer innumerable emails from people needing help, resources, a shoulder. If only! I don’t mind doing any of it – in fact, it’s one of the single most rewarding aspects of having written the book. But I’m not independently wealthy, or retired, and there’s no trust fund to be found.

Look, it’s been really expensive doing all this. It’s a LOT of time. I don’t really know any way to ask except to ask. So if you like what we’re doing, and want us to keep doing it, you can show your support by making a donation (of your choice).

This donation is NOT tax-deductible. We’re looking into how to do that, but for now, this would just be considered a gift.

Thank you so much to those who have already donated. Wow, do I hate asking people for money. I used to work as a fundraiser, and Betty has to do a lot of schmoozing for theatre fundraising, but it never, ever gets easier.

Thank you,
Helen Boyd & Betty Crow

Theatre Betty

Posted by – December 9, 2004

As most of you might know, my husband Betty is, in addition to being a cover girl, an actor. “He” worked in an off-Broadway theatre for five years, and before that upstate for about eight years. Currently he’s helping found a new theatre, called Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, which will be having its first production this month.

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble proudly presents Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

There will be sixteen performances, staring on December 17th, playing through January 9th. There is a complete list of dates at the Phoenix’s website (designed by Betty as well), and tickets are only $15. You can buy them through TheaterMania’s website.

So we’d like to invite any of you who are in the NYC area to come see Betty in her nearly-male presentation, playing Titorelli, the artist.

Guest Author: LWU

Posted by – December 6, 2004

Today, on the MHB Message Boards, one of our regulars, LWU, posted an insightful piece about the mysteries of being a recently transitioned woman. I found it quite in keeping with my reputation as Helen ‘Pulls No Punches’ Boyd, and so it found its way to my blog.

LWU called her post “Dirty Little Secrets: Passing.”


**
The Short Version:
– Don’t transition if you don’t or can’t pass.

The Long Version:

Every few weeks I have a conversation with someone who wants advice about transitioning. Leaving aside the issue about the value of free advice, or my capabilities to say useful things in this regard, a recent conversation brought up a point that forced me to clarify and distill some thoughts.

A lot of the questions in these conversations revolve around material issues such as surgery, voice, etc. In this case, though, I had a very specific thought, which is that passing may well be the single most important issue in post-transition happiness. I know that I’m covering old ground, but that’s the miracle of the Web, that everything old is new again. And again. And again.

Here’s the deal. If you transition and don’t pass, for the rest of your life, on every day that you interact with the mundane world, people will treat you like a pariah, at best. Perhaps you don’t care what they think, or how they treat you, but it’s going to affect your ability to get a job, etc.

I’ve never met any vaguely normal person who absolutely had no concern about how others perceived them. You’re not one of them, otherwise you’d be a sociopath.

Happiness for a lot of people seems to be the ability to lead a life that maximizes happiness and minimizes hassle. If you don’t pass, you’re going to get hassled. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not just, but like Microsoft in the software world, it *is* the dominant factor in most social environments. You can’t ignore it.

Passing has a lot of aspects, of which appearance is probably the most important, followed by behavior and then voice. A lot of MTFs don’t seem to understand what it takes to pass. A fat wallet isn’t enough. I’ve met a number of MTF folks in the last few years who’ve had very expensive facial surgery, implants, hair-removal, voice training, and you know what? They don’t pass. And after a few minutes in their company, other people treat them poorly, because they’re being perceived as weirdos (at a minimum) and perverts (at the worst).

Are there exceptions? Sure, and somebody wins every single lottery, but it’s not going to be you. In fact, if you’re not sure whether you can do it, you probably can’t, at least not until you’re sure.

In my case, I pass most of the time *except* on the phone with strangers (and friends, I suspect) when I *never* pass, and this after lots of voice and social-voice training and practice. And when people call me “sir” on the phone, it makes me feel bad, although I’d like to be able to shrug it off.

My advice was, and is: Do everything possible to avoid transitioning. Others have written this screed, I know, but it bears repeating, that many people aren’t going to pass, especially late-transitioners. At the very minimum you *must* find a psychologist who specializes in gender issues *and* who will let you speak with existing patients.

You *must* have a comprehensive physical to rule out organic issues. Maybe you don’t feel like a man because you have very low testosterone. Perhaps you have a pituitary or adrenal tumor or other endocrine problem. You. Don’t. Know. If you make a decision about transitioning without investigating all these possibilities you’re doing your family, friends, and self a huge disservice.

And there’s another rub: Many, if not all of these changes take money and time. Fair? No. Just as Helen is tired of having to repeat herself about her approach to feminism, I’m tired of talking about whether the binary gender system is fair, and whether certain aspects of semi-free-market economies are fair. They’re not, Ok? And it sucks. But you still have to live with it, like it or not. Why? Because if you won’t pay attention to the outside world, you’re literally insane. I’m going to talk about resources and whining in another inflammatory post, coming soon to a MHB forum near you.

