Tag: trans kin

A Few Questions With… Cameron Whitley

Posted by – January 17, 2013

Eleanor Hubbard is the co-editor of the anthology Trans Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People< . I got the chance to ask her a few questions about the book.

1) What encouraged you to create this book?

The idea for this book developed years ago when I was contemplating coming-out to my mother as a transgender man. Before revealing my transgender status to my mother I wanted to secure resources so she could understand how I felt inside, how I didn’t identify or feel comfortable with the body I was given. Most importantly, I wanted her to know that my transgender status was not her fault. These feelings I had about being different, identifying as a boy, but not physically being one had nothing to do with how I was raised or what my mother expected from me. In fact, my mother had always been supportive of me, encouraging my many interests both masculine and feminine. At the time that I came-out, it seemed that there were lots of questions about the cause of people being gay in the media. These questions extended beyond sexuality and into gender identity. I remember watching talk shows that questioned parental socialization, suggesting that the parents contributed to the (unnatural) transgender status of their children. When I came-out there were few resources for my mother. During this time I also saw that few resources existed for my family members and friends. I started hearing beautiful and touching stories of relationships. From these stories the book developed. It was a long and beautiful process. Eleanor and I have been so fortunate to have so many people share their stories with us. Today, we are happy to report that our book is one of a small and growing collection of stories that speak to the journeys of significant others, family members, friends and allies of transgender folk.

2) What, in editing it, is the biggest surprise? What was the most expected?

There were many surprises. I was amazed at how many stories of love and support we heard. As one mother told me, “the first response is seldom the last.” As we talked she noted that when her son came-out as a transgender woman she was so distraught that she initially cut off contact with her child. She feared for her child’s safety and wondered if he (she) would experience harassment or ever find a job. She also worried about how her friends and family members would react. She quickly realized that her child was still the wonderful person she had raised. In this realization she has chosen to support her daughter as she physically transitions into the woman she has always wanted to be. While this journey has not been easy, her “first response” could not be more different than her current sentiment about her daughter. This story taught me that I should not write-off people who at first may have a negative response to my transgender status. Often because of the hurt, it becomes easier to disconnect from people who demonstrate unsupportive positions when we come-out, a response that can be very much justified. For me, I want to learn to separate my identity as a transgender man from the reactions of others. I want to remember that their reactions have nothing to do with who I am, or how I live my life, and that these moments are opportunities to show love and compassion for another who is entering their own journey of discovery.

Another surprise was how many stories we could not publish because contributors were afraid of having their identities revealed, even if the story was published with a pseudonym. Some were concerned about their safety, while others feared being ostracized in their communities. Mostly, of these concerns were centered on religion. I am always saddened by how religion, specifically Christianity is used to hurt people in the LGBT community. As a Christian, I cannot fathom how such hate can be justified using biblical text.

3) In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about the friends, family, and spouses of trans people?

In my opinion I would say that the biggest misconception about significant others, family members, friends and allies of transgender persons is that they don’t transition or that they don’t experience their own journeys when a loved one comes out as transgender. While my journey as a transgender man has had its difficulties, my mother’s journey has been challenging as well. She has had to come to terms with my transgender status with little community support. When she struggled at first with my transgender status the transgender community was eager to label her as “unsupportive,” while her friends were sure that she had done something wrong in raising me. She was caught between worlds with few acceptable options. She found herself a poster mother for transgender acceptance when she was still trying come to terms with her own journey and my transgender status. Ten years later, she is often confronted with the question, “how is your daughter?” At this moment she must consider how to answer. Does she out me as a transgender man and have a transgender 101 conversation in the local grocery store? Or, does she select to not out me and then feel bad about using female pronouns? For her, it all depends on the day and who is asking. I support my mother in this decision. This is a journey that we negotiate together. I recognize that her journey has challenges just as mine does. I could share similar stories about my wife, friends and extended family members as well.

A Few Questions With… Eleanor Hubbard

Posted by – January 10, 2013

Eleanor Hubbard is the co-editor of the anthology Trans Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People< . I got the chance to ask her a few questions about the book.

1) What encouraged you to create this book?

Cameron (the other co-editor) is a former student of mine, and he studied the transgender literature in a guided study project under my direction. Although I knew a little about transgender issues through teaching Sex, Gender and Society for many years at the University of Colorado and I was already an ally of the GLBT community, this project helped me learn a great deal more. Then Cameron was my student in Qualitative Methods and Critical Thinking and wrote an honors thesis under my direction. After his graduation, we talked how we could continue to work together and actually started on a paper that would reflect what we were calling the gender spectrum at that time.

