NYC Drag Photos

With many recent exhibitions, screenings and publications, the queer community, particularly in New York, seems to be on an archival bent, mapping a genealogy of various aspects of LGBTQ history. Not only is queer culture experiencing archive fever, but the era of the 1980s and 1990s has been given an inordinate amount of attention by curators, critics and writers. Adding to that dialogue, Simpson’s Drag Explosion presents an archive of the drag scene, which seems to often appear on the periphery of many exhibitions and publications on the 1980s art scene or LGBTQ history despite its influential humor, camp and fashion that still pervades culture today.

The photos themselves are a blast. I hope there are a lot more screenings, but if you can’t catch one, you can watch a slideshow of the photos online with Linda’s narration.

Lynn Conway on Transitioning in 1968

She wrote the piece as a result of going to the White House for the Pride Month Reception.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d been fired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

(It got better. )

Lambda Legal’s Trans Rights Program

According to their website:

“Lambda Legal has a strong commitment to litigation and public education around issues of gender identity and gender expression, and I look forward to advancing and expanding the scope of the organization’s work,” said Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Project Director. “We are excited to have the “Know Your Rights: Transgender” resource available online to help transgender people understand their rights and make sure they are respected. Based on the calls to our Legal Help Desk, we know that transgender people—whether they are being harassed by the police or discriminated against at work—need to be able to access information about their rights and the laws in place to protect them, as quickly as possible. This new mobile-friendly resource will give transgender people across the country critical information at their fingertips.”

Impressive, thorough, well-organized, good information. The categories include identity documents, restroom rights, trans youth, trans seniors, trans marriage and parents, health care, and transphobic violence. What a fantastic new resource.

Jamison Green in Seattle 8/1

The one and only Jamison Green will be speaking at the Seattle Public Library on August 1st at 6:30 PM.

He is, far and above, one of the brightest lights of the trans community: author of Becoming a Visible Man, of course, but also one of the co authors on HRC’s guide for trans health care. In the early 1990s, Jamison worked for the passage of San Francisco’s Transgender Protection Ordinance, one of the first of its kind in the country. He lead FTM International for most of the 1990s and has been a board member of organizations like WPATH, which he now serves as president.

He is a gem, one of our most amazing activists.

So if you’re on your way to Gender Odyssey, or in Seattle for whatever reason, do go hear him speak. He’s funny, he’s sharp, and he’s one of the warmest people we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Thank You

Thanks to all of you who wished me and my lovely wife a happy wedding anniversary today.

I have been, as some of you have realized, feeling a lot more private lately, about a lot of things, and so am no longer on Facebook or other social networking sites. I think I am just a little fatigued, and still a little twitchy due to the move from Giant Anonymous Place to here.

(Still, the well wishes of you all mean a great deal to me, and I appreciate both the enthusiasm and the attention.)

Reasons Trans Is Now

During a conversation about what I do yesterday I mentioned how intense a change – for the better – it has been in the decade I’ve been doing work as a trans advocate. The VPUSA, after all, said trans rights was “the civil rights issue of our time”.

Later, I was thinking about why this is the case. Culture, politics, policy, law? Art, media, literature? What are the things that you think have contributed most significantly to why “transgender” is now a household world and why trans issues and politics are now gaining ground and visibility. If 1993 was the beginning of the modern trans movement, then what has happened in those two decades, from 1993 – 2003 and then again from 2003 until now? Is there a difference in the kinds of things that happened in those decades?

I’ve got my own list, not quite fully formed, but would love to hear from others about it.

And hey, if you post yours on Facebook, come back here and let me know what they are! Or email them to helenboyd(at)myhusbandbetty(dot)com. I’ll compile them along with my own and I’ll post that list another day.


Dustin Hoffman: Tootsie Was Never a Comedy For Me

If you haven’t seen this by now, you’re living under a bigger rock than I do. Still, this is astonishing. He cries. You will too. I did.

“Sorry, that’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can get you.”

Here is an interesting response by Alexandra Petri:

I am not sure this video of Dustin Hoffman crying about female beauty standards is as good as everyone says it is. Is he crying about the fact that he’s missed out on a lot of interesting people because he had been brainwashed to not talk to them? If so, he can fix this so, so easily. All he has to do is walk over and start talking. Or is he crying because this– this brainwashing idea that the way you look determines your inherent interest, this is real, and it won’t occur to everyone to walk over?

That’s quite powerful.

But I’m not sure I understand what her point is, other than that Hoffman is right: women are judged unfairly on their looks first before anyone even wonders if they’re interesting. She doesn’t seem to disagree with Hoffman – just clarifying how we dismiss women until or unless they are attractive – which is sadly the truth.

There are times I wonder if women know that women are people. Most days I don’t even hope men know as much, to be honest.

He gives me hope that maybe, maybe occasionally, there are men who can see women’s humanity.

RIP: PJ Torokvei

PJ Torokvei was the head writer for WKRP in Cincinnati and also co-wrote Real Genius. Sorry to see you go, PJ, and I’m sorry you didn’t get very much life in after transition. She died on July 3rd from liver failure about a decade after transitioning at 50.

