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).

bell hooks @ SNC

Posted by – April 18, 2014

Well check this out! This is a video of a talk bell hooks just gave on Tuesday at St. Norbert College. I was there, & it was amazing. Watch & learn.

The Q&A is really the thing, and that starts about 40 minutes in.

‘Gabo’ Flies Away on a White Sheet While Hanging Laundry

Posted by – April 17, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died and left us with an outstanding legacy of beauty and politics.

“I Touch Myself” Becomes Breast Cancer PSA

Posted by – April 16, 2014

The Divynyls’ Chrissy Amphlett died of breast cancer last year and she wanted her best known song to do some good. The song of female desire is now a song of self-care:

= why women rock, pt. 8010.

The RuPaul Brouhaha

Posted by – April 14, 2014

RuPaul’s Drag Race decided to stop using “she mail” for a segment on the show because trans people were upset about it – but moreso upset about an additional segment where people had to guess whether a close-up shot of a body part belonged to a cis woman or a “she male” (as the show put it).

& Today, a lot of really transphobic shit has been posted and tweeted, and by gay men. An old friend of mine who is a comedian and TV producer based in NYC posted a frustrated response on his Facebook page which he’s given me permission to reprint here.

There’s a lot of chatter in the LGBT community today about RuPaul’s Drag Race removing the “She-Mail” element of the show, due to complaints from transgender viewers. As a comedian, I have very mixed feelings about it. Not everyone appreciates satire, and many, many times, those who do not appreciate it end up unwittingly squashing the 1st Amendment rights of others. HOWEVER. As a gay man, I am utterly horrified by how aggressive some gay men and women are being toward those who are transgender over this issue. Many are going as far as to suggest we drop the T from LGBT, because we obviously “have different goals in mind.”

That is fucking disgraceful.

A gentle reminder that it was, in large part, the T in LGBT that conducted the Stonewall Riots. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to get married in a big chunk of our country. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to walk the streets holding hands relatively safely, as compared with 50 years ago, when that would have gotten you killed. Y’all need to slow your roll a bit here. Just because you’re now realizing that the T in LGBT has a much harder road to hoe than the rest of us does not mean you get to dismiss them. They never dismissed you. Those of you who are doing this are the exact same assholes who, if Dancing with the Stars awarded a prize called a Fag Bag, would be burning down ABC and hurling Molotov cocktails into Tom Bergeron’s house. Your brothers and sisters can feel differently about something without getting disowned. Pick your battles, and know your history. Taking a phrase off of a TV show does not constitute a legitimate reason to bury the people who gave you life.

Pick your battles and know your history. Some days those seem like unreachable goals.

Sports T

Posted by – April 12, 2014

All the boldface is my own.

The first evidence of this new policy in action was published last year in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Four female athletes, ages 18 to 21, all from developing countries, were investigated for high testosterone. Three were identified as having atypically high testosterone after undergoing universal doping tests. (They were not suspected of doping: Tests clearly distinguish between doping and naturally occurring testosterone.)

Sports officials (the report does not identify their governing-body affiliation) sent the young women to a medical center in France, where they were put through examinations that included blood tests, genital inspections, magnetic resonance imaging, X-rays and psychosexual history — many of the same invasive procedures Ms. Semenya endured. Since the athletes were all born as girls but also had internal testes that produce unusually high levels of testosterone for a woman, doctors proposed removing the women’s gonads and partially removing their clitorises. All four agreed to undergo both procedures; a year later, they were allowed to return to competition.

The doctors who performed the surgeries and wrote the report acknowledged that there was no medical reason for the procedures. Quite simply, these young female athletes were required to have drastic, unnecessary and irreversible medical interventions if they wished to continue in their sports.

I’m angry, frustrated, and even a little surprised. At this level of things, they couldn’t find anyone who knew anything about the relationship between T and clitorises? How does a large clitoris have anything to do with competitiveness?

As a friend just asked, are they seriously saying that having a larger clitoris makes women run faster? People use it to steer or catch the wind? What?

The whole article is here.

