Dark Odyssey’d (#2)

Dark Odyssey: Winter Fire proved as hot as the first DO we went to this past fall, with a very different feeling. I did miss the group meals (since they were great for meeting new people while standing in the chow line) and the dress code (vanilla in public areas of the hotel, anything goes in the conference areas) was a little confusing and frustrating – and didn’t give you as good of an idea of the real variety of people who were there – but overall, it was a very sexy event, liberating, and a wonderful chance to talk to others about sex and pick up good information, techniques, and tips.

Still – when Tristan Taormino tells Nina Hartley to check out your rack, and then Nina Hartley tells Betty she looks like Hillary Swank in her formal wear, life is good.

Other MHB Boarders went too, and have been posting their reports in a recent thread.

Victoria’s Dirty Secret

It seems the folks at ForestEthics have discovered that Victoria’s Secret uses old-growth forest for the umpteen million catalogs.

C’mon, trannies, this isn’t cool. Write to them and tell them to cut it out.

Here’s a sample letter:

Right now, Victoria’s Secret is no angel when it comes to forest destruction. It is shocking that Victoria’s Secret sends out over a million catalogs a day – 395 million per year! And it is not very sexy to know that Victoria’s Secret catalogs contain paper made from the endangered forests of the Canadian Boreal, one of the largest wilderness areas in the world, or that its paper use threatens the forests in the Southern US, one of our country’s biological treasures.

In order to be a responsible corporation, Victoria’s Secret must stop sending endangered forests to our mailboxes and:

* End purchases from any company that is not identifying and halting logging in endangered forests in the Canadian Boreal
* Maximize post-consumer recycled content in catalogs (achieve 50% post-consumer recycled in five years);
* Ensure that all suppliers are shifting to Forest Stewardship Council certification;
* End the use of any forest products sourced from other endangered forests, such as key areas of the Southern U.S.

Victoria’s Secret must change now. We hope you will see that when it comes to our last remaining endangered forests, less is not more.

Boycotted in Phoenix?

Betty and I got back home a few hours ago after having been in Phoenix since Friday. I’d been invited – quite a few months back – to be the keynote speaker this year at the Glitz Ball. A lovely CD named Grace – who was, I’m sure, the instigator of my being invited – picked us up at the airport, and as we were chatting (with me still blurry on anti-anxiety drugs because I hate flying), she casually mentioned how a bunch of people weren’t coming this year because I was guest speaker, and just as casually, started talking about something else.

Betty and I checked into our room and I asked if I’d been experiencing auditory hallucinations as a result of the drugs, and she said no – she’d heard what Grace said, too.

Later we were introduced to a few amazing other people, including Rene McCray, who does a lot of the makeup for the trans-community in Phoenix. We were both told we’d get along, and get along we did. She’s no wilting lily. She came into my workshop a little late, and just as I was about to end the session, she asked loudly, “So why do some people hate you?” or some version thereof. Maybe it was “Why doesn’t Tri-Ess like you?” It was one of the only questions I’ve been asked that I wasn’t expecting, but my answer went something like this: 1) for starters, I think sometimes people like to shoot the messenger, and 2) I publicly criticized Tri-Ess for their policies of excluding gay crossdressers and transsexuals from their groups, and for not letting local chapters (which might be the only trans support in their community) make those decisions for themselves.

Rene and I ended up speaking later (while she was generously doing our makeup), and I got to ask her if it was true that some people weren’t coming to the Glitz because of me. “Some,” she clarified, was about 40 people who’d come the previous year who hadn’t come this year – because of me.

I have to say, it kind of took me by surprise. I’m not surprised that people who have benefited from a group’s existence would defend that group or its policies. But I’m privy to a lot of information these days, and I know that arguments about Tri-Ess’ policies are going on throughout Tri-Ess, and even very high up in the organization. That is, what I’ve said about Tri-Ess a lot of Tri-Ess members are saying about Tri-Ess, so I didn’t think my comments were nearly as controversial as they apparently were. (To boot, many people have said such things about Tri-Ess long before me, including Dallas Denny and other former Tri-Ess members.)

