Compersion

Another new piece on Patreon today. Hope you dig it. Here’s an excerpt:

Who wants to be the person who tells the person you love most in the world not to leap?

Who wants to live with a person who hasn’t leapt when they wanted to?

I refuse to accept emotions that make me smaller, make my experience in the world more petty, to buy hook line and sinker the idea that any desire my spouse has for another person is by default an insult to me or disrespectful to our relationship.

I want the world to be bigger, to be more generous, to realize desire and love are not goddamned pie and we will not run out. People are not less special because you share them with others. People are more beautiful the more they are loved.

And my wife, you know? She was put in this world to be adored. I have no interest in hating anyone who wants to love and admire her too.

Read the whole thing here.

Speaking of Poly…

I just wrote a new piece for Patreon. It begins:

We recently changed our status on Facebook from ‘married’ to ‘in an open relationship’. We’re sure people want to ask but no one has yet. We’ve been kind of laying bets on who is going to ask what first.

. . .

Mostly we heard a lot of “you can’t become poly because your marriage is in crisis” and we heard that having one monogamous and one non monogamous person was impossible. Both wrong. If you want to be CNM, you can do it no matter your circumstances. We delayed our decision because of that kind of advice.  

. . .

The best description of being a CNM couple is that it’s like being part of a well loved band. We work great as a unit and people love us as that unit but sometimes, someone needs to do a solo project or a side project with other musicians. 

and it ends:

 

So that’s that. More stories to come, when I feel like telling them.

Poly Workshop at Wisconsin LGBTQ Conference

Hello all! I’ll be talking about polyamory and non monogamy at this year’s Wisconsin LGBTQ Summit. I haven’t done one of these before but it seems like a good time.

It’s not up on the website yet, but here’s the description:

Poly 101

Polyamorous or consensual non-monogamous relationships have never been uncommon in queer community, but they are starting to be more widely understood and practiced. Come learn some of the basics of what it means to be poly, hear answers to some of the most pressing questions about jealousy, commitment, and making love less like pie.

Monogamous, single, ace, queer, trans, poly, NM… everybody is welcome.

February 24th in Milwaukee.

Here’s a good article if you want to educate yourself a little before then.

Birth Control Is Healthcare

With even birth control under attack, various people and organizations have been posting about all the other medically necessary reasons for birth control. I, for instance, have PCOS, which leads to all sorts of crap, including irregular periods, so they put me on birth control for 20 years. There are numerous other medical instances that aren’t pregnancy that birth control is prescribed for.

But: preventing pregnancy is a medical reason. It IS healthcare. Body autonomy is health-care.

Don’t cave to these fools. People have the right to prevent pregnancy, to plan pregnancy, and the entire nation benefits from our ability to do so.

And you have the right to have sex without getting pregnant and without getting someone else pregnant.

Interview: Ashley Altadonna & Helen Boyd, Pt 1

ashelen

My friend the filmmaker Ashley Altadonna and I recently decided to interview each other; we’ve had an ongoing conversation about the nature of relationships vis a vis transness for years now, and every time I talk to her I discover new things about how I feel being the cis wife of a trans woman; she, on the other hand, always provides me with new insights about what it’s like to be on my wife’s side of the equation. So we put this interview, or conversation, together, in order to share some of the dialogue we’ve had, and we hope you find something maybe affirming but otherwise interesting in the mix.

Ashley: You’ve been involved with the trans/cross dressing community for a while now. Before you met Betty, how much did you know about trans folks and cross-dressers?

Helen: Not much, to be honest. I knew one person who had transitioned and one who was considering it when we met. But crossdressing… well, I always had myself, and was always aware of gender. The 80s were a safe place for that in some corners, after all, and I am a kid of the 80s.

How much did you know before you started transition?

Ashley: That depends on what you consider the beginning of my transition. When I was 13 and sneaking into my mother’s closet to try on her clothes and putting on her makeup, I knew nothing. I’d seen transsexuals and cross-dressers on daytime T.V. shows like Jerry Springer, but I’d never met anyone who had transitioned. Dressing was a compulsion for me.  It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I even remember reading the word ‘transgender’ and saying, “Oh that’s what I am!” Even then, I wasn’t 100% sure what being transgender meant. It just felt like the label that fit me best.

You’ve said Betty’s transition made you question your own femininity in ways you hadn’t felt was necessary before. How so? What did you do about this?

