Author:

helenboydhelen boyd is the author of My Husband Betty (Thunder's Mouth, 2004) and She's Not the Man I Married (Seal Press, 2007).

Max to the Max

Posted by – October 31, 2014

A good friend of mine has an awesome son. This is him:

And this year, he’s just old enough to start worrying about bullies and what other kids will think and say and do. He told his mom he didn’t want to go to his school’s Halloween party for that reason. His mom blogged about it, too.

But his mom had volunteered to set up for that party, and once he saw the decorations, he wanted to go.

And he did. And he had a great time. And some people were jerks.

So I thought you, my lovely readers, would show Max some love, here, or when this shows up on my FB page, or via Twitter. He’d love to know that he is awesome the way he is, and that his mom rocks, and that there is a whole world of people who would get in the way of any bully for him.

Please do not assume or try to predict anything about how he may or may not identify in the future. Right now he’s just Max.

Happy Halloween, my gendery clan. Go out and get your joy on.

What Partners Think

Posted by – October 29, 2014

Here are a few new (to me) resources for partners:

One blog post by a trans person who was happily surprised by a relationship with a cis person, and who goes on to interview a few partners on their experience of being partnered to someone trans:

Neither Pity Nor a Fetish

And otherwise, there’s the mypartneristrans reddit.

In the first set, there’s a list of the “allowable” types of partners – “boxes”:


1. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman because she ‘probably’ still has a penis and, therefore, ‘he’s probably actually gay’.
2. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman AND HE IS DECEIVED.
3. Straight cis woman stays with her transitioning partner, is to be pitied.
4. Straight cis woman is with a straight trans man AND WHERE IS THE PENIS, WE MUST ASK WHERE THE PENIS IS, CAN YOU FIND IT FOR US?
5. Gay cis woman is with a straight trans man, and that’s okay, because we all knew that ‘he’ was actually a lesbian woman all along.

And I wonder where these come from. When I was coming up, only #s 2, 3, & 5 existed, and I didn’t fit into any of them very well either, unless you see me as the “to be pitied” type, which I don’t.

Always useful to see/hear more partners speak up.

HB in Pittsburgh

Posted by – October 26, 2014

Here’s a live podcast/radio show I did with Lynn Cullen while in Pittsburgh on Friday. She had just read the NYT article on trans people in women’s colleges, so I was explaining some of the language, for starters. But I found her description at YouTube cool, too:

Helen Boyd, author of “My Husband Betty” and gender studies lecturer extraordinaire for Lawrence University joins Lynn to discuss gender and trans issues. What began as a search for community has lend her to a path as a trans ally. Hopefully the world will follow her example.

Mind you, I hadn’t actually read the article before this, so I was only going on the snippets she read me.

“Trans Inside”

Posted by – October 21, 2014

Oh, allies, just STOP it: you don’t feel trans inside.

What you feel is a new awareness of the complexities of your own gender – that you are not 100% feminine, or masculine, or whatever.

& It really is great to try to relate to trans people – we do, all of us, have a pretty strong sense of our own genders if we allow ourselves to recognize it – but you do not feel “trans inside.”

I really do love that more & more people are getting hip to trans people, but it’s really painful to brace myself for all the dumb shit they’re going to say in the process.

Trust me: I’ve said all the dumb shit. But really, don’t own someone else’s oppression, okay?

& Right now, proto trans allies, learn how to apologize, and no buts, no explanations, no anything. Just “wow did I fuck that up. I’m so sorry.”

Next?

Me @ Penn State Behrend, Erie PA 10/23

Posted by – October 20, 2014

I’ll be speaking at Penn State Behrend this coming Thursday, 7PM, in a talk that is open to the public.

After that I’m driving to Pittsburgh with a friend and staying there Friday & Saturday, but don’t have any gigs booked yet for those days, so if you’re in Pittsburgh or know of a group that would want me to come speak, let me know!

It’s Not About Her Ex: A Trans Partner’s Story

Posted by – October 16, 2014

My friend M. is a woman who was assaulted by her ex. Her ex happens to be a woman, too, of trans history. When the news of what had happened broke, her story was drowned out by all of the people who only wanted to use their story as an ideological argument. They took the focus from the personal, intimate, terrifying crime that happened and put it instead on the identity of the person who was guilty of committing it.

