Month: November 2004

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

Speaking to Students

Posted by – November 6, 2004

This past Thursday I had the opportunity – for the second time – to speak to a group of students at a highly esteemed college. Last time it was for a group of students gathered at the Women’s Center of Yale University as part of Trans Week, and this time it was Columbia, and a class in “Feminist Texts I” offered by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

There is something remarkable for me about speaking to (and with) a class of mostly female, intelligent, empowered young women. They are full of hope and confidence; they have questions; they ask for clarifications and will tell you when they don’t know what you’re talking about. They are students in the true sense of the word – the root of student is “zeal” – and one has to ‘go on’ with a backbone of steel.

I have been at TG conferences where people whose lives are lived largely in trans spaces tip-toe – or don’t ask, and only gossip – about whether or not I would be okay if Betty transitioned. But in this class, instead, I got asked, “How would you feel if Betty had surgery?” and “Are you attracted to your husband when he’s a woman?” and “Why do you use ‘she’ and ‘husband’ in the same sentence – why don’t you call her your wife?”

And as blunt as they were, they were also polite; I think every question asked was prefaced with “If this is too personal you don’t have to answer, but…” They always gave me an out – but what kind of educator would I be if I’d taken it? There is nothing that thrills me more than people who want to know, who want the truth, who need information.

I started out by asking whether they needed for me to present “transgender 101.” They nodded they did. So I explained the MTF/FTM divide, the various people within the larger spectrum (crossdressers to transsexuals), the concept of gender dysphoria, and how the experience of gender dysphoria is often experienced as an intersection of frequency and intensity. I explained that when one says “transman” you’re referring to someone identified as female at birth who has gone on to live in/present as someone of the male gender. (Lots of nods and thanks for that clarification. They want to be able to talk without stumbling, too.) I talked about my own experience – of being a straight woman who met a straight man and who didn’t understand anything about what crossdressing was even though it didn’t freak me out or offend me. We talked about gender roles in domestic society, the sense of expectations, safety, and what it’s like to have my sexuality determined by my relationship when we’re in public. We talked about Betty’s safety, and my fear for her when she thinks she’s presenting as a man and someone’s reading her as a woman.
Helen Boyd speaking to a class at Columbia University

We also talked about how trans-ness both subverts and defends existing gender roles, in

that on the one hand, Betty is a person legally identified as male but who is feminine, but who embraces sometimes culturally-constructed notions of gender. I passed around photos of Betty performing the song “Falling in Love Again” at Fantasia Fair, and one woman said “David Bowie” when she saw them.

The one thing they all agreed on is that they would all feel put out of joint by having a husband who inhabits the “feminine ideal” more easily than they do, and from there – we talked about images of women in magazines, the sense of a “natural feminine” (and how ironic it is that my husband, born male, inhabits that space more “naturally” than most women I know, and what that might mean).

Overall it was a heady and friendly conversation; a group of mostly women (there were two men in the group) talking about who we are, what we’re supposed to be, and what “feminine” is. My thanks to the class, Professor Tricia Sheffield for inviting me, and to Columbia for an amazing couple of hours. Thanks also to Ariela, a photographer, who took a few photos, and whose other artwork is at www.amadai.com.

Puttin’ on the Glitz – 2005

Posted by – November 5, 2004

It’s now confirmed that I will be speaking at next year’s Puttin’ on the Glitz conference in Phoenix, AZ – February 18-20th, 2005.

I’ll be doing a workshop on Saturday (topic TBA) and will also be the Keynote Speaker for the Banquet.

www.glitzball.com for more information.

Back to Ohio

Posted by – November 3, 2004

No matter who wins Ohio, I’m pretty clear that there are at least 10 states in this country that don’t want me or my trans-husband in their midst and at their malls.

Residents of Oklahoma, Georgia, North Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Utah, Mississippi and Arkansas all came out to vote in record numbers, and they voted to keep gays and lesbians from their rights as Americans.

I wonder if they know any gay men or lesbians, any bisexuals, any Ts. I wonder if the CDs in those states voted for or against those bans. I wonder why it is that the legal marriage of a gay man to the man he loves scares some people so much that they vote with hate & inequality in their hearts.

I’m deeply saddened, and I don’t know who is going to be President. Right now, I’m not sure anyone who is sane, forgiving, and who believes in equality, a secular government, or the rights of ALL citizens should even be President of this country. God knows I don’t feel welcome here anymore, when so many of those states that voted for those bans passed it by raging majorities.

Now back to Ohio….

Happy Birthday, Adam Ant.

Posted by – November 3, 2004

It’s the big 5-0, and in celebration, the very finest photo that was ever taken of him (in my humble opinion, at least).

aa

There are about 3000 runners-up, of course.

Vote!

Posted by – November 1, 2004

Don’t just vote – vote for Kerry!

For Helen, The Nation’s endorsement says it best; for Betty, The New Republic’s does.