Glitz Speech

Posted by – February 20, 2005

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.
* * *

2 Comments on Glitz Speech

  1. Rikki says:

    Hi Helen,

    Love your post!

    I’ve tried, since the beginning of our marriage, to make my crossdressing fun for my wife. Because as you say, I realized from the getgo that if she didn’t enjoy it, she didn’t participate in it, maybe she wouldn’t accept it. And there I’d be, without anyone’s validation whatsoever, just like when I was single and very, very alone, scared, and in the closet.

    When I was contemplating marriage to her, like many naive CDers, I assumed that crossdressing was ALL sexual. So now that I was finally in love for real, for keeps, my crossdressing desires would be done. hahaha! Wonder of wonders, it worked for a while! Until we’d been married for about a year. Then came a bout of impotence and urges to crossdress.

    Well, I sure didn’t want to divorce her! So, how about a little crossdressing in the bedroom? When I suggested it, I was afraid the sky would fall. She wasn’t initially excited about it, but willing to give it a try. And surprise, she got into it. The happy ending was that the impotence was history. So, for that matter, were the purges that characterized CDing in my single years.

    Fast forward 25 years to the present. I’m now in my mid-50s. Been full time for 5 years. Just started phytoestrogens (with her permission). Now wait a minute, someone will ask, isn’t that backwards? Doesn’t Harry Benjamin say start the hormones first and then do the real life test?

    Well, I’m hear to tell you, that if someone is seriously thinking of following the course you suggest, they can kiss Harry Benjamin good bye! Those “standards” never envisioned transpeople staying married, transitioning for two, one might say. Dr. Paul Walker, who wrote them, was a personal friend of mine. He was gay. He never imagined people like me. He never imagined a society like ours where this kind of thing is possible. It is a new world!

    Today’s trans people are going to be writing their own standards–the Rikki Chunn Standards, the Betty Crow Standards, the John Smith Standards, etc. And why not? We’re hardly cookie cutter models of anyone but ourselves. And if that’s not at all out of the question, then it’s really not much more of a stretch to write the Rikki and Nancy Standards, that have just as much room for Nancy and her comic book collection, as for Rikki and her gender journey. Throw in two careers, a house, a family of teddy bears etc. and you have standards that Paul Walker never dreamed of. But (and you’ll have to trust me on this), Paul would have loved them. May he rest in peace!

    Hugs,
    Rikki

  2. lindamarie says:

    Helen, this is a great speech. In my tradition of being a little behind the times (for example, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict this Internet thing is going to take off), I just read it yesterday. I posted a link to my blogs at myspace

    http://blog.myspace.com/index......30c3e0eb98

    and Yahoo 360

    http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog.....0AOJ3?cq=1

    and have already received very positive comments about it

    Thanks for posting this.

Leave a Reply