Those of us who are partnered to trans people are used to this, to some degree. The trans person takes up all the space; they’re the ones people are interested in, who people go out of their way to validate or compliment or criticize. We disappear.

My friend needed to press charges, to see justice of some kind, to let her children know that they should never let a lover treat them like this no matter who the person is or the “reason” for it. Instead, reports about the crime disappeared her, the victim, and so the very tiniest thing I could do to help was give her a platform to tell her story.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that my fellow feminists and others have made this about everyone but the person it should have been about, and who effectively forced by friend to speak up as a trans ally instead of being able to focus on her own healing.

So here’s what she had to say:

TO all of the people who deny the personhood and womanhood of trans women,

I am the woman who was victimized by my former spouse. She recently pled guilty to two misdemeanors for domestic violence. The news about her crime has been commented on by people for whom her trans status and her genitals seem to be of utmost importance, and who want to use my ex as a way to somehow “prove” that she’s really a man and in turn that her bad behavior somehow means that all trans women are “really” men (and that all men are, in turn, incorrigibly violent and likely to rape).

My own voice has been drowned out in all this, so I wanted to say a few words.

You are so focused on history and the genitals of the person who violated me. It’s literally the loudest conversation out there, drowning out the actual victim’s story – MY STORY. It is also, GROSSLY missing the point. I’m calling you a “hate group” because your anger regarding the violence against women perpetrated by men has so taken over your brain that your hairtrigger hatred automatically pounces on ANY OPPORTUNITY to denounce trans women as men, and to denounce men for how horrible they are.

My case is not about the genitals of my wife. Her chromosomal structure and genital configuration and that she was assigned male at birth have got NOTHING TO DO with the sexual violation of my body. Why does it matter if she used her penis or even has one? WHO CARES?? You want so badly to create the “all men/penises are evil” platform, that you can’t see the anguish your comments cause me, the victim, and other victims of sexual abuse.

The CRIME here was not her gender configuration. What if she had XX chromosomes or a vagina? What if she had used a carrot? A bamboo plant? A fist, a dildo, or ANY OTHER BODY PART OR OBJECT? The CRIME was the sexual violation of my body by someone I loved, who was under the influence of alcohol. THAT should be the focus of this conversation, not the instrument used.

I’ve always supported my wife’s transition. I didn’t know her as a man for long, but it didn’t matter to me because I loved who she was and didn’t mind what form her body took: I knew that I would love her body forever. She was a gentle, sweet, vulnerable person. It’s one of the things I loved about her. She was the most considerate intimate partner I had ever had. She was a far cry from my previous marriage, where a cisgender male did indeed commit all the crimes you would attribute to a male abuser. He was all the horrible things without the alcohol.

I loved our intimate relationship. That’s what makes this crime particularly horrifying. It was something I LOVED. Something we BOTH loved. It wasn’t her genitals that caused the crime. Even during the assault, she was saying I was beautiful, over and over. She didn’t even know what she was doing. It was like she wasn’t THERE. She wasn’t angry or saying horrible things. On the contrary. But that was the real mind fuck. When I told her to stop and that we weren’t going to be doing that this time, and that she would regret it in the morning, she just said, “No I won’t”, like ‘don’t be silly’, and she didn’t stop. And she wouldn’t stop. And she kept hurting me. And hurting me. She was someone else then.

Because she would have never done this sober.

I am not saying that her addiction is an excuse, but I can’t ignore the horrible effects of it, either. Ask anyone who has had a DUI or done something else horrible while under the influence. The problem is when that usually wonderful person is dangerous when under the influence. They must be held accountable for their behavior. As far as I’m concerned, her crime began that night with her first drink.

In my case, I am deeply saddened that the LGBT and feminist communities have remained almost entirely silent about my experience. The intersectionality of this event SHOULD BE a conversation, and we should have it BECAUSE it makes us uncomfortable. Much easier to pretend it’s not there. Let’s just stay angry at all the men and people with penises! So much EASIER, RIGHT?

It’s disappointing that some people are unwilling or unable to do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they care about can be capable of something really awful. But from the experienced feminist and LGBT communities, I expected better.

