Tag: trans partners

Love, Always Epilogue

Posted by – March 30, 2015

I’ve been meaning to wrap up my interviews with partners by putting up a small piece of my Epilogue for Love, Always. I read it Saturday night at a FORGE meeting because Trystan Cotten, Transgress Press’ Managing Editor, was in town.

Also, he’s an awesome guy & you should all buy more of their books.

In the meantime, here’s that snippet:

And we do it all in a wilderness with little support from our own closest friends. Sometimes, when I speak to partners, I remind them that We Are Out There and we may not have a Prof. X to find us all, but we are. We are raising children and packing lunches and going back to school ourselves and sighing at our in-laws or at Oprah getting it wrong again. We are sex blogging and arguing with doctors and following the arguments about Prop 8 and DSM V.

No wonder some of us forget who we are, forget our self-care; no wonder we occasionally rant and sob and grow some giant-size anger.

Where we find ourselves is often between that infamous rock and hard place: if our partner’s transition makes us look like half a lesbian or gay couple, we have to deal with homophobia; but if our partner’s transition makes us look like half of a straight couple, we often lose the support of the lesbian or gay community we’ve belonged to and found safety in for many years of our lives.

Because we transition into trans partners, no one really knows anything about us. We don’t become lesbians when our wives become women, and we don’t become straight when our guys become men. That joke, as Morrissey so famous quipped, isn’t funny anymore. We end up in a place where we have our own histories, our own orientations, hidden from public view, especially if our trans love isn’t out as trans. Some of us opt to identify as bi- (to explain, perhaps, why we’re married to women while nursing a crush on Mark Ruffalo – at least in this partner’s experience, I swear my taste in men got bigger and hairier as my partner transitioned). We find stories to explain why we’re lesbians and why we’re sad about Leslie Feinberg’s death – or why, indeed, we even know who Leslie Feinberg was. In straight and gay communities, an awful lot of people think you’re only ever one or other; we have some common ground with bisexual people in that we’re largely invisible and must, must, be repressed/oversexed/self-hating/whatever crappy things people think about bisexual people these days. Yet some of us don’t like bi- because it’s binary. So a lot of us, you’ll find, wind up under the big bad queer umbrella, so we don’t have to explain a lifetime of dating women but being married to a man; we don’t have to explain becoming non monogamous because we miss certain kinds of sex or desires or even ways of being desired. We don’t want to feel like jerks for missing the bodies or parts or sex acts that we love. But we also don’t want to be judged for loving your trans bodies because they’re trans.

We are always standing on the edge of the forest, machetes in hand, hacking our own paths.

We can’t complain to people we know because we know so many of those around us want us to fail or cry or be pathetic and pitiable or even to condemn the trans. If you give in a little, if you complain about the transition to a good friend, then all of a sudden the whole reason you’re unhappy is that your partner is trans. That happens with therapists, too, way too often.

In trans community, when we’re allowed to partake, the complaining we do or the gentle mocking or the loving critiques or not so loving critiques – please stop dressing like a 19 year old, dear, because you’re 35 – are often viewed as transphobic. If we are not on board and behind every single decision the trans person makes, we’re out. Suspect. If we ask the trans person to slow down so we can catch our breath or save up some money or come out to someone else who needs to know we are, again, judged unwilling or transphobic. We can’t refer to our former boyfriend as a boyfriend even though he was because she is our girlfriend now and has only ever been so and don’t you forget it and that’s even when your own trans person is perfectly okay with hearing you talk about what a cute guy/hot butch you once were. We don’t seek to offend but we do need room to deal with transition our own way. We’re going to screw up pronouns and new names and you know what? So do trans people, sometimes. Our intentions matter.

Despite feeling like outsiders in so many other communities we once belonged in, we often feel liminal even within trans community. We know that. We own our cis privilege, if we are cis. We know more than anyone else what it means to have it. And that’s when we’re even allowed in. So many lesbian women and their trans guys get shut out of queer women’s events; so many straight women and their trans female partners are never let in. Gay men flirt with my wife as if she’s a guy in a dress, and sometimes straight women do, too. Queer women fetishize trans guys as if they’re prizes and yet refer to our trans husbands with female pronouns when they’re not around. We end up defending your gender identities and yet all the while try not to speak for you.