I feel terribly that the Glitz should have suffered on my account, but I also wondered if the people who hadn’t come had read my book. Yes, I criticized Tri-Ess, but I also think my love for crossdressers is very, very clearly laid out. If I didn’t love CDs, and if I didn’t think they could do better in terms of their acceptance of TSs and gay CDs, I wouldn’t have bothered to take their main organization to task for their exclusionary policies. (Some would replace “exclusionary” with “discriminatory” but I’m trying to be nice here.)

What makes the whole thing even more ironic is that a gay men’s chorus sang at the event, and there were many TSs there, and workshops for them as well. That is, the Glitz is a mixed event, meant to unify the various factions of the trans-community. So the people who didn’t come are not people who refuse to mix with transsexuals or homosexuals, but rather refuse to listen to anyone who tells them it’s not nice to exclude either group from their organization.

Despite that, I had a wonderful time! I met a lot of people over the weekend, and had more than a few wonderful conversations. The speech I gave was not the one I’d written, but I expected that: I don’t like to write speeches at all, because I often have to write them before I meet the people I’m talking to, and prefer to tailor my remarks to the people who are in front of me.

So I’d like to thank Grace, and her lovely wife Anita; the straight partner of the trans-man who was willing to answer my questions; Rene, Bonnie, the bearded lady and her friend, ‘Just Evelyn’ and her partner Lacey (who came because I was speaking), and all the other folks who were kind enough to tell me they liked my speech, and who made me feel welcome despite the “controversy.”

Glitz Speech

Our trip to Phoenix and the Glitz was a little nutty thanks to the usual trans community in-fighting. I’d written this speech about partners and family, but when I got there I realized an entirely different speech was needed.

So I never delivered this one (though I will use it for an upcoming speech elsewhere, no doubt).

* * *
Thanks to G____, B_____, and to all the people of Transgender Harmony who put the Glitz together for inviting me to speak tonight. An especial thanks for the excellent timing – even a few days’ escape from a NY winter is more than welcome!

There are moments when I’m at an event like the Glitz, talking to another wife while our pretty husbands share beauty tips, and I wonder, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” and then “What did I do to deserve this?”

Do you ever have those moments? Times when you’re just astonished at how things have turned out? I don’t know how many years you have to go back, but I’m sure all of you can remember a time when the only place you went en femme was from the bathroom to the bedroom. Your heels had never walked on pavement. Maybe there was a time when your wife didn’t know, or your best friend – maybe they still don’t. But everyone in this room has made some kind of progress to be here – whether this is your first time out (first timers? Where are you?) or if you’re in the middle of your real life test. How big a step, or how many you’ve taken, isn’t always the important thing.

One of the things a wife has a really good view of is how hungry for progress you are; it’s the thing that scares the dickens out of us. More than one CD has gone from telling his wife that he likes to wear women’s clothes to him planning their annual vacation around a trans conference, so he can spend a week en femme. You can call it euphoria, or kid in the candy store syndrome, but no matter what you call it, it makes wives nutty. That’s especially true when they’re initially accepting, in any way, because somehow, coming out as a crossdresser, or a transsexual, affects your ability to measure, and every mile only looks like an inch. As a result, we start to feel like we’ve been taken advantage of, with the ever-escalating needs, the ever-increasing purchases. There are times now I feel surprised when I see a man WITH underarm hair.

And of course it’s not just wives. For some of you, the loved one you drive most crazy might be a close friend, a parent, or a child. No matter who it is, there’s almost no doubt that your need to express yourself will make them a little crazy remembering the right pronouns. I’m here to tell you – we need your help.

