Category: books & writing

“Politically Correct” Means What?

Posted by – August 20, 2015

Because my last guest author used the term “political correctness” I feel the need to comment on it. I won’t edit to that degree, but I do like to clarify why I don’t, and won’t, use this term.

I remember when ‘politically correct’ started being used. It was a term meant to deride activists and other progressives who didn’t want to be called things that were pejorative, racist, insulting or otherwise unfortunate.

You know, like adult women not wanting to be called girls, and black people not wanting to be called the N word.

We were, then as now, derided for being oversensitive, pushy, and annoying for insisting on being called things that brought us respect and didn’t identify us only in the context of white-het-capitalist-racist patriarchy. Nutty, I know.

In the classroom I’ve noticed it is a term that has somehow become neutral, that even progressive students use it casually to mean things like “language policing” or the like. When students and colleagues do use it neutrally, I often ask them to define it, first: what do we mean when we say it, and what makes it a bad thing, exactly? To call marginalized, oppressed people things that don’t further marginalize and oppress them? I mean, how is that not cool?

So I’m pleased to see this piece by Julia Serano outlining some of its current usage. She says:

In other words, “political correctness” is merely a pejorative wielded by those who wish to protect the status quo. But of course, the status quo is always evolving. The proverbial line in the sand that determines which words or ideas are acceptable within civil discourse and which ones are deemed to be beyond the pale is constantly shifting over time.

The key words here are ‘civil discourse’ by which we mean both what’s considered polite and what we, as a citizenry, consider appropriate.

& That is all it is – no more & no less. Some of us are trying to evolve culture into something that looks a little more humane, a little more fair, and a little less deadly, and believe that language can and does shape reality.

HuffPo, & An Invitation

Posted by – August 14, 2015

I’m pretty sure most people don’t realize this, but HuffPo doesn’t pay writers. Like EVER, like any of them. People who write for HuffPo do reserve their rights, however.

And because I’m a professional writer who believes writers should get paid, because we’re professionals like everyone else, I don’t like to read things there.

They are, however, pretty willing to publish some good trans stuff. So here’s an offer for those of you who publish there: let me crosspost your work so that a bunch of people who won’t read, click on, or link to HuffPo articles can still read you. They’ll still make all the ad dollars from whoever clicks on their version, & I won’t make a dime.

Just send me your text & voila, I’ll put it up here.

Signed Copies

Posted by – August 11, 2015

I haven’t kept my own books in stock for a long while but I have some at the moment, so if you’ve ever wanted a signed copy this is a chance to get one.


Pick the book:



To the Wife Who Just Found Out

Posted by – July 16, 2015

I read this piece in the LA Times by the ex wife of a transitioned trans woman yesterday – and read all of the amazing commentary about it on my Facebook page by trans people and trans partners – and woke up this morning and started writing this long overdue letter to the wife who just found out.

It starts like this:

To the wife who has just learned her partner is transgender,

I don’t know you. I get emails from women like you all the time, though, and I’m never quite sure what to say to you. I wish I didn’t need to work so that I could hop a flight every single time one of you contacts me and find somewhere to talk and cry and drink and curse for a night into the wee hours. I don’t think there is any substitute for being able to talk long and hard with someone else who has been where you’ve been. I didn’t have anyone like that myself, which is one of the many reasons I started doing this work. You’re alone, and you’re scared, and there’s so little information, and no one, but no one, in your life, has any way of understanding what is about to happen. Sometimes others can make it worse, and sometimes they provide enough support – which is amazing especially when they don’t understand – to get you through the hour, the day, the week.

Some days that’s what it feels like – that that’s all you can manage, like recovering alchoholics do – one day at a time.

The funny thing about it is that I know you’re fine otherwise. You’re taking the kids where they need to go and visiting with neighbors and going out with your friends and taking in a movie with your trans spouse, maybe. You’re trying new recipes and getting your butt to yoga and doing all of the things you normally do. But that sense of isolation is there, and it keeps growing. That sense that you don’t know what you want to do, or what you should do, and whether those two choices have anything to do with each other.