We need more support from the trans community, and we need for the rest of the LGBTQ+ community to realize we’re here and we’re queer and get used to it, already. Sometimes we look straight but we’re not. Sometimes we are straight and don’t know how to do this. Sometimes we need someone to say, “Hey, you look nice” and sometimes we need people to understand that transition is like some crazy combination of marriage (name change), medical crisis (hormones, surgery) and divorce (social ostracism, pity). It’s a lot to deal with at once, and often, when the trans person is busy dealing with all of the emotions and fears and new discoveries, we are picking up an awful lot of slack emotionally and even just logistically. But you get to be brave and living your own truth, or whatever condescending stuff it is that non trans people say about transition these days. You are noble, and suffering, while we’re often assumed to be codependent or desperate.

We get asked all the offensive, obnoxious questions they know not to ask you by now.

Five Questions With… Miriam

Posted by – March 21, 2015

The last (for now!) of my interviews with partners of trans people who wrote narratives for Transgress Press’ Love, Always, is not, by far, the least. Miriam Hall is also a friend, fellow writer, & fellow Wisconsinite. She’s a writer and photographer and teaches both as contemplative practice. You can check out more of what she does at her website.

1. What didn’t you write about in your narrative but wish you had?

I am always writing about this process, so there’s nothing I wish I had included in this particular essay that I won’t just include elsewhere. One of the hard things about this process is that just when I think I’ve “finished” a particular experience and can write about it, then something else emerges. The writing is a living process – not a reporting, but something that then feeds back into my life and vice-versa.

I know that I will look back later and wish I had a clearer view on co-dependency, say, in this essay, but I also know enough by now to know that its worth it to write as I go along, not just “after I have figured it out completely.”

2. What is the biggest misunderstanding you confront as a partner to a trans person?

The biggest misunderstanding I encounter is the assumption that this is their experience. This one is really subtle, but it’s a constant micro-aggression: How is she doing? That must be really hard for her! I can’t imagine what that is like for her! These are good signs that folks are expressing compassion and concern for her, but – and this is not all folks for sure – often that overlooks the person who is right in front of them.

3. Where do you get your support?

I get my support from a few main folks. I have feet in various support communities – including yours! – but I am really a one-to-one person. As Ilana’s transition quiets down, increasingly I find I can get the support I need from non-trans involved folks (eg soffas and trans folk, who were more my main support in the first few years). Plus my peeps are pretty well trained by now.

4. How has your experience been in bringing up your own difficulties with the trans person you’re partnered to?

We have a lot of co-dependency in our relationship – Hello! Normal for everyone! – and I am starting to understand how to look at it in that more universal way. It’s not that trans relationships are all co-dependent, it’s that transitioning makes everything – e-ver-y-thing – that much harder, while also masking it all at the same time. It is really only now, post-transition, that I am even allowing my own issues to really come to the front. That having been said, we do have an exceptionally loving and supportive partnership, so I have never felt she only wanted to focus on her own issues only.


5. Do you think you would partner with other kinds of trans people? That is, if you are partnered to someone feminine spectrum, would you date someone who is masculine spectrum? If they’re binary, someone genderqueer?

Yes. I am certain now that I am queer. I always identified as bisexual, but now I realize I am more than that – or not just that. Spectrum sexual. Attracted in particular to folks whose genders are in flux, in terms of presentation, as well as whose physical sexes are in flux. Somehow – call it my Buddhist-ness – I am more comfortable with the ambiguous and constantly changing than the fixed.

Five Questions With… Melissa

Posted by – March 14, 2015

Melissa Contreras is an old friend, a past participant on the mHB message boards, and an amazing person. Here’s her interview, to round out the amazing narrative she wrote for Transgress Press’ Love, Always.

1. What didn’t you write about in your narrative but wish you had?

I would have liked to go into more detail about our sex life, but I honestly didn’t want to cross that line, upset her, etc. Our sex life was always amazing, it never waned in any way – it was an interesting transition, to be sure, when her body started changing, but it never ceased being “amazing”. Since it was gradual, I never had to deal with a shocking, “OH GOD WHAT IS THIS” moment, I continued to enjoy it and adapted well at every point. It was a lovely surprise, when it came down to it.