A very mature but young transman told me recently that he dreaded telling his mother he’s going to live as a man. He wasn’t worried about her being accepting – in fact, he was pretty sure she would be – but he understood what he was taking away from her, and how much he was pushing her. He said to me, “She already accepted me as a lesbian, and lost all of her dreams of planning my big-white-dress wedding, and now she’s going to lose her daughter altogether.” And I thought, when he told me, that all of us should be raised as women until a certain age, where some of us can then decide to live as men. Transmen are – in my experience – the coolest guys ever. I like to joke with Betty that if I’d known about transmen when I was single, we might not have ever met. But my point is – he got it. He got the loss, the change, the sense of feeling that we have to accept more and more – that sometimes, it feels like the changes never stop.

What that transman knew and understood was that his transition wasn’t just about him, and that his own happiness was also the cause of his mother’s disappointment. His concern for her had the potential to enable him to help her through his transition. It gave her the chance to have a good relationship with her new son.

It’s not just people living fulltime who need to help their loved ones through change. A wife who is told her husband is a crossdresser has to adjust just about everything in her life as well. Her ideas of her marriage, her man, and her future all change. Her sex life might change. She has to start thinking about gender and so-called “deviance” in ways she probably never has before.

The thing is, I hear too many stories of things not working out. Whether the cause is transition or euphoria, I don’t really hear much in the greater trans community about how to think about others as part of your self-expression, and what I do hear seems to be kind of condescending, along the lines of “how do I get this person on board for what I want and need?” Which is not quite the same thing as “how do I help this person I love deal with the changes I’m about to thrust upon them?” or even “how do I modify my needs in order to keep this person I love from running as fast as she can?”

There are workshops on fast track transition, but never any on transitioning slowly enough so your partner can keep up. There are workshops for CDs on how to remove hair but never one on how to do your wife’s makeup, so she can feel glamorous too. Endless makeovers, photo shoots, and receipts – all add up to a lot of time and energy and money, and the wives, and girlfriends, – especially the ones who are willing to be here, or join an online support group, deserve to feel pampered too. Look at it this way: if you spend as much on your partner as you do on your femme self and you won’t run out of closet room so fast. Honestly, would you go to a week-long conference for whatever her gig is? Would you want to be around a bunch of women who scrapbook, knit, write fiction, do yoga? Do you know as much about her as she does about both of you?

The bottom line is that your loves ones are your best allies – potentially. If you can help them understand, they can become the people who will stand up and say you’re not crazy, and that this isn’t a joke. We don’t have the shame to get past, we don’t have the internal conflict. Once we’re on board, we’re on board. You want us on your side. Nurturing our change – along with yours – will go a long long way toward getting us there.

I don’t say all this only because I’m a wife. I say it because I don’t want to see anyone else end up on the other side of the mirror alone. I say it because I’ve seen too many relationships – romantic, familial, friendships – strained to the breaking point. I know it’s not easy – that you’re impatient, that the revelation of who you are is HUGE. It’s easy, when you’re online, reading message boards or mailing lists, and coming to events like the Glitz, to think that everyone knows about gender. But they don’t. The education isn’t out there – on TV, transsexuals are still shown as serial killers when they’re seen at all. Crossdressers are still a joke. You know that when you tell family and friends, you have to start with transgender 101. I’ve yet to meet someone trans who isn’t on their way to a PhD in trans studies, which means, of course, that you’re way ahead of us, a Chief Financial Officer of a global corporation teaching someone how to balance a checkbook. The chasm between is what causes the difficulties. What we need – as your potential allies – is to get you to slow down, and yes – please repeat that.

We can all do something to help couples and families through. When a married CD friend says, “I went shopping,” you can ask: “what’d you get your wife?” When your favorite transwoman starts listing her hormones, WITH dosages, ask her how her mother, father, wife, or child is. Remind each other that you’re not in a void, that you’re not alone, and amazingly enough, that there’s more to life, and gender, than hose, heels, and hormones.

