While We're at DO…

… we thought Aurora should keep you company. She’s sitting here with two favorite toys: 1) the self-made ball o’foil on a string, and 2) my bullwhip. No-one should be surprised that the bullwhip is her favorite toy, since we found her at DO, after all.
kitty toys

(The bullwhip, btw, was not given to me for any reasons you’d imagine. In fact it was given to me by a friend who went to Turkey, and who thought of me when she saw it – because I am a huge
Raiders of the Lost Ark fan. Perverts.)

What To Do

Okay, here’s another of those beautiful parts of the Narnia books, another of the parts that makes me love these books more and more over the years:

Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later and then you still have to decide what to do.
– C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
You can put “being angry” in the place of “crying” and – same thing. My grandmother used to say similar things. A long time ago, when one of my brothers was having a hard time with his life, dealing with addiction and divorce and some other heavy problems, and he said something to her about how rough things were. I can’t say she was sympathetic, except she was; the woman went through one world of hell in her lifetime. But what she said was “At some point, you have to put your pants on and go outside.”
To me, they’re similar sentiments: you still have to decide what to do.


In order to comment on my blog, for now, you need to go over here and post your comment.
I’d love it if some of you were to put some of the comments you made about the Lacey Leigh interview and the Deep Stealth one into the new blog; unfortunately we let half a day go by between the backup and the IP redirect, so the comments posted inbetween are lost. (Apologies – this was way more complicated than it could have been!)

Welcome to the New Boards

Welcome to the redesign of the Boards!
As we all know, a tone of crankiness had overtaken the boards and eventually caused us to close them down.
While they were shut down, we did some research, thought about the community we wanted, the community we had, and tried to figure out a way to introduce some elements that would tip the balance back toward where we wanted it.
Some of you will find yourselves on moderation – on the premise that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In order to keep the spirit of the change, we thought we’d help it along by keeping some of you from taking your first steps publicly. Moderation is not meant to be permanent as people get used to the new rules and the jist of the redesign.
I. Trans Discussion & Community
So what have we done? We created a forum specifically for theoretical discussion called 1) THE IVORY TOWER. The experience of The Thread That Shall Not Be Named made me aware that I needed a place to work this stuff out – and others did as well. The intellectual enquiry that happened in that thread was valuable despite it being personally and emotionally painful, too. So we’ve created The Ivory Tower – a place where intellectual enquiry and hard questions can happen without restraint. This does not mean it’s open to flame wars; I still expect people to be polite and respectful of each other’s opinions, and to argue a point with evidence and thoughtfulness, and to agree to disagree when there’s no concensus.
But I want to emphasize that complaints about people’s feelings being hurt will not be recognized as ‘legit’ in that forum. If you are sensitive about trans or gender questions, YOU SHOULD’T READ THAT FORUM. If you do anyway, that is only your own issue, and your own problem.
That said, we’ve also introduced the 2) COMMUNITY & SUPPORT forum, which is intended to be a place for people to share their experiences and thoughts as trans, to seek advice, help, or encouragement from others on the boards, and where emotions will be honored above all else. It is not even intended as a ‘kinder, gentler’ version of The Ivory Tower forum, but something altogether different in tone and intent.
I’ve also introduced a special forum for people to discuss 3) RELATIONSHIPS. Trans people or partners, people wanting to be in relationships or in them can talk here about real world issues concerning partnership in the context of transness. This forum is intended to be a gentle forum, but not without critique; relationships require brutal honesty and so will a forum to discuss them. Still, respect for others’ experiences, feelings, opinions and thoughts will be required.
I’ve also added a sub-forum specifically for those with 4) KIDS, as resources on being a parent & trans are few & far between; I thought we might start compiling useful information about this subject so that others won’t have to look as hard.
There is also a 5) GENERAL TRANS TOPICS forum for subjects that aren’t well suited to either theoretical or personal treatments. This is the remainder of the forumer TG Discussion forum – what wasn’t weeded into new/other forums in the re-design. It will work, I think, as a good default forum – if you don’t know where to put something.
I have sorted a bunch of the threads that were formerly in the TG DISCUSSION forum into the new threads to give people a sense of what should go in them, but feel free to ask questions.

