Tag: She’s Not the Man I Married

A Kind of Valentine’s Day Present

Posted by – February 14, 2011

I just discovered reviews of both My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married by Samantha Anne Perrin, and they were a lovely reminder of what I do, and honestly, in reading the list of quotes she pulled from She’s Not, I thought to myself “did I take smart drugs when I was writing that, or something?” because I’m always a little surprised since from inside my head, and inside my life, I do not often feel smart — emotionally or otherwise.

I am convinced there is something about the process of writing that creates another mind altogether. When I get to that point where I feel like I’m transcribing and not writing, I know I’m there.

I especially appreciate this little explanation:

One of the criticisms I have read of this book is that it is repetitive. . . If you find yourself thinking that what you are reading is a repeat of something you have read before, you are not reading it! My suggestion would be to re-read, and re-read that passage until you ‘get’ its true meaning. Repetitive? Hell no!

The repetition was in large part intentional. I wanted the book to feel like driving up a mountain on a road that winds its way up there, seeing the same peak, the same view, over & over again, or keeping it in sight, but seeing it in a slightly different way depending on the turn of the road. It’s a hat tip of Didion & Woolf (who both do it so much better than I ever could).

But mostly I put this up today because reading her reviews reminded me of the love that went into the writing of both books, that they are, still, my gift to the lovely woman to whom I’m married.

Amazon Filters Out Queer/Sex Books

Posted by – April 12, 2009

Not books about queer sex per se, although I’m sure those are included, but books about sexuality and/or queer topics, have lost their rankings at amazon.com. Mine included.

As Mark Probst reported, they are removing the rankings of these books exactly so they do not appear in “some searches and best seller lists.”

My Husband Betty was often categorized either in sexuality sections or in LGBT sections, but She’s Not the Man I Married is classified as a Gender Studies book.

This is bullshit. Amazon.com already gets crap ratings on the T with HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. When you see a book you like is missing its sales rank, that’s probably why: they’re filtering LGBT books out of their lists. Aside from being a bad business decision, it’s discriminatory and – well, just stupid for booksellers to be censoring their lists.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: When you find a book  that doesn’t have a sales rank, please send Amazon a message using the feedback page provided – scroll down toward the end of the page, & look for a Feedback box shaded light blue.

& GOOGLEBOMB: link to this page that redefines “amazon rank” more accurately.

Jose O. Sucuzhanay

Posted by – December 14, 2008

I mentioned, in She’s Not the Man I Married, that someone may not be gendered in American way when I wrote about looking around at people on the subway. Tonight I read, in the NYT, that a young Ecuadorean man and his brother were walking home from a night out at a bar with their arms around each other. A group of thugs pulled up in an SUV, yelled slurs about them being Hispanic and about them being gay, and only left when one of the brothers said he would call the cops on his cellphone. The other brother – Jose O. Sucuzhanay – died on Friday night in the hospital.

As GenderPAC regularly points out, anti-gay violence isn’t just a problem for gay people. Anyone who is presumed to be gay, for whatever reason, can be a target. And in this case, the brothers showed affection in ways that aren’t common here in the US – even if that kind of affection is very common between men in other counties – it caused these bigots to assume they were gay men.

That’s about gender: what kinds of affection are appropriate between men, which aren’t.

I’m just so sickened and sad reading about this. For this year and for many years to come, this family will remember this violent, senseless death and this loss right before Christmas.

(h/t to kiri for posting this story in our forums)

RIP DFW

Posted by – September 17, 2008

The thing about being away is that you miss a lot of important news, like Ike and poor Gilchrist, TX; or the fact that Palin dropped 10 approval points over the weekend, or, most sadly, that novelist David Foster Wallace committed suicide this past weekend.

I was never a huge fan of his work, with the exception of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and of course – like every other writer alive – I was jealous of how much attention he got. The first piece I read by him was in Harper’s, and it was about cruises, and I found the endless footnoting drove me nuts, BUT – and this is a big but – his style broke through certain dull trends in novel-writing that I couldn’t bear even more. Every once in a while someone tells me that they think the footnotes of She’s Not the Man I Married is the best part of the book, and I’ve always described them jokingly as my attempt at being the David Foster Wallace of the gender set.