Hyenas

Posted by – April 11, 2014

I write memoir. Sometimes people ask me why I would publish such deeply personal things, and I never know how to answer that question. Because I can? Because I think shame is the single most limiting factor of our lives? Because I want people to know the same sense of relief I have many, many times – that relief when you read something, or see something, and you think, “maybe I’m not horrible.” But often it’s because writing about something is a way of taking control of it. Owning your own story is empowering. Having someone else tell it to shame you is not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today because I’ve been watching two good friends have their lives dragged through social media in horrible ways.

And I think about all of these news stories – politicians’ dick pics, barebacking requests, grindr photos – all of these things, the real world of desire and shame and love and risk and identity – and we all make jokes about them, judge them, maybe sometimes feel sorry for the parties involved.

But really, we should all ignore them. We should ignore them on the proposition that these things could happen to any one of us.

Anyway, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, first of all. Second of all, read with compassion whenever and however you can. This current story is tragic and personal and painful, and this is all I will ever say about it.

Back off, hyenas. Even you may need to rely on the common decency of other people someday.

Lab-grown Vaginas

Posted by – April 10, 2014

For real, folks. Not only can they grow them but they can implant them.

A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match.

They all reported normal levels of “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction” and painless intercourse.

Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine.

So awesome.

New Trans Relationship

Posted by – April 10, 2014

So this Dear Abby letter is a few kinds of great:

Dear Abby: I’m a divorced woman with grown children. I have always supported gay rights and thought of myself as straight. But a few months ago, I met a woman, “Stephanie.”

We hit it off immediately, and I was shocked to learn she’s a transgender woman who was born male. We have spent a lot of time together and are falling in love. Stephanie will be having surgery soon to complete the transgender process.

I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of support from my family and friends, whom I always thought were open-minded. Some have voiced support, but have shown no interest in meeting her and seem uncomfortable hearing about her.

I’m excited about this relationship and would have thought my family and friends would be happy for me, as I have been alone for a long time. But now I find myself refraining from mentioning Stephanie in conversation.

How can I discuss her with others? We are taking things slowly and not jumping into anything, yet we can definitely see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together. We have already faced disapproving strangers and handled it well.

– Loves My Friend in Ohio

Dear Loves: It appears Stephanie isn’t the only one in your relationship who is in transition. Both of you are, and because it is new to those around you, they may not understand it – which is why they are uncomfortable.

The fact that Stephanie is transgender should not be mentioned right off the bat. It is not the most important thing about her, and it should not be her defining characteristic. Discuss the matter with your friend and ask how she would like to be introduced and referred to. It’s only logical that this will vary according to how close these people are to you.

What do you think? Did she cover all the bases?

Christie Lee Littleton (Van de Putte) Dies

Posted by – April 9, 2014

She did remarry after the case that made her famous, which was only recently overturned by the Nikki Araguz case.

Her case brought a public spotlight onto the injustice of judges ruling on gender transition and marriage rights.

I’m glad at least to know that she saw so much change before she died.

“They” – by Ivan Coyote

Posted by – April 4, 2014

“Just a thought: I would like to phase out the use of the term “prefers the pronoun” she or he or they, (or any other) and replace it with “uses the pronoun”. I prefer chicken to duck. I prefer a window seat. But I use the pronoun they. When someone writes that a person “prefers” a particular pronoun, it infers that there is a choice there for everyone, whether to respect that wish or not, and that the person with the pronoun “preference” would be okay with the middle seat or the duck of their identity being respected. Not true. For some (if not most) gender variant and/or trans folks, not having their pronoun respected is hurtful and constantly correcting people is exhausting and alienating. So I vow to change my language. People don’t prefer their chosen pronoun, they use it. My only choice is to be mindful and respectful of others or to be thoughtless, and even cruel. This is not to say I get it right all the time every time, but that is my aim. Saying things like “but I find it so hard to remember because we grew up together” is a cop out. If you grew up together then you owe it to the person to do better by them. And if you want to try the “but the they pronoun is so awkward” angle with me, then I would ask you to think about how your struggle compares to the battles trans people have to fight every day.”

- Ivan Coyote, author of Missed Her, Bow Grip, and One in Every Crowd

Casa Valentina

Posted by – April 1, 2014

So we were just in New York, and one of the awesome things we did was meet the cast and crew of Harvey Fierstein’s new play Casa Valentina.

