My online group for trans partners via Yahoo Groups still exists, and is always taking on new members. You can find it here:
It is open to *all* partners of trans people – male, female, genderqueer, queer, het, etc.
My online group for trans partners via Yahoo Groups still exists, and is always taking on new members. You can find it here:
It is open to *all* partners of trans people – male, female, genderqueer, queer, het, etc.
Somewhere in the last week’s insanity I did an interview with Susan James of ABCNews.com about a recent article published in the Boston Globe by a journalist whose husband transitioned from male to female.
It was a lovely interview, and quite a few things I said I can see reflected in the story (such as the suspicion of the 55% statistic).
An estimated 45 percent of those surveyed said that their relationship with a spouse or partner ended because of their transgender identity. Surprisingly, 55 percent, stayed on or their relationship ended for other reasons, according to that report.
But those like Diane who have gone through transition with a loved one, say it is a long and painful process — and most spouses leave the marriage.
ABC has a few other good clips up as well, so do go check out the article. If you’re the type, thank James for doing such a good job with the story. She’s covered trans issues before and really seems to get it.
Hey, lovers of trans people! Come out about your desires today for National Coming Out Day! Celebrate the beauty of trans bodies and souls, no matter their shape or size or color.
There’s not enough of us out.
Here’s an exercise I ask trans partners to do when they’re feeling isolated: imagine you are Professor Charles Xavier and you’ve got that fabulous helmet — except instead of finding mutants, it helps you find other partners of trans people.
Here’s a copy of a a guest bit I wrote recently for T-Central for a small series there on transitionn. Lots of the posts that appeared there were interesting, from FTM & MTF, a 17 year old & a 90 year old & every age in-between. I haven’t written very much about the experience of being “post trans,” so here you go.
Post Trans Post: Life After Transition – August 2010
Betty transitioned. Apparently we’ve forgotten to announce that officially. I can’t imagine anyone is surprised; looking back, I see chapter 5 of My Husband Betty as tea leaves neither of us wanted to read. But I wrote My Husband Betty seven years ago (and it’s still in print!), and that old joke says it only takes 2 years, right? Maybe that’s from crossdresser to transsexual, because surely it takes more years than that to become a woman or a man. It certainly took me a few more than 2 to become a woman, and that was without any trans interference. (Sometimes, when someone asks me if I’m trans myself, I wonder if I ever did make it to “woman,” but for me, that’s a compliment, that all of my genders are showing.)
What we are, post transition, is more relaxed. That has something to do with our move from New York to Wisconsin, and something to do as well with us both having jobs we like. It may also have something to do with our being together for 12 years now. But hearing that other shoe drop, at long last, has brought us both relief as well.
We find it easier being perceived as a lesbian couple than as a trans couple. Granted, we “do” lesbian with our bizarre heterosexual privilege – by which I mean we are still federally recognized as legally married. I certainly don’t mean to imply it’s easier to be a lesbian couple; it’s not. It’s way harder then when we were seen as a somewhat eccentric het couple. But you do a lot less explaining at parties, and that’s a nice break. People know what lesbians are, even if, as in our case, the label isn’t wholly accurate. Mostly we don’t prefer to tell people Betty is trans; if they know, & have questions, we answer them when we’re in the appropriate time & place to do so, like in a private conversation and not at a party. But otherwise, I have no interest in outing her on a regular basis.
Often the question of whether or not to be out as trans rests upon the assumption that you’re either out or stealth. Yay, another binary! The reality is that there is a significant gray area. What has surprised us most is that the old advice – to move clear across the country – has its reasons. We did, but not as part of her transition plan. We did, and so we’ve reaped the benefits of being in a place where no one knew her as male, where no one knew us as het, where no one knew us before at all. That is, when we meet people now, they need only know as as a same sex couple. Unlike many if not most trans people, Betty is undeniably out. Once someone asks me what I do, for instance, it is only a few short stops to “She used to be a man?” To preserve some of our privacy – and yes, even memoirists like some privacy – I usually tell people I write gender theory which invariably leads to one of two responses: (1) “Oh.” Or (2) they actually want to know what I think of Lady Gaga’s/Caster Semenya’s gender, at which point the conversation turns away from me and onto cranky female athletes or Gaga’s little monsters. That is, the titles of my books don’t ever have to come up, which keeps me from outing Betty. One of the best parts of working in academia is having people assume they haven’t read your work.
Sometimes I like to joke that I threw Betty over for a “real woman” but that’s only if that someone will get the joke. (The short version: I don’t believe in “real” genders.)