Helen: I have never felt feminine in any organic way – that is, in any way that was natural to me. There are things about me that you might deem feminine – I’m soft spoken, for instance – but most of my feminine presentation was learned. Again, in the 80s, even makeup was gender neutral. So the way Betty had such enjoyment in feminine expression was troublesome to me as a feminist and as a person. Her ease with it underlined what I thought of as my own failure to be that. So in some ways, her gender stuff exaggerated my own struggles, made me go back to the drawing board, as I’d accepted being gender neutral, or a tomboy, or whatever you want to call it, when we met. And suddenly I felt like a failure at it again. I saw nothing to celebrate about femininity, to be honest, and it’s still something I struggle with.

I’m curious if trans women ever realize how many cis women have to learn gender, if that’s something that could maybe create solidarity instead of animosity. Your thoughts?

Ashley: Prior to transitioning, I don’t think the idea of either gender having to “learn gender” ever occurred to me. I remember feeling as if everyone else inherently knew how to perform their gender, and I was somehow the weirdo who didn’t get the memo on how to act “like a man”, or at the very least enjoy it. After transitioning, and talking to other women (both cis and trans) I’ve heard countless times, that they never felt comfortable doing whatever supposed universal feminine cliché. The reality is that we all have to learn gender or even unlearn gender to varying degrees. I think if people recognized that gender is something everyone might struggle with from time to time, it would go a long way towards how we understand one another whether trans, cis or otherwise.

Did you feel like your identity changed as a result of being with Betty? If so, how?

Helen: I wouldn’t say it changed: what I’d say is that she was the first person I dated where I didn’t feel a need to put on an act, to be more of a “regular” woman. She liked that I felt powerful and sexy – and maybe even feminine – in trousers and a fedora. The troublesome part was that she gendered these clothes – where for me, they were just what I wore. They were my clothes, not men’s clothes. Being involved in trans community forced me to think about some things as gendered that I had ceased gendering. And it made me kind of nuts, to be self examining every move, from whether I kept my wallet in my back pocket or in a bag. But that made me sympathetic to trans experience in a deeply personal way, too – seeing how engrained these things are, how hard it is to break out of habits.

Was there anything in particular that you think of as masculine that you kept doing, despite transition?

Ashley: It’s funny, every time I try to classify something as either masculine or feminine I can usually find an exception that disproves the rule. There are things that certainly ‘felt’ more like masculine activities – playing in a band for instance. Shortly after I transitioned, I tried starting a new band but nothing ended up coming from it. I took a break from songwriting and focused on filmmaking instead, which also traditionally has been seen as a masculine endeavor.  Despite countless female musicians and filmmakers, those are two areas that have traditionally been male-dominated. Transition showed me that an activity isn’t necessarily gendered just because we as a society deem it to be. About two years ago I started a new band, and in many ways it’s been better now, but I think that has more to do with age than with what gender I identify as.

I think a lot of people think once your partner comes out to you as transgender it’s a death sentence for your marriage, but both of us have been with our partners for what I would certainly call a decent amount of time. What do you account for your relationship’s longevity?

Helen: We are equally weird, equally difficult, and equally stubborn. We are both, also, deeply loyal human beings. Did I mention stubborn? And once we were confronting transition, we decided we’d do best if we focused on being each other’s best friends, and not so much each other’s spouses – especially because those roles are gendered, and have so many expectations built on gender. I realized, as anyone’s good friend, I’d be the one who dragged someone to the doctor or therapist and helped with their transition, and if I couldn’t do that for her, then I wasn’t exactly being her best friend. Likewise for her in listening to me and being compassionate about what I was losing in the process – also as a friend and not as a spouse, per se. It was an important distinction for us.

What about you guys? What was the most challenging piece, do you think? (Also, my readers knowabout our relationship, so I’d love to hear more about who you both are, how you identify, etc.)

Ashley: The most difficult thing for us has been me dealing with my own insecurities regarding my transition. Despite the fact that I’ve been fulltime as female for over a decade, had surgery, and am now legally female, I’ll still ask my wife if, she thinks I’m feminine enough. It’s embarrassing for me to admit that, and I try not to be obnoxious about it.  Hopefully she feels I’ve gotten better as the years have gone on. There was also a period where I was really questioning my sexual orientation after transitioning, which I wrote about in Morty Diamond’s anthology “Trans/Love : Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary”.  Feeling attracted to men was a new sensation for me, and I wasn’t sure what it meant for our relationship. The idea of being in a heterosexual relationship would’ve make it clearer what my expected gender rolesin the relationship were, was somewhat appealing but I also didn’t think I could live up to those preconceived expectations.  I also was already in love with Maria and didn’t want to end our relationship. I ultimately chose her and ended up identify as a bi-curious monogamous lesbian.