2. What is the biggest misunderstanding you confront as a partner to a trans person?

People were and are very surprised that I stuck around. People assume that I would have left or wanted to leave. honestly, I wanted to stay with her forever, and if we were going to split up, it would have been her call, not mine. I loved her and was devoted from Day One.

3. Where do you get your support?

In the beginning, I got ALL of my support from MyHusbandBetty community forums and the personal relationships I made from there. These are/were people who were in the same boat as me, in some form or another, and I valued their experience and advice.

4. How has your experience been in bringing up your own difficulties with the trans person you’re partnered to?

My biggest complaint, really, was being stuck in a ‘closet’ of sorts – she never wanted me to talk about her with other people, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to talk about being a transpartner with other people, as it would “out” her and that was only her call to make. But this put ME in a closet, of sorts, and I had to live with ‘pretending’ for most of the time we were together. I was a very proud trans partner and wanted to shout to the world how proud I was of my wife, but she was more uncomfortable about being trans than I was being a partner, so I had to respect her wishes. Even when she came out, I had to be careful and respectful of her wishes, because it had to be on her terms and with her approval. That put me in a ‘closet’ of sorts and it was very uncomfortable, to say the least. I wanted to talk about it openly, and proudly.

5. Do you think you would partner with other kinds of trans people? That is, if you are partnered to someone feminine spectrum, would you date someone who is masculine spectrum? If they’re binary, someone genderqueer?

I consider myself bisexual, so I’m open to relationships with people all across the spectrum – I have had relationships with people of all gender identities and presentations, so it’s really not an issue for me. I’ve noticed that chemistry is the main factor regarding who I’m attracted to and I don’t have a ‘type’, so it really depends on the individual. I would date anyone I was attracted to regardless of gender, or gender identity. Going by my past and present relationships, I tend to skew towards the androgynous side, either gender. But really, it’s not a significant issue.

Her Husband

Posted by – March 9, 2015

Narratives like this one are always so hard to read. It’s all so familiar, and brings me back to a time when I hadn’t made any peace (yet) with my partner’s transition, and I knew so much more going into the marriage, had not yet been married 20+ years, but to “Diana” – you’re not alone. There are a lot of us out here.

This paragraph, in particular:

Can I walk away? No. Can I stay? Today I don’t think I can, but my answer changes all the time. I don’t just love this man, I adore him. After all these years, he still makes my toes curl when he kisses me. Every day he makes me laugh. He holds me when I cry. We have always been there for each other. To this day, my favorite thing is falling asleep on his shoulder in front of the TV at night. I believe him when he tells me hurting me like this is heartbreaking for him. This man whom I have admired for so many years is also fighting depression and has confided in me he’s thought about taking his own life. He’s also hurting and struggling with the turmoil he’s brought into our lives. He isn’t a deceitful monster. Like me, he’s stuck between what he wants and what he can have.

I really need to get the next book written. I really, really do.

Afterword: Partners

Posted by – January 10, 2015

So, partners, I’m finishing up an Afterword for a book of writings by us, and what I want to know is this:

  • What is it essential that I mention?
  • What are the things that no one ever says about us?
  • What don’t we get credit for?
  • What do we need from the larger trans community?

Be quick about your answers; I’m nearly done already.

What Partners Think

Posted by – October 29, 2014

Here are a few new (to me) resources for partners:

One blog post by a trans person who was happily surprised by a relationship with a cis person, and who goes on to interview a few partners on their experience of being partnered to someone trans:

Neither Pity Nor a Fetish

And otherwise, there’s the mypartneristrans reddit.

In the first set, there’s a list of the “allowable” types of partners – “boxes”:


1. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman because she ‘probably’ still has a penis and, therefore, ‘he’s probably actually gay’.
2. Straight cis man is with a straight trans woman AND HE IS DECEIVED.
3. Straight cis woman stays with her transitioning partner, is to be pitied.
4. Straight cis woman is with a straight trans man AND WHERE IS THE PENIS, WE MUST ASK WHERE THE PENIS IS, CAN YOU FIND IT FOR US?
5. Gay cis woman is with a straight trans man, and that’s okay, because we all knew that ‘he’ was actually a lesbian woman all along.