Don’t do it. Don’t transition. Do anything and everything you can to work out some other solution. If you’re depressed a few days a month because you have to be a man, would you rather be depressed for a few weeks every month because no one will accept you as a woman?

I’m much happier now that I’ve transitioned, but I’m the exception in almost every respect. I got the Lucky Sperm Club neutral facial structure, neutral hand/foot size, and enough resources that counseling, electrolysis, and surgery did not represent an insurmountable burden. I have a spouse and friends who weren’t happy with me at first, but they didn’t actively interfere with my project and many of them helped and are helping me to learn to act like the person I want to be.

In addition, I work hard at passing every single day that I’m going to interact with The Man. Makeup, shoes, clothes, behaviors that match my age and apparent social background. I’m 43, so I selected a name that was statistically likely both in terms of frequency and social group. I work with financial institutions and MBAs, so I wear makeup and clothes suitable for that environment. I’m a nerd so I also present as a nerd by carrying the appropriate amount of geer (geek-gear). If I don’t, someone will kill me with sticks, or refuse to hire me, which actually has longer-term personal consequences.

-LWU

In The Life – again

Posted by – November 27, 2004

As it turns out, PBS is going to be showing our episode of “In the Life” for the month of December. So for those of you who missed it the first time, here’s your chance!

You can still find out when “In the Life” is showing in your area at www.itl.tv. Our episode is called “Mergers and Acquisitions.”

(When it says the show will be on at 12AM, remember – that’s midnight of the previous date! So a 12AM showing on 12/14 is actually on the night of 12/13!)

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by – November 23, 2004

To all, a very happy Thanksgiving!

Remember to make a list of all the things you’re thankful for, yes? It helps you get through the cold winter ahead.

For me, it’s simple: my family, my friends, and all the lovely letters and emails people have sent me after reading My Husband Betty. I am more than thankful for the opportunity to have done some good, for some people.

But I’m also thankful for and to New York, for being a home; for my cats, who provide that unconditional love we all need, and for Betty – who through good times and bad, is the person who walks through the world with me.

Happy Thanksgiving! Eat your fill and donate for those who don’t get to.

Remembering We’re Living

Posted by – November 19, 2004

On the eve of TG Day of Remembrance, it’s bothering me that the only international recognition of transness is in the all-too-brutal murders of transpeople. What Gwen Smith has created in the Remembering Our Dead project is vital work: vital because these transpeople are murdered out of hate, often brutally, and way too frequently, their killers are not found, or not prosecuted. Historically and politically, Remembering Our Dead is a project that is both emotionally powerful and sympathetic; it reminds me, most often, of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

That said, I meet with all sorts of living, struggling transpeople every day. And while you could say that the other 364 days are theirs, we all know that’s not quite true. What we all need – other than to mourn our dead and keep vigils for justice – is a way of simultaneously recognizing the great progress in the trans community among the living, so I propose a supplement to Gwen Smith’s brilliant work: The Remember We’re Living Celebration.

What I foresee is that transgroups stand up and honor their own members by having a kind of New Year’s: by asking each of us to stand up and cite one piece of progress, or a victory, we experienced in the past year. The closeted CD could cite his recent decision to come out to his wife. The out CD might celebrate her involvement with a GLBT charity group. The transitioning sister could tell us how close to the end of her Real Life test she is. And the transitioned woman might share in what ways she’s helped her sisters coming up. Transmen might point to their months on T, coming out (usually for the 2nd time) to their friends and families, or rallying with their transwoman sisters at Camp Trans.

We all struggle within this community; some of us within relationships, some of us with loneliness. But my feeling is that I would put my last dollar on a bet that says we have all accomplished something, whether private or public or both, which could use a round of applause.

I would love to see the vigils for Remembering Our Dead morph into living transpeople testifying to their own successes, their own beauty, their own victories. I would like to see the GLBT papers cover these events and have something other than gruesome deaths to report.

If you think this is a good idea, pass this message on.

For now, we’re asking every transperson who receives this message to send us a note, via the MHB message boards, or leave a comment here, noting one victory, success, or piece of happiness they’ve achieved in the last year concerning their transness.

Helen Boyd

The Uses of ‘Pretty’

Posted by – November 17, 2004

Today, on the MHB message boards, a conversation started about why I don’t like or wear high heels. After a few soul-searching and memory-reliving posts, I intended to drop the subject and quit responding, especially after Betty reminded me of how deeply felt my memories are on this subject. But I didn’t drop it, & the reason I didn’t is because I felt like I needed to explain there are real reasons why some women drop “pretty.” I had to stop caring about pretty, because it sucked for me – I stopped caring about “pretty” for pretty much the same reasons the average tranny stopped caring about “macho.” What went on in my head was something like: Who gives a fuck? I’m never gonna jump your stupid bar, & – oh, wow, it just occurred to me: & I don’t WANT to, either.