What we’ve found is that the guy at the local equivalent of the 7-11 doesn’t need to know. We are often assumed to be friends, and not a couple, because of general LGBTQ invisibility, and I’m learning to leave with that & all the heterocentric bullshit the world is steeped in. When someone’s head is still getting used to the idea of homosexuality, you don’t really want to hit them with Teh Trans, anyway. They’re not ready.
A friend of mine, both lesbian and trans, was once asked to talk to a student about being out. My friend promptly explained her experiences being out as trans, to which the slack-jawed undergrad responded, “I thought you were just a lesbian.”
So now we’re “just lesbians.”
But is anyone “just a lesbian”? Every lesbian woman I know is a host of other things: parent, daughter, lawyer, trans, Asian, etc. We are not “just lesbians” either. We are something like post trans queers. Or I am, at least. I’m not really sure anymore.
The only sad thing for me is that I have lost my partner in crime. Betty is (quite frustratingly, some days) gender normative, trendy, and magazine feminine. I have to remind her not to flip her hair so much. I love her, but I still nurse a general dislike of normative femininity. I’m naturally suspicious of people who fit in. I assume I’ll get over it. You don’t really make it through transition as someone’s partner without having an awful lot of flexibility.
What I will say to the partners: my resolve to be her friend first, and her lover/wife second, was tantamount. We still worry that our friendship has replaced or supplanted our marriage, but I suspect that’s the kind of thing a lot of long-term relationships wrestle. When it comes down to it, our journey, and my midwifery, has been an honor and a pleasure. It is a remarkable thing to watch someone go through gender transition and to help them do so. She has assisted me through a few life transitions, and we will, no doubt, see a few more in our lifetimes, and any and all of those changes can be a threat to a couple’s permanence and happiness. Her gender transition’s challenge to who we are as a couple was maybe more challenging than others, or maybe just more obvious in the ways it accessed axes of identity. But surely unhappiness, self-repression, and stagnation would destroy any relationship as easily and with far more bitterness and regret, and you know? Phooey to that.
It’s always so good to hear when another partner support group starts! Go Madison!
Just to let you know there is a SOFFA support group starting in Madison.
It will meet every other Tuesday evening, 7p-9p, beginning January 19.
It will meet at Outreach, 600 Williamson Street.
We will be focusing on the SOFFA experience and narrative.
It is a drop-in, peer support group.
I was interviewed not long ago by Amanda Waldroupe as she was writing a column for just|out of Portland (OR) about the way in which partners of trans people need support and get or don’t get it.
While numerous resources exist for transgendered people during their transition, there is a dearth, both in Portland and nationally, for their partners—who go through their own emotional and sexual travails during the experience.
Reid Vanderburgh, a local transgender therapist, says partners can have a tough time throughout the transition process, even if they support their partner.
As far as I know, it’s the first column I’ve ever read about support groups for us partners – but maybe I missed one. Thanks to Ms. Waldroupe not just for writing the column, but for quoting me accurately.
Allison Laing’s wife Dottie Laing died tonight after a long struggle with illness.
She left this note:
Celebrate my life!
Please do not be sad.
Remember me in fondness.
I have enjoyed my life, and treasure my family and friends.
I am proud of my loved ones, and feel content knowing that a part of me lives on in each of them.
I will always be there each time you smile thinking of the good times we have shared.
It’s been a great life!
She worked for and in the transgender community for many of the 50 years she & Allison were married. She was the kind of woman who smiled at the new wives at Fantasia Fair, and whose smile held a world of wisdom. We’ll miss her very much, & no doubt she will be missed at this year’s Fantasia Fair tremendously.
Do keep both Allison & Dottie in your thoughts & prayers. If you have any memories of Dottie you’d like to share here, please feel free to use the comments section below to do so.
This is B.’s reaction to the Chloe Prince documentary that was on the other night. Since I’m a partner, & have a soapbox from which to talk about my reaction as a partner, I thought I’d open my blog to the child of a trans parent on her feelings.
She’s 15, and her father, now female, transitioned about five years ago. She was about the same age as Prince’s eldest when she as told of her father’s imminent transition.
At first all I really felt was sadness for the children and the wife. The poor woman had to watch her spouse say on TV that she thought she might not have transitioned if she had stayed with her ex-girlfriend, something that must have felt awful and been humiliating to watch. I was shocked that the children’s reaction to the fact that their father was going to become a woman had been recorded in the first place, let alone aired on TV. As the child of a transgendered person I would be horrified if my initial reaction was shown to people all over who I didn’t even know. It’s an incredibly private moment that the rest of the world doesn’t have any business in watching.