And I wonder where these come from. When I was coming up, only #s 2, 3, & 5 existed, and I didn’t fit into any of them very well either, unless you see me as the “to be pitied” type, which I don’t.

Always useful to see/hear more partners speak up.

It’s Not About Her Ex: A Trans Partner’s Story

Posted by – October 16, 2014

My friend M. is a woman who was assaulted by her ex. Her ex happens to be a woman, too, of trans history. When the news of what had happened broke, her story was drowned out by all of the people who only wanted to use their story as an ideological argument. They took the focus from the personal, intimate, terrifying crime that happened and put it instead on the identity of the person who was guilty of committing it.

Those of us who are partnered to trans people are used to this, to some degree. The trans person takes up all the space; they’re the ones people are interested in, who people go out of their way to validate or compliment or criticize. We disappear.

My friend needed to press charges, to see justice of some kind, to let her children know that they should never let a lover treat them like this no matter who the person is or the “reason” for it. Instead, reports about the crime disappeared her, the victim, and so the very tiniest thing I could do to help was give her a platform to tell her story.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that my fellow feminists and others have made this about everyone but the person it should have been about, and who effectively forced by friend to speak up as a trans ally instead of being able to focus on her own healing.

So here’s what she had to say:

TO all of the people who deny the personhood and womanhood of trans women,

I am the woman who was victimized by my former spouse. She recently pled guilty to two misdemeanors for domestic violence. The news about her crime has been commented on by people for whom her trans status and her genitals seem to be of utmost importance, and who want to use my ex as a way to somehow “prove” that she’s really a man and in turn that her bad behavior somehow means that all trans women are “really” men (and that all men are, in turn, incorrigibly violent and likely to rape).

My own voice has been drowned out in all this, so I wanted to say a few words.

You are so focused on history and the genitals of the person who violated me. It’s literally the loudest conversation out there, drowning out the actual victim’s story – MY STORY. It is also, GROSSLY missing the point. I’m calling you a “hate group” because your anger regarding the violence against women perpetrated by men has so taken over your brain that your hairtrigger hatred automatically pounces on ANY OPPORTUNITY to denounce trans women as men, and to denounce men for how horrible they are.

My case is not about the genitals of my wife. Her chromosomal structure and genital configuration and that she was assigned male at birth have got NOTHING TO DO with the sexual violation of my body. Why does it matter if she used her penis or even has one? WHO CARES?? You want so badly to create the “all men/penises are evil” platform, that you can’t see the anguish your comments cause me, the victim, and other victims of sexual abuse.

The CRIME here was not her gender configuration. What if she had XX chromosomes or a vagina? What if she had used a carrot? A bamboo plant? A fist, a dildo, or ANY OTHER BODY PART OR OBJECT? The CRIME was the sexual violation of my body by someone I loved, who was under the influence of alcohol. THAT should be the focus of this conversation, not the instrument used.

I’ve always supported my wife’s transition. I didn’t know her as a man for long, but it didn’t matter to me because I loved who she was and didn’t mind what form her body took: I knew that I would love her body forever. She was a gentle, sweet, vulnerable person. It’s one of the things I loved about her. She was the most considerate intimate partner I had ever had. She was a far cry from my previous marriage, where a cisgender male did indeed commit all the crimes you would attribute to a male abuser. He was all the horrible things without the alcohol.

I loved our intimate relationship. That’s what makes this crime particularly horrifying. It was something I LOVED. Something we BOTH loved. It wasn’t her genitals that caused the crime. Even during the assault, she was saying I was beautiful, over and over. She didn’t even know what she was doing. It was like she wasn’t THERE. She wasn’t angry or saying horrible things. On the contrary. But that was the real mind fuck. When I told her to stop and that we weren’t going to be doing that this time, and that she would regret it in the morning, she just said, “No I won’t”, like ‘don’t be silly’, and she didn’t stop. And she wouldn’t stop. And she kept hurting me. And hurting me. She was someone else then.

Because she would have never done this sober.

I am not saying that her addiction is an excuse, but I can’t ignore the horrible effects of it, either. Ask anyone who has had a DUI or done something else horrible while under the influence. The problem is when that usually wonderful person is dangerous when under the influence. They must be held accountable for their behavior. As far as I’m concerned, her crime began that night with her first drink.