You know you need to stand up for yourself and your needs. And you know you want to, and do, love your spouse and be supportive and awesome.

The problem is that those two choices don’t often feel like they can exist together.

There’s a few more pages and I hope I know where I’m going, but you know, books are always out to surprise you, especially the ones you write yourself.

My Books – Out of Print?

Posted by – June 10, 2015

A friend who owns a queer- and feminist-friendly shop just told me he’s been having a hard time getting copies of My Husband Betty, so I checked the Amazon listings for them, where “collectible” and new copies are selling from $27-77.50. Yes. $77.50 for a new copy of My Husband Betty. Don’t you suddenly feel lucky for owning one already?!

I have no idea why they aren’t in stock and in talking to my publishers/distributors found out there is a plan to bring them back into print but there is no date for them to do so just now.

So, folks, do me a favor: buy the electronic editions, Kindle or what-have-you. Any other copies bought or sold (used, “collectible”, and “new”) don’t make me a single thin dime right now, & believe me, they don’t pay me a ton even when they do.

Gah, publishing.

Birthday.

Posted by – May 13, 2015

So it is mine, today. My 46th. & As many of you know, I share it with my wife: we were born the same year, on the same day, but in two different states (and to two different sets of parents, of course).

There’s something about aging as a writer that makes you more impatient for your own time, so yesterday’s awesome response to my summer writing fund has cheered me immeasurably. I’m so thrilled that so many have responded so kindly, with suggestions for the kinds of things I might offer if I do that IndieGoGo campaign, but mostly because it means people want to read my next book.

I worry, you know, about being this odd cis person writing about trans issues. I don’t like to step on toes and try to follow most of the rules about being a good “ally” – and I put that in scare quotes because I don’t really feel like that. Lately I’ve been using “co conspirator” because it feels a lot more accurate.)

But thank you, all of you. The donations have been awesome & I hope they keep coming so I can stop worrying – that’s really the thing more than anything: getting more distracting thoughts out of your head so the writing can happen unimpeded. I’m really looking forward to surprising you all with what I come up with. This book, more than the others, feels important to me.

Do feel free to spread the word: every little bit counts. & In the meantime, I’m going to start my 46th year.

Helen’s Summer Writing Fund

Posted by – May 12, 2015

I’m working on my third book and have been, off & on for the last couple of years. I’ve changed the idea of it more than once and know that I’m going to be writing about some difficult and far ranging stuff – not just life post transition, life with a wife, but the rest, too: our ongoing libido mismatch, trans feminism, teaching, kink, masculinity. It is going to be the kind of book that I’m not going to get my head around until I’ve written a huge chunk of it, and that’s going to take some serious focus.

That said, the day has finally come. It’s a thing you feel, and I feel way overdue.

This is where you come in, readers.

Neither writing nor teaching pay particularly well, so most summers I’m looking for paid work – which is a huge distraction from the writing itself – and it’s making me impatient. I need some funds to get by so I can write all summer instead of finding work.

I’ve thought about doing a Patreon campaign or Kickstarter or the like, but after looking into those a little, I’m not sure I want to put on a whole sideshow when really I just need some funds to get through a summer.

What I want, most, is a little funding, and with it a shot in the arm from my lovely readers.

So here is my toe, in this water of patronage, to see if some of you might help me pay the bills so that I can write fulltime this summer. As some of you know, I wrote all of My Husband Betty in three months, and SNTMIM in six, so I’m optimistic about how much I can put together in a summer.

If you like what I do, what I write, and want to see what I will write, please let me know by donating something toward this summer fund. If it turns out to be a good idea, maybe I’ll do the official Kickstarter thing but in the meantime, if you can donate, do, and do let me know in the comments what kinds of things you might be willing to donate for – all of the official funding sites want me to promise people things, but outside of signed copies, I can’t imagine what I’d offer.