I’m stunned, about as stunned when I learned that another master & experimental stylist, Spalding Gray, also committed suicide. It’s a worry for people like me – prone to depression, only happy – you might even say alive – when writing. I have an old writer friend who used to ask me all the time, when we were taking writing workshops at CCNY together, whether I would choose writing or happiness, if I chose one or the other. I always said happiness.

& David Foster Wallace reminded me tonight why.

RIP, and the deepest condolences to his wife and sister.

Writing While Listening

Posted by – June 1, 2008

I wrote most of My Husband Betty while listening to Rufus Wainwright‘s music, which is one of the reasons I thanked him in the foreword of that book.

She’s Not the Man I Married took motivating music; things like “Go Baby Go” by Garbage I remember listening to over & over again some nights, for its queer lyrics and sugary enthusiasm.

But now, this novel — which I started writing when I was first listening to a lot of Smiths — is now getting written to a soundtrack of nearly exclusively Elliott Smith, specifically XO, and some nights, I’m just so taken my how honeyed and gorgeous his voice was, and how much it saddens me that he won’t ever sing again. It’s just such perfect middle of the night music, somehow, full of longing and a kind of stubborn dignity, and the perfect soundtrack for this book.

Top Ten Trans Reads

Posted by – March 19, 2008

Out Magazine recently put together a really asinine list of transgender books for their transgender issue. I haven’t seen the issue, but the list doesn’t really inspire me to go buy it, either, since Myra Breckinridge is on it.

For the past years I’ve always mixed my gender / feminism / trans books, but since that Top 10 of Out‘s is so lame, and the Lammies recently neglected Whipping Girl, which they shouldn’t have, I thought instead I should post my own Top Ten Recommended Trans Reads for LGBTQ readers. There are a few everyone might not need to read – like Virginia Erhardt’s Head Over Heels, which is about the partners of MTFs – or they might want to substitute Minnie Bruce Pratt’s S/he instead – but mostly this list gives a good “big picture” view of the trans community, including a variety of identities.

I might suggest different books for family & friends who are trying to understand transition but who aren’t big readers, & I’ll have to think about that list, too.

Of course now that I’ve written it I have to say I’d add my own books, My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married, too.

& Maybe The Drag Queens of New York as well.

  1. Butch is a Noun – S. Bear Bergman
  2. Gender Outlaw – Kate Bornstein
  3. Crossdressing, Sex & Gender – Bullough & Bullough
  4. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism – Patrick Califia
  5. Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Crossdressers and Transsexuals – Virginia Erhardt
  6. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman – Leslie Feinberg
  7. Becoming a Visible Man – Jamison Green
  8. Mom, I Need to be a Girl – Just Evelyn
  9. Whipping Girl – Julia Serano
  10. Transition & BeyondReid Vanderbergh

You’ll notice none of them is a YETA (Yet Another Transsexual Autobiography), since after you read Jenny Boylan’s She’s Not There (which I assume everyone has) you don’t need to read any others, and hers is the best-written, in my opinion. You can see the list in context on my Transgender Books page, which has reviews or links to reviews and discussions of them all.

Whipping Girl

Posted by – March 17, 2008

The Lambda Literary Foundation’s list of finalists for the 2007 Lammies is out, and She’s Not the Man I Married didn’t make the cut. And I’m okay with that; it can be a little tiring to see how even trans people don’t seem to care, often, about how loved ones see/relate/deal with transness, but I’m getting used to it. Besides, I got my props the first time around, when My Husband Betty made finalist.

That said, Whipping Girl didn’t make the cut and that is absolutely 100% wrong.  & I’ll tell you why.

Whipping Girl is, to date, the only book to address, theoretically, the uneasy relationship between trans people – specifically MTF transsexual women – and feminism, and that work was long overdue. It addresses sexuality, media representations, the historical pathologization of trans people by psychologists, the fetishization of tans women’s sexualities, the inherent misogyny of a feminist politics that mocks femininity, and then some.