6) SEX & SENSIBILITY required no changes. It is what it is.
II. Partners
Likewise with the 7) PARTNERS’ CORNER, which is still what it’s always been: a place for partners to discuss whatever issues they’d like to without interference or argument from trans folks.
III. Resources
The 8) NEWS forum is still for articles of interest to the larger GLBT community.
9) HELEN & BETTY NEWS is now a sub-forum of NEWS, and is the only forum I lost while moving things around! So its history is gone, though I’m sure I’ll have other things to post there. It may turn out I’ll only be using my blog for our news, and I’ve really enjoyed having some MHB boarders actually post comments on my blog, instead. (So keep that up, she says hopefully.)
10) MEDIA, CULTURE & REVIEWS is a place for us to talk about movies (trans or not), tv shows, magazines, plays, & any other cultural stuff we come across and want to talk about.
The 11) READER’S CHAIR is a sub-forum in it, and just as it was before. All things literary – book reviews, interviews with authors, the writing life, poetry – are welcome here.
The 12) BULLETIN BOARD is still the place to post announcements, events, or other things of interest to people who read the boards.
IV. The Lighter Side
The next big change is another category: THE LIGHTER SIDE. One of the things I felt we were missing – or that was only suggested by the existence of the former “ETC” forum – was somewhere to kick back. Consider it MHB’s bar or an afternoon party.
13) APPEARANCES is all about that: beauty, hair, hair removal, nails, fashion, clothes, body image, weight loss, and grooming. Oh, and shoes. Previously it felt like people were apologetic for posting anything about fashion, and I wanted to acknowledge that smart folks worry about how they look, too. That doesn’t exclude intelligent, critical conversations about gender presentation and body image, of course, but consider this forum my gift to the fashionistas of the boards.
14) MEETINGS & GREETINGS is where we all get to wait for the train together, talk about the wife, the weather, who’s going to the doctor on Tuesday & for what. It can be goofy or serious, and it will be important here to try to indicate what the poster wants out of a thread – if advice, or solace, or humor to make you feel better. In a sense, MEETINGS & GREETINGS is our chat in 24/7 format.
15) THE WATER COOLER / ETC covers all the rest: the goofy threads, the news articles that don’t belong elsewhere, light conversation about culture & politics. Or for stuff that really just doesn’t ‘fit’ anywhere else.
V. Help with These Boards
Finally, there’s 16) TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES which is mostly what it was before: a place to ask questions about how the boards work, to look at when you can’t figure out how to do some neat trick like posting a photo or getting an avatar. That said, here’s the only change: META DISCUSSIONS about how the boards work, or don’t work, are not to happen in this forum. They are not supposed to happen anywhere *publicly* unless & until Betty and I request advice from you all. Why? 1) Because this is a thankless enough job as it is without someone introducing the idea that it’s time to voice all grievances, and 2) Because too many old wounds get brought up in threads like that. However, – and this is important!! – anyone is free to email me or Betty or Caprice with 1) problems with another poster, 2) inappropriate posts (either by subject or tone), and 3) general suggestions about the running of the boards. I don’t want to have these conversations publicly because they become pile-ons in one way or another, eventually, and cause way too much bad blood all around.
A final note: no commentaries about religion or politics. No posting of news articles that are not GLBT relevant. That’s what blogs are for, so get one if you need one. But neither of these topics will be tolerated in future. To be more clear, it’s okay to say “What Rev. Bob Roberts said about gay men is dead wrong,” but saying “Christianity is the problem” is NOT okay.
Obviously we haven’t been sitting around twiddling our thumbs, but put a lot of thought – and effort – into this redesign. One of the things I realized during this break was that either these boards had to be moderated or they couldn’t exist (and still be any semblance of the cool things you all have emailed me that they were). But I will restrict my moderating somewhat: more intense scrutiny on the first two categories, not as much on the 2nd two. I can also think about finding other moderators now, as well, for the lighter forums.
But mostly I wanted to say that it will take all of you you respecting the intent of these boards, and that includes emailing a moderator if someone is going off the rails or a flamewar is starting. It includes walking away and counting to 100 and taking deep breaths when someone says something that makes you angry. It means respecting the intent and content of each of the forums. I intend to be a little bit more of a disciplinarian than I had been: snarkiness, nastiness, personal attacks or “three strikes” (ie, three complaints against one person by three other people + a moderator) will result in moderation and/or temporary bans. Betty and I will also be using negative feedback in order to inform people as to where and how they’ve stepped over the lines.
In a nutshell, we think we’ve redesigned these boards in such a way that everyone can find what they need here: those who are looking for a kind but smart community can have it; those who want to find big answers have a place to try to do so, and those who need support for their own questions of identity and struggles with life can find that, too.
Welcome back.
Helen & Betty

Preview of Deep Stealth Interview

Calpernia Addams and Andrea James – as Deep Stealth Productions – have posted a preview of the interview Andrea James did with me for their “Coming Out Resources” DVD.
It really was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, but of course I haven’t actually seen the whole of it yet.
(Tip for those on a dial-up: let it play through choppy once, & the next play should be listenable.)

