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).

Writing Again

Posted by – August 19, 2014

So I’ve been writing again and feel, simultaneously, like I’m disappearing. It’s a thing. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but the feeling is this: I go to things and talk to people and make plans and I’m not there. I’ve heard everything and enjoyed the company and the food and the jokes, all of it. But it’s as if there’s a whirring sound in my head the whole time, the way it can feel when you’re trying to listen to quiet music in a loud bar, and it’s not any one voice but the murmur of all the voices that prevents you from really hearing the band.

It’s as if the whirring gets louder and louder gradually, over time, sometimes over days, sometimes minutes, sometimes months, as the urge to write in a focused way comes over me. I don’t write every day the way they tell writers they should. That is, I write something every day, no doubt, but it’s emails or blog posts or other bullshit that doesn’t actually count.

Which is why I was taken aback by this snippet form an article about memoir and status updates by Dani Shapiro:

I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me.

So that’s what the whirring is: the sound of the swirling vortex of my own complicated history.

Exactly. In person, or on the phone, or whenever you might see me, if I seem tuned out, I’m not exactly. I’m just listening to the whirring, trying to quiet it temporarily so I can be present, but often, I will be failing altogether.

LGBT Community Letter on Mike Brown

Posted by – August 18, 2014

When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation. In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community cannot be silent at this moment, because LGBT people come from all races, creeds, faiths and backgrounds, and because all movements of equality are deeply connected. We are all part of the fabric of this nation and the promise of liberty and justice for all is yet to be fulfilled. The LGBT community stands with the family of Michael Brown, who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand with the mothers and fathers of young Black men and women who fear for the safety of their children each time they leave their homes. We call on the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it–racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history. We call on policy makers on all levels of American government not to shrink from action, and we are deeply grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for their immediate commitment to a thorough investigation.

At this moment, we are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies … but the silence of our friends.”

You can see the full list of the signatories at the site.

Ferguson

Posted by – August 14, 2014

It’s at times like this, on nights like this, your brain scrambles for some sense, tries to find some order, some belief, some kind of light. But it’s been such a hard week – one of the kindest, gentlest men who raised us all, despite his own pain, died – and tonight, thinking about why and god can we just go back in time so someone could help and instead, we have the photos and reports from Ferguson.

And then your heart just sinks. An Appleton police car drives by my house, as one does almost every night, and instead of feeling safe in this peaceful little town I feel afraid. I know some of the cops here, you know? And they’re nice guys. And I bet the guys in Ferguson are too, and yet look at what’s been happening there this week, what’s been happening all over the US this month – Mike Brown was the fourth unarmed black man killed in this country in the past month by police – and you wonder how any of this happens.

But you know how. I mean, I teach how. This is institutionalized racism. There’s no way around it. All of the reports of what happened the night Mike Brown got shot – even the “official” ones that don’t smell right – tell me there was something happening there, an abuse of power, a moment of hate and fear that became the death of this young man.

You watch the Anonymous video and it sends chills up your limbs. I agree with them. I am secretly happy someone is doing something, and wonder, too, what happened to the FOI Act, and why it doesn’t seem to work anymore. But Anonymous terrifies me, too. That’s a lot of power. An awful lot of power. And people who have and want and use that much power really worry me, no matter how much I agree with their politics.

So what do you do on a night like this one, when the clown who might have made some sense of the violence going on in Missouri is gone? What do you do when the smartest, most compassionate people are speechless, astonished by the brutality of it all? As my friend Loree Cook-Daniels asked: As human beings, do we want to pay and arm some people to kill other people? Do we have an answer to that that makes any sense? Because sadly, I think our answer is yes. It shouldn’t be.

I don’t know. I know it’s always darkest before the dawn, and that there have been times in recent history, in recent memory, that have felt something like this, when the world seems to have gone especially dim and humanity seems especially cruel. I know there have been nights like this before, weeks like it, and I know there will be again.

So all I can do is feel thankful I am not having gas canisters lobbed onto my front lawn, that I have the luxury of even thinking tonight in a way that no one in Ferguson really can right now. All of my privilege, all of my luck, all of my security is mine tonight no matter how scared of the world I might feel.