You deserve for there to be more. You deserve love, and happiness. Being trans is not easy – not ever. You’re reinventing yourselves in ways that are mind-blowing, but you innately understand why you need to. We don’t. We’ve never thought about gender. You have no choice. Most partners can get that. We can see the difference, even when we don’t like it. Sometimes we know it even when we know we can’t go with you. The liberation – the sheer joy – y’all exhibit is obvious. Hold onto it in your dark moments. Hold onto it when your mom screws up your pronouns for the Nth time. Hold onto it when you look in the mirror and don’t see what you want to see. Hold onto it when your wife cries about her loss. For you, there’s struggle and joy, but for us, it’s just struggle and loss. You need to find a way to let your joy, your liberation, infect us, recharge us. It’s your joy, your freedom, that will win over not just partners, but friends, employers, family – and the rest of society. And it’s way better than Angry Tranny Syndrome.

When most of us can’t make up our minds how to cut our hair or quit a job, you’ve gone and imagined the impossible – and started making plans to have it happen. If you give your loved ones a minute, once in a while, to catch their breath, they’ll be there for you when things look bleak. Your wife will remind you not to tuck your dress into your pantyhose. Your best friend will help you figure out the line between being a man’s man and a macho jerk. Your mom might be the one to see that after all, you DO look like her. Give us time, give us love, and give us hope. Some of us will get lost, or stuck. But lots of us – I mean look at this room! – will be the ones who help you go forward with grace, confidence – and far from alone.
* * *

Woman magazine

A few months back Betty and I did an interview and photo shoot with a really nice journalist. The article she was writing was intended for a German magazine called Das Neue Blatt, but so far she’s not sure if they’ll be running it.

However, she did manage to get a UK magazine called Woman to run it instead. So on February 21st, an article about us, based on this interview, will run. I’m very excited about it as the magazine has a circulation of 500,000, with an average readership of 3X that! Imagine, 1.5 million people exposed to me and Betty and our odd life.

But hopefully it will do some good for those in the UK who might see it – the mothers and brothers and fathers and sisters of crossdressers and trans-folks who are having a hard time with a loved one’s gender identity. That’s the hope, anyway. And if it means I might finally sell the UK rights to the book, too – well, no harm there either!

Keep an eye out, UK readers. I’m getting sent a copy but my guess is that you’ll see it before I do!

SAMHSA Stonewall

A few counselors who intended to present a workshop at an upcoming SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) on suicide prevention in GLBT communities were asked to remove “GLBT” from the title of the workshop. Instead of the title being “Suicide Prevention in GLBT Communities” the suggested title is “Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Communities.”

Likewise, any mention of “gender identity” was removed from the workshop’s description (although “sexual orientation” was allowed to remain).

Workshops with the previous title had been given at two other SAMHSA Conferences, but both before our last presidential election.

Currently there’s stonewalling going on, where the counsellors are being told it was all a “misunderstanding,” but no-one has said the original wording is now okay. The counsellors will be speaking to some members of the media about this tomorrow, and hopefully, they will take the lead.

In the meantime, there are few representatives you can contact to lodge a complaint. Please see the MHB forums for further information.

The Glitz Ball

Betty and EvelynBetty got home safe and sound on Sunday night – just in time to spend Valentine’s Day with me. But we can’t lounge around for long, since we need to squeeze in a few days’ work before we take off for Phoenix and the Glitz Ball.

I’ll be presenting a workshop on Saturday at 1:15, as well as giving the Banquet Speech later that evening.

I also just found out Evelyn, the author of Mom, I Need to be a Girl will be attending with her partner, and I’m excited to finally meet her, as her book was one of the most clear presentations of what transsexualism is. The book is specific to being the parent of a trans-kid, but I also like to think it’s similar to my own: a view of transness through a loved one’s eyes. You can read Mom, I Need to be a Girl online.

We’re looking forward to it, and I’m re-drafting my speech this week. A few days’ escape from a NYC winter will be lovely, indeed.

Betty, with author ‘Just Evelyn’:

So… yeah.