In my case, I am deeply saddened that the LGBT and feminist communities have remained almost entirely silent about my experience. The intersectionality of this event SHOULD BE a conversation, and we should have it BECAUSE it makes us uncomfortable. Much easier to pretend it’s not there. Let’s just stay angry at all the men and people with penises! So much EASIER, RIGHT?

It’s disappointing that some people are unwilling or unable to do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they care about can be capable of something really awful. But from the experienced feminist and LGBT communities, I expected better.

The transphobic radical feminists and other transphobic people will continue to rage over the state of my wife’s genitals, and I can’t stop them. But I hope more intelligent and thoughtful people will rise to the occasion to steer the conversation to what really matters.

I want her to be accountable. I want this to never happen again. I want to forgive her. I want this story to be about forgiveness and redemption. I need it to be. I need others to let it be that, too – to be my story, my trauma, my choice, my agency.

Advice to a Wife

Posted by – May 17, 2014

I get a letter every once in a not-too-rare while from a wife who has just found out her husband is going to transition. Sometimes he is already starting to, sometimes he is still deciding and she expects he will, and sometimes he isn’t at all but she is convinced he will – eventually.

And I don’t know what to say, really, to any of them, besides: the loss is huge and it never really goes away, but like with mourning, you feel it less often, if not less acutely.

I tell them it’s not for everyone, that it’s okay if you feel like you have to go, because sometimes going and not being angry and not making the person you love miserable with your anger is the better thing to do.

I tell them about the online support group I still have and run.

But mostly I don’t think any of this advice is useful, except otherwise to say: you’re not crazy for being sad or angry or confused or bewildered or — well, full of despair. And I can and do say, as well, that no, there isn’t much out there for us, and it’s very unlikely you’ll ever meet a therapist who can help much. They’re not prepared for us – not the gender therapists, not trans people, not really anyone.

I wish I could do or say more. I wish there was a checklist.

There isn’t.

If you’re a partner and have some advice or something that someone told you to help you figure out if you could stay or go, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to email me privately with words I can post here, or just go ahead and post it yourself.

New Trans Relationship

Posted by – April 10, 2014

So this Dear Abby letter is a few kinds of great:

Dear Abby: I’m a divorced woman with grown children. I have always supported gay rights and thought of myself as straight. But a few months ago, I met a woman, “Stephanie.”

We hit it off immediately, and I was shocked to learn she’s a transgender woman who was born male. We have spent a lot of time together and are falling in love. Stephanie will be having surgery soon to complete the transgender process.

I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of support from my family and friends, whom I always thought were open-minded. Some have voiced support, but have shown no interest in meeting her and seem uncomfortable hearing about her.

I’m excited about this relationship and would have thought my family and friends would be happy for me, as I have been alone for a long time. But now I find myself refraining from mentioning Stephanie in conversation.

How can I discuss her with others? We are taking things slowly and not jumping into anything, yet we can definitely see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together. We have already faced disapproving strangers and handled it well.

– Loves My Friend in Ohio

Dear Loves: It appears Stephanie isn’t the only one in your relationship who is in transition. Both of you are, and because it is new to those around you, they may not understand it – which is why they are uncomfortable.

The fact that Stephanie is transgender should not be mentioned right off the bat. It is not the most important thing about her, and it should not be her defining characteristic. Discuss the matter with your friend and ask how she would like to be introduced and referred to. It’s only logical that this will vary according to how close these people are to you.

What do you think? Did she cover all the bases?

Trans Marriage Precedent

Posted by – December 26, 2013

I was so excited to read this I got shivers. A couple in Indiana got divorced after the husband transitioned to female, and were working out an amicable agreement when a circuit court judge rejected their divorce petition on the grounds that the marriage became illegal due to her transition.

But Indiana’s Court of Appeals said: not so fast.

The court ruled the marriage must be dissolved through traditional means because at the time of their wedding Davis and Summers fully complied with Indiana’s marriage law, which reads, “Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female.”

This is GREAT news, and great precedent, for those of us living in states with a ban on same sex marriages whose marriages were entered into before transition.

That is, ME. It’s great news for us and for couples like us.