Tonight is a night, one of those nights, when the wolves feel like they’re at the door. And all I can do is make sure the doors are locked, read the news reports, look for some sense of shared confusion and hope from my friends, and at long last, listen. There’s this song, one of the prettiest songs I know, and I’m just going to keep singing it to myself tonight while the people of Ferguson and the people of Iraq try to stay alive.

Hang in there, folks.

 

 

 

Beaties Can Get Divorced

Posted by – August 14, 2014

It’s good news to hear that Thomas Beatie can get legally divorced from his wife – why? Because a previous court decided that in Arizona, where he’s trying to get divorce & where same sex marriage is not recognized, his marriage wasn’t a legal marriage due to his gender – and specifically, due to the fact that he was capable of giving birth, which he did three times.

This is good news for trans people – his gender markers were changed in his home state in HI & are now recognized as male in AZ – but it’s also good for feminists who are concerned that the ability to give birth could have crept into the definition of female.

So, yes. Maybe not good news for them, but as a result of a legal divorce, Beatie will also, I’d imagine, may have to pay court-ordered child support and/or alimony, which is another good reason that their marriage was recognized as legal. Without that legal status, they couldn’t get divorced, and without divorce, no court could require child support.

From what I read previously, it was important to him to see this ruling happen. Good for him, good for us, good for the children of trans marriages.

Kate Bornstein in Remission

Posted by – August 13, 2014

I got the good news today.

Yay, Kate! What a relief. What a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Vote!

Posted by – August 12, 2014

www.myvote.wi.gov

Godspeed Robin Williams

Posted by – August 11, 2014

I wish I were even a little surprised it was an apparent suicide. But he did so, so much good in his fight against depression. So much. So many great roles, so many of my favorite movies, so, so much.

I wish genius talent didn’t suffer so much, but god, they do so often.

I am surprised I’m crying, but he’s been making me laugh and think for nearly the whole of my life.

So I guess now is the right time to admit that I never missed an episode of Mork & Mindy when it first aired. Yes, that makes me old. But I didn’t miss one single show for the first two seasons, and not many after that.  And it was his routine a year after 9/11 that made me feel like something might be okay again eventually.

Thanks, Mr. Williams, for making it all suck less while you were here. Carpe Diem, indeed.

WI’s Attorney General Needs to Hear from You

Posted by – August 11, 2014

Wisconsin’s Attorney General Van Hollen is against same sex marriage. He was the one who put a halt to the marriages that were taking after a WI court declared WI’s super DOMA unconstitutional, and he has vowed to keep same sex couples from marrying no matter what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules.

That is, he insists on defending a marriage ban that was already struck down by a WI court, and he can, because he’s Attorney General.

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage has a petition up which will let him know that same sex couples should be able to marry.

Mile 2, Day 2: #MileofMusic

Posted by – August 8, 2014

Last year’s Mile of Music festival here in Appleton was such a huge success they’re doing it again and it started yesterday: I’ve already seen Charlie Parr (who knocked my socks off last year), Los Colognes (who reminded everyone of Dire Straits), Belle Adair (although I didn’t get to see their whole set) and some of Geri X, The Crowe Brothers, and Boom Forest.

Will be going to as much as I can today again: The Mutts most definitely, Swear and Shake (from Brooklyn!), Cereus Bright, Langhorne Slim, Bonesetters, Thriftones, Bruiser Queen, The Blakes, and maybe Pop Goes the Evil.

And no, I hadn’t heard of most of these bands, but I hadn’t heard of Those Darlins last year when I saw them and they became a permanent part of my music library.

WI Unites for Marriage

Posted by – August 7, 2014



Sign the pledge
if you think same sex couples deserve marriage in Wisconsin.

Find out more about this campaign from Our Lives and the Wisconsin Gazette. Keep up via FB or Twitter.

Signs

Posted by – August 6, 2014

(The interview with the guy at 2:00 is especially cool.)