So here, for now, is a link to my PayPal account. It would cheer me endlessly to have your support.





Thank you. It means the world to me.

Love, Always Epilogue

Posted by – March 30, 2015

I’ve been meaning to wrap up my interviews with partners by putting up a small piece of my Epilogue for Love, Always. I read it Saturday night at a FORGE meeting because Trystan Cotten, Transgress Press’ Managing Editor, was in town.

Also, he’s an awesome guy & you should all buy more of their books.

In the meantime, here’s that snippet:

And we do it all in a wilderness with little support from our own closest friends. Sometimes, when I speak to partners, I remind them that We Are Out There and we may not have a Prof. X to find us all, but we are. We are raising children and packing lunches and going back to school ourselves and sighing at our in-laws or at Oprah getting it wrong again. We are sex blogging and arguing with doctors and following the arguments about Prop 8 and DSM V.

No wonder some of us forget who we are, forget our self-care; no wonder we occasionally rant and sob and grow some giant-size anger.

Where we find ourselves is often between that infamous rock and hard place: if our partner’s transition makes us look like half a lesbian or gay couple, we have to deal with homophobia; but if our partner’s transition makes us look like half of a straight couple, we often lose the support of the lesbian or gay community we’ve belonged to and found safety in for many years of our lives.

Because we transition into trans partners, no one really knows anything about us. We don’t become lesbians when our wives become women, and we don’t become straight when our guys become men. That joke, as Morrissey so famous quipped, isn’t funny anymore. We end up in a place where we have our own histories, our own orientations, hidden from public view, especially if our trans love isn’t out as trans. Some of us opt to identify as bi- (to explain, perhaps, why we’re married to women while nursing a crush on Mark Ruffalo – at least in this partner’s experience, I swear my taste in men got bigger and hairier as my partner transitioned). We find stories to explain why we’re lesbians and why we’re sad about Leslie Feinberg’s death – or why, indeed, we even know who Leslie Feinberg was. In straight and gay communities, an awful lot of people think you’re only ever one or other; we have some common ground with bisexual people in that we’re largely invisible and must, must, be repressed/oversexed/self-hating/whatever crappy things people think about bisexual people these days. Yet some of us don’t like bi- because it’s binary. So a lot of us, you’ll find, wind up under the big bad queer umbrella, so we don’t have to explain a lifetime of dating women but being married to a man; we don’t have to explain becoming non monogamous because we miss certain kinds of sex or desires or even ways of being desired. We don’t want to feel like jerks for missing the bodies or parts or sex acts that we love. But we also don’t want to be judged for loving your trans bodies because they’re trans.

We are always standing on the edge of the forest, machetes in hand, hacking our own paths.

We can’t complain to people we know because we know so many of those around us want us to fail or cry or be pathetic and pitiable or even to condemn the trans. If you give in a little, if you complain about the transition to a good friend, then all of a sudden the whole reason you’re unhappy is that your partner is trans. That happens with therapists, too, way too often.

In trans community, when we’re allowed to partake, the complaining we do or the gentle mocking or the loving critiques or not so loving critiques – please stop dressing like a 19 year old, dear, because you’re 35 – are often viewed as transphobic. If we are not on board and behind every single decision the trans person makes, we’re out. Suspect. If we ask the trans person to slow down so we can catch our breath or save up some money or come out to someone else who needs to know we are, again, judged unwilling or transphobic. We can’t refer to our former boyfriend as a boyfriend even though he was because she is our girlfriend now and has only ever been so and don’t you forget it and that’s even when your own trans person is perfectly okay with hearing you talk about what a cute guy/hot butch you once were. We don’t seek to offend but we do need room to deal with transition our own way. We’re going to screw up pronouns and new names and you know what? So do trans people, sometimes. Our intentions matter.

