Why Trans Partners Should Tell Their Stories

The other day I published a brief interview with Christine Benvenuto, who wrote a book about her marriage to and divorce from a trans woman.

I blurbed her book, let me admit up front.

I blurbed it because despite some transphobic tendencies (not respecting her ex’s change to feminine pronouns, most notably), I think it’s important that partners get their stories out there – as important as it is for trans people to do so. I’ve been enabling the latter for a long time, and I’m proud to have done so. But I see so often that partners who are having a hard time or who are bitter about a divorce or angry about transition are told – in trans community spaces – to STFU, pretty much. And that really sucks, a lot.

The thing is, nothing about her memoir struck me as patently false. I’ve known a lot of trans women and a lot of wives of trans women over the past 13 years. A LOT. And Benvenuto’s story, just as she told it, is pretty goddamned typical. I have seen behavior by trans women that is sexist, misogynist bullshit. I have seen trans women spend their kids’ college money on transition. I have seen 401Ks emptied. I have seen all of that, and more.

I have also seen the wives of transitioning women take out all their rage on their trans spouse – financially, emotionally, even physically. I have seen rage that I didn’t even know was possible in the wives of trans women. And I have seen them be unwilling to let it go.

That is, I have seen a lot of awful behavior on both sides of this coin. Trans people are not excused because they’re trans just as women are not excused because they’re women. We are all faced with loss and betrayal and heartbreak and all of the emotions that accompany those things. How you choose to express them is entirely up to you.

I can buy the argument that now is not the best time to be airing our dirty laundry in public. Maybe it is. Maybe right now is the “let’s put a good face on it so the public grants us our rights” period for trans issues. But I don’t think there ever is that time, to be honest. I think that’s the kind of thinking that results in shaming some members of a community over other members of that community.

Because, I would argue, the crap behavior of some trans women who come from lives of male privilege – & here I’m specifically talking about certain kinds of later transitioning trans women – is a fact. It’s not made up. I can promise you that. And what we want, as a community, is for trans people to be happy. For them to have people to love and who love them. For them to be accepted and loved by their families.

And transition after 20 years of marriage is very, very rarely going to make that happen. It just isn’t.

So if we as a community want trans people to be happy, people need to know what kind of devastation a late transition can cause on families and wives and communities and of course on the trans people themselves. There is so, so much pain, on everyone’s part. People need to know it. People need to transition younger so that some of this can be prevented.

That said: partners deserve to tell their stories because they’re their stories. There are other reasons, but really, that’s the nut of it. There is no saying who is “right” when it comes to he said/she said. There never is. But as far as I could tell, Sex Changes felt real. It felt hard to write. There were parts that made me cry to finally see things I’d felt in print.

So no, it’s not a perfect story. It could have been kinder, but my gut still says it was honest and that is worth having in the world. Honesty can only shed light in dark corners, and transition-fueled divorce is one of the darkest corners I know of.

Quentin Crisp: Englishman in NY

I’ve written about him before (& even about the Sting connection) but just discovered the film made about him – with John Hurt playing Crisp – is available to see on Logo for free!

Five Questions With… Christine Benvenuto

Thank you so much for this opportunity to discuss my new book, Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On.

(1) Your ex husband has, as well, written a memoir about her experiences. Did you write yours in response to that? Or were you both writing simultaneously?

By the time I heard that my ex had written a book, mine had been completed and was scheduled to be published a few months later.

(2) I know quite a lot of time passes between the experiences, the writing, the editing, and the publication of the book. Have there been any major developments during that time?

The most significant recent development is the book’s publication. It took a long time for me to decide to tell my story. Now my story is out in the world where others read and interact with it, and with me. It is an amazing experience to hear from readers. I feel profoundly honored to receive letters from other women who have gone through similar experiences and felt isolated, alone and disregarded. At the opposite end of the spectrum but equally moving are the letters from readers who haven’t gone through anything like this, but have lived through other kinds of loss, bereavement, the need to start over – and feel that the book speaks to their experiences in a personal and meaningful way.

