Month: June 2005

Parents and Children

Posted by – June 30, 2005

My parents are moving to Florida.

Despite the fact that I only see them a few times a year when they live only forty minutes away, I’m upset that I may not see them much once they move.

I really dislike Florida. It’s muggy and commercial and the home of Disney. To me, it’s the worst of suburban sprawl, and I think the alligators (and the Seminoles) should have been left alone.

Plus, I don’t like planes. I didn’t like them before 9/11, and I like them a hell of a lot less now.

Betty has a regular, 9-5 kind of job, and we take a lot of three- and four-day weekends to do outreach, when we can. As a result, we’ve kind of nickel’d and dimed her vacation time to almost nothing this year, and that without actually going on an actual vacation, so making time to visit them won’t be easy.

I know for most Americans it’s normal to have close relatives living far away. My family is a little more 19th Century: my parents grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Long Island, where I was born, and raised, and which I left the minute I could – for Brooklyn. We’ve tracked each other around NYC like we’ve been trying to catch a Heffalump. Most of the rest of my family stayed put: some stayed married and others got divorced, but still, they had children, and houses, on Long Island. I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with having a huge Catholic family – five siblings, various siblings-in-law, two parents, seven nieces, and two nephews – right nearby.

That my parents are leaving seems incomprehensible. They were the ones who chose Long Island in the first place, and they’ve lived there 43 years. They leave not only their family, but their parish, their neighbors, their friends. But living in New York is too expensive for a couple in their 70s whose medical bills are only increasing. My mother can’t walk on ice or snow (she has what I refer to as a bionic knee) and I think my father has done his lifetime of shoveling the stuff. It makes perfect sense for them to go where they’ll have a pool in their complex, and where my dad will be a short hop from the Mets’ training grounds: heaven itself to a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

I don’t doubt they’ll be happy. But I’m not. I keep having this feeling that there’s something I’m forgetting to do.

The way I see it, even though none of us trusts it, life has familiar patterns, slow cycles of eras. Dutiful daughter becomes rebellious teenager becomes young adult. You make your own life. With any luck, you start to appreciate your parents as friends and adults and not just as parents.

When you get married, you are simultaneously welcomed back into the family, and sent on your way to forming your own. My mom and I have talked about marriage a lot; she knew about Betty before some of my friends did, and always reassured me that if it weren’t trans stuff, it’d be something else, because it always is. We got to talk as mother and daughter, but also as wives, and as women.

With them moving, I’ve finally figured out where my pattern unraveled, like a piece of knitting left on the needle in an old woman’s lap: I’m not having their grandchildren.

Not having their grandchildren means I will never connect with my mother as grandmother and mother. Betty and I decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t have children; neither of us had any urge for kids, and crazy us – we figured our opinions were the only ones that counted. Believe me, that’s not the way other people saw it: we were asked regularly when we’d be having kids. And when we said we don’t want kids we heard about ticking clocks and what great parents we would be, so much so we eventually changed our standard response to we’re not planning on having children right now. The ticking never got louder, and we only became more convinced that people who don’t want children do not make good parents.

Yet there’s this sense of incompleteness, this void, of what to put in its place. Can anything possibly replace grandchildren? Probably not. But there’s still this urge in me, to do something for them, to say thanks, to tell them I love them in some more-than-verbal way. But all I have is words.

So thanks, mom and dad, for the house, and the yard, the food and the arguments, and even for the various neuroses I’m sure are your fault. But mostly, thank you for having enough children to have your grandchildren so that I don’t have to.

The Amancio Project Vigil

Posted by – June 27, 2005

I received this message in the comments section, but I thought it deserved greater notice. This is a follow-up to my original blog entry from June 12th, 2005.

June 27,2005

The Amancio Project Vigil surpassed expectations. The tone and mood was one of joy, sadness and resolve.

Because of the dreadful murders Yuma yesterday of six people (four children), the news media came early and left before many vigil attendees arrived and left before the speakers delivered their messages. A head count went over 100.

Amancio’s family was there in force, all wearing t-shirts with Amancio’s picture on them. That was a beautiful sight by itself. Many people drew and wrote their thoughts onto “The Memory Wall.” A video was shown depicting Amancio’s life from early child hood to a few days before his death. It was obvious he was a happy child, spunky adolescent, spirited teenager and talented and giving adult. A poem by Don Gilbert, “One of Liberty’s Children” dealing with hate crime was read by Don and a framed copy handed to Amancio’s mom.