The transphobic radical feminists and other transphobic people will continue to rage over the state of my wife’s genitals, and I can’t stop them. But I hope more intelligent and thoughtful people will rise to the occasion to steer the conversation to what really matters.

I want her to be accountable. I want this to never happen again. I want to forgive her. I want this story to be about forgiveness and redemption. I need it to be. I need others to let it be that, too – to be my story, my trauma, my choice, my agency.

On Not Writing

Posted by – October 13, 2014

I’ve been working on Book #3. Recently I’ve been calling it Giving Him Up. My anniversary post was part of that writing. So are other little pieces of what’s on this blog (“Hyenas” comes to mind, as does “Just Like That”) but blogging is like a journal, not like writing. Writing is where you really want to piece something together that makes it feel like a whole thing, not a flash, or a tweet, or even lightning. It should feel, a whole work, like a really good thunderstorm from start to finish: darkening sky to cleaning up felled branches in the sun the next day.

There is a lot of writing out there – people speaking various truths, like the one I’m about to publish by the ex wife of a trans woman who assaulted her. There is a lot that needs to be said, and in her case, by people whose experiences are otherwise covered up in other people’s commentaries and the real story of the thing gets lost. What you want is to get to the real story, the uncomfortable one – not the ideological argument, or the rush to judgment; not the gossip, but the compassion.

And living here I realized I have ingested something like shame in a way I’ve never known it.

When I wrote the first two books, I was surrounded by old friends, family, the trans community – even though it wasn’t called that then. I ran a support group online and then, of course, the boards, where I had a lot of good input and a lot of love and a lot, a LOT, of really smart critique. That is, I lived in universes where I felt supported, not judged; I hung out with people who wanted me, and my marriage, to succeed, and I didn’t imagine a world where I could feel judged for having a feeling.

But as our marriage has grown, some of the feelings I’ve had are not as generous, perhaps, as they once were. Maybe before I was the hero of my own story, even if I was judged as less than feminist or, my very favorite, as just “getting it wrong” by impatient activists. But I knew all of that – I worried some people, and pissed others off, but I have had so many people thank me for so many years for helping them in some way or another that I am finding it difficult to remember that to say what you mean in order to tell what happened is a Very Difficult Thing.

It is one thing to write an anti hero’s story, as Bechdel did with her father, and another to write yourself as that anti hero.

I don’t yet fear people thinking I’m a horrible person. That’s familiar territory. I have been criticized by activists and crossdressers, ex wives and feminists. But my secret is that I believe we are all horrible people: most just have the good sense not to mention it in public.

And that’s what I fear: not being judged for who I am and what I’ve done or how I feel. I fear being judged for not having the good sense to keep my mouth shut about things that I am supposed to feel ashamed of. There are so many people telling stories their mothers and neighbors would ask them not to tell, but they find a way. I just can’t find mine: I don’t own the kind of rebellious antagonism of “I’ve fucked all the people” kinds of memoirs or the “I’ve struggled and carried on” autobiographies, either. I don’t have that placid, New Englandy, “here are the unfortunate things I’ve found in the attic of my soul” detachment, nor the “we must do something about this” determination of the muckracker and activist. What I have is a lot of hurt, a lot of tired, and too many excuses for who and what I am.

Getting there. Or spinning in circles. I’m really not sure which yet.

Voter ID Struck Down

Posted by – October 10, 2014

The Supreme Court of the US just yesterday wrote a statement declaring that Voter ID is not in effect for this upcoming election in WI.

Which means: YOU DO NOT NEED PHOTO ID TO VOTE IN WI IN NOVEMBER.

GREAT, great news.

Still Radical

Posted by – October 9, 2014

“She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her “straight” (heterosexual) sisters about the essential aloneness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society’s view of her – in which case she cannot accept herself – and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so.”

– from “The Woman-Identified Woman” by Radicalesbians

Forget the transphobia of a tiny percentage of radfems for a moment, and read that beautiful piece again, or maybe for the first time. Is this not, in some ways, the essential truth of living in the world as trans, too?

So This Is Where I Work

Posted by – October 8, 2014

(My awesome wife made this, & she even wrote the music. Shea Love is a former student.)

