Why We Stay

Every once in a while, one of the partners in an online support group will get up the courage to ask, “But really, why do you stay?” It’s usually asked by someone new to the group, new to transness, who is looking at the prospect of having her husband become either a part-time or full-time woman, and who honestly can’t imagine herself staying, and can’t come up with one good reason why any woman would. I know I’ve told several women friends they could date CDs, and that’s about all they hear before they change the subject. It’s rare to find a woman who would even be open to dating a CD, much less finding one who would want to.
But it’s good for partners especially to cut through the sentimental stuff about love and soul-mates – not because that stuff isn’t true – and get to some of the more pragmatic issues at stake. I really appreciated having one of the older women on the list admit that her partner transitioned close to their mutual retirement age, and that neither of them had the funds to live separately, anyway. She added, as well, that after a few decades’ worth of marriage, her and her partner’s extended families had become her own. That’s a practical answer, one I believe more than the ones full of love. (I’m not much of a romantic: I’ve read way too much sociology.)
Deborah Feinbloom said in the 70s that we must all either have low self-esteem or be latent lesbians, of course. For me, that was a little too clinical, a little too cold an analysis, but over and over again I hear things from partners that make me wonder. Not about the lesbianism, but about the self-esteem. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that, either. That women don’t believe they can live in the world on their own might explain women who stay with alcoholics, abusive husbands, cheating spouses. But it still doesn’t explain us, the partners of transpeople.
I just read an essay called “Explaining stable partnerships among FTMs and MTFs: a significant difference?” by Frank Lewins on the differences between the FTM and MTF communities when it comes to relationships, and the writer came to all sorts of conclusions that had to be sought out – while avoiding the obvious one. In study after study he cited, transpeople with female partners turned out to be the ones who were in relationships. It didn’t matter if they were FTM or MTF.
I wonder, often, what that means about women. There is socialization: women are raised to value relationships and family more than men are. Women do tend to put relationships and family before career and status. Maybe there is a maternal instinct: women who love too much are not unlike partners of transfolks, who in some ways need to be protected, taken care of, and encouraged. I’ve never denied that one of the important, albeit Freudian, aspects of a relationship is the way two people might parent each other. But I don’t think that’s the whole of it, either.
I am pretty sure that a lot us simply don’t want to be single (again). We don’t want to live on what we can earn ourselves, because we’re still getting that 69 cents on a man’s dollar. Some don’t want to be single parents, and others are just plain used to their partners. Grayson Perry’s wife was quoted as saying something along the lines of “perverts are very loyal” so we know a little bit about why she stayed – loyalty weighed in as a stronger “pro” than the “con” of being married to a man who others view as a pervert. (It’s also obvious by her comment that she came armed with a sense of humor, too.)
But I still worry about the economics, and the fear, and how much of both motivates the partners of transpeople to stay. I worry because I know I’m one of those open-minded souls, who doesn’t mind taking the path less traveled. But others aren’t, and yet they stay, too.
Once I get past the “because Betty loves me and I love her, and we’re soul-mates” stuff, I end up back at “because I can.” All relationships, I think, are moderated by how close the relationship comes to what the person expected, and how much they get out if it vis a vis how much they put into it. I spent my whole life dating men for whom I had to put in 85% to their 15%. Betty puts in a lot more. She can talk. She likes politics. She values having a smart wife who’s a writer. She understands, as a basic premise, that relationships are full of compromise, unexpected joys, and most of all – friendship. For her, no matter how difficult I am, at the end of the day she knows she’s lucky to have a friend who is her lover – as am I.
Sometimes the obvious answer is the closest to the truth, even when it isn’t the whole truth: I think the only real secret of any successful relationship is that both people want to be together more than they want to be apart, and they do whatever it takes.