It has been personally & politically important to me in confronting what remained of my own “natural attitude” toward my own gender, what Serano calls cissexism (and rightfully so) and proposes the concept of “subconsious sex” which did more to explain transsexualism to me than anything ever has — outside, maybe, of Betty’s “because” model.

It’s a real shame that this book was not recognized by the Lambda Literary Foundation. It will be considered a classic, revelatory and ground-breaking book in time; it’s just sad the Foundation’s judges don’t have the foresight to give it its due now.

Julia, personally: thank you. I always appreciate when anyone, with their words and logic and anger, can make me a little less of an asshole, and Whipping Girl did that in spades.

Today

Posted by – March 16, 2008

Today Betty and I are doing our encore performance at Lawrence University – back by popular demand! – since last time around, the room was more than 50% over its seating limit and many people couldn’t get in.

We’ll start at 3:30 today. I’ll read from She’s Not the Man I Married, we’ll talk, we’ll answer questions. Come if you’re near Appleton, since it’s open to the public.

Translations

Posted by – March 3, 2008

Recently, someone from Brazil inquired as to whether or not a Portuguese translation of My Husband Betty existed. Sadly, the answer is no. Neither is there a Spanish or Japanese version — which are the ones I’m most often asked about.

Seal Press owns the translation rights for My Husband Betty, but I’m pretty sure I own them for She’s Not the Man I Married. Not 100% sure, but nearly. So if you – or someone you know – is interested in publishing a different translation of either, do let me know, or contact Seal Press. Likewise for Audio versions. Personally I’d like to see all of these happen, but so far, no luck.

Colorbind

Posted by – February 12, 2008

A great, much-needed and overdue article on the intersections of transness and race by Daisy Hernandez at ColorLines:

Louis Mitchell expected a lot of change when he began taking injections of hormones eight years ago to transition from a female body to a male one. He anticipated that he’d grow a beard, which he eventually did and enjoys now. He knew his voice would deepen and that his relationship with his partner, family and friends would change in subtle and, he hoped, good ways, all of which happened.

What he had not counted on was changing the way he drove.

Within months of starting male hormones, “I got pulled over 300 percent more than I had in the previous 23 years of driving, almost immediately. It was astounding,” says Mitchell, who is Black and transitioned while living in the San Francisco area and now resides in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This essay might be an interesting read to compare to Jacob Anderson Minshall‘s essay in “The Enemy Within: Becoming a Straight White Guy” which details what it’s been like for a feminist to transition to male. It’s in the new anthology Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power.

(via Feministing, where you will also currently see a blog ad for She’s Not the Man I Married)

Not Mine

Posted by – January 11, 2008

I just found out that my publishers missed the deadline to nominate my book She’s Not the Man I Married for a Lambda Literary Award. Considering that it’s probably the only award that has a Transgender category at all, I’m – well, beyond words about how shitty this is.

It’s like the last kick in the ass from 2007 arriving a little late.

But congrats to all my friends & fellow writers on the list: Reid Vanderburgh, Eli Clare, Julia Serano, Mattilda, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. May the best person win.

The Uses of ‘Pretty’ – Part II

Posted by – December 24, 2007

A long time ago, I wrote a piece about “pretty” that eventually became a section of She’s Not the Man I Married that in turn, our resident board moderator Donna recently referred to when recounting a moment where she looked in the mirror and actually saw herself as pretty.

What made me think about it – and my reputation of being Helen “pretty is a mug’s game” Boyd – was seeing an episode of What Not To Wear which featured a nurse from Arizona who wore her scrubs and sweats everywhere & anywhere. They even had to do affirmations with her, like “I’m beautiful and I want to share my beauty with the world” which the woman couldn’t say without getting teared up. But by the end, she had transformed: it was obvious she felt not just pretty but confident.

& What I’ve been thinking about is that it’s a whole different thing to experience yourself as pretty – in a positive way – than to be told you’re pretty when that’s not wanted. The woman on the show was so obviously floored by actually feeling pretty that I was struck by what she was experiencing in feeling pretty, and so I was struck too by the times feeling pretty meant something good to me.

& It still can, of course.

