1st Patreon Goal Met

So the whole Patreon thing is exciting. I wish I’d done this year ago.

I promised that if I got a dozen followers I’d post a short piece on the Art of Aspiration & Resistance I’m working on, a manifesto of sorts, and I did and it’s up.

Here’s an excerpt:

Yet someone thought to take a time lapse of the way the light plays with the stained glass of DC’s National Cathedral. Who did that and why? Who built it and why? What happens to me when I watch, when you do? What happens in our brains, to our eyes? Do the tense lines in our faces relax, do our pets sigh nearby, do our breaths get a little deeper so we can take a minute to think or not to think, depending? What faith once did – provide beauty and aspiration and art and peace – seems to be missing from so many lives. So much faith seems to be about hate these days.

My intention, then, is to dig in, to go back to a time when I didn’t know what to do with this great desire for beauty, when I didn’t even know it was that, to dig into the other great yearnings I’ve learned how to name, for the erotic, for power, for peace, for friendship, for something I hesitate to call communion. Love, meaning, life. Once again I have no choice but to lean on Art, but Art in her most eternal form, the only real response there can ever be to despair.

Because I know how hard I’m fighting that beast and I assume others are too. How do you live with a big sensitive soul in a time when everything seems awash in ignorance and violence, with the one rolling into the other, joining forces and gaining speed? How do we build a culture that says no even as the rest is trying to kill us? And how do we stop it from killing us not just spiritually but actually?

Come join me!

Me on Patreon

It’s high time, and in the light of the loss of Ursula Le Guin, I decided to take this little leap off a cliff by starting an account on Patreon. I can’t let my wife have all the fun, can I?

I haven’t set up goals or rewards yet as I’m curious to hear what all of you would want from me. I *do* plan on doing a video and maybe some audio recordings – cause y’all like my voice – but mostly this will be new and different kinds of writing that I don’t do as much of because my blog is so on the trans/gender tip.

Expect pieces more like this and this and this, and maybe some fiction, maybe excerpts from the two novels I have written but never quite finished, and maybe some of a fairy tale I keep kicking around, and maybe anything I’m writing that doesn’t as easily cleave to the HB brand.

Thank you in advance. It means everything to me to have people in my life who want to read what I write and who want to support me while I do.

Ursula K.

Ursula K. Le Guin died yesterday at the age of 88.

I don’t even know how to begin to process this news.

For me, she was more than Bowie or Prince – but no need to compare, either.

In Left Hand she taught us all about relational, relative gender by inventing characters who become sexed  as a result of the person they were with, so the male King of a kingdom had, in a previous relationship, given birth to her own children.

She taught me everything we all already know about trees but have failed to imagine. In Direction of the Road, she writes as an oak tree :

If they wish to see death visibly in the world, that is their business, not mine. I will not act Eternity for them. Let them not turn to the trees for death. If that is what they want to see, let them look into one another’s eyes and see it there.

And in Earthsea she taught us about power and ethics and how to live despite everything.

She taught us what it means to only ever be a ‘bad man’ because we are women; that is, she uses the ‘bad man’ idea to explain that we are all of us people, but some of us are automatically bad at being what we are supposed to be because of gender and its caste.

She also told a senior editor at Harcourt that he’d created an anthology of new writing that was more like a locker room and so didn’t blurb it. 

Her clarity of mind – that bright, steady, lamp of intellect she yielded alternately like a laser or a search light – made so much visible that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Such a huge loss, such an inspiration, influence, mentor-from-a-distance; she taught me how to hold my head up as a woman who writes and that has been invaluable.

#metoo Read Up

Let me get out of the way that I’m one of those horrid feminists who not only works with men but who works to bring men into feminist movement. In addition to men of course being part of the problem, by act or omission, they also desperately need freeing from gender. We all do.

I’ve been wishing lately, in the midst of all of the articles and op-eds about sexual assault, that women all over the world might just publish the direct messages, chats, conversations in women’s groups, and transcripts of phone calls that have been happening for months now, the ones that start “shit this week has been triggering” and “okay the Ansari story is exactly it” and the like. But we won’t. We shouldn’t have to.

