Much-Paraphrased Michelangelo

So, yeah. I spent the day today putting together a bunch of writing I’ve done for the next book. Editors tend to want ‘sample chapters’ but I don’t write that way – putting together a chapter would require writing a whole book.
In the beginning of the project I just write and write and write. Then at some point – internal or external, I don’t know – I start re-reading it all & seeing how or where it fits together, and start providing the bridges between subjects. It’s how Ii was trained as a fiction writer: write that one scene, or one character, or one piece of dialogue, and expand from there. You know, discover the sculpture under the slab of rock, the sculpture that’s already there.
Anyone else work like that? For me it’s like this feeling of letting things coalesce and then congeal. Yes, at some point, I do put the thing in the refrigerator to speed it on its way. But mostly I find book-length projects have their own internal reason that it’s best not to fuck with – but rather to just create a space for and keep it guarded from interruption or wrong paths.
ugh. I hate when I talk about art. Hate it.

Five Questions With… Caprice Bellefleur

caprice bellefleurCaprice Bellefleur, 57, got her BA in Economics at the U. Wisconsin @ Madison, and earned her JD. She’s been married 17 years, has no children, and is a member of the bar of the State of NY. She retired after 25 years as a computer programmer, and though she felt the urge to CD since she was a child, she didn’t – to any great extent – until she was in her mid 40s. She considers herself a person of mixed gender, and has presented as a woman in public for 7 years. Caprice is not only the treasurer of CDI-NY, but carries the special burden of being King’s Envoy on the (en)gender message boards – meaning, she’s a moderator. She handles both roles with class, culture, and enviable cleavage.
1. You do a lot with organizations for the larger GLBT, and I was wondering what kinds of things you do, and how/why you realized that service to GLBT orgs should be part of your life as a crossdresser.
I like to attend the meetings and functions of GLBT groups when I can–political, legal, social, all kinds of groups. I think it is important for trans people to be visible in the LGBT community, so that we’re not just a meaningless initial tacked on at the end. There is a lot ignorance about trans people among gays and lesbians–not all that much less than in the straight community, actually. I’ve given the “Trans 101” class to more gays than straights–especially if you count the “outreach” I’ve done in various gay and lesbian bars. And an important part of my “Trans 101” lesson is to explain how there is significant overlap between the GLB and the T segments of GLBT–many GLBs are gender-variant (“umbrella” definition T), and many self-identified trans people have G, L or B sexual orientation. When people understand that, they understand why the T belongs with GLB.
I am a member of several GLBT organizations, but I have really only been active in one: the LGBT Issues Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) . Even that was something of an accident–though I now believe it to have been a very fortunate one.
I think I started with the Committee in 2002. I wanted to do something to advance the legal protections of trans people, and the Committee seemed like a good fit. (I would have gotten more involved in the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), but its Saturday afternoon meetings were very inconvenient for me.) I had been a member of NYCLA for many years, and I saw a notice in its newsletter for the Committee. The notice outlined the Committee’s mission, which included legal matters relating to all LGBT people (even though its name at the time was still the Committee on Lesbians and Gays in the Law). I e-mailed the chair, and found out that a) a trans person would be welcome, and b) the meetings were quite convenient to my schedule. So I went, and I joined. I was the first trans person on the Committee–and the only one until this year.
From the start I was surprised at how much of the Committee’s work was trans-related–close to 50% that first year. The main thing was the founding of the West Village TransLegal Clinic Name Change Project. This is an operation where volunteer lawyers help people obtain legal name changes, something very important to anyone who is transitioning, or has already done so. I attended a number of meetings where we worked out the logistics among the various organizations involved–besides our Committee, the Gender Identity Project (GIP) of the LGBT Center and the LGBT Lawyers Association (LeGaL) were instrumental. It was there I first met Carrie Davis of GIP, Dean Spade of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and Melissa Sklarz of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID). Melissa, in her role as co-chair of the LGBT Committee of Community Board 2, was very helpful in getting funding for the Clinic. What developed was a monthly non-representational drop-in clinic at the LGBT Center. We (the volunteer lawyers) interview the clients and complete the Petition for Adult Name Change, which the clients then submit to the court. I usually serve once or twice a quarter.
I also served on the Law Firm Survey Subcommittee. We developed a questionnaire about the policies and practices concerning LGBT employees and the LGBT community, which we submitted to the 25 largest law firms in New York City. Our primary goal was to create a resource for LGBT law students to help them decide where to look for a job. There was a section of questions about trans issues, which I largely wrote. We envisioned giving report cards to the various firms, grading them on how we thought it would be for an LGBT person to work there. We were pleasantly surprised to find that all of the 24 firms that replied were at least somewhat LGBT-friendly. For instance, every one of them offers benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. We decided to forget about the grading. The section on trans issues was not quite as encouraging as the rest, though. Only one firm explicitly included gender identity and expression in its non-discrimination policy. None had any procedures or specific policies covering employees who wished to transition–and none of them reported having had an employee who had done so. A substantial percentage of the firms had dress codes that were not gender-neutral. Next year I want to do a follow-up survey, to see if there have been any improvements by the firms. (The report can be found at It won the award for the best committee report at NYCLA this year.)
Right now, I am working on getting NYCLA to endorse the New York State Gender Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). I drafted a report outlining the reasons why, which has been adopted by the Committee, and sent to the NYCLA board for its consideration.
I think my work on the Committee shows there are many gays and lesbians who want to help trans people achieve the legal protections that they have, or are still working to achieve. Most, if not all, of the other volunteer lawyers at the TransLegal Clinic are gay or lesbian. I am the only trans one. I have never seen any reluctance, let alone opposition, from any of the other Committee members to the Committee’s work in trans areas. The trans community is decades behind the gay and lesbian community in organizing to achieve its civil rights. We would be fools not to work with them.
Personally, I will continue with my work with the NYCLA Committee, perhaps in a leadership role next year. I also am being proposed for a position on one of the LeGaL boards for next year. One of my problems is not biting off more than I can chew, because I am also active in trans-specific organizations, such as the NYS GENDA Coalition (currently under construction), and Crossdressers International.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Caprice Bellefleur”

