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.