Despite feeling like outsiders in so many other communities we once belonged in, we often feel liminal even within trans community. We know that. We own our cis privilege, if we are cis. We know more than anyone else what it means to have it. And that’s when we’re even allowed in. So many lesbian women and their trans guys get shut out of queer women’s events; so many straight women and their trans female partners are never let in. Gay men flirt with my wife as if she’s a guy in a dress, and sometimes straight women do, too. Queer women fetishize trans guys as if they’re prizes and yet refer to our trans husbands with female pronouns when they’re not around. We end up defending your gender identities and yet all the while try not to speak for you.

We need more support from the trans community, and we need for the rest of the LGBTQ+ community to realize we’re here and we’re queer and get used to it, already. Sometimes we look straight but we’re not. Sometimes we are straight and don’t know how to do this. Sometimes we need someone to say, “Hey, you look nice” and sometimes we need people to understand that transition is like some crazy combination of marriage (name change), medical crisis (hormones, surgery) and divorce (social ostracism, pity). It’s a lot to deal with at once, and often, when the trans person is busy dealing with all of the emotions and fears and new discoveries, we are picking up an awful lot of slack emotionally and even just logistically. But you get to be brave and living your own truth, or whatever condescending stuff it is that non trans people say about transition these days. You are noble, and suffering, while we’re often assumed to be codependent or desperate.

We get asked all the offensive, obnoxious questions they know not to ask you by now.

Five Questions With… Dan

Posted by – February 21, 2015

In honor of the publication of Transgress Press’ Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge, & Resistance, I’ve done a few interviews with partners whose words appear in this book.

The first of these is with Dan, whose wife transitioned to male.


 

1.What didn’t you write about in your narrative but wish you had?

I didn’t write about sex. Make that S-E-X sex. It is a hard subject for me and for most people, I suppose. I have learned that, despite the widely held view that transgender people are, by and large, some sort of sex pervert, it seems that transitioning and post-transition folks are often asexual. It is understandable in that for many trans people, their sex organs–and in the case of trans men, their breasts–are hated reminders of their lifelong “wrong body” predicament. Still, I was not at all prepared for my partner to tell me, shortly after beginning transition, that he had lost interest in sex.

I am 69 years old as of this writing and Rob is 13 years behind me. We’ve been together, sexually, for about 35 years. We had always had a very satisfying love life, and the loss-of-interest announcement came so closely on the heels of transition that I naturally think of the two incidents as being related. Rob had been peri-menopausal for a few years before starting on “T,” and that immediately cut off the supply of estrogen and brought on full-scale menopause. It is not unusual for women to find their sex drive diminishing with menopause, but this was an abrupt and dramatic change.

For the first few years I struggled hard with this. We didn’t talk much about it, partly because I didn’t want him to feel guilty or pressured or any such thing, but I am a sexual guy. I thought about raising the possibility of opening our relationship, but discarded that idea quickly. Early in our marriage we had some experiences with sharing a third-party lover, but we gave that up as something that was simply not our style. Of course, I considered the possibility of an affair, but we have a trust-based, monogamous relationship and I would never jeopardize that, nor do I think for a moment that Rob would ever tolerate that. Neither could I, for that matter.

A couple years ago, Rob indicated that he was interested in re-establishing our sex life, but by that time we also found that he had developed one of those other post-menopausal bugbears: dryness and some pretty serious pain with intercourse. At the same time, whatever prowess I might once of had was mostly in my memories. I had hip replacement surgery when I was 60 and again three years later. The pain and mobility problems leading up to and recovering from those certainly reduced my skills and stamina for being a very energetic lover. These days I think Robin is more ready and willing to get it on than I am, not because I don’t want to or don’t find him attractive, but largely because we’re just way out of practice and, truth be told, we’re just not as young as we were when this all started.

