Legal Marriage, Queer Relationship

Posted by – April 29, 2008

The NYT did an article about the legal issues when you’re a heterosexual couple and one of you legally changes gender. I’ve been talking about the ramifications of this stuff for so long that I failed to notice for others it might be quite a surprise, and revelatory, but it is.

Interesting comments have come in from Cara at Feministe and a young trans woman who calls herself Critical Thinking Girl. As CTG points out, it is pretty tawdry – the usual before & after photos, etc. – and when she notes:

The tone of this article is clear – Fran is a put-upon woman, with an eccentric husband. The picture they chose is also curious as it has the trans woman in the relationship holding back her wife.

As many of my regular readers already know, one of the things that drives me batshit about the media in general is the way they choose rubes to write about, instead of speaking to activists or advocates who are prepared to deal with media, or who have become allied with LGBTQ people on the issue. For those of you who are interested, here’s a talk I gave at the Law School of Penn State Dickinson last year.

Because honestly, same sex marriage recognition would make life easier for all trans people in relationships – including CTG.

Oh – and to The Times – and everyone else: it’s “transition” not “sex change.”

14 Comments on Legal Marriage, Queer Relationship

  1. Dani81 says:

    Dear Brunners: Please STFU before you ruin it for everyone else.

  2. helenboyd says:

    honest question: so do you think i should STFU about these issues too?

  3. VivaZoya says:

    Hm. I have nothing critical to say about the article or the Brunners. I thought it was done well, and the Brunners seem nice. In other words – “nothing to see here, move along”. ? jmho

  4. christinesus says:

    Dani81: If we can’t extend some understanding, compassion, consideration and toleration for people whom we supposedly understand, how can we expect the rest of the world to tolerate a group of transgendered people who are completely foreign to their understanding? I mean, if a transgendered person can’t cut another transgendered person some slack, there’s no way we can expect anything from mainstream society. I’m sure that the Brunners did the best that they could.

  5. PennyCentury says:

    Dani81, what do you mean by “ruin it for everyone else”? The only ones with the power to “ruin it” are the legislators and the politicians who act out of ignorance. And what about those of us who had a legal opposite-birth-sex and same gender marriage?

    The more exposure this issue receives, the more positive opinion is formed.

    I wish the Brunners all the best.

    Helen, don’t change your approach. Your right on the mark.

    – NH resident, Live Free or Die.

  6. Dani81 says:

    Yes, these issues need to be addressed. But they don’t need to be addressed by someone from the New York Times who goes to the IRS and the SSA for answers. I was echoing these comments by Critical Thinking Girl:

    “…the storm they’re attempting to create over this has much more potential to negatively impact me, and others like me- someone who lives as a woman, with a male birth certificate, who is straight.

    “The Times’ reporter went to the IRS and Social Security office for clarification on these matters – the last thing we want to be doing is haphazardly looking to these agencies to set precedents – all because an already legally married couple wants a little more piece of mind.”

  7. [...] on how this story is damaging The enGender blog on the complexities of this story my page on Marriage THERE are ways in which the Brunners are like [...]

  8. pannonica says:

    I don’ t think the Brunners are rubes, and I don’t think referencing those huge bureaucracies’ methods of dealing with “unusual” situations implicitly condones them. As for Cara’s criticisms about pictures and pronouns, for now certain aspects still need to be simplified for the real rubes (the general populace).

    Colleen/Critical Thinking Girl is possibly the most self-involved and self-righteous person I’ve encountered (she puts me to shame).

    My worry is that that the litany of legal woes described in the article is just going to make legislators and the general public throw up their collective hands and further dismiss the TG phenomenon as too much of a hassle: all the easier to marginalize and ridicule.

    Why does this appear in the Fashion & Style section of the paper?

  9. colleen1983 says:

    Oh no I’m blog trolling!

    Pannonica: the Brunners pitched a story to the New York Times along with Equality New Jersey, about how they have marriage rights, but maybe they might possibly perhaps lose those rights. Meanwhile most trans people don’t have access to marriage – and our rights are getting worse. As the article points out in 76′ it was all fine and dandy, then in the 90’s not so much. This article is not doing anyone any favors, and it was selfish of these folks to put themselves out there for it.

  10. tinasim02 says:

    Actually, looking at the picture, it looks like the wife is holding the trans-woman. Or I just can’t tell from the picture. But whatever, I think it’s a little nit-picky to talk about the photo as any indication of anything.

    Despite the author’s need to yet again describe the traditional transsexual script I thought it was a good article.

  11. pannonica says:

    Colleen:

    I thought the article highlighted what an imbroglio the legislative status quo is, and potentially is, for all marital permutations.

  12. Emma G says:

    One of the things that makes solidarity difficult politically is an insistence that individual amibiguity is antithetical to activism. I’m a 57year old transwoman, living in an outwardly apparent same sex relationship similar to the one Helen describes as her own. I opted to not complete SRS for two reasons. Contra indications about my own health, and the legal minefield that such completion would entail for my partner and myself. As an American citizen residing as a permanent resident in Australia, and married to an Australian citizen, I have two legal systems to be concerned about.

    The concerns of the Brunners echo many of my own. In addition I think now about what will happen if or when I need to utilize an aged care facility to continue to live out my life. The decisions we make are all more or less selfish, if they involve how best to safegauard our own survival. The paper Helen authored and linked to provide a very honest self-critical account of her own personal feelings and motivations. Were they selfish because she attempted to safegaurd her relationship for difficulty? I certainly don’t think so.

    Whether the Brunners represent the ideal media package for LGBT interests seems to me to expose very straightfowardly, how easily we can be diverted to focusing on differences to the exclusion of commonalities. Cara’s post recognized her own disappointments, but also emphasized the more important legal difficulties as commonality. CTG’s post is bias towards a hostile rant that exhibits very little critical thought. Her personal psychological interpretation of the photo is no more fact than my own: That the awkward pose could easily have resulted from the prompting of the staff photographer.

    The article might have been less than ideal from an activist perspective, but it certainly focused on very commonly identifiable human interests about simple needs. It gives non trans people a clear path to some empathetic identification with areas of concern they also hold. Those with an open mind will maybe make the connection to their similarity in those intersts.
    Without connecting the dots of our humanity, I see very little prospect for human rights being exrtended to any minority.

  13. helenboyd says:

    Emma, thanks so much – for your personal story, & your insight.

  14. pannonica says:

    Yes, thank you Emma, for a modicum of relative rationality, tempered with acknowledged yet justifiable selfishness (it’s endemic to the condition). And my deepest sympathies for the extrinsic obstacles to your SRS/GRS.

    Tina, if you can’t readily tell who’s who in the gestalt, just look at the incisors in the early and later photographs.

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