Do you consider your marriage/relationship (successful/happy/fulfilling)?

Helen: Ha! What a question. Some days. We’ve been together 18 years now, so sometimes I’m not sure if how our marriage has become is about the time together or about the transition or about both. I do know that we continue to be each other’s greatest support and we have a deep, deep understanding of each other. That said, our relationship is not what I expected marriage to be, but I am also pretty sure a lot of people who have been together as long as we have feel that way. That said, why I don’t feel fulfilled had little to do with her transition but had everything to do with her realizing she was somewhere in the ace spectrum. That has become a way bigger issue than her gender ever was, to be honest, because sex is vital for me and it’s not for her.

How long have you two been together? I really think there are certain periods that are difficult for couples, depending on what the deep issues are. If you don’t mind answering, what are yours?

Ashley: We just celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary, but we’ve been together for over 12 years at this point. We have our issues like any married couple. I feel like we’ve been fairly lucky with our relationship.  I can’t recall ever having an extended period of being upset with each other that lasted more than a few days. Having to deal with my transition so early in our relationship probably helped us to be a better couple. It forced us to both consciously try to work on is our communication with each other. We constantly ‘check in’ with each other on how each of us is doing. Sex is somewhat an issue with us. My sex drive definitely went down quite a bit after estrogen, but now our drives are slightly more matched so, in some ways, it’s sort of worked for us.

(Stay tuned. We’ll post the 2nd half on Tuesday.)

Providers’ Day Mini Conference – Milwaukee 4/4

I’ll be doing a presentation at The Tool Shed for Milwaukee’s SHARE week, but I wanted to call your attention to a cool event that will be happening that’s for health providers. It’s one day, $100 (which includes lunch) and covers a huge array of material:

Session One: Talking About Senior Sex with Joan Price
Session Two: Making Your Practice Transgender Friendly with Ashley Altadonna and Hudson P.
Session Three: Compassionate Care for Kinky People with Sophia Chase
Session Four: Ready, Sexy, Able: Sex and Disability with Robin Mandell

Really, an awesome lineup for doctors, covering sex for seniors, trans people, kink, and disability. It’s a pretty amazing way for healthcare providers to gain valuable information on working with any/all of these types of clients.

Do forward this to your healthcare providers and encourage them to attend.

You can register here.

Me @ The Tool Shed, MKE

I’ll be doing an event on Thursday, April 7th in Milwaukee at the awesome Tool Shed as part of Milwaukee’s SHARE (Sexual Health and Relationship Education) week.

Here’s where you register for it.
Here’s the Facebook event.
Here’s the FetLife listing.

And here’s SHARE’s FB page, if you want to keep informed of what they’re doing – they have a whole week of educational events set up, with so many awesome people, including Reid Mihalko (Rough Sex for Nice Folks), Sophia Chase (Sex for Survivors), and Jiz Lee (Coming Out Like a Porn Star). Looks like it’s going to be an amazing week & I’m happy to be part of it.

Pitchforks & Puritanism

No matter what hypocrites get exposed (Josh Duggar, & there will no doubt be others from the “family values” crowd), I just can’t enjoy the mass doxing that is the Ashley Madison hacking.

Maybe I work too much with couples in long term relationships who are trying to work out all kinds of things in the face of crossdressing and transition and identity and I know how complex and conflicting decisions made within a long term relationship can be.

Maybe it’s because when I read this advice I notice an incredible lack of empathy for a man who is mourning someone he loved, and who he obviously loved deeply.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had to stand down criticism and ostracism for becoming non monogamous myself. Maybe it’s because as someone who’s been practicing ethical non monogamy for a few years now, I’m amazed at how difficult it is for people to make a distinction between cheating and becoming non monogamous with the full consent and acceptance of your spouse. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the wrong end of that puritanical glee that’s going around.

Maybe it’s because of the Brave New World this mass doxing implies.