 

 

RIP JoAnn Roberts – & Thank You

Posted by – June 12, 2013

JoAnn RobertsJoAnn Roberts, aged 65, died on June 7th, 2013. She was an early advocate for trans rights, trans community, and built a few institutions that provided people with hope, community, and resources. She started her work in the mid 1980s – more than 25 years ago.

JoAnn Roberts founded TG Forum, which is one of the very first resources my partner introduced me to more than a decade ago when we met. She’s written a great deal for TG Forum over the years. Roberts was a crossdresser with a drag queen’s flair, and she also created Renaissance, which was a huge organization with chapters that was welcoming both to crossdressers and transitioning trans people. They held week-long getaways in Pennsylvania and generally focused their work in the northeast.

She also wrote Coping with Crossdressing, which was written expressly for couples who were negotiating a husband’s crossdressing — and both her first and second wives accepted her as a crossdresser. She also published LadyLike magazine, whose importance is likely to be undervalued now that we have computers: for many CDs, this magazine was the only thing that had useful information about events, dressing tips, and which helped people feel a little less alone.

Dallas Denny has written a piece remembering her on TG Forum; they worked together for years on AEGIS; Roberts also went on to be part of the now-defunct GenderPAC and wrote The Gender Bill of Rights in 1990. It was short, but it was powerful, especially in 1990, when no one was even using the word “transgender” (it was, more frequently, “transgendered”, and even that was rarely used).

It states:

The Gender bill of Rights by JoAnn Roberts
It is time for the transgendered community to take a stand, a strong stand, against all gender-based discrimination simply because some people are different and simply because some people do not fit into current social norms of gender roles. It is time the gender-based community articulate this stand in words that clearly define exactly what our gender rights are. It is time to stand alongside other minority rights movements to declare these gender rights as follows:

The Right To Assume A Gender Role

Every human being has within themselves an idea of who they are and what they are capable of achieving. That identity and capability shall not be limited by a person’s physical or genetic sex, nor by what any society may deem as “masculine” or “feminine” behavior. It is fundamental, then, that each individual has the right to assume gender roles congruent with one’s self-perceived identity and capabilities, regardless of physical sex, genetic sex, or sex role.

Therefore, no person shall be denied their Human and/or Civil Rights on the basis that their gender role or perceived gender role is not congruent with their genetic sex, physical sex, or sex role.

She stopped working visibly on trans issues about a years back – having accomplished more than most for members of the trans community.

She will be missed, but she shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Goes Without Saying”

Posted by – March 24, 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve griped about the petty bullshit involved in being the partner of a trans person, hasn’t it? I recently posted a photo of me and my wife at the GLAAD awards, and many, many people have said lovely things about how we both look, which we’ve both appreciated. But I did notice – how could I not? – a pretty common refrain that goes something like this: “Your wife looks amazing and of course you do too” or, alternately, “your wife looks great and it goes without saying that you do too.”

And you know what? Actually, it doesn’t. I understand the need for people to validate a trans woman’s attractiveness. I really do. But when (1) you married a man who is no longer a man, and/or (2) you’re in your 40s, and/or (3) you’re not a size 4, and/or (4) people consistently think that trans bodies are somehow publicly owned and so can and should be regularly commented on, it gets a little tiring to hear how remarkably gorgeous my wife is. I mean, I know that. I live with her and see her every day. I’m the one she shares makeup with, and hair products, and pajamas, so yes, I’m aware she’s a hottie, and a gender normative hottie at that.

So what I want to ask you married people: is it common for people to come up and tell you that your husband or wife is attractive? That they’d do them? That their first sighting of your spouse made them wonder if your spouse was single? I mean, is this a normal thing, or is this somehow part of the trans validation thing, or do I just have the bad luck of running into a lot of people who are wildly inappropriate?

My guess is that it’s a trans validation thing. Because I can’t imagine walking up to a woman whose husband was attractive and saying any of these things. I can’t imagine saying it to a woman whose wife is hot. I really can’t. And maybe that’s me, my usual unflirtatious self, but I find it disturbing that people constantly feel the need to tell me that my wife is a hot prospect.

More

Why Trans Partners Should Tell Their Stories

Posted by – January 31, 2013

The other day I published a brief interview with Christine Benvenuto, who wrote a book about her marriage to and divorce from a trans woman.