Serano Clarifies: That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 5, 2014

I have been accused, in the past, of being a ‘handmaiden’ to trans politics (really) or of being biased.

What I am a handmaiden to is representing both sides of an argument with respect; discovering where and when someone is theorizing a person’s sexuality as if their humanity were not important, and in underlining any attempt to fetishize, pathologize, or other the complaints made by people when they are being presented in belittling, dehumanizing ways.

That’s what I didn’t like about that New Yorker article. It took a lot of ideas – ideas that aren’t wholly without merit, I might add – and presented them as if the people who object to them are just a bunch of angry nutjobs.

Julia Serano wrote an open letter about the article, in which she said:

But what really bothers me is that your mainstream readers (most of whom have little-to-no prior knowledge about radical feminism or transgender activism) will most likely not see through the article’s journalistic-ish veneer, and will assume that it represents an “objective” and “unbiased” presentation of the situation. And they will assume that transgender activists are mean people and completely out of control, because they have not been offered any evidence to suggest otherwise. And the insinuations that Goldberg makes throughout her article — that trans people act irrationally, are sexually deviant, and potentially dangerous — will seem to have “truthiness” to your readers, because the media has been propagating these very stereotypes of us for almost half a century. And when your readers do eventually meet a real-life trans person, perhaps they will misgender them, or dismiss them as a “pervert,” and justify those acts by referencing a New Yorker article they once read.

As I’ve said before and as I will say many times again, people do not even realize the depth of their own transphobic views. They don’t realize that these definitional framings of gender are both false and so, so, so not objective. I have had arguments with myself and other deeply felt and thought feminists over the years and examined all of these ideas, such as Blanchard’s, to the point of pain.

What I have realized, ultimately, is that I dislike the radfem take on women not because it’s radical, or because it dehumanizes trans women (although those help). It’s that it fails to take it’s own standpoint into the analysis, fails to realize that the definition of gender as a class of oppression – one I don’t disagree with – is highly, highly subjective.

That is, I don’t like their stuff because it’s cracking bad theory. Anyway.

As ever, more to come.

That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 2, 2014

I’m still on the road so this won’t be complete, but it’s sad to see such a biased article on the divisions between trans identity and feminist politics, especially by a major magazine that could have done worlds better.

My main complaints?

  • few and buried quotes by trans people
  • nothing from trans inclusive (cis) feminists
  • fairly useless bits from Blanchard
  • in general, poor framing of the definitional debate involved.

I’ll write more at length at a later date.

#ToHellwiththeNFL

Posted by – July 26, 2014

Ruby Rose Redone

Posted by – July 23, 2014

via HuffPo, where the words Ruby Rose – the model/DJ in the video – posted on her Facebook also appear:

You know what needs to stop just as much as homophobia, bullying within the LGBT Community… A ‘bisexual’ isn’t just greedy.. ‘Pansexual’ exists and isn’t a cop out.. ‘Straight’ people can be gay huge advocates and blessings to the community… you can identify as trans without surgery, you can be gender fluid… in fact guess what… you can be whoever you are and like whoever you like and WE should spread the love and acceptance we constantly say we don’t receive.

Yep.

Eric Garner’s Death

Posted by – July 19, 2014

Eric Garner

Eric Garner’s death is hard to watch but it happened on video. I’m glad someone was there to film it, because you can hear for yourself that he’s saying he can’t breathe. You can see the officer pushing his face into the ground. You can see there are four men on top of him.

Eric Garner had just broken up a fight. The details are still unclear but he asks the police to please leave him alone several times, and reacts with frustration when they want to cuff him. To me, he did nothing that looked dangerous or even threatening – frustrated, yes. But I can’t see any intent to harm anyone.

Four of them were on him, and I assume they justify that because he was 350 lbs.

Oh god, it’s heartbreaking, and he was only 43. He had 6 kids.

He’d been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, and says at the start that they’re always messing with him and asks them to stop and to leave him alone.

This punishment does not fit the crime.We have got to stop treating people who commit minor crimes like they’re animals. We have to break down this stereotype of black men as a constant, physical, violent threat.

Love to his wife and children and everyone who loved him.