Speakers included myself as the Organizer of The Yuma County Gay Meetup and The Amancio Project, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona House of Representatives (first speaking for herself then delivering a message from Arizona Representative Amanda Aguirre), Luis Heredia representing Congressman Grijalva, Brenda Galvan Aguirre from the Arizona Leadership Institute, Donna Rose with the Human Rights Campaign, Lori Girshick the Anti-Violence Project Coordinator for Wingspan in Tucson, a hate crime victim’s mother whose son was murdered three years ago and the culprits have not been caught, a member of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, Vigil coordinator Hanna, with the Yuma County Gay Rights Meetup.

No Yuma city or county representative was in the audience, an observation which did not go unnoticed by Rep. Sinema and Mr. Heredia.

A wreath was presented to the family. The mother and the grandmother then handed out “Angel” pins and small crosses to everyone while the candles were being prepared (unfortunately, it became too breezy to light them).

It is now incumbent upon all of us to keep this spirit alive and the momentum going.

Michael H. Baughman
The Amancio Project
www.gayrights.meetup.com/177
www.TheAmancioProject.org (still under construction)

NYC Pride Events

Posted by – June 24, 2005

Here’s some of the cool & groovy stuff (most trans-related) you can do this weekend in NYC for Pride.

Friday night:

Go see Lisa Jackson & her band Girl Friday at the Zipper Theatre.

The Trans Community March for Social and Economic Justice

Saturday:

The Mermaid Parade in Coney Island

The Dyke March & Rally

On Sunday of course is the Pride Parade!

Happy Pride, everyone!

Bath Cat

Posted by – June 24, 2005

wet endymion

Some of you may be wondering if i’m some kind of cat-torturer, or if we just have a nutty cat. Neither, really. I’m actually allergic to my lovely cats, and one of the things allergic people can do to decrease the dander is bathe them occasionally. So from a very young age, the boys have been getting baths. I use a combination of made-for-pets cat shampoo and an anti-dander rinse.

I’m not going to say they like it, but they’re used to it. And distracted sometimes by rubber duckies.

Once they’re out, and towel-dried, they proceed to lick themselves thoroughly – and replace all the dander. Of course. But still, it helps. So does the Zyrtec-D that I take.

Roving Idiot

Posted by – June 23, 2005

Rove, in a speech Wednesday evening to the New York state Conservative Party just a few miles north of Ground Zero, said, “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Conservatives, he said, “saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.”

source: MSNBC news

Rove should resign. He is divisive, hateful, and offensive.

A Room of Her Own

Posted by – June 22, 2005

Recently, a transwoman wrote to me casually that all she ever wanted to do was be a ________. As a child, as a teenager, as an adult, she (then he) was intent on that goal. My first impulse was to think that I’ve never had that kind of calling, that kind of goal, but then – a few days later – I realized that’s not entirely true, either.

The problem with wanting to be a writer is somewhat like discovering you’re trans. You’d prefer anything else. You’d prefer a magic wand of a “cure.” You know it’s going to cost – socially, financially, familially – so it takes a while to admit to yourself who you are and own it, as the kids say. It’s as if something in you knows not to say it out loud, not to commit to that secret yearning in the corner of your heart.

I’m still waiting and hoping for my calling to be an accountant much as Betty is still waiting to feel comfortable living as a man. We may as well buy lottery tickets if we’re already playing odds like that.

I know exactly why I never knew, much less articulated, my urge to be a writer. I grew up working class, and writing was not on the list of career choices. It wasn’t a job. It was a luxury of rich people, the earned perk of a family that already had a generation of college educations and healthy business professions. My older sister was the first in our family to graduate from college, though a few of her siblings, like me, followed after. She is a banker. One brother is an accountant. Another runs the regional area for a supermarket chain. Another is a psychologist. In a nutshell, they all chose practical careers.

They make me feel like the dreamy, impractical baby of the family, which is, in a sense, what I am. During a recent family discussion (read: argument) my brother asked my sister why I didn’t have a full-time job. To her credit, she answered, “I don’t know, but why haven’t you written a book?”

His critical questions aside, I’ve been learning a lot about the publishing industry. While holding my breath (and pulling my hair and stamping my feet) through the negotiations around my next book, I’ve wondered why I’m in this profession at all.

