Five Questions With… Tasha

Another interview with a partner whose narrative is in Transgress Press’ Love, Always.

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

I wish I had known at the beginning that they were going to discard the conceit that it was a “letter to our partners”; I submitted early, before they abandoned that title and theme and opened it up to all sorts of contributions. (I actually love the new approach and think it was brilliant, so I’m not complaining about the change!) It seemed weird to me to write to my wife about things that she was there for, so I omitted a lot of discussion about, for example, the times when the year she spent in transition was tough in ways I never anticipated. I knew the “big stuff” would be a tremendous deal, but I didn’t expect to find myself crying every time I looked at her newly pierced ears, or that sometimes her gender issues would overshadow everything to the point where I’d be desperate for a conversation about something banal like who forgot to pick up cat litter. I didn’t realize that the process of transition wasn’t going to be about huge milestones so much as a million little things, all of them nibbling away at the life I knew and replacing it with the unknown. There were indeed some huge milestones, but when they came, I tended to have had a lot of warning and to cope very well.

I also didn’t want to make her feel guilty, and composing a letter ostensibly to her of “ways you made me suffer” seemed likely to do so. Particularly when, at this late date, we’ve both hashed this stuff out often enough that it would seem like re-opening wounds that have (genuinely) healed. But I think that sort of thing is important to tell because it shows that happy ever afters are possible… and that like most things in marriage, it takes work and determination and sometimes tears.

Oh, right, and lest I look like a saint, I kind of wish there’d been a way to shoehorn in the anecdote about the time I screamed “How can you be fine with growing breasts but afraid to buy a bra?!!” at the top of my lungs and then fled weeping into the bedroom and slammed the door. It’s easy to tell a story with smoothed edges and narrative flow after the fact, but the reality was messy and complicated and sometimes involved me completely losing the plot.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Tasha”

ABC on Trans Couple Story

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.

Trans Partners: Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

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.

Post Trans Post

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.
**

Madison, WI: SOFFA Support Group Starting

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.

Trans Partner Support Column

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.

Dottie Laing – Already Missed

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!
– Dottie

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.

From a Child of a Trans Parent

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.

Alcohol Poisoning

I’ve been drinking.

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.

  • Multiple shots and references to surgery, instead.
  • Trans woman discovers surprising, sudden interest in men.
  • Expresses longing to be mother while wife is pregnant.
  • Voiceover talking about wife meeting her husband for the first time “as a woman” post Thailand, even though the husband had been living in female gender role for a year as per SOC.

Atypical trans documentary bits?

  • Added insult to injury for wife, while trans woman wonders – fleetingly – if she’s married her ex-girlriend if she’d have needed to transition. Fleetingly, stressed by Prince, but goddamn do wives of trans women everywhere hate her for that one. Yeah, thanks, it’s our fault you needed to transition. Do you really think we don’t wish, sometimes, that you’d married your ex-girlfriend, too?!
  • Newly female husband going up telephone pole in gear
  • ”  ”  ” mowing lawn with reference to still “wearing the pants”
  • ‘out of the mouths of babes’ testimony that natal female still does all the parenting and housework
  • bee stings lead to discovering of IS condition which justifies transition. (the years of crossdressing certainly don’t count for shit, right?)

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.

* sigh*

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?