As the show progressed I started to feel increasingly angry, and not just because she seemed to me a parody of a woman, intent on acting like a stereotype of how a woman “should be” and appearing very feminine, or because despite this femininity she still did all the “masculine” chores around the house, and we got to see pictures of her working with tools and at her job (I would have expected someone who had undergone a male to female transition to not be sexist).
I wanted to punch a hole in the wall every time it was mentioned that the children had “lost” a father. I never lost my father, just because she’s a woman doesn’t make any difference to the fact that she is my father. A sex change operation doesn’t change that. Chloe had no right to be upset about being missed out on the mother’s day photo- it was for mother’s day, not father’s day. Those children are going to have a hell of a time growing up now, and will have to deal with people they don’t know recognizing them and even judging for something they didn’t even do.
Thanks very much B. for sharing your thoughts with us. I would love to read comments from other trans people with kids, if their kids watched, what they thought.
Sadly, it was a lot of the same old same old: cursory interest in parent, partner, & children. The kids were adorable. The wife was determined. The father was exhausted.
Atypical trans documentary bits?
So yeah, I’m drunk.You?
They all seem like reasonably nice people. I hate documentaries about teh trans. Hate ‘em. I hate the way our lives our distilled into reverse camera angles and earnest questions across kitchen tables. I hate how the beauty of a trans woman admitting that she still sees her wife the way “he” did is degraded by the “sudden interest” in men. I hate the sad, confused, tendentious quality of trans women’s wives who are obviously overwhelmed with the whole business and still in love with their spouses.
Having been someone who has done shite like this, my only excuse is: it was in my contract. Not that that’s much of an excuse, but you do usually have a clause saying that you will in good faith blah blah blah consent to blah blah blah that will help sell the book. I’m not sure there’s any other reason to do these things anymore, but I hope, for Rene’s sake, & the boys’ sake, & the dad’s & Chloe’s, that this one will be forgotten when it’s Sweeps Week next year or in five years. Not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t. There are things I said and wrote at the time of My Husband Betty that embarass me now, as well as plenty that I”m still happy about. But I wrote a book, so when I”m lucky, you can see its brown spine in the LGBT section of bookstores these days. But a show like this is going to be dredged up at 3am for a few years, and every once too often, Rene and Chloe and her boys and dad will be online at the supermarket / drugstore / in the waiting room / at the doctor’s office / showing up for parent teacher night when someone they’ve never met couldn’t sleep and saw them on the TeeVee. And then, well, then is when you wish you could change your name and move to Timbuktu.
My best to all of them. Can we stop making these now?
In light of the documentary about Chloe Prince that will air tomorrow night, I thought we should all be prepared for what looks like it’s going to be a doozy of a predictable documentary.
So, the rules, such as they are, for watching a trans documentary:
Believe it or not, these are not the most snarky suggestions by some of our mHB board members. Also remember: there are quite a few people who hang out on our boards who have done this kind of media work, including me & Betty, of course, but also Jenny Boylan, amongst others. We need to laugh at ourselves as much as we laugh at the inanity of it all.
Twelve-Steppers should find their own version, of course. Maybe those ice cream poppers? But the point is to feel as physically ill by the end as the drinking crowd.
As of today, Chi Delta Mu, the Tri-Ess chapter of the tri-state area, voted to leave Tri-Ess and become an inclusive & independent trans group.
At issue were the chapter’s non-compliance on three major required items: (1) that the local members be due-paying members of national; (2) that the group keep its focus on providing “support and education on behalf of heterosexual crossdressers, their spouses, partners and families”; and (3) that the local chapter file a financial statement with national.
From what I know, CDM hadn’t done (3) in a long while, hadn’t been (2) in a long while, and (1) that most of its members were not members of national.
From what I understand, there was nothing contentious going on – just National asking the local to respect its rules of the charter, and the local realizing that their group had evolved in such a way that becoming compliant again wasn’t going to work for them as a group.
In response to this last post, I received this short email:
“My Husband Betty: Love, Sex, and Life with a Crossdresser”
This is where you loose me Helen. You say you don’t use words like “Husband or Wife”….but then you write books using that exact terminology.
I wrote that book 6 years ago. My thinking is surely allowed to change, no?
& I responded:
Is that how youâ€™d talk to Betty about her decision to transition? That it was â€œconvenientâ€?
My partner was a self-identified straight drag queen when we met, with a male identity.
She is living as a woman & doing what paperwork she can to reflect that.
One of the reasons I canâ€™t & donâ€™t use â€œhusbandâ€ anymore is because people then start using â€œheâ€ pronouns about my partner. She is not a he. To avoid that, I avoid the gendered terminology that leads to it.