I write because it’s what I do. I’ve kept a written journal since I was nine, which is about the same time I wrote my first short story (Called “Rainy Day,” it was a two-page ripoff of Madelaine L’Engle, of course; I’d just read A Wrinkle in Time.) I had to get married in order to be able to write full-time. The feminist implications of having marriage deliver this wish don’t please me.

Writing is about time.

“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.”
Rudolph Erich Rascoe

I’m lucky to have a husband who understands that even without a job, I’m working. Betty is a voracious reader, who actually enjoys having a writer for a wife. Still in all, what are the real problems of being a woman writer – even a married one?

    Here are some things to think about:

  • Only 9 out of 52 winners of the National Book Award for Fiction are women.
  • Only 11 out of 48 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction have been women.
  • Women writers won 63 percent of the awards but less than 30 percent of the money in awards and grants reported by Poets & Writers. (January/February 2003 issue)
  • In 2002 all but one of the Pulitzer Prize finalists for Fiction and Poetry were male.
  • 94 percent of all the writing awards at the Oscars have gone to men.
  • Only 25 percent of the advisory members of the National Endowment for the Arts are women.
  • 68 percent of total art income in the U.S. goes to men and 73 percent of all grants and fellowships in the arts go to men.
  • (Source: A Room of Her Own Foundation)

The Humanities are supposed to be woman-friendly, too! I can’t even imagine what the stats are for women in the Sciences; I almost don’t want to know.

It’s a bit easier to understand why “I want to be a writer” never crossed my lips as a child, isn’t it? It is for me. Some days I’d still like that calling to be an accountant, maybe just for a little while, so that when I’m 40 or 50 I can quit accounting and write full-time without caring who the writing awards and grants go to and maybe even fund a few of them myself.

Queer Boys in NYC

Posted by – June 22, 2005

My friend Doug McKeown and some other writers of the Queer Stories for Boys anthology are reading this Friday night at the Chelsea B&N. (Where else but Chelsea, you might ask?)

Betty & I are hoping to go. Here’s the scoop:

Queer Stories for Boys: BOOK READING and SIGNING

by editor Douglas McKeown and contributors James Campbell, Ronald Gold, Robin Goldfin, Brad Gretter, and Derek Gullino

Friday June 24 , 7 p.m.
At BARNES & NOBLE Chelsea
675 Sixth Avenue, near 22nd Street

Can’t Stand the Suspense

Posted by – June 21, 2005

As many of you know, I’m in the process of trying to sell my next book – a process that is a little like torture, a little like some kind of humiliation roleplay in BDSM, but also a little like that “keep the ball in the air” game people play at major sporting events.

Torture because I’m a control freak and there’s nothing left for me to do; it’s all in the hands of my agent at this point.

Humiliation because it meant putting together all my stats, every thing I’ve ever done of note, every review, every *everything* and adding it up. What are you worth? What have you done? Why should I be impressed? In some sense, it’s like the worst interview ever, but not in person. And ironically, I’m not in bad shape in terms of what I’ve done, either. Something about the fact of it – like a work review – is just innately unpleasant.

Keeping the ball in the air because every day is a new day, a new publisher, someone else to say “hey, really, I write good books” So there’s this constant game of the balloon wanting to fall (I didn’t sell 50,000 copies of MHB yet) and of keeping it up (but I was a finalist for the Lambda Award) and watching it fall again (but I didn’t win the Lambda award) and popping it back in the air again (MHB was mentioned in Entertainment Weekly), and on and on and on.

Off to the Post Office to mail more press kits. Wish me luck, folks – not luck in getting published, but luck in not having my head explode before then.

The Return of Helen’s Little Story

Posted by – June 20, 2005

For those of you who were avid readers of my tranny erotica, I found the copy from the old boards I had saved, and reposted it in pages (instead of paragraphs, as it existed on the old boards).

Here it is, on the boards, in its entirety (to date).

I’ll do my best to get these two some rest in the upcoming weeks.

& Then I’ve got another one I’d like to clean up and start posting.

Stay tuned.

Spring Cleaning, Feline Variation

Posted by – June 17, 2005

endymion

Okay, so we’re a little late for spring cleaning. Like three years too late. What we need is a wife.

Queer Stories reading in Philly

Posted by – June 16, 2005

For those of you in Philadelphia or its environs, Doug McKeown and some of the writers of Queer Stories for Boys will be doing a reading/signing at Giovanni’s Room bookstore, at 12th & Pine Streets, at 7:30PM on Saturday, June 18th.