Here’s a lovely photo of her from her FB page, but otherwise, she became reclusive — but not without, the story has it, selling off her new virginity:

We talked many times that year as PJ decided to retreat into the privacy of her home and then eventually move up to a farm in Victoria, a return to her native Canada. Most of the correspondences from that point were via e-mail, her rapier wit still ever-present, even as they became fewer and farther apart. There were rumors that her friend Martin Short had put together a collection to auction off her newfound virginity. That could have been an urban myth — perhaps even fostered by Ms. Torokvei.

It sounds like she had a sense of humor but there was a lot of sad there, too. A few friends stood by her:

While I could never hope to understand the pain and sadness PJ experienced, I learned that friendship can come in any shape, size or color. And that my friend PJ was no different than my friend Peter.

There is a part of me that wishes, very much so, to have heard her describe transition. It’s only the comedians, after all, who tell the whole truth.


A Trans Woman Plays… a Trans Woman! (gasp!)

No, really: at long last, trans woman Laverne “I’ve literally played a prostitute about seven times” Cox is playing a trans women on the new Orange is the New Black.

Cox, who shares an acting coach with Nicole Kidman, plays Sophia, a trans woman who, pre-transition, was a firefighter. In the third episode, guest-directed by Jodie Foster, we learn about her complicated relationship with her wife and son. “I don’t know of a trans character on television played by a trans person that has as much humanity as this character,” Cox says. It’s true. Generally, trans folks are portrayed as tragic or heroic, but Sophia is multidimensional and complex, part hard-won confidence, part sweet underbelly.

It doesn’t sound anything like my kind of show, to be honest, but I will try to tune in because Laverne Cox is amazingly cool.

New Kids?

My wife just discovered two gray kittens, brother & sister, at a local pet store.

Votes? Should we or shouldn’t we?

Anderson-Minshall on Being a Man Who’s Married to a Lesbian

I need to quote a huge chunk of this article by Jacob Anderson Minshall. It’s in response to the idea that somehow, his wife’s insistence on her own identity as a lesbian makes him less of a man. He transitioned a few years back; they’ve been together for 22 years.

And over the years more trans people than cisgender people have questioned whether Diane’s insistence upon retaining her own identity is a slight to my manhood.

The questions I throw back at them are many: Is the partner of someone who goes through a gender transition required to alter their own self-identification? Is your sexual orientation truly determined by the shape of your partner’s genitalia? If so, where does that leave partners of trans people who haven’t undergone genital surgery? Or maybe it’s your partner’s gender identity or gender expression that determines how you should identify? What makes our right as trans people to self-identify sacrosanct, while our partners must have their identities determined for them based on particular attributes not about themselves, but about us?

If a straight woman is married to a man and that man transitions to a woman, then we seem to want to force them into a gay relationship and require them to identify as lesbians. Likewise, when — after nearly 15 years as part of a lesbian couple — I transitioned, people seemed to believe that Diane wass required to alter her identity, because, the theory goes, she could not remain a lesbian while continuing to be with me.

I find it almost offensive that this line of argument originates so frequently from trans individuals.

Trans people have often argued, almost vehemently, that it doesn’t matter what we look like physically, it doesn’t matter what other people think, it doesn’t matter what style of clothing we wear, it doesn’t matter if our voices have changed or if we’ve undergone surgery or if we started hormone treatment — the only thing that matters is how we identify.

Once I verbalize my gender identity, I expect to be taken at my word. If I say I’m a man, I expect you to accept that I am a man. I could be wearing a dress, I could look like Miss America, and if I say I’m really a man, then you are supposed to accept that I am.

So it’s almost incomprehensible to me that we as a community or that individuals who identify as trans would not use the same logic when it comes to other people’s identities. It is not our place to identify someone else as a lesbian or as a straight person or as a bisexual person. It is completely up to them to decide and verbalize what their sexual orientation is.

This double standard is offensive. We can’t demand the freedom of self-identification for ourselves and then not allow other people that same right.

Like everyone else, Diane has the right to choose her own identities and to proclaim, “This is who I am,” and be taken at her word.

I’ll add, as someone standing on the other side of this fence and who did decide to identify as queer at least in part because of my partner’s transition: Not only is there an expectation that partners change their identity, but if they do, they are criticized for that as well. “Queer” fit me better than straight ever did & made more sense once my partner transitioned, but my process of self awareness and “coming out” was often assumed to be codependent or worse. I am still often denigrated as a heterosexual wife, — which of course I was, once upon a time. And I still find LGBTQ people don’t see me as part of the community, but some kind of “ally” — which, as any partner of a trans person knows, is really ridiculous. Of course neither of us identifies as a lesbian, either, because – for similar reasons to why Diane still is one – we really never lived in the world as lesbians. She never dated women as a woman. I never did either. Diane, however, very much did. So to me, the idea is that people not just recognize their own choices, but really do try to respect their own histories and communities as their lives change.

When you can’t win no matter what you choose, you’re pretty much dealing with prejudice of the 1st order, even if/when it’s based on ignorance.

But thanks, Jacob, for affirming a partner’s rights to have their own gender identities and sexual orientations. It’s nice to have some company, at long last. It’s frustrating to have people “use” me to somehow prove that my spouse’s gender isn’t as real as someone else’s.