When she had a genderqueer/androgynous presentation, she didnâ€™t mind mixing up the pronouns â€“ as I did in the 2nd book. Now, â€œheâ€ chafes her, doesnâ€™t fit.
So sue me for having had to make adjustments â€“ especially ones that are entirely out of consideration of my partnerâ€™s gender.
Please donâ€™t write back. Your response was rude beyond belief. I shouldnâ€™t be justifying it with a response at all, but I like to give people a fair shake.
If I stop using “husband” then it’s somehow just “convenient” that I’m doing so. Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with my partner’s change in gender! *sigh* I’m having one of those days.
We don’t use the words “husband” or “wife” because they’re gendered, but we don’t generally use “spouse” because it seems too clinical, or legal, & yet I wonder if it lacks warmth precisely because it’s not gendered.
Yes, it’s a depressing thought, but I’ve seen so many of them in the trans community over time that I thought I should share these two articles I found on the topic.
One of called “What Every Married Woman Should Know About Money,” by Carol Mithers and has a bulleted list of 7 items:
- 1. Carry your own plastic.
- 2. Read the fine print.
- 3. Define what’s yours, mine, and ours.
- 4. Don’t give up bill-paying duties.
- 5. Get to know your financial advisers.
- 6. Make plans for the future.
- 7. Keep your professional hat in the ring.
The other is “What To Do When You Can’t Afford a Divorce” also by Carol Mithers and has this useful bit of advice about credit:
Credit is a different story. “Shred joint cards and get a new one in your own name,” recommends Lisa Decker, an Atlanta-area-based financial analyst specializing in divorce. “It can be hard for a woman to get credit after a divorce, especially if she hasn’t been working. If you have a balance you can’t pay off on existing credit cards, freeze the account so that neither partner can run up the debt further. Also put freezes on home equity so that neither of you can take out a second mortgage or line of credit.”
Not cheery, but still important reading.
Roger Cohen followed up his column mentioning the women of Iran with a column about them entirely:
A friend told me he no longer recognizes his wife. Sheâ€™d been of the reluctantly acquiescent school. Now, â€œSheâ€™s a revolutionary.â€ I followed as she led us up onto the roof. The â€œdeath to the dictatorâ€ that surged from her into the night was of rare ferocity.
Very much worth reading – go check it out.
I’ll be speaking at TransOhio’s annual conference this year, deliverying both a keynote and doing a workshop about sex & identity.
When: August 14-16, 2009
Where: Columbus, Ohio
What: Lots of cool workshops for trans people, their partners, & allies
You can read the descriptions of my keynote and workshop below the break, but in the meantime check out TransOhio’s conference site for more details.
Today’s the day! I’m blogging, as I have in years past. for LGBT families – who have, thankfully, seen some gains this year! I know plenty of my queerio friends are tired & frustrated with the whole push for same-sex marriage, and trans activists are frustrated as well, because they want the attention on non-discrimination legislation, but as a married person, who is now same-sex, it makes me kind of ill to realize that the state I’m currently living in is actually struggling only to recognize domestic partnerships (for f***k’s sake). My home state can’t work it out either, which is downright embarrassing as a NYer. It’s a mistake, in my opinion, to divorce marriage from the economic issues that are at stake: even something like health insurance is vitally important, & very expensive if one spouse can’t be covered by the other’s health insurance.
So from my very small family to yours: keep working on same sex marriage. You don’t have to ignore other issues – like the gender identity & expression version of ENDA – but goddamn if I’m going to be a 2nd class citizen, & neither should anyone else.
Here’s some other trans family bloggers:
Join us next year!
Tom Ackerman, a gay man, has vowed to call his friends’ wives their girlfriends, because he’s decided his religious views don’t allow him to recognize opposite-sex marriage.
The New Scientist tells you everything you ever wanted to know about female ejaculation (& maybe a few things you didn’t want to know).
A woman named Brenda Lee got dragged bodily off of Air Force One when she tried to give President Obama a letter asking him to stand up for heterosexual marriage.
Publishers Weekly reports from the BEA that US Publishers have vowed to fight digitized piracy.
Please sign this petition in favor of domestic partner protections for Wisconsin! It looks like they will be voting on it toward the end of the week.
Well then. Honestly, what do you say? My parents and my siblings must feel *really* old today, since I’m the youngest of the family.
But as my dad always said, it’s not like the only other option is any good, so you may as well grow old.
Thanks all for the lovely gifts and well wishes and your support in these recent years. To 50! To Cronedom! (I am glad that we get to do this milestone together, at least. Having the same bday as your partner is sometimes annoying, but this year, it’s a relief.)