Maybe it’s because men tell me about their lives, and like Rachel Kramer Bussell, I never met a married guy on Ashley Madison or OK Cupid who didn’t make me sad (but not so sad I had anything to do with them). I met men married to lesbians who had a great life and great marriage but no sex. I met men who were trying to keep it together for the children. I met men who had made their kids their top priority post divorce who didn’t want another relationship, who were broken and exhausted by a previous one.  I met closeted lesbians married to men who couldn’t come out because of work but wanted a woman in their life who didn’t require a relationship.

I often wondered if, as a culture, we should have a day when people didn’t have to honor their commitments and could, instead, find some measure of what they were seeking, a kind of bacchanal escape valve. I’ve often wondered if we didn’t spend so much time judging other people if we might try to understand the kinds of pain that people try to salve with sex.

So I can’t share the popcorn or the schadenfreude, because in not so long marriages will be ending because of this, and maybe a lot of those marriages were ones that should have ended long ago. But others would have gone unharmed by a spouse’s ignorance, as Dan Savage points out. I just hope spouses who suspect their partners remember a few things: (1) if your spouse isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, (2) that just because s/he is, doesn’t mean it did, and (3) make sure that you really really really want to know. What I hope, instead of this sleuthing, is that the people who did sign up admit to it so that they might start to have a conversation about what it was they were missing, about what they hoped to gain, and that maybe, just maybe, they might figure out a sane way to call it quits or to rebuild.

More soon. Right now, though, I’m feeling a little heartbroken by humanity and by the glee other people are taking in others’ misfortune. If this mass doxing only effected the raging hypocrites out there, it would be one thing, but it won’t. Even if it does expose the dogs and serial cheaters, it’s going to cause so much hurt in so many ways for so many people doing their imperfect best to be happy

“Peak Sex Shaming” & the AM Hack

I really shouldn’t be surprised by the self righteous morality being expressed over the Ashley Madison hack, but I am.

Sometimes I think we’re maybe about to get our shit together as a species and then something like that happens and it’s like we’re back in the Puritan era shaming other people about what they do (or don’t do) when it comes to sex. Ask asexual people how often they feel judged for not wanting sex; ask monogamous people how difficult it can be; ask poly people how much they’re judged. We are all of us in glass houses.

But at least Dan Savage has something good to say:

There are a lot of people out there who have good cause to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless marriages, men and women trapped in loveless marriages, men and women who have essentially been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren’t in a position to leave—either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners.

Mary Elizabeth Williams is making sense here, too:

The Ashley Madison hackers have written, “Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” But yeah, I think cheating dirtbags do. I think that just because you make a lot more money than I do doesn’t mean you deserve to be outed. I think just because you had sex with someone who’s not your wife on your last business trip, you not are accountable to anyone but your wife. Because where does this line of “Let’s drag you into the public square and pelt you” get drawn? Is it OK to out someone as a cheat? Is it only OK if he’s a high-ranking businessman? Is it then OK to make fun of a woman executive when her “crotch intensive” shopping list is leaked? Where does it stop? I don’t know, maybe we just put cameras on all the public toilets and then wait to collectively judge the next person who gets food poisoning. How would that be? Sounds fun, right? Or maybe instead we could try being grown-ups. And maybe we could remember that we all have private lives; we all have sex lives, and as long as they’re consensual, they’re nobody else’s damn business. Not Gawker’s. Not Twitter’s. Not mine.

Every single time we, as a culture, get up on our moral high horses to condemn whoever it is without asking a few essential questions: did we assume monogamy or did we know that was the agreement? Marriage does not automatically imply it, not even a little, and throughout history some cultures more than others have assumed marriage was a social contract, not necessarily a sexual one. There have always been swingers and ‘agreements’ and looking the other way. There is not always a victim when a married person is having sex with someone who isn’t their spouse.

If there was an agreement to be monogamous, then what are the details? When my wife decided she had too low a libido and zero interest in sex anymore, plenty of people would have declared that a deal-breaker and would have gotten a divorce. End of story. I knew she still loved me, and I – after I got it through my head that her lack of libido had nothing whatsoever to do with me or how much she liked me – still loved her. Monogamy, of course, implies actual sex happening between the two parties who are agreeing to be monogamous, and once someone cuts off sex entirely, that contract is due for renegotiation. Continue reading ““Peak Sex Shaming” & the AM Hack”