It’ll be a good night of story-telling, no doubt.

That Time of the Month

Posted by – June 15, 2005

No, not that time of the month – but the time of the month to donate to help support the message boards and my blog. If you like what you see here, please consider donating whatever you can to help keep us going.

Overheard in NY

Posted by – June 15, 2005

I added a website to the “Very Various” section of links today – it’s a website that blogs conversations “overheard in NY.” From what I’ve read, they’re very authentic, funny reading, and a nice little insight into my favorite town.

Overheard in New York

One of my favorite recent entries – and quite relevant – is this one:

Chick: I think the difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is something you can set up without doing any of that website shit.

(Thanks to Lynne W-U for this one!)

Warning Labels: This Person is Gay

Posted by – June 14, 2005

The leader of the New York Christian Coalition has announced that gays should wear warning labels.

Why?

Because being gay is bad for your health, and by his logic, others’ health as well.

I wish I were kidding.

The story as reported by www.365gay.com.

The comments about the story by the MHB Boards.

Amancio Corrales

Posted by – June 12, 2005

I just heard from friends in Phoenix that a 23-year-old female impersonator named Amancio Corrales was found in/near the Colorado River. There is a memorial planned for June 25th in Yuma, AZ.


Please check the boards for more information.

Reader Privacy

Posted by – June 11, 2005

Rep Bernie Saunders of Vermont is once again going to try to get the Freedom to Read Amendment passed. The Amendment would cut off funding for library and bookstore searches that came with the USA Patriot Act.

You should contact your House Representative and urge him or her to vote yes on the Freedom to Read Amendment. You can find your Rep by checking the House’s website.

For more information, check the boards, and these organizations.

American Library Assocation
American Booksellers Association
Association of American Publishers
PEN American Center.


www.readerprivacy.org
for more information.

Hot Pussy

Posted by – June 10, 2005

endymion on a hot day

gotcha!

This is our big Endymion, trying to keep cool.

Think-Tank

Posted by – June 9, 2005

Tonight Betty and I did a presentation on trans/GLBT issues for an emerging lefty think-tank. It was formed just after the last presidential election, formed out of frustration, anger, and a sense of outrage – not just at who won, but at how the right had stolen words like “morality” (by which they really mean heteronormativity), “family” (again, only heteronormativite families need apply) and “family values” (when they meant, keep those freaks out of my neighborhood).

A lot of the conversation was just trans 101, which Betty and I rushed into and interrupted each other and circled around and back and forth. (The poor guy keeping notes gave up at some point, I think.) We got some of the basic points across, and of course the group got to meet Betty – not your average tranny, but who is?

One of the pertinent questions asked – and this is a smart group – was Where are the Surveys? Where’s the equivalent of the Kinsey Report on trans stuff? and, in a more tactical sense, How many are you, and how do we count you?

There weren’t any good answers for these good questions. Aside from Lynn Conway’s numbers on the prevalance of transsexualism, which doesn’t include crossdressers or drag kings or any of the rest of the gender-variant community, I don’t have any. How many of us are there? More importantly, how many of us are there who will stand up and be counted? What are our issues? Who will lead us? Who are our allies, and to what other (non-trans) causes can we lend our weight?

These are only some of the questions currently being discussed on the message boards, of which I’m very proud.

Come join the dialogue.

Masculinity, Androgyny, and Young Greek Gods

Posted by – June 8, 2005

Yesterday Betty met my agent for the first time, and at some point in our conversation – amazingly enough, gender did come up – she mentioned that she not only read Betty as androgynous, but that her reading of his/her androgyny caused her to not know, exactly, how to interact. That is, all the social rules were gone. She is my agent, after all, and likes my work, so for her, this was a good thing; for her, it meant she had to connect with the person, and not her own expectations of who the person was based on his or her gender.

Others, of course, resent not having those kinds of social cues, and get confused and angry. Especially when conflated with sexual desire, or power, or even a tiny black and white world where there are no shades of gray.

Tonight, because it’s gotten hot here in Brooklyn, Betty was walking around for a while in a green Batik sundress of mine. (Note to CDs: babydoll sundresses are not very gendered, and did nothing for Betty’s figure.) A little while later, she gave up on the sundress as well and was walking around naked.