I find it troublesome to think that some might read my posts & think of my reasoning as sour grapes. The irony, I suppose, is that I am pretty. I’ve always liked my face, despite my crap skin. Sometimes, however, it’s as if it’s inconceivable to people for “pretty” not to be important to women. I find that outright sexist to be honest – that you can’t give a woman the benefit of the doubt, that she might have good reasons, and that the main issue is not about her thinking she isn’t pretty, and is basically saying ‘to hell with it.’

To me, “pretty” intersects with attitude & behavior, too. Pretty Is as Pretty Does, as they say. “Pretty” intersects with gender, behavior, and class in ways that are too complicated to sort out here.

In the same way that trannies grow to love & celebrate their transness, I celebrate my departure from those girly games. I wouldn’t be half so smart, half so direct, or half as well-read as I would be had I had a *chance* at being considered pretty. Would my life have been easier? In some ways, & not in others. Watching my pretty friends try to desperately hold onto their looks as they age is pretty depressing, and not something I’d want to deal with.

But the real issue – you know that old question about “would you take a pill if it would make you not trans?” – is whether I value who I have become because of this stuff. As with most trannies, I wouldn’t take the pill. It was totally a positive thing in my life to have taken that “left turn at Albuquerque.”

My memories of my teenage years are painful, but my decision to side-step the issue is not. As Betty likes to recall, it’s like that Seinfeld episode where they compete about who can not masturbate… & in about 5 minutes, Kramer barges in and announces “I’m out!” For me, it was liberating to say “I’m out!” of those competitions, or even of thinking about this stuff.

That others will continue to value women who value being pretty isn’t my issue. I just want the space & respect NOT to value it. I hate the idea that anyone would see my rejection/dislike of heels as being some kind of problem, on my part, some “riddle” to tease out.

Psychiatrist: So, Ms. Boyd, when did you develop this dislike for heels?
Me: Dunno.
Psychiatrist: So when did you reject being female?
Me: But I didn’t.
Psychiatrist: Well certainly your rejection of heels indicates some unrest with your female-ness.
Me: Um, no, I don’t think so.
Psychiatrist: But don’t you want to be pretty?
Me: Not especially.
Psychiatrist: Why not?
Me: Dunno. I like being other stuff better.

What I’m saying is that I understand perfectly well why most trannies don’t love hockey jerseys & Coors hats. I’m not the psychiatrist that’s going to ask why you have such sour grapes over not being “real men.” And all I’d like, in return, is the same respect: I don’t like heels and I don’t care about being pretty because I just don’t. It’s not some indication that I perceive myself as a failure as a woman, and it’s not some kind of recompense for not feeling like I don’t measure up. I’ve never really cared if most men find me attractive or not. And how I look doesn’t much enter into how I feel about myself.

All of us who are genderqueer (or who didn’t fit in) in one way or another had teenage years that were trial by fire. Having made the decisions we needed to at whatever age we were is half of what makes us such cool grownups, who have the room to appreciate, understand, and befriend people who made similar but different decisions. Not seeing each other as the freaks and weirdos everyone else thinks we are would give us all a much safer space to be ourselves.

Which I think, in the end, is what it’s all about.

Online Support Groups

Posted by – November 15, 2004

Here are a few other online support groups you might be interested in:

For Couples, or Couples-Friendly:

For the Gen X generation, there’s Ronnie Rho’s group:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marriedgenxcrossdressers/

Lacey Leigh’s group for Successful CDs
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/TheSuccessfulCrossdresser/

A group for the Trans Family, which focuses on couples:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TransFamilyCouples/

There’s my new group for couples:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CDtgOD/

& for only SOs:

*For SOs of MTF CDs only (Kathy in Canada’s group), CrossDressers’ Wives and SO Support (CD-WSOS):
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CDWSOS/

Support for Wives and Significant Others of CrossDressers (SFWaSOCDs)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sfwasocds/

*For SOs of MTFs or FTMs, TG Partners:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tgpartners/

The sister group of TransFamily Couples, for partners only
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TransFamilySpouses/

and TGSO:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tgso1/

Rufus Wainwright’s new CD

Posted by – November 10, 2004

This has nothing to do with transgender anything, but everything to do with my loves in this world, the chief musical one among them for the past 4 years or so being one Rufus Wainwright. His new CD (that’s Compact Disc) is coming out in a couple of weeks, but VH1 has a preview up.

Listen here