They’re Here!! They’re Here!!

While I was at a client’s today, Betty got to receive a very large, heavy box full of the new book. This is the first I’ve gotten to see it, so it’s very exciting. It’s a sturdy book, and there’s an artsy typesetting effect that I really love.

Those who have ordered signed copies should get them by the end of the week (unless you live in, say, Australia).

& Just to say: it is something to hold your first book in your hands. It is something else altogether to hold your second.

The Year of Magical Genders

When I started writing She’s Not the Man I Married, I was thinking of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which made me think about driving up a mountain road in order to see something a ways off, & the way the road curls around the mountain, so that every time you go around a bend you get a slightly different perspective of the thing you’re trying to see.

I think that’s what this book does. I hope so, anyway. That very same aspect of it also makes choosing excerpts to read aloud kind of difficult, as right in the middle of a narrative about one thing I tend to go off on a huge tangent about shoe-buying or faghags or something. It’s thickly layered, in a sense, so that it’s hard to just pull a piece out that doesn’t loose something in the excerpting.

So now that the first review has come up, and the word “repetitive” appeared in it, I can’t say I’m surprised, but I’d argue it wasn’t unnecessary. Ineffective, maybe, but I was doing it for a reason. “Humorous” and “self-deprecating” are much more accurate.


All my life, my dreams have used water as one metaphor for anxiety: I might find myself on the top of a very tall wave or under it a moment later, or somehow a room I’m in is filling with water even though the room right next to it isn’t. I don’t know if it’s a typical anxiety metaphor, but it’s always been one of my regulars. (Others include having to keep kittens safe from adult feet crossing a room, and losing teeth.)

But a few months ago my dream metaphors worked their way into my waking life. I found myself worrying all the time that I’d left the tub running. I take a lot of baths so I do run water for a tub pretty regularly, and I’ve certainly had actual near misses where a moment’s more delay would result in some flooding. So in a certain sense my brain caught hold of a regular circumstance that does need attention but blew it out of proportion: first in my dreams, of rooms filling with water, and then in my waking life, with me having panic attacks while out that I’d somehow left the house with the tub running full blast.

For a while I worried I was losing my mind entirely; I’d never had such a constant metaphor for my anxiety in my waking life. Before it was just a general physical response of increased heartrate, a cold sweat, clammy hands – but now it’s as if I have a made-to-order gauge for how anxious I am. Now I know that if I leave the house & panic about the tub, my stress level is high. Sometimes I’ll even have a strong urge to check the tub when I’m sitting at my desk – which is a whopping 10′ away from the tub – if the TV is loud or Betty’s playing music – because I can almost hear the sound of running water under it all.

What’s nice are the times when I have a moment of panic & then realize how long it’s been since the last one, which is what prompted me to write this blog entry. I’ve been calmer than I’d expect what with Betty losing her job & the new book coming out. So today I was surprised to wake up having dreamt about the tub again, and yet – I appreciate my mind keeping in touch, as it were. Because it reminds me it’s time to do yoga, or sit and pet the cats for a while, and otherwise find ways to calm my mind.

& Yes, it is mostly about the book. Once it’s shipping and the first reviews are in, I’ll feel decidedly less nervous about it all. I hope, anyway.

Rah Rah, They Suck

Cheerleaders in upstate New York quit the cheerleading team in droves when they were told the laws in the state made them do something they didn’t want to do.

The thing they didn’t want to do?…. cheer! But the catch was that they had to cheer for the girls’ teams in addition to cheering on the boys’ teams.

I can’t figure out if women are their own worst enemies or if this is about homophobia or if (frankly) they’re just being princesses and don’t want to cheer for less-well-attended events. But no matter what it is, it’s a pretty sucky attitude for a cheerleader to have, no?

(Thanks to Dana at BlogHer for the clever title to this post.)

QueerCents Interview with Jamison Green

A while back, Nina Smith of QueerCents did an interview with me, and later asked me to introduce her to other trans folk who might be willing to talk about personal finance. She talked to Jamison Green, who of course managed to make an interview about personal finance a useful resource on transitioning costs and to articulate clearly the debate about what insurance should cover. I’m not sure how many times they’ll let me join his fan club, at this point, but count me in again.

For that matter, Nina Smith gets huge kudos for going out of her way to get trans issues into her forum.

More About First Event

One of the revelations I had at First Event came as a result of talking to one trans woman after I did my talk and she ripped me a new one about partners needing more support, precisely because hers was a wife who refused to learn anything & refused to accept anything & left. She spoke to me from a place of pain & I appreciated her honesty. Later, someone else told me that her wife requested a divorce & the date of separation listed on the decree was the day she told her spouse she was trans. Those two experiences explained the resistance I feel sometimes when I talk about having partners become more involved in the larger trans community, or even when I speak as an advocate for partners at all: there’s just too much pain for a lot of trans people around the subject of relationships, that too many trans people don’t think partners need support because their own partners didn’t want it, didn’t look for it, and just wanted out.

The second half of that revelation is that partners really do need the support. The group I hosted was varied: some lesbian-identified partners of FTMs, mostly wives/girlfriends of crossdressers and transgender and transsexual MTFs, and one male partner of a younger MTF. We didn’t always share outlooks, or life experiences, or even attitudes about transness (though we did agree that nobody knows what causes it). But the one thing that came up over & over again was the sense of isolation we all experience, of not knowing others like us, of not having anyone to talk to about the most intimate parts of our lives.