Betty’s on her way to LA for her first NCTE board meeting, and I’m at home wondering how I’m going to occupy myself without my lovely partner around. That the board meeting was scheduled thoughtlessly on Valentine’s Day weekend just gives me more of an idea of how much trans-activists think about partners. Phooey.

On top of that, I just posted the very last entry I’d written in my trans-erotica story! (Don’t tell the CDs who are logging on just to read it, since I’m going to enjoy leaving them hanging.) When I first wrote it, quite a while back, I gave it to Betty, and she read it, and she said (and I quote), “It’s almost too literary to get off to.” So I stopped, since the whole point was for her to say “I madly want to make love to you right now, especially since I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have a wife who can find my transness a turn-on.” Unfortunately, no-one had gotten Betty a copy of the script in advance, and she had to improv. Betty hates improv, for a reason.

So, on this lonely weekend when half of the world is taking time out to make love, I’m supposed to write more of a trans-erotic story that my own lovely tranny couldn’t get off to, for the sake of all you, whoever you are, out there.

Sometimes, life is all about timing. It’s very hard to come up with what happens next when I can’t go ask Betty to put on some thigh-highs for me, you know, to inspire me. Luckily Betty saw fit to leave me a rose, and arranged for two eunuchs* to share my bed, so I feel a little like a well-loved harem girl. Or something like that.

Buying things for your love for Valentine’s Day is nice (and is sure to be appreciated, no matter which gender you are), but giving your lover a few home-made “coupons” for “services” is even better. Best: give him or her or hir or ze a sex coupon, specifically for something you don’t love doing but that really turns them on! Unfortunately Betty forgot to leave mine with the rose she left, though I’m sure she’ll be bringing me one back from L.A. And no, I’m not telling what the coupon might be for. (But she better know!)

If you’re alone for Valentine’s Day, indulge yourself with a haircut, a bath, music you love (played as loud as you want, of course) and a phonecall to your most-recently-heartbroken friend, who probably needs to hear from you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Continue reading “So… yeah.”

Femme Fever Ball

Karen of Femme Fever, who has been doing a lot great work with the trans community for the past 10 years, is hosting the First Ever Femme Fever Ball, to take place on February 26th. Dinner, a fashion show, dancing are all included with the price of a ticket (which you need to buy before 2/22). Please see the Femme Fever site for more details.

Karen offers transformation services as well as support groups for all within the trans community. Again, see her site for more details.

Protest or Support?

It occurred to me that around this time last year, emails and T newsgroups and mailing lists and blogs were inundated with protests about the nomination of Michael Bailey’s The Man Who Would Be Queen for a Lambda Literary Award. I was against the nomination as were so many of us, and the driving force behind the protest was pretty remarkable, if not always polite.

However, not one trans website I’ve found has actually posted anything about this year’s nominees. I noticed, of course, because I’m one of the people whose book has been nominated, in the transgender category, along with the likes of Morty Diamond, Mariette Pathy Allen, Jamison Green and Julie Anne Peters. There are some other trans writers up for awards in other categories, and yet I haven’t really read anything about it.

Did the Bailey controversy end up nullifying the awards for the trans community? Or are we just way better at protesting than supporting the writers and educators who are doing good work?

So here, without further ado, are a few of the book award nominees for the Lambda Lit Award:

In the Nonfiction Anthology category:
That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation edited by Mattilda, a.k.a Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Soft Skull Press

In the Children’s/Young Adult category:
Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (which was also a finalist for the National Book Award this year)

In the Drama/Theatre category:
I am My Own Wife by Doug Wright, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (which has won so many other awards, like the Pulitzer and the Tony, you’ll have to check the website for the entire list)

In the Transgender/GenderQueer category:
Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green, Vanderbilt University Press (which also won CLAGS’ Sylvia Rivera award)
From The Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond edited by Morty Diamond, Manic D Press
Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
My Husband Betty: Love, Sex and Life with a Crossdresser by Helen Boyd, Thunder’s Mouth Press
The Gender Frontier by Mariette Pathy Allen, Kehrer Verlag

Donations – and a Gift

To encourage donations, I’m offering a little gift for this month’s donors: a CD (the musical kind) of love songs to celebrate Valentine’s Day with. It’s an eclectic mix, containing a few songs anyone might love, and hopefully a few new musicians/songs you haven’t heard before who might become new loves.