Growing up as me meant when I was smoking a cigarette near the subway, five men would go by & say “you’re too pretty to smoke” or “you’re too pretty not to be smiling” or “you’re too pretty to have a mohawk.” etc. It was all kind of – the only word that comes to mind is <<interdit>> – about what I couldn’t & shouldn’t do because I was “pretty.”

Looks can become the only thing that women think is important and/or valuable about them, too, & even the pretty ones often discount so many other good things about themselves when they’re not feeling pretty enough. Not buying into pretty was a good way for me, at least, to break through a lot of the gendered boxes I might have been trapped in otherwise. When you feel like you’re not pretty enough to go outside without makeup, & men do every single day, there’s something wrong that needs to be – well, accounted for.

I don’t necessarily love the cattiness of shows like this, but I also know how it can feel to put on something & just feel good – even pretty! – when you’ve otherwise been feeling grungy / dumpy / inept. It’s another case where I think my experience being raised female might be quite different from the way a trans woman might relate to the same issue – that is, an acknowledgement of difference & not cause for hierarchy – because trans women grow up being told you can’t be pretty, you won’t be pretty, and you’re not allowed to be pretty, which is quite different indeed from being told you can be pretty but you can’t be anything else. But all of us, I think, in this lookist culture, have to step back from the shitty feelings of self-doubt – and even the euphoric feelings pretty can bring – and pay attention to pretty being a lot more valuable when it’s something you feel, not something you are (or aren’t).

Fear of Flying

Posted by – October 12, 2007

Okay, so those of you who know me know I hate flying, & haven’t flown in a couple of years. Interestingly, perhaps, the last time I flew was also to Denver Airport, for Betty’s family reunion, which was maybe summer 2005 (since the incident is in She’s Not the Man I Married, so I knew it was before I wrote the book in the first half of 2006).

& Really, I did incredibly well considering. I took some new anti-anxiety drugs my doctor prescribed, & they helped a ton; I nearly almost enjoyed the trip out there.

BUT, on the way back, there was a thunderstorm between us & Laguardia. & Getting through it wasn’t the bad part; the bad part is that they needed more time between landings when it’s raining so hard.

Do we had to go into a holding pattern above the airport, flew in circles, through turbulence, for an hour, pitching & tossing & UGH.

I vomited & vomited & vomited. & Sweated. & Shook.

I can’t even think about how it would have been without the anti-anxiety meds.

But otherwise it was a lovely trip, and we met some really great people, all of which I’ll blog about in the upcoming days: I have the lovely luxury of being home five full days before we leave for Fantasia Fair early Thursday morning.

Good News

Posted by – July 29, 2007

After Avalon was bought by Perseus and Perseus eliminated the Thunder’s Mouth Press imprint altogether, I was wondering – and worried – as to what would happen to My Husband Betty, since it was published by Thunder’s Mouth. Lo & behold, I got the news that MHB is going to be moved to Seal Press, who published She’s Not the Man I Married.

I’m very pleased, since MHB has continued selling – not in giant ways, but more like The Little Engine that Could. But more than that, I feel like I have a home as a writer (& from what they tell me, the folks at Seal feel similarly.)

The Importance of Being Earnest, or Accurate, or Both

Posted by – July 26, 2007

A reviewer recently misquoted me as having written that I was called a “dyke” when I was a kid, when in fact the word I used was “butch.”

That mistake, while minor on the surface, has got me thinking.

The difference between the words is that essential difference between sexual orientation and gender presentation, which are often conflated in the first place, but which I tried to dissect in She’s Not the Man I Married. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t issues like this that cause some of the rift between the gay/lesbian community and the trans community; I’d imagine, for many masculine-leaning lesbians, “butch” and “dyke” are pretty much the same slur. But the thing is, “butch” bothered me – because it was true. I was butch. Being called a dyke never had the same effect, exactly because I knew myself to be heterosexual.

Of course reading that kind of error made me wonder about how much the critic could have actually gotten out of my book, or how much she might have been willing to get out of it. I’m fascinated by the ways gender variance is allocated to gay & lesbian people but not to heterosexuals; it’s a big theme of the book. For someone for whom the words “dyke” and “butch” are the same thing, I must seem like I’m splitting hairs. But the review, alas, did end:

(I)t’s an earnest book that might appeal to those questioning the nature of gender identity, marriage, and social attitudes about both.