Sex & the Shingled Girl

It turned out, after two bad diagnoses, that what I had was shingles. This is a medieval illness, a virus that causes extreme pain, pox marks, and more extreme pain. You can only get it if you’ve had chicken pox as a child; somehow part of becoming immune from chicken pox includes storing this little evil in cells. Stress or a lowered immune system can cause it to flare; I probably had both – the former due to a really bad allergy season, and the latter due to – everything else.
I was very lucky to have a transitioning doctor friend, Deborah, who diagnosed me long distance when the two doctors I saw in Brooklyn failed (one thought it was TMJ, the other Parotiditis).
It felt like an ear infection, a sinus infection, and an abscessed tooth all at once: brutal amounts of pain that even Percoset only quieted. Now, most of the pain has gone away, though occasionally I get these pangs of pain that seem to come right from the healing pox marks. Like I said: medieval.
Thanks to everyone for the good wishes, and my apologies again for missing the Lambda reading in DC and the CLAGS conference. Also, thanks to Carolyn Ann for a ride to the doctor, to Deborah for the correct diagnosis, and to Sarah Joan for the title of this post.

The Only Times

Betty & I have been separated very rarely – at least for an overnight – in our seven years together. Once for a performance of her acting company in PA, and then again in February for an NCTE Board Meeting, and now again – this weekend – for an NCTE Board meeting in DC.
It makes me sad as I was going to go with her, but because she’ll be in meetings from 9am – 5pm on Saturday, and 9am – 3pm on Sunday (right after which she returns), we really couldn’t justify spending the money for me to go.
Besides, I’m Queen of Cats this weekend. A couple of people in our building are away, so I’m watching four cats altogether: our boys, of course, and the differently-eyed Truman (one green, one blue – he’s all white) and the very young and impish Basil, who is the only female of the four.
Betty spent so many weekends working as an actor; I was looking forward to us actually getting three-day weekends now that she’s unofficially “retired” from acting. But alas – no luck. Instead, tranny politics take her away.
I’m a little sad, and a little bored, and a little lonely, and yet – not enough of any of them to do anything about it. I’ll clean, I might watch a movie, have brunch with friends. It amazes me that only a 48-hour separation makes me feel so – singular. The bed’s too big without her, indeed (though the cats will no doubt fill a great deal of the empty space).
A Happy Memorial Day to all. I hope yours is full of romance, and sex, and love and laughter.

To the Lady Minna

I got the news this past weekend that one of the SOs (half of one of the couples) I interviewed for the book passed away this past Sunday, May 15th, after two years of battling breast cancer. She was 40 years old, only, and is survived by her husband (Heather) and two daughters.
I’ve been thinking and mourning for Minna, in some obvious ways, like just sitting here crying, reading old emails from/to her, but also in maybe atypical ways: by toasting her at our birthday party Friday night.
Minna was a gem. She was enthusiastic and willing to help with the book, and did her own kind of outreach – within the BDSM scene she & Heather belonged to.
So I thought, in her memory, I’d reprint her words here, because no one could explain Minna – except maybe herself.
I wish you could walk a mile in my shoes. See what I see the way I see it. See what I know and experience it. Taste what I taste and see how I enjoy it. My life is not the same as yours. My husband is a crossdresser. I am a dominantrix. I am a mother, a wife, a lover and a sadist. I am Republican. I am Wiccan. I am not the average person and thank the Goddess I am not.
You walk by me everyday and do not know any of this. I don’t stand out in a crowd. Well, yes I suppose my bright red hair does and the way I walk does, but I don’t look threatening. I look like an average woman with 2 kids.
You do not know what my double life entails. The frustration of not being able to let my husband walk out of our house dressed because we are a military family on a military post and that’s grounds for him being discharged from the service to his country that he loves. My kids can’t know about dad because my son is from a previous marriage and my ex-husband would take him from me in an instant if he knew.
I worry every time my husband goes out dressed without me that he will be hurt. It’s why I usually don’t allow it. Not because I don’t trust him, but because I don’t trust you.
I hear what others think about crossdressing and I really want to take interviewers like Jerry Springer out back and get a switch. The average crossdresser is not the one you see on TV talk shows. They are normal men and women who have a need to dress in the clothing of another gender.
My husband is not a child molester, a rapist, or some sick perverse serial killer. He isn’t morally loose and sleeping around with everyone and everything. He is a man whose internal gender does not match his external gender totally. That is the definition of a Transsexual, but he doesn’t want to be a woman full time either. It’s more complex than him just wanting to be a woman; he wants to be a man too. It’s not some sexual fetish either; he doesn’t need to dress in order to get sexually aroused.
I wish you could walk a mile in my shoes. In my friends’ shoes. In my husband’s shoes. See what we go through every day.
Maybe you’d be a bit more tolerant of those different than yourself.