Because it’s all already out there, as Lindy West just pointed out in the NYT. So many things, so many. We have been talking amongst ourselves lately for months but we’ve also been talking about this amongst ourselves for decades (and before that, we were pointedly not discussing it but trying to keep other women away from those men, when we knew them). Women recommend these books to each other all the time and give them to each other as presents sometimes to say #metoo to teach other but also to say #yesallwomen but rarely do we give them to the men in our lives.

I suspect that most of my closest male friends have not read one book that’s explicitly feminist, and I’m what some might call a humorless feminist, so the men I’m close to are generally of the more enlightened variety. But even among them, I suspect there are very few who have read any of the books on that list or any other books by women and about women.

So guys, READ UP, would you? Almost any woman you know would be happy* to recommend one and most would even be happy to discuss it with you, but with one giant caveat:

You Can’t Be a Jerk About It.

Here’s How: (6 Easy Steps! A Listicle! Learn things about women while investing almost no time!)

  1. Read to understand, not to disagree. No looking for the holes in the arguments.
  2. Read it as if you were a woman. That is, try to imagine you were assigned one at birth and raised one or transitioned or whatever version of woman  you can imagine yourself being most easily.
  3. Try to remember that most of the is lit is written by white women and reflects all of the privilege and self-selection that implies.
  4. don’t think about your sister/wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter because your relationship with them is likely already stepped in a fuckton of male privilege you probably don’t recognize. That is, you already think of them as women, which is really the root of the whole damn problem.
  5. Tell a woman who might be willing to talk to you about it that you’re ignorant af but really want to understand how you could have grown up in a culture where you failed to notice that more than half the population is scared to say no, or hi, or to speak to men they don’t know or to men they do know except when they’re drunk or angry or men they thought they knew and trusted only to find out how wrong they were.
  6. Also, don’t discuss it. Highlight things that confuse or perplex you and ask her to explain them. Don’t talk. Listen. Quietly. Without objection.
  7. When you’re done, start over with a new book and maybe with a new woman (dependent on how likely you followed the previous 6 instructions).

This is how you learn things, guys, by learning things. Read books written by women in whatever genre you prefer: it’s all in there, in one form or another, in one book or another.

You might even find a new favorite writer. (Really. I actually like some male writers, no kidding, but only if I can relate to their lives.) (OK, that’s a joke. I like a lot of writers I have absolutely nothing in common with. That’s kind of the whole point of reading, to understand other people’s lives and so live in the world with compassion.)

Start now, please.

*Okay, I’m only kidding. Don’t ask a woman to volunteer for this bullshit. Find one who is willing to work with you and PAY HER to educate your ignorant ass.  

Baby and Bathwater

There is a tendency, I think, for those of us whose goal is creating a world that is a little more self aware of sexism, racism, transphobia, and the rest, to dismiss writers and artists based on a single opinion, utterance, work of art, song, etc.

  • Is all of Kate Bornstein’s work necessarily discredited because she defended the use of the T word?
  • Is all of Dan Savage’s work for shit because of his denial of bisexual existence and/or his transphobia? 
  • Is there any delicacy in recognizing that there was a moment in time in which being “trans amorous” was a radical and trans-positive position? 

I think about this stuff because a lot of what I’ve written over the years could be interpreted as transphobic now, or, at the very least, problematic. Some of it was at the time, too. I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘respect your elders’ sort of person, but I’m also pretty turned off by the complete lack of historical context some seem to exist in, as if fine-tuned arguments about the nature of transphobia haven’t been happening all along: As if we didn’t debate ‘transgender’ vs ‘transgendered’. As if no one has ever called themselves a transvestite proudly. As if…

To some degree, it’s one of the reasons I feel myself not wanting to write another book about anything trans related; for starters, I think it was useful for a cis feminist liminally trans type like myself to do the work that I did at the time, but now? I think transness is in good hands for the most part, although I’m happy to pipe in when and where it’s needed.

But mostly I feel myself stymied by the idea that anything I might put into the public sphere now would be so roundly shot down on a technicality that it’s really just not worth the effort. I prefer hanging out in this tiny corner of the internet doing my thing, being read by folks who appreciate what I do, and talking to people one on one who might need some help finding resources or the like.