& I did learn, quite a long time ago, the vital importance of being earnest.

Borders in Albany

Posted by – July 17, 2007

Here are a couple of photos from the Borders reading up in Albany:

<<< the first of me with a nice display of She’s Not the Man I Married

& the second of us with a bunch >> of friends (& a Harry Potter poster): from left to right: Betty, me, Hawk Stone, Tristan, & Colten.

Public/Private

Posted by – July 10, 2007

So do I get to be a private person, too?

That’s the thought that’s been going through my head lately, since a partner in another online group for partners I belonged to recently commented that she was feeling hesitant about reading She’s Not the Man I Married because Betty stepped in to defend me on some occasion on the message boards.

& I was a little surprised, for two reasons: (1) because the idea of someone deciding I’m not independent enough or that I’ve hidden behind Betty’s skirts (as it were) kind of confounds me in general, considering the criticism I get more often is that I’m such a ball-buster who is exploiting Betty for the fame & fortune, and (2) because it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t recognize that while I have a public life as a partner & as an author, I’m also still also just one of a gazillion partners of trans people who is trundling through this experience. More

SNTMIM Review

Posted by – June 26, 2007

A lovely review of She’s Not the Man I Married just appeared in a Brooklyn paper called The Indypendent – here’s an excerpt from it:

In the end, Boyd writes that despite the obvious discordance, the central issue is whether society can allow — or can be pushed to at least acknowledge — that men and women exist on a continuum that includes butches, superfemmes and everyone in between.

Pretending otherwise, Boyd writes, is damaging and limits our exploration of who we might become. It also limits with whom we associate, a point driven home by Helen and Betty’s dramatic love story. Make no mistake, even in its manifold difficult moments, theirs is the kind of love that people fantasize about.

She’s Not the Man I Married is by turns funny, heart-breaking, illuminating, expansive and humane. While it asks more questions than it answers, this is ultimately its strength. Provocative and smart, it leaves readers rooting for the winsome, witty and stylish pair.

“I have a husband and a girlfriend on the side,” Boyd quips, “but they both happen to be the same person.” Her smile is evident beneath the words.

Only a fool would call Helen and Betty’s relationship easy, but the two seem content to take it one day at a time. Their commitment is to a life based on shared interests, passion and respect. Who could ask for more?

Reading this was an exceptionally good way to feel welcomed home.

Trans Couples Series

Posted by – June 20, 2007

A while back, while writing She’s Not the Man I Married, I realized that there are very, very few love stories out there for us – trans people & their partners. Having been one such couple who were public for some time, Betty & I have been told we’ve brought some kind of hope to so many. Since we travel enough to meet tons of other couples, I thought it was about time that someone started showcasing all of the love & romance & commitment that comes out of the trans community.

So tomorrow – I thought Pride month would be a good time to inaugurate this idea – I’ll start a small series called Trans Couples that will tell the story of one such couple.

If you want to tell your own story, and see it up on my blog, do email me about it *before* you send your story and photos. I’d love to see a ton more, so that as time goes by, there will be an anthology of our relationships somewhere, archived. Of course I’m open to all kinds of transness, all kinds of relationships, & all kinds of partners. My only request is that the couple in question have been together for a few years by the time you write the story.

Cleveland Pt. 1

Posted by – June 7, 2007

Thursday 5/24: we left at 4pm in order to arrive in Cleveland at 3:30am on Friday – but of course Amtrak is Amtrak & instead we got in around 5am.

Friday 5/25: Diane was kind enough not only to pick us up at the train station, but to wait the extra time since Amtrak was late. She gave us a driving tour of Cleveland on the way to her place, including a drive through a very cool park. Having grown up on all the stereotypes of how awful Cleveland is, both me & Betty were quite surprised. After arriving at Diane’s – who gave us not just a room but a floor of her house to stay in, we saw a stray orange tabby in the yard – kind of like a good luck omen, for us. More