The Nuclear Option

From MoveOn.org:
This is it — they’ve pulled the trigger.
On Tuesday May 24th, the Senate will vote on a motion to end debate on judicial nominations, and when that motion fails Senator Bill Frist will launch the “nuclear option” — an unprecedented parliamentary maneuver to break the rules of the Senate and seize absolute control over lifetime appointments to the highest courts in the land. The vote is going to be incredibly close, and there are as many as 6 votes still up in the air — more than enough to win. We must act now.
We’ve launched an emergency petition and, starting Monday, we’ll deliver your signatures and comments to the Senate floor every three hours until the vote is complete. As the debate rages on, Senators fighting to preserve our independent courts will read your statements from the floor of congress. And every senator, every 3 hours, will receive thousands of pages from their constituents demanding that they stand up and do the right thing.
We have less than 72 hours to win this vote and save our courts. Please sign today.
Go here to sign.

New Board Confusion

Since the new boards have caused some confusion, I need to explain that Betty and I decided to start fresh with the new boards,

    which means:

  • everyone has to register again
  • everyone will have 0 (zero) posts, and “beginner” avatars
  • none of the old boards will be imported into this one

however, the old boards – what of them we have – will eventually be posted as an archive. searchable and readable, but no longer active. that way people can still refer to old posts if/when they need to, and they will still have their ‘rank’ preserved for posterity.
we *think* we have a decent backup from early april of this year, which means about 45 days worth of posts are gone.
again, our apologies. we weren’t the only PHPBB that was hit, unfortunately, but we have switched to new software that will make it difficult – if not impossible – for this to happen again.

Voices of New York

Last night I had the pleasure of reading with 7 other Lammy nominees at the Center, and it was a very cool event. (Aaron Krach, author of Half-Life, commented that he wished all readings had been like last night’s: five minutes, no Q&A, with a bunch of queer, friendly people in the audience.) I’m really thankful for Lambda Lit, because as I sat there listening to the readers, it occurred to me how stupid it is that there is so little room in mainstream publishing for GLBT writers. The stories were remarkable: one about an older man who’d fallen in love with a man with Downs Syndrome (Perry Brass, from Serendipity); another about a married man whose male lovers were being killed by a murderer (Gary Zebrun’s Someone You Know); another about a young Irish lad’s meeting with his priest at his mother’s behest (Damian McNicholl’s A Son Called Gabriel, and whose blog I just checked out); another a confrontation between a lesbian of color and her father (Laurinda D. Brown’s Fire & Brimstone).
me readingThey were all powerful stories, they were all stories that went beyond some definition of GLBT. They were about what stories are supposed to be about, the quiet little ways we suffer and rejoice in being our lovely, pathetic selves. But at the same time, without the Lammies, who would recognize a wife’s story of her trans husband’s beauty? Where else would I meet people who’d tell me about the tranny they knew, growing up?
It was a lovely night. I’m not 100% better, not yet, but I was damned glad I wasn’t still contagious, and could be there. I regret having missed the reading in DC even moreso now, but I am very much looking forward to the Awards Night at on June 2nd.

Glamourous Friday Cat

helen desk aeneas
Here’s me at my desk, trying to work, with Aeneas telling me its time to take a break. Or feed him. Or scratch him. But enough of the gender stuff, mom.