We didn’t get to see the whole thing – just a few key scenes – but I am so looking forward to seeing the whole of it.

And it opens to audiences tonight. I have no doubt the reception will be great.

But here’s the thing: we were invited to come see a rehearsal to advise. One of the actors contacted me a few weeks back – when I was already scheduled to be in NYC – and asked that we come because a bunch of the cast were reading or had read my books.

& Mare Winningham – who plays the wife of one of the crossdressers – said really nice things about them. She was so welcoming and cool to us.

Anyway, it was an awesome experience all around, & I only wish I could have stayed in town a day longer to catch the first night of previews tonight, but alas, the class I’m teaching started today, too.

I’m hoping to get a group together to go see it when we’re next in town, because from what I can tell, this is a gorgeous play – honest (maybe in ways some people won’t like) but compassionate, by which I mean: the wife is a real person.

Me, 4/26, FORGE in Milwaukee

Posted by – March 31, 2014

I’m going to be speaking at FORGE in Milwaukee in late April and if you sign up to come you can get a free copy of my book in whatever format you choose. Here’s the info:

We would call it March Madness but it’s carefully thought out:  Come to FORGE’s March 22nd meeting and you can receive Helen Boyd’s book She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband.  Read it, share it, talk about it with your friends, and then join us at the April 26, 2014 meeting to discuss it with the author herself!

Anyone planning to attend April’s meeting with Helen Boyd is encouraged to pick up their book on March 22, 2014.  We encourage people who have never attended a FORGE meeting before to join us for this exciting community-based book discussion.  [If you cannot pick up your copy on March 22, contact michael (tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org) to make arrangements.]

Share this opportunity with your friends, partner(s), colleagues, and family as one way of expanding knowledge about relationship dynamics and partner issues.

Note: Both bound, paper copies and electronic versions will be available.

I’m so excited about doing this and looking forward to meeting you all.

“Making Trans Parents Visible” – co-authored by me

Posted by – March 18, 2014

So this is cool: the article I co-authored with a colleague (Beth Haines) and a former student (Alex Ajayi) has been published in Feminism & Psychology, and is now available online.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the self-reported parenting challenges of 50 transgender parents based on an online survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans parents in the United States. Many trans parents transitioned after forming a family, whereas others had children after or even during transition. They coordinated their transition with parenting responsibilities, and carefully managed their visibility in parenting settings to protect their children. This analysis focuses on the challenges that trans parents faced at the intersection of their parenting and trans identities. Although trans parents share many of the concerns of cisgender parents, they also face unique challenges that must often be navigated without extensive support. Revealing these challenges increases trans parents’ visibility in society, and could help therapists and school administrators become more sensitive to the intersectional identities of trans people and the stressors unique to trans parenting.

Some of the other articles from the same special issue on trans include:

  • What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and ‘mundane transphobia’
  • Trans men and friendships: A Foucauldian discourse analysis
  • Who watches the watchmen? A critical perspective on the theorization of trans people and clinicians

Neat.

Sir Barbie

Posted by – March 17, 2014

Hello my geeky feminist readers – check this out:

It’s a kickstarter by my friend Jim Rodda, who is exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to create armor for Barbie.

So donate, & help Barbie kick some dragon ass. He’s at $2536 & I want to see him hit his goal of $5k before the week ends, so get the word out.

Why Hygiene is Education

Posted by – March 16, 2014

There’s an awesome article up at Jezebel called “What Life is Like When Getting Your Period Means Being Shunned” that goes into detail about the nature of “red tents” – that is, the practice of women removing themselves from the family home while they’re menstruating.

But then this line just screamed at me:

“They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.”

Because this is one of those examples of why *just* providing girls with an education doesn’t always work. There is all the other stuff – expectations of them doing chores at home, concerns about chastity, desirability, finances, sexual harassment and violence, but over and above that, there is the simple issue of hygiene.