Obama Adds Protections

Posted by – July 18, 2014

President Obama will sign executive orders to grant employees working for federal contractors and federal workers freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That is, he’s doing what Congress – the House, specifically – has not done by not yet having passed ENDA.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, praised Obama for “showing strong leadership taking this historic action to advance equality in our country.”

But, Baldwin emphasized, Congress still must act. “The fight to pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal not less does not end with the president’s signature,” she said. “We have more work to do. Every American deserves the freedom to work free from discrimination and last year the Senate found common ground, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with strong bipartisan support. I will continue to call on the House to put progress ahead of politics and give the Senate-passed ENDA an up or down vote because this legislation provides workplace protections that millions more Americans need and deserve today.”

I’m not convinced Congress will act, however, so at least there’s something in place now.

Weird Al Has a Big Dictionary

Posted by – July 17, 2014

Clever, clever, clever: and his grammar’s all on, too. Also, I’d like to thank him for providing a guilt-free, child-friendly version of one of the catchiest tracks of recent years.

“Just Like That” (Those Oprah Guests)

Posted by – July 15, 2014

Oh, Oprah. She did one of her “Where Are They Now?” editions and it turns out Christine, a woman who had been in a marriage in which both husband and wife would come out as a gay, later met a woman named Jacki.

Jacki and Christine fell in love. Awesome.

Jacki transitioned to male. Also awesome.

But while being interviewed on the show they said that Jacki transitioned in order to marry Christine, and so they “looked into transgender” and found out that “just like that” their marriage would guarantee that Christine would receive Jacki’s pension and social security.

Just like that.

M guess is that the story is being wildly misrepresented: that in fact Jacki already had some gender stuff going on, a latent or not so latent need to transition, and in these days of defeated DOMAs and lifted bans and stays on ceremonies and the murky, uneven status of same sex marriages, they thought transiton + marriage would guarantee them certain rights they could not be as sure of as a same sex couple.

The first red flag for me: Did anyone notice that Christine says Jacki is “the most authentic person I know”? I mean, is that not in the “things cis people say about trans people” list?

Which maybe it will, for them. I hope it provides them the stability and recognition of their relationship everyone deserves.

What bothers me, of course, is the way it’s been framed as the “shocking steps” one couple took. Not shocking. When people try to gain the legal rights afforded others, it’s not shocking at all. It’s entirely normal and should be totally expected. And if transition itself is still shocking to anyone — holy crap, come out from under your rock.

The problem is that many, many trans people have found their marriages declared legally null over the years – and it is far more likely for a marriage like theirs, in which both people’s sex declared at birth is the same. The status of my own marriage — which is the type that is legally upheld by the courts because we had different sexes listed on our birth certificates and got married long before my wife took the legal or medical or even social steps to transition — still makes me nervous precisely because of all of the legal details of the status of some marriages in this country.

What I suspect – and what I don’t know for sure – is that Jacki is one of very many people whose gender was already masculine of center, before meeting Christine, and whose life as a masculine woman often brought a ton of bullshit – barred entry to the ladies’ room, issues with clothes shopping, misgendering, etc. Dealing with that, plus his love for Christine maybe encouraged him to legally change his gender precisely because living with a non normative gender can be such a pain in the ass legally and otherwise. That is, there are plenty of people for whom a legal transition to male is not a huge undertaking because they are already men in so many ways. My wife’s legal transition was definitely influenced by the fact that it was getting more and more difficult for her to deal with TSA and other boneheads who had the right to judge whether or not her gender on her ID sufficiently matched her gender in person. So despite leaving for years as a woman with a male ID, we went through the legal hullabaloo to get hers changed.

The way they are presenting their story reminds me of the woman who claimed being stung by a bee caused her to transition (and who, in all fairness, said the anaphylactic shock set off a hormonal reaction, etc. etc.).

You don’t need a reason, folks. You’re trans and transition because you are.

You’re in love and want to be married because you are and you do.

Let’s please stop making excuses for gaining recognition for our lives, identities, relationships and families.

