Guest Author: Jan B.

I wanted to share a letter and story I got from Jan B., the found of MHVTA. I thought her story of finding a permanent home for Felicity’s trans collection was a nice way or marking how the T is slowly becoming part of LGBT history, for the end of pride month 2006.

Hi all.. had a neat experience last week and that was donating Felicity’s library of TG material (all copies of Transvestia, Femme Mirrors, several other periodicals, many books, assorted papers) to the NYC Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center Library & Archive.
This process was the culmination of about 2 years of exploring and asking.
Fri. 6/16/06
Felicity and I met with Rich Wandel, the center librarian. Later I had the opportunity to escort Rich back to the Center to deliver the library in person. Never having been there before, it was a unique experience. The Center seemed to be buzzing with activity on a Fri. afternoon. Getting into NYC was a hassle and a half but I got in and out without a problem. I got to see the library and see how they categorized the various material donated. It is a very professional operation and Rich was very accomodating. He’s interested in building up their current collection of “TG” material and is interested in old as well as more recent material. Being a LGBT center for a large metro city, most of the material collected is “GLB” related so any “TG” material is most appreciated.
The story really goes back 2 years ago when Felicity was only 98 years young. She lives in an older home and we had spoken earlier that she had many vintage publications. She wasn’t too interested to even show them and I, and maybe others, suggested she do something about the material before something happened to her or the house. The event which seemed to change her mind was she had a car accident in ’05 and was in the hospital for an extended stay. We agreed to explore options and I was willing to help. I acted as the custodian and outreach point person while I went back to Felicity to discuss it and figure out what she wanted to do with her collection.
I had lots of question for people about where would they send TG material and/or where would they go to look for vintage reference material. More than 15 suggestions arrived. The early leader was the U. of Michigan library as they seemed to be the favorite for recent donated “TG” collections. This particular library already had most of the material that Felicity had (which fills the trunk of a car) and they said if they received duplicates, they would pass them onto another library. We felt we wanted to give Felicity’s material to some place that didn’t have the material already and would treasure it.
April, ’06:
After we scouted around more, I attended the IFGE Convention in Philly and spoke to many people including TG’s who had donated their material already or were looking to donate reference material. Some people I met were collectors and were willing to pay for specific issues to backfill their collections. One person said the collection would be worth a lot of money. I met Dallas Denny (editor of Transgender Tapestry) who provided a list of various libraries which could house “TG” collections; she also provided her criteria she used to donate her “truckload of material” to the U. of Michigan library. These included the type of library & why they were interested in acquiring the collection, type of archive, their plan if they do acquire the collection, conditions / requirements to review, ease to get access, physical plant, personnel, financial stability).
We decided that we would look to find a library where Felicity was active which was the east coast. The libraries we checked which seemed to be the best choice were William Way Center in Philadelphia, Central Ct. University (Hartford), and the NYC Center. The NYC Center was really where Felicity lived and the folks in our area would be able to visit them if they desired. When I visited the Way Center, they had a very limited selection of “TG” related material but were interested to start up their collection. When we looked at the The Hartford library and the NYC Center, we felt Central Ct. University library was 2nd in our deliberations really because the NYC Center was more local to our area.
It was interesting to see what happened if you put a request out on the web. Friends and sisters provided various contacts. Connecting up with the libraries proved to be a challenge .. some were very responsive and others never responded. It was helpful if there was a website to see the facility or their current collection. Most don’t separate out the “T” from the rest of the “GLB” stuff.
Back to June, ’06:
We believe we made a good choice. Rich Wandel was visiting Vassar to present at a library science group so we took advantage of it so he could meet with Felicity and get her to sign papers donating her library. She also will set up a ‘type of use’ agreement that any of Felicity’s papers containing her “brother’s name”* would not be able to be used until after her death. It was pretty straightforward for Rich, but it was interesting for the casual observer.
This has been an interesting journey and I’m glad this part is done. If anyone has vintage material and you’d like to donate it to a library for posterity, hope this rambling may have helped. I also hope Julie from U. of Michegan and Rich from the NYC library can present next year at the IFGE Convention in Philadelphia. It would be neat to see that happen and might spur donations.
* Her “brother’s name” is crossdresser code for Felicity’s legal male name.

Three Months, 15 lbs.

I am back to the size I was when we got married in 2001, which is nice. My goal is to get to the size I was when we met in 1998, though. We’ll see.
Still, I recommend for anyone who’s an otherwise bad eater. It’s nice to know what it takes to eat recommended amounts of fiber, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.
I’ve also since decided I prefer a 15-20 minute workout daily as opposed to 30-40 minutes every other day, especially since I work out at home (a combination of weight training, calistehenics, and yoga).

PBS Late Night

You can catch the most interesting things on late night PBS; tonight at 4am was an hour-long tribute to Oscar Wilde in honor of his 150th birthday. Various actors and writers and dancers paid him tribute by reading his lines and wishing him a happy birthday. The very last was Jefferson Mays (the actor who played all the characters in Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife,” the story of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf) who described Wilde as “the most elegant subversive the world has ever seen.”

Lucky Number 13

Betty and I have become aunts today for the 13th time, with the birth of our 3rd nephew.  Four are on her side (including today’s), the other nine on mine.
& People wonder why we don’t want children of our own; we can’t afford birthdays and Christmas and graduation and baptisms as is.

Belligerent Old Ladies?