I’m tired of people who have opinions but who don’t do anything or create anything or legislate anything. I feel more much occupied by the work and much less interested in the debate.

Maybe it’s an older vs. younger activist sort of thing and I’m officially middle-aged, but from here on in I feel like I’m going to be asking a lot more questions of critics far and wide: well, what have you done? Who have you helped? Have you created, or tried creating, anything of lasting value? In a sense it’s an age-old problem: This doesn’t satisfy, says the critic; So what have you got? says the artist.

And out goes the bathwater, baby and all.

Help for Grammar Nerds: AP Stylebook Adds “They” as Singular Pronoun

The headline along is enough to make some grammar nerds fidget nervously: AP Stylebook Embraces ‘They’ as Singular, Gender-Neutral Pronoun.

I was watching some grammar nerds – and yes, I count myself as one – discuss the difficulty of this.

Two points: (1) You already do this all the time: “I wonder who left their phone behind. I bet they’ll really want it back.” You know the phone doesn’t belong to a group, and if you don’t know this person’s gender, ‘they’ is an easy default. Someone objected that there is a difference in spoken (informal) verses written (formal) writing, to which I can only reply: either respecting people’s identities is important enough to change some grammar rules or it isn’t. I think it is.

(2) The real issue, I’ll insist, is whether or not you actually respect and acknowledge the multiply- or non-gendered as REAL. If you’re having trouble calling a single person by the pronouns “they”, it may be because you don’t actually believe in their gender identity as multiple or not gendered or non binary.

In which case, that’s the thing to work on. Once you respect multiply or non gendered people as legit identities, “they” as a singular pronoun is pretty obviously the most pragmatic solution to the English language’s lack of a gender neutral singular pronoun.

Poetry: Revenge by e.c.c.

(I am not the poet. The poet is someone called e.c.c. Just found this one re-posted on a friend’s FB, & e.c.c.’s tumblr said you could share as long as they’re credited. So they are.)


Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of hapa babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing,
and that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:

we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common ground with us in the way
you bootstrap across us both,

oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,

of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.


RIP Lady Chablis

Heartbreaking news from Monica Roberts: The Lady Chablis, aka The Doll, aka Brenda Dale Knox, had died at the young age of 59. She became famous by playing herself in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, after which she wrote her amazing autobiography Hiding My Candy.

When I first started teaching Trans Lives as a class, there was a huge lack of work by or about trans women of color. Ditto for those who transition out of drag identities. Hers was both: an important book that talked about her upbringing, about the South, about race, about what it meant to become a woman after working as a professional drag queen. Its entire sensibility differed from all the other narratives by white trans women (and men) – it brought a sense of humor, a stunning fighting instinct, and so much dignity in the face of too much difficulty.

This woman has long been a heroine of mine, and I’m sad to see that she’s died younger than she might have. Still, I’m sure she was always surprised that a million things along the way didn’t kill her, either.

Thank you, Lady Chablis, for all the pleasure and beauty and glamour you brought so many. You will be missed.

Support Trans Writers

My friend Tom Leger over at Topside Press is doing a cool thing: he helped create a one-week workshop for emerging trans women writers with two well-known authors – Sarah Schulman and Casey Plett – and because it’s sliding scale they’re raising funds to offset the difference for those who can’t afford it.

This is an awesome way to support trans writers.

Donate if you can. (The budget info is here, if you need to know that sort of thing before donating.)

Read more about it here.

Finally, here’s an essay by Zoey Wolfe about why writing is important to her.


Two Good Things

Here are two good things that are now/newly available:

The documentary about Kate Bornstein, Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger, is now available for purchase by high schools and universities. (I did an interview with her for this blog back in 2006.)

The second is that Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl garnered a second edition, for which she wrote a new preface, and garnered a new cover (gone with the pink one!). I did an interview with her back in 2007 when it first came out, if you want to check that out.


Fun Home Lecture

fun home

A few days ago I gave a lecture on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home for the first year students at Lawrence, and while I dme and oscaron’t have a video, I do have this audio, so if you’re interested in some of the LGBTQ history that’s tucked away in the book, or in the basics of queer theory, do give it a listen.