SCOTUS Doesn’t Rule

Posted by – October 6, 2014

The Supreme Court of the US today decided not to take a same sex marriage case.

The good news? The one from the 7th Circuit now stands, which means couples in WI can get married, which is awesome. With federal recognition of people getting married in states that allow it, it’s a better time to be same sex married than it’s ever been.

The bad news? SCOTUS ducked. Establishing the legality of same sex marriage through a Supreme Court ruling would have been the best option, just as it is with Roe v Wade. This leaves states that don’t allow marriage the ability to keep denying people their rights as US citizens.

The difficult thing is that this only delays the inevitable. I’m told a Circuit Court ruling that affirms the state bans is probably what SCOTUS are waiting for, but UGH. Enough already. Let’s get this done so that maybe we can start to deal with all the other issues the LGBTQ community faces: our homeless youth, trans underemployment, healthcare, suicide, etc.

But yes, for now, it’s good news, and I’m looking forward to all the happy wedding photos in the weeks to come, because it gives more people more rights. The arc of history, etc.

Goodbye, Eric Holder

Posted by – October 1, 2014

Wow am I going to miss him.

Me, Blogging, Not Really

Posted by – September 23, 2014

I seem to be taking a break from blogging – an unintentional one. And I expect that the minute I announce this, and apologize, I will be overrun with the need to blog.

Or not.

Stay tuned.

Welcome Back Lawrentians

Posted by – September 14, 2014

Students are back, and the incoming class (of 2018) has moved in. Lawrence starts another fall term tomorrow.

& Really, it is always nice when the campus goes from being a ghost town to feeling vibrant and busy again.

I hope we all have an amazing, productive, fun year.

Happy Birthday, Louis CK

Posted by – September 12, 2014

“You just do that now. That’s just a new thing you do. Until you & your shitty ankle both die.”

(I’ve never heard anything more true about aging.)

#neverforget?

Posted by – September 11, 2014

I don’t like this “never forget” business.
As if forgetting were possible.
Sounds like a desire for vengeance trussed up as memory and nationalism.
We don’t forget. Can’t.

I think this is more of what we forget – the stunning beauty of that view:

World Trade Center 1 in New York City

And how goddamn beautiful is that? I get a little high just looking at that clip, remembering what it was like to sit on those metal steps a hundred floors above the ground and look down between my feet through glass, to lean my head on the glass just lightly, to feel the cool of it against my skin as everything spun a little with vertigo. It was an amazing thing. I used to go there sometimes just to sit, right there in the clouds, higher than most birds even flew, like Jack on a concrete beanstalk.

What we forget is that we, as humans, are capable of doing things for the sheer fucking beauty of them, for the joy, for the accomplishment, for the divine, for the proof that despite what we believe, impossible things are possible. We do things to feel like we are the stuff of dreams, that we invent our own restrictions with fear and no magic. That observation deck was magic. It was hard to even feel like there was a building under you when you were up there because you couldn’t see any of the thing, like you were standing on a floor that was magically staying aloft. In a good wind the buildings would “sway back and forth up to 12 inches at the top.” So you really could move a foot in the air just standing up there.

Or, as John Dos Passos once wrote about New York City: “This city is full of people wanting inconceivable things. Look at it.” But they say no one reads him anymore. Well, they should. & Manhattan Transfer, where that quote is from, is a good enough place to start.

Remember the beauty, the aspiration, the dreamers, the sinners. That’s the stuff terror wants us to forget.

New York Article on Martine Rothblatt

Posted by – September 8, 2014

So this is the cover of this week’s New York magazine about CEO Martine Rothblatt: her in a masculine suit, shoes, even a blue button down, hair pulled back. What’s more interesting is that she was not “butched up” for this shot but defines herself as not binary, and has echoed a lot of genderqueer sentiment:

Hence, the legal division of people into males and females is as wrong as the legal division of people into black and white races.” Instead, she suggested people might better express their gender and sexual identities on a spectrum…

Because of course this woman is someone who was declared male at birth. And the whole “used to be a man” phrase is getting old and even, I’d argue, a little passe. For someone like Rothblatt, who did spend a considerable number of years in the world as a man, that point might be relevant. Relevant why? Because there is such a death of female CEOs and even the ones there are don’t get paid nearly as much as the male ones. From the aricle:

On a recent list of America’s 200 highest-paid CEOs, only 11 were women, and their median pay was $1.6 million less than their male peers.