I had a bad dream about an elephant a couple of weeks ago.* I’ve had a couple of dreams in a row about not being able to keep animals safe (another one involving a calico cat), if anyone feels the need to be Freud – and after this one I woke up haunted by the idea of unhappy, angry elephants. I’ve always liked elephants – they’re peaceful, smart, social, familial. They talk to each other, and they’re otherwise playful and peaceful, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. As a way of purging my bad dream, I started wondering if there was anything I could do, and I came upon, which is the website of The Elephant Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary takes in old circus elephants. It can only take females (because males don’t socialize with others), but it gives them free range, good food, and a safe warm place to sleep. Plus, friends – the other elephants, dogs and cats, their caretakers.
Elephants occasionally get labeled “dangerous” like Topsy did – usually when they have the good sense to smack down a mean trainer or two – and Winkie was one of the ones who did. At upwards of 7000 lbs., “aggressive” can mean “fatal” in an elephant. But since she’s retired, she’s been entirely peaceful, with no signs of aggressive behavior. There was just something about her story that speaks to me, so I thought I’d share it.
They keep blogs of the doings at the Sanctuary – both African & Asian – and it can be pretty heart-warming reading. I just really love the idea of these formerly cramped, chained-to-a-post, performing animals laying around, taking baths, eating berries, and occasionally chasing dogs (a game for both the dogs and the elephants, apparently). Like there’s some justice in the world, sometimes, for at least a lucky few.
* The dream was a result of my having discovered the sad and unjust execution of Topsy the Elephant. Please don’t read the story at all if you’re fond of elephants, REALLY. I’m warning you. Her story has haunted me for three years, since I first read about the memorial to her at Coney Island. The short, leaving-out-the-gruesome-details part of the story is: badly-treated performing elephant kills three men and is electrocuted by the famous Edison, who was trying to prove that his form of eletricity was safer.

You Talkin' To Me?!

For the years I was the most androge/genderqueer (though of course I was often simply called “freak”), I had no idea I was, until I realized that when someone called out “young man, you dropped a glove,” or “homeboy was out pretty late tonight” types of comments, they were talking to me. The odd thing is, I don’t remember any sense of “you’re talking to me?!” when that happened. Maybe the first comment was so obviously directed at me that there was no question, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened after that. I don’t know. It was harder for me to adjust to being called by Betty’s last name – I didn’t change mine – and more than one waiting room receptionist has called it out more than once.
I don’t like having to tell people not to call me “Mrs. Your Husband,” because they treat you like you’re intentionally complicating their lives somehow. But I just had another friend change her name upon getting married, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would do that. And please don’t repeat that “sometimes it means a lot to the husband” excuse to me; if it’s that important to him, let him change his goddamn name.

Vern Bullough

Vern Bullough, author of umpteen books, advocate for crossdressers and trans people, died this past Wednesday, June 21st.
I can’t even begin to express how sad I am: Vern became more than an author whose books I read, but a kind of mentor for me, always willing to answer a question or point me toward research that might help me out.

From the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism
The Center for Inquiry Laments the Death of Vern Bullough: Leonardo Man and Stalwart Secular Humanist
The Center for Inquiry is sorry to announce that Vern Bullough died Wednesday evening, June 21st, after a brief illness. He was a stalwart humanist, a dedicated member of the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry, and CSICOP. He had devoted himself to humane causes all during his life; he was considered to be one of the leading authorities in the world on the history of sex and the nature of gender. He was a tireless advocate of civil liberties, the rights of minorities, including gays, lesbians and transgendered persons.
The author or editor of over 50 books including Sexual Attitudes: Myths and Realities, with Bonnie Bullough, and hundreds of articles, he was renowned in several areas of human interest, including history, sexology, nursing and liberal religion. Indeed, a true Leonardo Man, Vern was a distinguished professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, an Outstanding Professor in the California State University, a past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, past Dean of natural and social sciences at SUNY in Buffalo, New York, and one of the founders of the American Association for the History of Nursing. In addition, he was a recipient of the Distinguished Humanist Award and a past Vice President of the IHEU.
Vern served on the Center’s Board of Directors since its inception and was personally involved in its outreach. He accompanied the Center for Inquiry’s Explorers Club on a Cruise to Alaska in early June. He read a paper on board ship, and managed to write up his remarks in the form of an article, which will be published in Free Inquiry magazine.
He will be sorely missed as one of he leading secular humanists in North America and the world and a liberal voice for the right of self-determination, tolerance and dignity.
He leaves his wife, Gwen Brewer (Prof. Emeritus, University of California) and four children.
Paul Kurtz
Chairman and Founder, Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism

Her Best Man

Yesterday we went to a party, thrown by a friend who is TG for his wife’s birthday, and at some point people started telling stories about how a groom or bride went missing at a wedding – in this case, it was because the bride was fixing the headpiece for the cake. At our wedding, Betty went missing to go “hang out with” her best man for a while, and I sat there for a bit, trying to figure out in my head how I could say that, & then realized this group knew Betty was trans anyway, so I just told the story with the “best man” bit in.
But I had a moment where I thought: what do you do with stories like that? Just resist telling them? Re-gender them (so that “she was hanging out with her maid of honor”?) The whole event made me kind of sad, because after we brought it up we ended up doing Trans 101, which is not the worst thing in the world, but we really didn’t feel like it (because sometimes even we want to just be normal folks who go to parties to eat & drink & talk & tell stories).
& I woke up this morning thinking: this is what I hate about transness.

Too Many

The other day I was seeking out my copy of Hirschfeld’s Transvestites in order to footnote something about his Theory of Intermediaries, and while pulling, I ended up with Kate Bornstein, Virginia Prince, and Judith Butler on my head.
Sitting there having been bonked in the head by one and having had another fall on my foot, I decided I have way too many books about gender.
But doesn’t everyone?
At least it wasn’t the Hirschfield that fell; now that book would hurt.