WI Book Fest – Resources

Awi book fest trio (2)s promised, a few of the resources I promised to people who came to the Love, Always reading yesterday at A Room of One’s Own.

My online group for partners of trans people: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/engender_partners/info

Our online forum for trans people and their partners, friends, family, and allies: http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/community/index.php

You also might want to check my posts tagged resources and/or trans partners.
(Photo credit to Violet Wang)

from Between the World and Me

“I have raised you to respect every human being as singular, and you must extend that same respect into the past. Slavery is not an indefinable mass of flesh. It is a particular, specific, enslaved woman, whose mind is active as your own, whose range of feeling is as vast as your own; who prefers the way the light falls in one particular spot in the woods, who enjoys fishing where the water eddies in a nearby stream, who loves her mother in her own complicated way, thinks her sister talks too loud, has a favorite cousin, a favorite season, who excels at dressmaking and knows, inside herself, that she is as intelligent and capable as anyone. ‘Slavery’ is this same woman born in a world that loudly proclaims its love of freedom and inscribes this love in its essential texts, a world in which these same professsors hold this woman a slave, hold her mother a slave, her father a slave, her daughter a slave, and when this woman peers back into the generations all she sees is the enslaved. She can hope for more. She can imagine some future for her grandchildren. But when she died, the world – which is really the only world she can ever know – ends. For this woman, enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history.”

from Between the World and Me, Ta Nehisi Coates, p. 69-70.

Here from New York?

I was interviewed for an article titled “My Husband Is Now My Wife” for New York magazine recently, and while the online version isn’t up yet, the issue is out.

So if you’ve shown up here as a result of it, some info:

Here are My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married, my first two books.

Ever After, the third that I’m currently writing, I haven’t sold yet, and am still seeking an agent & publisher for it.

Please feel free to search this site for whatever resources you’re seeking: this blog is more than a decade old and it there’s a lot to find, but here are the basics:

  1. our message boards (the mHB forums)
  2. the private partners list I run and moderate
  3. my letter to a wife who just found out

There’s a recent interview with me in SalonDan Savage’s podcast where he asked me about how often crossdressers transition, and of course, feel free to contact me (helenbkramer@gmail.com) if you have a question.



Fun Home: The Musical

I have to admit first that I don’t like musicals. Never have. I don’t understand them as a genre or as a medium.

But of course Fun Home the book has a special place in my heart – I’ll be doing a lecture for all the first-year students on the novel in early November – so I really had to see it.

Two things stuck out to me: her father was played by a heavier set, frumpier kind of guy than I thought was accurate. None of her drawings of her father struck me that way – instead, I saw a slender, muscular guy who was still in the prime of his life, even if he was (of course) closeted and a jerk of a dad. I felt like the choice disappeared his sexuality more than it might have. That said, he was still fantastic – amazing actor, singer, everything else. But I wanted to see the guy in the very 70s cut-off denim shorts; it strikes me that his story is very different otherwise.

The song I expected to make me cry – “Ring of Keys” – was not the one that did. It was “Telephone Wire” that got me – that desire to connect with him, that knowledge that she both does, and doesn’t. Or does as much as is possible, considering him.

What was really remarkable was the presence of Bechdel-the-artist onstage the whole time. As much as her voice and her text are part of the book, you’re very rarely aware of her presence otherwise, or made aware of it, and that in the musical she is always onstage, always watching her own memories unfold, occasionally commenting on them (physically or verbally) made it, in a sense, a play about the artist creating the book. The book has that in it, but it brought that post-modern quality to the front in a very direct, very accessible way.

What was lost – a big loss for me – were all the literary references, the drawings of the places, the books and their visible titles, the queer literary history. I don’t think there’s a mention of either Proust or Wilde, and no, I have no idea how they might have pulled that off, but it disappointed this geek a little.

Still, as per Playbill, Lisa Kron says: “There’s a deep river of yearning that flows through Alison’s book that made it ripe for translation into the musical form. This is a family that is profoundly alienated from their own powerful emotions. But because music is such an efficient emotional delivery system, we could it it to convey the oceans of feeling swirling below the surface of this checked-out family at the same time the dialogue and lyrics are showing us how little access they have to any of that feeling.”

And THAT, it does, and does amazingly well.