Having these wonderful opportunities to talk about the book with readers, one of the things I am offered a chance to discuss is my reasons for writing the book. One of those reasons is what I’ve just alluded to: the desire to reach out to people in despair over major life changes not of their own choosing. I wanted to offer hope to people who may wonder if they’ll survive having their lives turned upside down, and who doubt that they’ll do much more – that they’ll ever be happy again. People need to hear that it’s possible to find the strength to create themselves and their lives anew.
Another important reason I wrote the book is that I believe my experiences illustrate the importance of supporting young people who express a need to explore their gender identities. Exploration, not suppression, is essential for a young person who feels uneasy growing into adulthood in a gender identity that doesn’t feel right. Parents need to support their children in this exploration, but they must not be asked to go it alone: we as a culture need to support parents in supporting their children. I feel so strongly about this. The more parents and families are supported, not marginalized or isolated, the more they will be able to be there for their children.

(3) Are you and your ex on speaking terms? Have you met her, yet?

As I describe in the book, I’ve seen my ex regularly without interruption because we interact over child visitation. My children live with me, but one of them currently sees my ex on a regular basis, requiring me to make those arrangements.

(4) Partners and spouses often take a lot of heat for speaking the truth of their own experience, and in most online trans community, are generally shouted down for not “getting with the program” and being on board with the gender transition. Did you find any support with trans people that was supportive of you telling your truth?

I am in awe of those who have raised supportive voices within the trans community, brave souls who understand that my book tells the story of one family’s experience with one individual in transition and is not intended to be representative of anyone else’s experience, or of any group of people.

To give just one example, I felt privileged to hear from someone who describes himself as “a man with transsexual feelings” who read my story as a cautionary tale of what he would never wish to do to his own wife and children. He and his family have worked out their own compromise, but hearing that my story is helping him to appreciate his wife and children’s pain, and to strengthen his resolve to spare them further grief wherever he can, is very meaningful to me.

Not only have some in the community supported my telling my own truth, they have recognized their own truth in my story as well.

(5) How is the new romance?

Five years along, the new romance still feels new.

Evon Young Will Be Remembered

If anyone ever thinks my remains might be in some garbage, please don’t look.

This article is about the most heart-breaking thing I have ever read, and all I could think about was his mom or cousins or whoever it was who loved him reading it. No one should ever have to read anything like this. Ever.

Fuck the haters.

Evon Young, I’m sorry we couldn’t give you a world you were safe in.

Include: The Fox Valley’s Campaign for LGBTQ

So this is what’s going on in Appleton and the surrounding Fox Valley: I did one of the info sessions for the initial CHAT Plunge that’s mentioned in the article and was at the breakfast on Wednesday – where my wife spoke, very briefly, about supporting this campaign.

Diamond Stylz

She cracks me up.

Pussy stick. That’s brilliant.

Virginia Woolf

“Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.”

On January 25th, 1882, Virginia Woolf was born. Happy Birthday Mx. Woolf!

The Love of Parents

I went to a breakfast to kick off a campaign here in the Fox Valley yesterday: the idea is to make sure LGBTQ people know they’re welcome. There have been too many suicides of these kids over the past few years just in this area, & I sat at the same table with one of the moms who lost her son yesterday.

You just don’t know what to say. There really isn’t anything to say. You keep doing, instead, in hopes that no other mom ever has to go through that.

So when I saw this piece by Rachel Maddow, about how PFLAG parents at pride parades *always* make her cry, I felt some kind of relief: me too. Who knows why. Maybe you can tell on some of their faces that it’s not what they’ve chosen. Or that it’s still hard for them. Or that they’re not convinced gayness isn’t a sin. Who knows? But they’re there, and they’re proud of their love.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Which is, yeah: more of what the world needs.

(This clip is also a nice piece of gay history, & so worth watching. Obama’s retelling of Morty’s arrest at the Stonewall is priceless, too.)

Roe v Wade Turns 40

Statement by the President on Roe v. Wade Anniversary

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we reaffirm its historic commitment to protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country and stand by its guiding principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters, and women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care. Today and every day, my Administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and minimize the need for abortion. On this anniversary, we recommit ourselves to supporting women and families in the choices they make and redouble our efforts to promote safe and healthy communities.

40 years of keeping women alive.