I blurbed her book, let me admit up front.

I blurbed it because despite some transphobic tendencies (not respecting her ex’s change to feminine pronouns, most notably), I think it’s important that partners get their stories out there – as important as it is for trans people to do so. I’ve been enabling the latter for a long time, and I’m proud to have done so. But I see so often that partners who are having a hard time or who are bitter about a divorce or angry about transition are told – in trans community spaces – to STFU, pretty much. And that really sucks, a lot.

The thing is, nothing about her memoir struck me as patently false. I’ve known a lot of trans women and a lot of wives of trans women over the past 13 years. A LOT. And Benvenuto’s story, just as she told it, is pretty goddamned typical. I have seen behavior by trans women that is sexist, misogynist bullshit. I have seen trans women spend their kids’ college money on transition. I have seen 401Ks emptied. I have seen all of that, and more.

I have also seen the wives of transitioning women take out all their rage on their trans spouse – financially, emotionally, even physically. I have seen rage that I didn’t even know was possible in the wives of trans women. And I have seen them be unwilling to let it go.

That is, I have seen a lot of awful behavior on both sides of this coin. Trans people are not excused because they’re trans just as women are not excused because they’re women. We are all faced with loss and betrayal and heartbreak and all of the emotions that accompany those things. How you choose to express them is entirely up to you.

I can buy the argument that now is not the best time to be airing our dirty laundry in public. Maybe it is. Maybe right now is the “let’s put a good face on it so the public grants us our rights” period for trans issues. But I don’t think there ever is that time, to be honest. I think that’s the kind of thinking that results in shaming some members of a community over other members of that community.

Because, I would argue, the crap behavior of some trans women who come from lives of male privilege – & here I’m specifically talking about certain kinds of later transitioning trans women – is a fact. It’s not made up. I can promise you that. And what we want, as a community, is for trans people to be happy. For them to have people to love and who love them. For them to be accepted and loved by their families.

And transition after 20 years of marriage is very, very rarely going to make that happen. It just isn’t.

So if we as a community want trans people to be happy, people need to know what kind of devastation a late transition can cause on families and wives and communities and of course on the trans people themselves. There is so, so much pain, on everyone’s part. People need to know it. People need to transition younger so that some of this can be prevented.

That said: partners deserve to tell their stories because they’re their stories. There are other reasons, but really, that’s the nut of it. There is no saying who is “right” when it comes to he said/she said. There never is. But as far as I could tell, Sex Changes felt real. It felt hard to write. There were parts that made me cry to finally see things I’d felt in print.

So no, it’s not a perfect story. It could have been kinder, but my gut still says it was honest and that is worth having in the world. Honesty can only shed light in dark corners, and transition-fueled divorce is one of the darkest corners I know of.

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… 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.

Online Support Groups

Posted by – July 8, 2012

My online group for trans partners via Yahoo Groups still exists, and is always taking on new members. You can find it here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/engender_partners/

It is open to *all* partners of trans people – male, female, genderqueer, queer, het, etc.

 

ABC on Trans Couple Story

Posted by – August 18, 2011

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.

Lesbian/Trans Communities

Posted by – April 10, 2011

Safe Space Radio, who did an interview with me a few weeks back (and who just celebrated their 100th show!), has just done an interview with Jen Hudson on the intersections of the lesbian & trans communities.

Jen speaks about how delicate the relationship can be between two oppressed and marginalized groups, and her intention to speak only about her particular experience. She described the forces that bring the two communities together, including gender variance, oppression and risk of violence . . . Jen also spoke about tensions within the communities about the F to M transition and whether it reflects a misogynist rejection of femaleness.

Do give it a listen.

Survey: Partners Whose Husband Come Out as TG

Posted by – December 30, 2010

SURVEY: “A Study in the Relationship between Changes in a Wife’s Self-Esteem and the Discovery that Her Husband is Transgender: What is the Perceived Meaning of the Discovery?”

If you think you might be interested in participating in this survey, please read more below the break, and contact the person doing the survey. I am not doing it, do not endorse it, but do not suspect it, either.

More

“My Person”

Posted by – December 15, 2010

Here’s a nice article by a trans partner about the interminable search for the right thing to call our “persons.”