More

Orwell on Writing

Posted by – February 10, 2015

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”

Afterword: Partners

Posted by – January 10, 2015

So, partners, I’m finishing up an Afterword for a book of writings by us, and what I want to know is this:

  • What is it essential that I mention?
  • What are the things that no one ever says about us?
  • What don’t we get credit for?
  • What do we need from the larger trans community?

Be quick about your answers; I’m nearly done already.

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.

Feminist Porn & Scaly Llamas

Posted by – August 25, 2014

No really, stick with me. A former student sent me this short interview with Tristan Taormino about feminist porn and was surprised to hear that 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. Surprised, because that’s an amazingly high percentage, & surprising, because as a feminist who has always been pro porn, that seems like a significant shift in the sexual/cultural landscape. But you can’t underestimate ease of access and privacy, and I suspect that being able to view porn on a home computer or mobile device makes it easy enough that women – who might otherwise not want to go to the kinds of places you have traditionally been able to see or buy porn – has made a huge change in things, much as VCRs did back in the day.

As a result: feminist porn, where labor is treated fairly (yes, labor – sex work IS work) and where maybe we need to rewrite the story.

Almost simultaneously, a friend sent me this link to female spec fic writer Kameron Hurley talking about what it’s like to write female characters, and especially why she writes female characters who are soldiers and warriors. And while I think her initial example – of those scaly llamas – confuses the subject a bit, she’s basically saying that we see writers write women as the women who have always been written and that those of us who are women even participate in this because This Is How Women Are Written. If you write them any other way, there will be objections, right? We must believe it is exceptional and rare for women to be in power, or violent, because that is not the story about women that has been told time and time again.

This interview and this blog post intersect in a cool way, no? If you always present women (and men, for that matter) as the same kind of sexual beings they have always been in porn, you get the same porn. But what happens when women are portrayed as dominant, as multiply orgasmic, as physically strong? What happens when men care for or love deeply the women they have sex with, and that is apparent in porn? What if men are shown to forego or postpone their own desire in order to make sure the woman is satisfied? What happens?

Well, you can watch feminist porn and see for yourself that llamas aren’t scaly. That’s what happens. Maybe, in fact, we’ll get around to seeing human sexuality &desire on screen that’s far more what we know sex to be.

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.

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.)

Reporting on Trans Issues

Posted by – May 20, 2014

HRC posted an article about the protection of LGBT youth inspired by the horrific story out of CT in which a trans teenager was jailed and housed with adults and later put in solitary confinement. She had not been charged, and certainly has not been charged with a felony – which is when teenagers are sometimes housed with adults.

But my point is not that story in itself. My point is that HRC posted an article about it in which they wrote: “The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend.”

Which I suppose is where HRC first read about it, or maybe they felt free to report on it because it had finally hit a major news outlet. But that’s a factual inaccuracy.

Parker Molloy first reported on this case back in early April. In The Advocate, and not in some tiny anything. And while Fierstein’s writing is effective as ever and makes a powerful argument, laying the blame squarely on all of us who would let a young trans kid suffer the kinds of crimes she did while none of her assailants were ever charged with anything, sometimes it gets a little exhausting that the only person who can get the attention of HRC is someone like Fierstein. (And by that I do not mean a cis gay man. I mean a gay playwright of his status.)

It has been this way for a long time; that is, this is not anything new. I’ve been reporting on trans issues for more than a decade and I am not even a little surprised. But there are times, occasionally, where I feel the need to point out how frustrating it is that trans* is still, for the most part, an afterthought.

Anyway. We should, as a community, care about the feminine gay boys and the trans girls and the tomboys, no matter their identity and no matter which form of “gender variance” they’re expressing. There’s a child who is the person she is, and she’s been treated like shit her whole life, and sometimes, well sometimes, it gets a little frustrating that who says what about it becomes more important than the saying itself.