One time when we were together, I wish I could remember the exact date, Cameron said to me: “I found many books to read during my transition that were very helpful, but when my mom asked me for something to read that would help her, I couldn’t find anything.” I responded, “This is the book we were meant to write.”

As we started to collect stories, we were encouraged even more that this book needed to be available for SOFFAs! The stories were funny, poignant, inspirational, and most of all, heart-felt. Cam and I became the conduit through which more people could hear these stories.

2) What, in editing it, is the biggest surprise? What was the most expected?

The biggest surprise for me in reading and re-reading our book was how many differences and similarities, there were in the lives of SOFFAs and their Transgender loved ones. For instance, the experience of SOFFAs going through transition with their transgender spouse, family member or friend had some similarities with their trans loved one. SOFFAs often feel that they are put in the closet as their loved ones were coming out of the closet during their transition. Who to tell and when to tell about their trans son is a big concern for the parent just as it is was for their son. What pronouns to use? How to introduce their male spouse to people who knew her as a woman? How to explain what their friend was going through to family members? These are all questions that trans people deal with as well, but with a different slant.

Another surprise for me was how well many family members, spouses, and friends went through the transition and came out on the other side. I have had many transgender people tell me that their family and friends disowned them when they transitioned, but I was particularly moved by the story of the step-father who disagreed with his son’s transition, but still loved him and spent time with him when his wife, and the son’s mother, could not. But this is only one example of many in the book where SOFFAs find their own way through their transition while still loving and supporting their transgender loved ones.

Another surprise was how many SOFFAs were also priests, pastors, rabbis, and committed church and synagogue members. Allies within the church were particularly important for many transgender people who have been disenfranchised by their church community.

I brought many expectations to the book about SOFFAs, but every single one burst. I learned that my expectations were what got in the way of really hearing the stories of trans people and their SOFFAs.

3) In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about the friends, family, and spouses of trans people?

The biggest misconception about SOFFAs is that they are different than us. Some SOFFAs can’t cope with their loved one’s transitioning, but many not only deal with it, but survive and thrive, just like the rest of us. SOFFAs have hopes and dreams for themselves and their trans loved ones, but they, just like the rest of us, learn to move through their expectations and love the person in front of them, not the person they wanted them to be. Some people cope with life-threatening illnesses in their friends, family and spouses. Many people worry about substance abuse or infertility or disability and continue to try to change the person rather than accept them for who they are. But because there are resources available to them and their own inner resilence, many people find their way through difficult times, just like SOFFAs do. We have much more in common than we have differences.

A Few Questions With… Miriam Hall

Posted by – January 3, 2013

Miriam Hall is a partner of a trans person and a contributor to the book Trans Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People. She and I did a reading together for the Wisconsin Book Festival a few months ago at A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison.

1) What encouraged you to create this book?
I always write about what is happening to me – it’s my way of understanding. When I met Dylan I was already writing about my own sexuality, and so writing about our combined sexuality and her gender fit right into what I was writing. When I saw a posting (I don’t remember where!) asking for writings for this anthology, I was excited to know I could put a bit of what I was doing somewhere. I am working on a longer memoir of which this is a part.

2) What, in reading it, is the biggest surprise? What was the most expected?
I was surprised at the large number of people who formerly dated trans people and their incredibly strong advocacy. There’s an unfortunate stereotype, not to mention fear, that people who leave trans folks do it only because they are trans. That they are all bitter or anti-trans. Being really close to someone – like living and sleeping with them – who is transitioning is quite a bit closer than being friends. It’s really intense and not easy – like a “regular” relationship, only pitched up that much higher. I really appreciate allies – really, really appreciate them. But nothing beats the person I am talking to/reading having (or having had) their own heart on the line (ie another partner or former partner).

3) In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about the friends, family, and spouses of trans people?

I think the most common misconception is that you cannot be an ally, much less a partner or even a trans person, without messing up: using the wrong pronoun, etc. People figure if they don’t “have it down yet” they aren’t “doing a good job.” I find this tragic. Like so many things in life, you simply have to jump in with a good heart and try your best, be apologetic when you screw up and let it go and move on.

You can find Miriam Hall’s writing, photography, & practice online: her website.