Let's (Not) Have Sex?

It’s a funny thing to be envying a couple who haven’t had sex since 1986.
But upon reading a recent interview with Meredith (nee Wally) and Lynne Bacon, I can’t help envying them. It would be so much easier to make it through transition if sexuality were already out of the picture. And while I admit that I have no idea if the lack of sex Meredith and Lynne had before Meredith’s transition is a complicated story (my guess is that it is), settling into a platonic though perhaps romantic friendship with your former husband could be nice.
Some say it’s age, but it’s not. I’ve met older partners of transition for whom sex is just as important as it is to a 25 year old (and a horny 25 year old, to boot).
(I really do dread menopause.)
Of course I also have this niggling thought that I first had when Jenny Finney Boylan & her wife Deirdre were on Oprah: that when they want to hear about transsexualism, they talk to a transsexual (which makes sense), but when they want to know about the relationship, and the wife’s feelings, they still talk to the transsexual (but include her wife in the interview). Now why is that, do you think?
Or is it that they prefer to interview couples who say they don’t have sex, and who aren’t going to say words like queer on television? Dunno. Sometimes, looking at the long-suffering wife scenario, I figure that I’m just not what they’re looking for.

These Damn Death Shows

Okay, is anyone else addicted to these murder procedurals? It started for me with Law & Order: Criminal Intent, because I liked Vincent D’Onofrio. But then Crossing Jordan was on after that.
I barely watch any tv and yet I can’t keep from watching these – even when they creep me out. Even when I can’t sleep after. Stupid of me, but I can’t cut it out.