What occurred to me is that I feel like I have to stand up, & want to keep writing & being visible. I thought later that trans people have so many role models, so many sources of (various forms of) success: the Christine Jorgensens and Virginia Princes and Jenny Boylans and Kate Bornsteins and Robert Eadses and Jamison Greens and Leslie Feinbergs. So many I can’t even list them all. But is there any partner of a trans person whose name people know? Is there anyone partners can point to and say, “She did it”? There isn’t, not one. & I don’t really want to be that person; I’d argue that I’m NOT that person. But in some ways I want, at least, to keep talking about partners and partners’ issues not just because partners need the role models, but because trans people should know that they can and will be loved for who they are. I want trans people and partners alike to be able to see that trans people do not exist in a void, that they have lovers and spouses and children and parents and siblings.

Sometimes I don’t think trans people realize just that simple fact of it. You all may have paths that are difficult to find, that leave off just when you think they’re going somewhere, or that stop cold, but partners are still standing at the edge of the jungle, machete in hand. There isn’t even a bad path visible.
But mostly I don’t think the pain of how badly things have gone for some people should dictate all our lives, which is why I keep talking, and keep pushing therapists and the trans community at large to find ways to support the partners who have at least made a commitment to try. What I want to see is not for all couples to stay together, but more that couples separate without the kind of bitterness & hostility I’ve already seen too many times.

On Their Way

Today I discovered my distributor has charged my credit card, which means the books are on their way, or nearly on their way, or at least to the point where they’re processing the order.

Any Day Now, they’ll be on their way to me & then shortly thereafter, on their way to those of you who pre-ordered signed copies.

Five Questions With… Richard M. Juang

Richard JuangAlthough Richard M. Juang is an otherwise studious English professor, I came to know him through my participation with the NCTE Board of Advisors, and increasingly found him to be gentle and smart as a whip. We got to sit down and talk recently at First Event, where he agreed to answer my Five Questions.

(1) Tell me about the impetus that lead to writing Transgender Rights. Why now? Why you, Paisley Currah, and Shannon Price Minter?
Transgender Rights
helps create a discussion of the concrete issues faced by transgender people and communities. Our contributors have all written in an accessible way, while also respecting the need for complex in-depth thought, whether the topic is employment, family law, health care, poverty, or hate crimes. We also provide two important primary documents and commentaries on them: the International Bill of Gender Rights and an important decision from the Colombian Constitutional Court concerning an intersex child. Both have important implications for thinking about how one articulates the right of gender self-determination in law. We wanted to create a single volume that would let students, activists, attorneys, and policy-makers think about transgender civil rights issues, history, and political activism well beyond Transgender 101.Transgender Rights

One of the things the book doesn’t do is get bogged down in a lot of debate about how to define “transgender” or about what transgender identity “means”; we wanted to break sharply away from that tendency in scholarly writing. Instead, we wanted to make available a well-informed overview about the legal and political reality that transgender people live in.

Oddly enough, Shannon, Paisley and I each did graduate work in a different field at Cornell University in Ithaca NY. (Apparently, a small town in upstate New York is a good place to create transgender activists!) The book represents a cross-disciplinary collaboration where, although we had common goals for the book, we also had different perspectives. The result was that, as editors, we were able to stay alert to the fact that the transgender movement is diverse and has many different priorities and types of activism.

Continue reading “Five Questions With… Richard M. Juang”

A Little of First Event

from my journal, 21 january:

we’re in the bar @ the burlington marriott waiting for our car to take us to the amtrak station, after the long week/end that was first event. what a trip – the whole of it. we hit the ground running, arriving around 7pm thursday just in time for a comedy show. we didn’t even change out of our travel clothes – but found ourselves having a tasty buffet dinner & laughing at the jokes of Amy Tee & three other comedians. i’m usually pretty good at being a little stealth & getting the lay of the land before people figure out i’m “that helen” but this time around there was a big picture of my mug in the catalong – so the guys working security knew me right away. usually of course there’s an expectation that people named Helen & Betty will be significantly older that we are, since they’re old lady names, & the surprise we’re greeted with often entertains me.

Why I’m Pro Choice

Today is Blog for Choice Day.

There is one reason and one reason only: because if abortion is illegal, women with money & power & connections will be able to have them still, and poor women with no power & access to pay for blackmarket services will not. While there are significant disparities of access and care with abortion legal, it is nothing like what it would be if it weren’t legal.

Abortion will not go away. It has always been with us. That said, holding men/boys responsible for children they father would be a good start. Getting honest sex education to teenagers and adults would be great. Free and easily-accessible birth control would go a long way toward preventing abortions. Dealing with the fact that people have sex – priceless.

White Guilt

I made a cool & unusual discovery the other day: the channel that broadcasts a lot of sports & specifically the Yankees’ games, called the YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) Network, also shows old episodes of the show White Shadow at 1am NY time. You folks who are as old or older than me remember it, don’t you? I loved it when I was a kid, but I was kind of surprised to hear it first ran when I was age nine until I was 12. Did I see it in reruns, or did I just not understand a bunch of the jokes?

It’s dated in certain ways – tight, short shorts on basketball players – but it’s a lot better than a lot of crap that’s on now. Little did I know, but it was the first ensemble drama on TV that had a predominantly African-American cast. Only one other show (Showtime’s Soul Food) with a predominantly African-American cast aired for longer, but the current show The Wire is only now about to beat them both.

& That’s pretty damned shocking, imho: only three dramas with African-American casts that had more than a couple of seasons since 1978? That’s just messed up.

First Event

We leave for First Event today, and are really looking forward to experiencing this legendary trans conference. Just so you know – and because I probably won’t be answering emails for a bit – this is what I’ll be doing at First Event:

on Friday:

  • a reading from She’s Not the Man I Married during the luncheon
  • a trans sexuality workshop open to all

on Saturday:

  • a workshop for partners/SOs only
  • the keynote speech during the Awards Banquet

Betty will be with me, and we’ll otherwise be around, so do say hello if you see us.