So yes, there’s even income inequality at the very highest levels of pay. She is also still married to her wife of 33 years who stayed with her through transition and describes herself as “Martine-sexual” (which sounds amazingly familiar, as I used “bettysexual” forever & ever). Here’s a bit I found amazing, and it’s kind of tossed off in the telling of the story of how Rothblatt came to create her company:

Raising money from her friends was easy. Martine’s transgendered status may even have been an asset, for it burnished her status as self-made, a pioneer.

And I just LOVE that, the idea (finally!) that trans is perhaps an ASSET, that it implies an individual’s ability not just to be self-made, but to be determined. Overall, interesting article about a highly eccentric person – eccentric because she’s rich, natch – and some passing mention of cyborgs and AI and the robot she made of her wife.

Death of a Child

Posted by – September 3, 2014

Don’t look away and don’t stop reading.

Another child this year has been abused and ultimately killed for being himself. His parents thought he was gay. He did play with dolls. So his parents beat him to death and tortured him for a long while before that.

Before 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend, they doused him with pepper spray, forced him to eat his own vomit and locked him in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams, according to court records made public Monday. . .  Fernandez and Aguirre deliberately tortured the boy to death, hiding their tracks with forged doctor’s notes and lies to authorities, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury. “For eight straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war,” Hatami said. The abuse worsened in the months leading up to Gabriel’s death, according to testimony from two of his siblings, both of whom are minors. They said Gabriel was forced to eat cat feces, rotten spinach and his own vomit. He slept in a locked cabinet and wasn’t let out to go to the bathroom. Fernandez and Aguirre called Gabriel gay, punished him when he played with dolls and forced him to wear girls’ clothes to school, the siblings said.

Doused him with pepper spray.

Forced him to eat his own vomit.

These aren’t sane people. But the horrifying thing to me is that since I have been paying attention, which is now more than a decade, there has been at least one story like this a year, if not more than one. That is, Gabriel’s story is not an anomaly. It’s a fact — a fact of a homophobic, transphobic culture. In the ellipses above, here’s the text that originally appeared:

Sworn grand jury testimony provided a graphic examination of the abuse that the Antelope Valley boy allegedly suffered before his death in May of 2013. The incident prompted calls for sweeping reforms to the troubled Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove the boy. Officials have taken steps to fire two social workers and two supervisors, while others involved in the case received letters of warning or reprimand.

And yes, people should be fired for failing to save this child, and the parents should be punished for first-degree murder — no one can argue that their intentions weren’t obvious, planned, and carried through — but in the meantime, how do we save a culture that is this depraved, this homophobic, this transphobic?

We saw a young man get beaten on video by his family last week – and while that story has had a good turn, and I’m happy to see it – the violence and hatred expressed by his family is exactly the same hatred that killed this child.

So what’s to be done? I actually worried about putting up the video link last week, knowing how many of my friends and readers have had to face these kinds of responses from parents and friends and family. For some it never becomes physically violence, but the outright rejection and hatred can be just as intense.

I don’t really know what the solution is, but here’s one thing I’m going to say: this is where all the sentimental grandstanding about how much some people SAY they love the children and care for children and want the best for children find themselves coughing up their sleeves. Maybe spend a few minutes less worried about gay marriage and much, much more about sickening child abuse. And every time you hear a joke about someone not being man enough? Remember this child, and  that he maybe wouldn’t be dead if someone who knew his parents had argued with them more about their bullshit.

#WhatTransLooksLike

Posted by – September 1, 2014

So this is a really cool thing: HuffPo asked people to upload photos of their trans selves with the hashtag #WhatTransLooksLike and they’ve got a ton of them up.

Here’s a single image of 400 of these photos.

It’s the kind of project I wish I’d thought of myself: I have had the amazing luck to meet more trans people than most, & I’ve often thought that if most people met more trans people, they would be as engaged in fighting for trans rights as I am. Do look at these faces – all of this beauty & self respect & pride & cool. How could you not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Headshot

Posted by – August 31, 2014

ghbk headshot 2014 smallerMy wife took it, of course.