Prinsesa

Posted by – May 12, 2014

I just had someone point out this book Prinsesa: The Boy Who Dreamed of Being a Princess to me. I don’t know it, haven’t read it, but was wondering if anyone out there has. Here’s the blurb:

After a small earthquake, 6-year old Jojo and his 8-year old sister Malaya are enjoying listening to Daddy’s story about the Singkil princess of the Philippines. The princess was brave and unafraid as she and the prince dance together to find their way around the falling trees of a tremor. But Daddy seems uncomfortable when Jojo says he dreams of being a princess too. How should Daddy respond? In an age of hateful bullying and advances for LGBT and gender nonconforming people, there’s no easy way to understand what these struggles mean unless you put a face to them. What better face is there to look at than that of an innocent child who is full of wonder at the world?” In the end, the story shows that whatever issues children need to deal with, they’ll be okay as long as they have loving and supportive adults in their corner. A portion of the proceeds will be used to fund and distribute the companion short film.

There are so few children’s books about gender variance and diversity so it’s nice to see a new one.

If anyone out there reads it and wants to write a brief review, I’d be happy to post it here.

Gender Troubles Mother’s Day

Posted by – May 11, 2014

Here’s an astonishing little piece about death, queerness, and re-reading Butler‘s Gender Trouble:

“Tell her you forgive her,” she says, “I promise you she will die.”

I hang up and go back into the bedroom. Back to the borscht-feeding. My mother, all 89 pounds of her, is swathed in diapers and is sickly white, her eyes following each spoonful of borscht as it approaches her mouth.

“Mom, I forgive you.” Her eyes track up to my face. “I forgive you, Mom, I forgive you. ” Either I am saying this repeatedly to make sure she hears me and thus dies swiftly or because it feels good to say. I touch her skeletal leg through the pilly blanket.

She kind of whisper-struggle-intonates, “This must be very hard for you,” and I lose it, raining tears into the borscht. “You are a better person than I am,” she says, then falls back into unconsciousness for another week, and dies.

Maybe I am rereading Gender Trouble as an escape from this, from the memory of this. I could be thinking about Gender Trouble so I don’t have to think about how thin her arms were at the end, how our arms have always resembled each other’s. And about how much I want to stick a needle full of testosterone in my ass and balloon into fleshliness to escape any lingering resemblance to this wraith.

But this is not why I reread Gender Trouble.

Really, really beautiful. Do read the whole of it, if not today, then eventually.

Us @ FORGE Milwaukee

Posted by – April 25, 2014

We’re doing a presentation and heading a discussion at FORGE Milwaukee tomorrow, Saturday April 26th, at 7PM.

The Facebook event is here.

FORGE’s longer description is here and goes like this:


Join guest speaker and author Helen Boyd for a lively reading and discussion of her book “She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband.” Published in 2007, this book is a foundation for partners of trans people, with timeless information and thought provoking concepts from a partner-centric focus. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to engage in dialogue with Helen and other attendees, as well as hear more from the author about the book (and possibly about what has changed for her — and the trans/SOFFA community — since 2007).

[Get your free copy of the book (paper or Kindle) by attending the March 22nd social support group or contacting michael (tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org) to make arrangements.]

Helen Boyd is the author of My Husband Betty (Thunder’s Mouth, 2004) which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and is often referred to as the “field guide to crossdressers”. Her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband (Seal Press, 2007), has been called “a postmodern reflection on transness” by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Her blog (en)gender can be found online at www.myhusbandbetty.com.

She hails from Brooklyn, NY, and currently lives in Appleton, WI, where she teaches Gender Studies at Lawrence University.

Open discussion is from 6:00 – 6:45pm

Open discussion is the time to connect connection with fellow Trans+ and SOFFA individuals. This gently facilitated time is especially devoted to exploring the issues you bring in – sharing your experiences and stories, asking questions, seeking referrals, gathering resources. We’ll assure this time will stay focused on your needs, and the discussion you generate.

‘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.