I figured Valentine’s Day is a good time to show the love – so you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine. 🙂

If you’re liking my blog, or the MHB Boards, or my trans-erotica, let me know by sending a small donation to keep the site – and my work – going.

Donate $25 or more by February 28th, and you’ll get a copy of the CD.

Thanks again – and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Helen & Betty

Judge Strikes Down NY Ban on Gay Marriage

From 1010 WINS – New York’s All News Station
Feb 4, 2005 2:23 pm US/Eastern

A Manhattan judge declared Friday that the section of state law that forbids same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — the first ruling of its kind in New York and one that if upheld on appeal would allow gay couples to wed.

State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the words “husband,” “wife,” “groom” and “bride” in relevant sections of the Domestic Relations Law “shall be construed to mean ‘spouse,”‘ and “all personal pronouns … shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women.”

Ling-Cohan ruled on the side of five same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. She said the New York City clerk could not deny a license to any couple solely on the ground that the two are of the same sex.

Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal Defense Fund lawyer who presented the case for the five couples, called the ruling “historic” and said it “delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers.”

“The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law,” Sommer said. “Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they’re entitled to get them the same way straight couples do.”

One couple, Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain, said they were very happy about the ruling and believed it would offer their family increased legal protection. They have been together 23 years, registered as domestic partners in 1993, and have a 15-year-old daughter who is Shain’s biological child.

“We’re just overjoyed,” said Shain. “We didn’t think it would ever happen.”

Kennedy said she wants to marry Shain as soon as possible. “I can’t wait,” she said. “We went to buy a (marriage) license in March 2004 and couldn’t get it. That’s what started this whole thing.”

Shain said, “We’re looking forward to trying to buy another one, and this time actually getting it.”

“I’m going to sleep better with the legal protection of a marriage,” Kennedy said.

The city Law Department issued a statement saying only, “We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options.”

Ling-Cohan noted that one plaintiff, Curtis Woolbright, is the son of an interracial couple who moved to California in 1966 to marry. She said California then was the only state whose courts had ruled that interracial marriage prohibitions were unconstitutional.

Some courts, Ling-Cohan wrote, justified anti-miscegenation laws (bans on interracial marriage) as defending tradition rooted in “natural” law. They “rejected the rights of adults to choose their marital partners based on outmoded prejudices that are now recognized as illegitimate grounds for government action.”

(I for one am happy to finally see New York acting like New York! It’s about time. No matter what the long-term ramifications are of this ruling, I’m still glad to see it. – hb.)

Queer Stories for Boys

For years, my friend Doug McKeown has been running and directing a group called Queer Stories for Boys, which is a story-telling workshop for gay men. He gathers a group of gay men, and has them brainstorm on ideas of stories – the only caveat being that the story had to have happened in real life. After that, they whittle away at and sculpt the stories, so in the end they come up with fantastic monologues of real life experiences. Betty and I got to see a performance of “Queer Stories” a while back, and were thrilled (and wanted to try to convince Doug to do the same for transfolks, but no luck yet!)

A collection of these stories has just been published, called Queer Stories for Boys: True Tales from the Gay Men’s Storytelling Workshop, and I highly recommend it, especially for transfolks who are entering the GLBT world and don’t know much about their gay brothers.

Here’s the review I wrote for the book:

These stories are as honest as they are queer. Ranging the gamut from tragic to comic, they encapsulate what is often missing in descriptions of gay men: their humanity, their families, and their lovers. These men tell the stories of how they have managed to find themselves – and happiness – at a time when the public seems more interested in what they do than in who they are. Queer Stories for Boys reminds us of the people behind the political diatribes, and does so with elegance, wit, sadness and joy.