Ending the Day: Amiri Baraka

Every year we read a ton of quotes attributed to Dr. King, and miss out on all the other amazing, liberatory art that’s come out of Black america. This is only an excerpt:

This is my own transcription:

But I aint come from a foolish tribe
we wants the the mule / the land / you can make it 300 years of blue chip stock in the entire operation
we want to be paid in a central bank the average worker farmer wage for all those years we gave it free
plus we want damages for all the killings and the fraud, the lynchings the missing justice the lies and frame ups the unwarranted jailings the tar and featherings the character and race assassinations historical slander ugly caricatures for every sambo stepnfetchit flick
we want to be paid
for every hurtful thing you did or said
for all the land you took for all the rapes all the rosewoods and black wall streets you jobs
all the miseducation jobs lost
segregated shacks we live in
the disease that ate & killed us
for all the mad police that drilled us
all the music and dances you stole
the styles the language the hip clothes you copied
the careers you stopped

all these are suits, specific litigation

Happy MLK Day: Jazz

Jazz is an 11 year old (trans) girl who started speaking publicly about being trans when she was 6 (on 20/20 with Barbara Walters), created a trans kids network, and who recently got the US Soccer Federation to change their rules so that all children, no matter their gender identity or expression, can now play soccer. It took her 2 years to get them to change the policy.

I can’t think of anyone better to honor the legacy of Dr. King today. This is the stuff social justice is made of. Now watch how stunningly well spoken she is, too.

Penguin Awareness Day

I didn’t know there was one until my friend Ben posted these groovy photos on Facebook, so I thought I’d share the day and the photos with you all.

They are such a lovely pretty form of goofy.


Barbie Vagina

No, really: you can get surgery – called “The Barbie” – to remove your labia minora so you can have a ‘tidy’ seam of a vagina instead of – well, a regular one. For those of you who don’t know, pussies are like snowflakes: no two are the same, with variations in color, size, texture, hairiness, size of clitoris, position of the vagina (the actual opening) and shape of the minor and major labia.

It’s one of the things that people who really love female genitals seem to find endlessly fascinating. (Note: not all women have female genitals, and some men do.)

I’d like to propose that any man who does these surgeries considering getting “the Ken” – where a man’s penis and testicles are melted down and smoothed into a tidy lump.

What Being a Blogger Feels Like Sometimes

via parislemon

A Few Questions With… Cameron Whitley

Eleanor Hubbard is the co-editor of the anthology Trans Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People< . I got the chance to ask her a few questions about the book.

1) What encouraged you to create this book?

The idea for this book developed years ago when I was contemplating coming-out to my mother as a transgender man. Before revealing my transgender status to my mother I wanted to secure resources so she could understand how I felt inside, how I didn’t identify or feel comfortable with the body I was given. Most importantly, I wanted her to know that my transgender status was not her fault. These feelings I had about being different, identifying as a boy, but not physically being one had nothing to do with how I was raised or what my mother expected from me. In fact, my mother had always been supportive of me, encouraging my many interests both masculine and feminine. At the time that I came-out, it seemed that there were lots of questions about the cause of people being gay in the media. These questions extended beyond sexuality and into gender identity. I remember watching talk shows that questioned parental socialization, suggesting that the parents contributed to the (unnatural) transgender status of their children. When I came-out there were few resources for my mother. During this time I also saw that few resources existed for my family members and friends. I started hearing beautiful and touching stories of relationships. From these stories the book developed. It was a long and beautiful process. Eleanor and I have been so fortunate to have so many people share their stories with us. Today, we are happy to report that our book is one of a small and growing collection of stories that speak to the journeys of significant others, family members, friends and allies of transgender folk.

2) What, in editing it, is the biggest surprise? What was the most expected?

There were many surprises. I was amazed at how many stories of love and support we heard. As one mother told me, “the first response is seldom the last.” As we talked she noted that when her son came-out as a transgender woman she was so distraught that she initially cut off contact with her child. She feared for her child’s safety and wondered if he (she) would experience harassment or ever find a job. She also worried about how her friends and family members would react. She quickly realized that her child was still the wonderful person she had raised. In this realization she has chosen to support her daughter as she physically transitions into the woman she has always wanted to be. While this journey has not been easy, her “first response” could not be more different than her current sentiment about her daughter. This story taught me that I should not write-off people who at first may have a negative response to my transgender status. Often because of the hurt, it becomes easier to disconnect from people who demonstrate unsupportive positions when we come-out, a response that can be very much justified. For me, I want to learn to separate my identity as a transgender man from the reactions of others. I want to remember that their reactions have nothing to do with who I am, or how I live my life, and that these moments are opportunities to show love and compassion for another who is entering their own journey of discovery.

Another surprise was how many stories we could not publish because contributors were afraid of having their identities revealed, even if the story was published with a pseudonym. Some were concerned about their safety, while others feared being ostracized in their communities. Mostly, of these concerns were centered on religion. I am always saddened by how religion, specifically Christianity is used to hurt people in the LGBT community. As a Christian, I cannot fathom how such hate can be justified using biblical text.