Five Questions With… Lacey Leigh

Lacey Leigh is the authr of Out & About: The Emancipatedlacey leigh Crossdresser as well as 7 Secrets of Successful Crossdressers. She moderates an online community, speaks publicly as a crossdresser, and helps a lot of CDs gain confidence as they take those first fledgeling steps out the (closet) door.
1. What do you think is the most important thing crossdressers need to know?
One of the major changes I have made is in my personal lexicon – my working vocabulary, as it were – is to eliminate the words that carry semantic undertones of judgement or personal imperative: should, must, ought, need, etc. We use them unconsciously, not realizing how such terms of absolutism color the message we’re trying to communicate.
People and friends, beginning with my wife, have reminded that while I have the zeal and passion of a recent convert to faith, there is also a frequent tendency to climb on the soapbox and get a little ‘preachy’. Mea culpa. I’m working on it. It’s especially difficult to keep the lid on it when sharing an attitude, a mindset that has provided such an empowering personal perspective – for me as well as everyone else who has tried it.
Terms that carry such cultural sovereignty are often reliable indicators of personal bias. Count the number of times people use similar words of subtle judgement, multiply by the frequency of the personal pronoun (I, me, my, etc.) and you’ll get a pretty good indicator of how deeply a person is into himself – and whether that person is operating with a closed or an open mind.
A favorite theme is “Why allow people to ‘should’ on you?”
Anyway, I would rephrase “need to know” with “might benefit from understanding.”
Back to your question…
You started with ‘the biggie’; a topic for which a glib reply can lead to greater confusion. To lend a perspective, it might benefit readers to jump over to one of the essays on my outreach website.
Clothing serves as a primary cultural communication. Absent that imperative, we might just as well wrap rags, moss, or bubble wrap around ourselves for protection and comfort. This point is essential in order to grasp a further understanding of crossdressing. We send myriad signals about ourselves through the medium of personal attire and decoration; our ethnicity, our religion, our social status, our allegiance, our mood, our gender, our fantasies, our ‘availability’, our mood – the list is infinite.
Crossdressing is communication.
Which leads to a plethora of additional questions. What, exactly, are we communicating? To whom are we sending the message (trick question)? Is it getting through or is it somehow garbled or confusing? Is the message content accurate at the source? Is the communication important in the first place?
Crossdressing is not about the clothing. Rather, the clothing is a conduit of expression – about our very essential, inner natures. Doesn’t it make sense to say positive, empowering things?
A famous Russian tennis player was once the butt of a locker room prank when his new ‘friends’ educated him with a few phrases in English to help him get by. When he thought he was asking, “Where is the men’s toilet” the words he’d been taught were more on the order of “I need to s**t, which way is the G**damn crapper?” As he became more fluent in English he didn’t appreciate the humor.
In the crossdressing ‘community’ there are many who start out the same way, attempting to communicate in a language they don’t really speak. Little wonder they don’t get much in the way of tolerance; they have made themselves (albeit unintentionally for the most part) intolerable, primarily from restating the messages they absorb from their less thoughtful sisters and from a sensational media that emphasizes the lowest common denominators.
It’s common sense that if we wish to earn respect, it’s a good idea to appear respectable. Our culture, while uncomfortable with nonstandard gender expression, is waaaaaaaaay more uneasy about things deemed overtly sexual. Thus, when crossdressers openly display as clueless Barbies, truckstop trannies, or BDSM submissives it’s understandable why the public at large react as they do. A natal female attired in the same manner would generate a similar reaction. Get a clue! As it harms no other, do as you will – behind bedroom doors, and keep them closed please.
At a recent Eureka En Femme Getaway it was an uphill battle with one middle-aged CD. When asked why she favored miniskirts and CFM strappy platform shoes she replied, “My legs are my best asset.” To which I replied, “Your legs are writing checks that your face and waistline can’t cash.” Her rejoinder was, “I don’t care – people will just have to deal with it.” Sure, a chip-on-my-shoulder attitude will win tolerance every time. Where is a good cluebat when you need one?
I finally got through to her by opening a side door; vanity. She was out on the street the next morning, blissfully displaying her butt cheeks to everyone in her aft quarter, when I walked up to her and in a conspiratorial whisper said, “One word – ‘cellulite’.” That afternoon, she was wearing trousers.
Just as with any language, there are blessings and curses; bold proclamations and subtle suggestions; the vulgar and the tasteful; the shout and the whisper; the symphony and the grunge. It’s helpful to keep in mind that we master a language through practice, total immersion, feedback, trial, and error. The kind of feedback we receive in an echo chamber (‘support’ groups, ‘trans friendly’ venues, and TG social circles) isn’t nearly as helpful as that which we gain by expressing among the culture at large.
Thus, my advocacy for open crossdressing.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Lacey Leigh”

Christmas Past

Betty and I had one of the nicest Christmases in recent memory this past weekend. I’m not sure how, but everything came together in a good way for us – including a surprise bonus from her boss that made us feel a little less guilty about buying each other presents (though I never feel entirely unguilty, being both Catholic and only partly employed). (Or is that fully employed but underpaid? Something like that.)
I got a new printer/fax/scanner which was badly needed (and deductible!), new cufflinks (NYC subway tokens, even), a new tie bar and a new tie. Also some underwear, and tea, and chocolate truffles. Books (but only one about gender!), Wig in a Box. (I’ll let Betty tell y’all what she got.) We spent the day at my sister and brother-in-law’s place, as per usual, and it was a quiet, pleasant Christmas, with us mostly playing with their new kittens and eating and playing with kittens and talking and… watching kittens sleep.
Tomorrow my entire clan gathers at her place to exchange presents and eat (and no doubt, play with kittens), and I’m looking forward to it; I haven’t seen my parents since they moved to Florida this summer, and my siblings and nieces/nephews in about as long.

Return of the Boards (Not Yet, Again)

The Boards are supposed to go back up today, but as we’re also switching hosts, I’m awaiting a backup of the database and its move before I re-open them.
I don’t want to go ahead and re-open them and then have to shut them down again – may as well get it all done at once. I’m not saying that the boards won’t re-open today, just that they might not.