The quote in context:

The specific health impacts of poor menstrual hygiene have been little explored. Anecdotally, the use of unhygienic menstrual protection has been linked to reproductive tract infections such as bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, as well as secondary infertility, urinary tract infections and anaemia. Yet a 2013 survey of existing research literature found that evidence to support any link between poor menstrual hygiene and these conditions was “weak and contradictory”. “Raising awareness regarding menstruation and hygienic practices,” the authors wrote in their conclusion, “has remained largely a neglected area in terms of research, despite its increasing popularity amongst public health organisations.”

There are other costs. A PlanIndia study in 2010 found that 23 per cent of Indian girls dropped out of school permanently when they reached puberty, and that girls missed school for an average five days a month each for the lack of decent sanitation or menstrual products. Their schools had no toilets or disgusting ones, or there was no privacy. They had struggled for years without toilets, but when they began to menstruate, it got too difficult. It was easier to drop out.

We know already that better-educated girls are less likely to die in childbirth or of HIV/AIDS, are more likely to use contraception, are more likely to know about good child nutrition, and generally have a better chance of a healthy and productive life. As such, any sign that school dropouts are linked to menstrual hygiene should have government officials in education, development, empowerment and health rushing to build safe toilets and talk loudly and frankly about periods – if they weren’t as hampered by taboo as those women in their petticoats performing rituals to right imaginary fault.

I’ve been teaching feminist theory this past winter and so am always thinking about why it is that so many people seem to think feminism is now unnecessary or unneeded. And while I am astonished that anyone could say that kind of thing about women in the global north — especially with these misogynist politicians passing draconian rules and laws – but the global south still faces other issues.

CFP: Letters From Our Partners

Posted by – March 13, 2014

Call for Submissions: Letters From Our Partners
Deadline: April 1, 2014
Word Limit: 2500
Publisher: Transgress Press
Contact: jess@iamsocialjustice.com

Letters From Our Partners, inspired by the 2011 Lambda Literary Finalist Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, is an anthology of letters written by partners/spouses of trans* people to their trans* partner(s). We are looking for personal stories from partners who are or have been in a relationship with trans men, trans women, and/or non-binary trans* people.
We are interested in stories related to but not limited to:

• Personal Identity: How is or has your identity been challenged or supported by your partner(s)’s identity? What gender roles and expressions have evolved through these relationships? Has your self perception of your own gender or identity evolved or changed? What about your perception of gender outside your relationship?

• Relationship Disclosure: How has your relationship(s) impacted personal, community, family, work, etc., based relationships, roles, etc.? Do you or your partner(s) disclose your partner(s)’s trans status to people you know in these different circles? What has their reaction been?

• Physical Embodiment: Has your partner(s) chosen to access medical transition? If so, how has this medical transition affected your relationship? Have differences in hormones impacted your relationship emotionally, mentally, spiritually, sexually, etc? How has your partner(s)’s desire or lack thereof for surgical procedures affected your relationship dynamics, your gender role as a partner, or your identity?

• Identity Disclosure: What was/is your partner(s)’s coming out process like personally, professionally, etc? How has this disclosure impacted your life as his/her/their partner?

• Relationship Dynamics: What changes have occurred in your relationship and across relationships? Have you shifted from monogamy to polyamory, or vice versa? Did you ever consider ending your relationship? Have you raised children? Have you connected with or distanced yourselves from extended family? Were these changes related to your partner(s)’s transition or trans status? If so, how?

• Support System: As a partner how have you found support? What supports did or do you need? At what point(s) in your relationship did you need the most support? Has this support brought about success in your relationship or your life? If so, how?

• Self Care: How do you manage your own needs as a partner? Has your own identity ever contradicted or complicated your partner(s)’s social, medical, or internal gender transition? If so, how do you manage this contradiction?

• Identity Intersection(s): How does class, race, ability, religion, education access, immigration, military service, family status, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical embodiment and the like also come up regarding you and your partner(s) before, during, and after a gender transition process or lack thereof?
About the editors:

Jessica Pettitt is a social justice educator and works to connect people to the solution to their problems. As the queer wife of a transman and co-parent to two mutts, Jess calls Northern California home. In between traveling from campus to campus and organization to organization, she also serves as a reader and editor for a lot of publications and has published several articles herself including a reflection journal. The second and third edition of this journal and a huge facilitation guide for this resource will be published within the year.