3) In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about the friends, family, and spouses of trans people?

In my opinion I would say that the biggest misconception about significant others, family members, friends and allies of transgender persons is that they don’t transition or that they don’t experience their own journeys when a loved one comes out as transgender. While my journey as a transgender man has had its difficulties, my mother’s journey has been challenging as well. She has had to come to terms with my transgender status with little community support. When she struggled at first with my transgender status the transgender community was eager to label her as “unsupportive,” while her friends were sure that she had done something wrong in raising me. She was caught between worlds with few acceptable options. She found herself a poster mother for transgender acceptance when she was still trying come to terms with her own journey and my transgender status. Ten years later, she is often confronted with the question, “how is your daughter?” At this moment she must consider how to answer. Does she out me as a transgender man and have a transgender 101 conversation in the local grocery store? Or, does she select to not out me and then feel bad about using female pronouns? For her, it all depends on the day and who is asking. I support my mother in this decision. This is a journey that we negotiate together. I recognize that her journey has challenges just as mine does. I could share similar stories about my wife, friends and extended family members as well.

Transphobic Feminism Redux

If anyone needs a summation of the past week’s arguments with some British feminists and their hateful transphobic bullshit, Jezebel has the scoop.

Me? I just won’t pay this shit any mind anymore.

‘Transphobic feminist’ is an oxymoron. Spread the word.

MHB Boards Back

Apparently they have been all day today – I just forgot to post about it!

MHB Boards Down

Our message boards seem to be down for now, & my tech is fast asleep. I’ll get her eye on it in the morning, & in the meantime, sleep tight & feel free to chat in the comments section of this post.

Ms. Foster’s Regrets

You’ve probably seen it already, but Jodie Foster burned the house down last night at the Golden Globes by coming out. She had, really, already, back in 2007, and before that – well, anyone who cared has known for a long, long while.

But she was under tremendous pressure to come out for a very long time. She’s been mocked, criticized, and accused of being self-hating because she didn’t come out in a big public way. But she has been out to her friends and family – and, as I said, everyone else pretty much knew too. She’s been raising two children with her (now former) partner for the past two decades.

And while this coming out has also been criticized – some people are never happy – I thought she was fucking amazing & actually broke the goddamn rules and told everyone to go fuck themselves. & She did it totally seriously, without conceding anything emotionally. Unbelievable strength is what I saw, wrapped in barbs and spoken through pounds of fear.

While people concede the whole “but she’s an actor, she doesn’t get a private life” in some conjunction with the whole Hinckley Jr. trauma – I can’t imagine she experienced it as anything less than that – I’ve chosen a pretty non-private life too, and either you get to do what you want to do or you don’t. & To do some things, you don’t get to be private. So is that really a choice? I guess. But that doesn’t make it easier, to be honest.

The rage in her speech I understand entirely. Her friendship with Mel Gibson is utterly baffling – except for this: she probably understands better than most what it’s like to be so publicly & thoroughly hated for being angry and unpopular. I’ve rewatched this clip about half a dozen times, & I am still struck by the awesome amount of gratitude she expresses – that is in her voice, and her face, and her body – and that barely keeps in check the disgust and frustration with feeling forced to say something publicly.

Anyway, there was just something about this that struck a nerve – something that resonated with what Iggy Pop had to say about turning 50, something that I am beginning to understand deep in my bone marrow. Something in me has changed, too, hardened with anger, exhausted with pettiness while simultaneously overwhelmed by how deeply I can still feel. I am pretty sure this is not something I would have understood when I was younger or at a different time in my life, but I do now.

Thank you, Ms. Foster, for being unpleasant, hard as nails, and inimitably gracious and full of as much integrity as you could be.

Continue reading “Ms. Foster’s Regrets”

Sex & Disability

So happy to see someone has made a documentary about disability and sexuality:

This narrative, written by Mark O’Brian and originally published back in 1990, is stunning and important and moving and amazing.

Letting me go, she put her hands down on the bed by my shoulders and kissed my chest.

This act of affection moved me deeply. I hadn’t expected it; it seemed like a gift from her heart. My chest is unmuscular, pale, and hairless, the precise opposite of what a sexy man’s chest is supposed to be. It has always felt like a very vulnerable part of me. Now it was being kissed by a caring, understanding woman and I almost wept.

And these articles all came my way via Andrea Grieve-Smith because of this one about a madam who is in the news for wanting to start a brothel for the disabled.