At home, I often flirt with her girl self – whether she’s presenting as female at the moment or not. At some point, she stood in the doorway to talk to me while I was at my computer, and I confess: I had a split-second – a kind of atavist split-second – of noticing what a beautiful man my husband is. I covered it by saying something about her being a girl, but she’d seen it. “When you look at me like that, doll,” she said, “I know what you see.”

What do I see? I see a young man who at age 36 has all the masculine and feminine beauty the Greeks were after. Betty is naturally hairless, naturally svelte, and has a full head of hair that goes wavy in humid weather like this. Go ahead and picture Michelangelo’s David, albeit less muscular, with longer legs. His looks both defy gender and confirm it; his beauty is not the type of masculinity we admire now, in modern 21st Century America, but it is a classic type of beauty, and – dare I say – the kind of beauty that men who love men seem to excel at portraying.

Others who meet him in male mode often remark to me privately that they’d have a difficult time letting go of a man who is so perfectly beautiful. And I admit, it does make it harder. I still go weak in the knees when I see my husband walking around naked; I still go weak in the knees when he’s in women’s underwear and leaning over to apply make-up, too. But in either case, I am responding to physical beauty, the kind that inspires poetry and love songs. And blog entries.

A long time ago I saw a magazine cover with a photo of Johnny Depp on it. A friend and I stopped to ogle and gossip, since we’re both fans. And suddenly it occurred to me: transness had to be real, because my husband looks like Johnny Depp and doesn’t want to. I don’t know anyone else who wouldn’t want to look like Johnny Depp if they could – male, female, or otherwise. (Johnny Depp, of course, also looks good as both male and female, too.)

In some senses, when I see how beautiful my husband is as a man, I really do think that God has a sick sense of humor to put such a beautiful body on a soul with no libido, to put such a beautiful male body on a soul that wants to be female. It’s a double sucker-punch, and it doesn’t make any sense to me – none at all. Add to that Betty’s desire to be my husband – and it becomes some kind of evil triple-play. (Hey, did I just use a sports metaphor? Did someone give me a lobotomy when I wasn’t looking?)
jas headshot

I wish I could bring Betty any kind of comfort or solace in his beautiful self. I wish I could help him feel more at home in a male body. I wish I thought I was a sufficient door prize for not transitioning (but I don’t) and I also wish I didn’t have this feeling that I’m somehow torturing the person I love most in the world.

But all that I’m laying aside tonight. Right now, I just want to get it off my chest: I married the most beautiful man in the world.

^ That’s his acting headshot. And yes, I had his permission: not just to post the photo, but to write this blog entry, too.

Robert Hanley

Posted by – June 6, 2005

One of my agent’s fellow hopefuls was entertainer Robert Hanley, who was there with his wife Corrine. We were waiting around at one point for Nancy to show, and we all started talking about our pitches, the responses we were getting, and about what kind of book we were pitching.

The only things I knew about Robert and his wife when I told them about My Husband Betty was that they were practicing Catholics and that Robert was an entertainer. (A little while later he told me he was originally from the Bronx). So I explained my next book a little cautiously, not knowing if they were judgemental Christians or not. But once what I was saying became clear to them, we had a great chat about homosexuality, acceptance, Catholicism – you name it. Robert said he’d pray for me – not because he’d cast me or Betty as sinners, though – but because he recognized the challenge to our marriage that transness was. Corrine even mentioned how she felt it must be an “at birth” condition, like homosexuality, because who would choose it?

One of the most wonderful things about being out is being surprised like this. That is, I end up talking to all kinds of people, not just people who I think might be cool with transness. And more often than not, I find people are more sympathetic than judgemental. And honestly, I think they can connect with me – even if they, like I, don’t innately understand transness, because anyone who is married, anyone who has been in love, understands that you do what you can to be with the person you love.

So thanks to Robert, and Corrine, and all the lovely people out there who instead of thinking I’m a sinner or insane, know instead that I’m a woman struggling to preserve and honor her marriage, and that trans-folks are, in the same vein, neither sinners nor crazy, but people struggling with something that the rest of the world can’t understand.

Here’s a little more about Robert Hanley, if you’re interested. If you’re like me, you’re going to see his picture and think “I’ve seen him somewhere” and then, as you read the article, you’ll realize you have: he’s been in movies and tv shows, and did stand-up comedy, too.

But you know, I really should know to trust Catholic former New Yorkers. I mean, if you can’t trust a mensch from the Bronx, who can you trust?