Maybe it’s fall, or maybe it’s because I spoke with my mother today, or still yet it may be that I’m facing the ‘wrap-up’ of the so-called “tour” for My Husband Betty, but I’ve been somewhat circumspect about the experience of the last (nearly) two years.
[A brief timeline: I started writing MHB in January ’03, saw the reading copies about a year ago, and although the official publication date was Jan ’04, the book started shipping by early December ’03. A full year for writing, printing, & distribution. 2004 was entirely about publicity and outreach.]
I never intended to write non-fiction. I’ve got a couple of unpublished novels tucked away into drawers (along with the requisite rejection letters from agents & editors), so it was kind of a surprise to be offered the chance to write a book at all. And non-fiction? Other than keeping a journal since I was nine years old, and papers for school, I didn’t have much experience. But how could I resist?
Two years later, I have several hundred emails in my inbox – some answered and some not – and I’ve met innumerable people. Some I know only via computer and this wonderful thing our President refers to as “the Internets,” but others I’ve had a chance to meet in person. There have been movers and shakers among them, yes, but I think it’s the quiet CD who comes up to me at a conference and stands in line at a book-signing to tell me how much MHB helped his relationship with his wife that means the most to me. There have been other remarkable stories people have emailed or told me in person: the gay rabbi who got in touch to tell me that upon cleaning up his father’s apt after his death, he’d found pictures there of someone named “Fiona” and only then realized his father was a CD; the septegenarian living in Africa who was first crossdressed by whores in Singapore while he was serving in WWII as a young man. The stories are remarkable – not even because they are fascinating and all preciously singular – but rather because people have come to tell them to me.
I love stories. I love lives lived. I love the great inconsistencies and frustrations and triumphs and even the failures of actual people. And the most incredible – and unexpected – thing about having written a book about crossdressing is to have had people come up to me just to tell me their own.
I joked with my mother today that when I announced I wanted to be a priest at age nine neither of us ever expected that I would be – at least not in such an unusual way. But that’s what I feel like. Whenever a crossdresser comes to me and says “I never believed I was okay until I read your book” what can I say in response except “You are!”? What is that except absolution?
I have days when I am absolutely crushed by how hard it is to get a book published, to get paid as a writer, to live and pay the rent. Other days I’m reminded more clearly: this is what I do, what I should be doing. The cheers of support I get from all of you are at least equal to the disappointment of what it means to live as a writer. But more than the support, it’s the help I’ve been able to give – via the book, or email, or when I go to conferences – that means the most at the end of the day.
You get so many chances to laugh at yourself as a writer, mostly for your own unabashed pretentiousness! This little apologia is what I get to laugh at myself for today: this Preface to the Fourth Printing, as it were. But it is something I have been meaning to say for a long while: thank you.