Jordon Johnson, M.S.W., M.A., is the Coordinator for the McKinley Community PLACE MATTERS team, which seeks to change systems that perpetuate environmental health disparities related to the impacts of institutional racism and multi-generational trauma, by empowering participating communities within the county to impact equitable policy change. He has taught courses in Social Work and American Studies in universities throughout New Mexico. He is currently a PhD Candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Public Names & Private Lives

Posted by – March 12, 2014

Interesting piece in the NYT by a porn star about the disctinction between public and private. She says some interesting things that reflect my own experience having a pen name very, very well.

Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display.

and

The strangers who call me Jessica at publicity appearances lean in far too close. They hiss it as if they have top-secret information. All they’re doing is letting me know that they had 30 seconds to spend on Google and no sense of propriety — which may sound funny coming from a woman who flagrantly disregards it herself.

and

My stage name is less about withholding parts of myself or maintaining privacy than it is a symbol of the idea that I am more than just my job or any other isolated slice of my identity.


and still:

The whole kerfuffle doesn’t need to be as dramatic as people seem to think. For me, choosing a stage name felt less like concealing my identity (especially since I’d just turned over my Social Security number to strangers) and more like deciding on a user name for any Internet service or website.

In my case having a pen name which is not the same as my legal name has done one additional thing: gives me something in common with the community I work for. I am regularly asked (1) what my “real name” is – it’s the one I just told you when I introduced myself, thanks, or I would have said something else – which trans people get all the time and which is rude no matter who is asking, or why. Similarly, I hear (2) “were you embarrassed that everyone knows so much about you?” – um, yeah, no, but like every other human being, I do prefer talking about myself over having other people talk about me in negative, gossipy ways, which is part of the huge reason trans people don’t tell you their former name, because they don’t want you going off and gossiping about it to someone else, or worse yet, using it like they’re “in” and then, finally, (3) “does anyone still call you G?” and yes, some do, but until or unless I ask you to, please call me the name I introduced myself to you with, or, See #1.

Helen’s my real name. It happens to be my legal middle name. I am not “hiding” anything but instead trying to have a tiny bit of personal life and am not, always, The Helen Boyd Show. I’m sure both me and Stoya occasionally like to be at home, eating a can of soup, wondering when we’re going to get around to doing our taxes.

Transitioned Couple

Posted by – March 11, 2014

They’re awesome, no?

(via LGBTQ Nation)

Genders and Terminology

Posted by – March 10, 2014

Vis a vis yesterday’s post about language and labels and pronouns, there’s this awesome set of photos of LGBTQ* identified people with the ways they identify.

  • Queer Power Bottom Princess
  • Trans Queer Parent
  • Rural Queer
  • Queer Femme
  • Queer Butch Trans Top
  • Gay Masculine of Center
  • Daddy Femme Dyke Dom Queen
  • Inbetweener
  • Cisgenderqueer Feminist Butch Queen
  • Provocateur Lesbian Dandy

That last one is too awesome.So what’s yours? If I were to think about it, I think I’d wind up somewhere near Pansexual Queer Tomboy. Het Dyke. Depends on the Day.

 

Trans + Language

Posted by – March 9, 2014

Here’s a cool article about pronouns and etiquette in the shifting landscape that is Genderland. She interviewed me (though I didn’t make the cut) and many, many others for this piece. Still, Susan Stryker, Don Kulick, and Mara Keisling are quoted. I’d say the only thing she got wrong was referring to “sex-change surgery” but she mentions it only to point out that only changing someone’s pronouns because of it is bad practice.

Many of the words on the Facebook list, such as “trans*” (the asterisk indicates a “wildcard” search term, so the word means, basically, “trans-anything”), “genderqueer,” “gender questioning,” or “neutrois,” come largely from younger people and online forums and suggest a much more fluid approach to gender. For newcomers, as the various media guides suggest, they may be puzzling. “Most of America probably hasn’t experienced those words yet, and some of those just are very new,” said Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What surprises me is that there’s anyone who is surprised by a list of 50+ gender options. You could easily have a list of 100.