Let's (Not) Talk About Sex

Betty and I spent Thanskgiving Day at my sister and her husband’s house – a place we frequent on a regular basis. I like to joke that our standard of living is brought up significantly by dinners at her place: good food, plentiful wine, deep sofas & a fireplace. It’s lovely.
She had a ridiculous amount of people over for Thanksgiving Day itself: a couple in from SF, CA with their two small children; a couple from DC with their dog; a friend from Tucson and three of his friends; us; them; her acupuncturist & old friend, and another old friend with his friend. I think it was 16, or 18, all told. Which is lovely: being from a big family it just feels right to me to sit at a very long dinner table. My sister’s husband, who’d taken the foot of the table, actually called my sister at the head of it twice during dinner as she otherwise couldn’t hear what he was asking. Amusing.
At some point when people had had a bit to drink, one of the friends of friends kind of plopped herself next to me and Betty on the couch. I knew what was coming. We’d met her before, at a previous party, and she had asked a lot of questions, then, too. I think I even wrote about that incident, when I just got tired of it & kind of ‘ran away’ on some trumped-up excuse.
“So, when you two make love…” she started. She did add the “if you don’t want to answer that’s okay” caveat, but still: not fun. And I realized tonight what’s not-fun about it to me – and that’s the assumption that 1) because we ‘look different’ from others we have some kind of outlandish sex life, 2) that because we look different people actually have the right to ask us about our sex life, and 3) that it was quite possible that any other couple at the dinner had a far kinkier sex life than we do.
At some point, I just returned her “So when you two have sex…” question with “Well how do you two have sex?” The thing is, these questions never get asked in a kind of ‘I’m curious’ way but in a “I’m so normal and you’re so not” kind of way. The funny thing about it was that her husband and she did not strike me as totally normally gendered: she came off as kind of aggressive, bulldog-ish, and he seemed kind of sweet and passive.
I always find it kind of funny that people are so willing to present themselves – to me, of all people – as somehow “normally gendered.” Because if anyone’s going to see anything genderqueer about anyone, I’m a safe bet. I’ll find the residue of an inkling, if it’s there. I’m thinking sometimes I should come with some kind of warning label: Abandon gender certainty, all ye who converse here.

Known But Not

I’m not sure if anyone knows how weird it is being a public person, if you’re not. I know there are people on the boards and in the larger trans community who are known in their fields, so I’m sure they have a little bit better of an idea of it.
But Betty and I regularly deal with people feeling they know us better than they do. I don’t mind being out or visible or public. But it is an interesting experience, one that requires you to learn new things about how people relate and to notice when people are communicating in a way that has ‘crossed a line.’ The problem is that writing requires a writer to wear her skin as thin as she can, to bleed on the page, as some authors have put it. Some days it can be a little tricky to be thick-skinned (as a public figure) and completely open (in my writing) – simultaneously.
Having been a devoted fan of more than one band when I was a teenager – and currently being a fan of Rufus Wainwright – I understand how people have a sense of “me.” I also know now that anything I think I “know” about someone public is probably mostly wrong, or a part of the truth.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I hate having my looks discussed. It’s not because I don’t think I’m pretty or any self-esteem issue like that; it’s just that I don’t think it’s worth discussing. I look like what I look like: nothing more, nothing less. Some people find me attractive, others don’t, but mostly I’m pretty content with my lot in that department. But at the same time it just seems odd for people who don’t know me to talk about what I look like. Talk about my ideas, my writing, my lectures and workshops – of course. Those are things I work on, that I care about, that I actually like feedback about. But my looks? Pah.
But who am I kidding? In a community where both passability and prettiness count for something, I’d be fooling myself to think I’d be left out of the self- and other- scrutiny in the looks department.
And yet – and yet: I would rather be left out, please.

Happy Thanksgiving

Endymion is never, ever full, and he’s never met anything edible he wouldn’t eat (including some things he shouldn’t have).
eating action shot2
So eat up, folks – and have a very very happy Thanksgiving.