On Our 13th Anniversary

Posted by – July 14, 2014

So today my wife & I put up photos celebrating our 13 years married. We met 16 years ago, in fact, but weddings & marriage are what “counts” right? I’ll save that diatribe for another day.

& Here is the thing that I didn’t bother to say on Facebook but that I really need to say: anyone who think it isn’t difficult to survive a transition can stick it. It is. It’s about the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we two had a surfeit of love to start with. But the inherent narcissism of the thing caused her to disappear some, to focus more on the “me” than on the “us”, and that pretty much caused me to do the same in turn. As with other couples who wind up in situations that are full of one-sided caretaking, it can take a long time to get things righted, back into balance. And sometimes there’s a lot of anger and resentment and frustration while you’re trying to do that.

My wife is a beautiful woman. That I prefer to be around people who understand I chose to marry a man and will always carry some sadness about that loss seems obvious. For many people – heterosexual people, for the most part – they just see one queer couple as if they are like any other queer couple. We are still together and still happy so that’s that, right? Yeah, no. When a lesbian marries the woman she loves, she gets to be who she is and be with who she loves. And when a straight woman unwittingly marries a woman, she doesn’t. She get to be with who she loves – albeit in a slightly different form – but she really doesn’t get to be who she is. I feel lucky to have been queer enough to pull this off, but not a week goes by that I don’t miss the man I married. I loved him, after all. I married him. And I’m glad this 2.0 version was enough to keep the soul of that person in the world so I could share my life with her.

I assume I feel a lot like people who mourn the death of a loved one very deeply, who stay sad for years and years. I know you’re out there. For some, even the loss of a pet can be sad forever, and who knows why, or why we bond so deeply with some things and not with others, or why we have a hard time adjusting to some changes and not others. I am not good with change; I never have been. My hair, yes. My life, who I love, where I live, what I eat? About those things I am about as conservative as a person can get. I want the familiar; I want what feels like home.

As the trans community has changed, and awesome memoirs like Jake and Diane Anderson-Minshall’s memoir have been written, I feel more and more like I’m just supposed to be okay with this. And you know what? I’m still really not. I’m still trying to find my way in this post transition marriage, still trying to find the man I loved in the woman I live with, and some days it’s brutally hard. What sucks even more is that it’s obvious to me and everyone that my wife is a remarkable, talented, beautiful, sexy woman. She is funny and brilliant and loving and still one of the brightest lights I have ever been near. And she still adores me. So the guilt I feel some days that I can’t seem to love her the same way I loved him is back-breaking. But there it is. I can’t. I try. I fail. Over and over again, I fail. And she would tell you – tell anyone, really – that I have more than once told her that she deserves to be with someone who loves her as the woman she is and not for the man she once was. But she doesn’t want someone else. She wants me. And that’s amazing, and awesome, and fills me with gratitude and love that I can’t even contain, but it feels me with guilt, too: guilt because I worry I don’t, guilt because I worry that she is hanging around for that magical day when I feel about her how I felt about him.

So when I hear Janet Mock say that you can’t say trans women were ever men – that Janet Mock herself was born a girl – I wonder where partners wind up. I was recently talking to the filmmaker Ashley Altadonna who reassured me when she said Mock’s new paradigm didn’t thrill her, either, that her struggle – to realize she was a woman, to find the medical care needed, to come out to friends and family, to suffer some rejection and some awesome acceptance – is too much a part of her to think of herself as always having been a woman. She said it kind of sidestepped all of what it means to be trans, to be herself.

There are days I am still overwhelmed by how awesomely liberating it is as the partner of a trans person to hear a brutally honest trans person admit to something like that. For Ashley, transition was a BFD. For me, and for most partners, it is too. And while I don’t think Mock was trying to diminish or belittle or make invisible the struggles trans people and their partners go through – because that is so not her gig – I have lived so long with a woman people see as a woman and in a place where no one ever knew her as a man that I know what it means for people to see my marriage as if it is between two cis woman, where no one was ever male and no one was ever het and no one ever transitioned. And it denies way, way too much of who I am and how I am.

(For the record, this is part of the upcoming book.)