Trans Day of Visibility #tdov

Today’s the Trans Day of Visibility, which I honestly didn’t know was a thing. I’m glad it is. I’ve long been cranky about #tdor being the only/first way people learn about trans issues, so yay!

What I’ve already seen is a lot of trans people who aren’t super out wondering if they should be, so let me reiterate: if you can’t be out, don’t be. If it means risking your job, life, family — then please, take care of yourself & don’t be out.

2014 helen betty selfieIf you can be out at all, in any way, to any small number of people in your life who you trust, then do that.

Do as much or as little as you can manage.

& If you can’t be out, then consider, instead, donating to any number of awesome trans organizations that are out there.

There’s NCTE in the US, the trans lobbying org.
There’s SRLP in NYC who provide support and legal services for trans people with an especial eye on those who are least likely to have their own resources.
TLDEF is out there fighting the good fight on the legal front, and
FORGE, right here in Wisconsin, provides support and training and visibility in Milwaukee.

Shoot, if you really are worried about your privacy, you can send me a check & I will make a donation for you.

Here’s a selfie of me & my beautiful wife for #tdov. Go team!

Love, Always Epilogue

I’ve been meaning to wrap up my interviews with partners by putting up a small piece of my Epilogue for Love, Always. I read it Saturday night at a FORGE meeting because Trystan Cotten, Transgress Press’ Managing Editor, was in town.

Also, he’s an awesome guy & you should all buy more of their books.

In the meantime, here’s that snippet:

And we do it all in a wilderness with little support from our own closest friends. Sometimes, when I speak to partners, I remind them that We Are Out There and we may not have a Prof. X to find us all, but we are. We are raising children and packing lunches and going back to school ourselves and sighing at our in-laws or at Oprah getting it wrong again. We are sex blogging and arguing with doctors and following the arguments about Prop 8 and DSM V.

No wonder some of us forget who we are, forget our self-care; no wonder we occasionally rant and sob and grow some giant-size anger.

Where we find ourselves is often between that infamous rock and hard place: if our partner’s transition makes us look like half a lesbian or gay couple, we have to deal with homophobia; but if our partner’s transition makes us look like half of a straight couple, we often lose the support of the lesbian or gay community we’ve belonged to and found safety in for many years of our lives.

Because we transition into trans partners, no one really knows anything about us. We don’t become lesbians when our wives become women, and we don’t become straight when our guys become men. That joke, as Morrissey so famous quipped, isn’t funny anymore. We end up in a place where we have our own histories, our own orientations, hidden from public view, especially if our trans love isn’t out as trans. Some of us opt to identify as bi- (to explain, perhaps, why we’re married to women while nursing a crush on Mark Ruffalo – at least in this partner’s experience, I swear my taste in men got bigger and hairier as my partner transitioned). We find stories to explain why we’re lesbians and why we’re sad about Leslie Feinberg’s death – or why, indeed, we even know who Leslie Feinberg was. In straight and gay communities, an awful lot of people think you’re only ever one or other; we have some common ground with bisexual people in that we’re largely invisible and must, must, be repressed/oversexed/self-hating/whatever crappy things people think about bisexual people these days. Yet some of us don’t like bi- because it’s binary. So a lot of us, you’ll find, wind up under the big bad queer umbrella, so we don’t have to explain a lifetime of dating women but being married to a man; we don’t have to explain becoming non monogamous because we miss certain kinds of sex or desires or even ways of being desired. We don’t want to feel like jerks for missing the bodies or parts or sex acts that we love. But we also don’t want to be judged for loving your trans bodies because they’re trans.

We are always standing on the edge of the forest, machetes in hand, hacking our own paths.

We can’t complain to people we know because we know so many of those around us want us to fail or cry or be pathetic and pitiable or even to condemn the trans. If you give in a little, if you complain about the transition to a good friend, then all of a sudden the whole reason you’re unhappy is that your partner is trans. That happens with therapists, too, way too often.

In trans community, when we’re allowed to partake, the complaining we do or the gentle mocking or the loving critiques or not so loving critiques – please stop dressing like a 19 year old, dear, because you’re 35 – are often viewed as transphobic. If we are not on board and behind every single decision the trans person makes, we’re out. Suspect. If we ask the trans person to slow down so we can catch our breath or save up some money or come out to someone else who needs to know we are, again, judged unwilling or transphobic. We can’t refer to our former boyfriend as a boyfriend even though he was because she is our girlfriend now and has only ever been so and don’t you forget it and that’s even when your own trans person is perfectly okay with hearing you talk about what a cute guy/hot butch you once were. We don’t seek to offend but we do need room to deal with transition our own way. We’re going to screw up pronouns and new names and you know what? So do trans people, sometimes. Our intentions matter.

Despite feeling like outsiders in so many other communities we once belonged in, we often feel liminal even within trans community. We know that. We own our cis privilege, if we are cis. We know more than anyone else what it means to have it. And that’s when we’re even allowed in. So many lesbian women and their trans guys get shut out of queer women’s events; so many straight women and their trans female partners are never let in. Gay men flirt with my wife as if she’s a guy in a dress, and sometimes straight women do, too. Queer women fetishize trans guys as if they’re prizes and yet refer to our trans husbands with female pronouns when they’re not around. We end up defending your gender identities and yet all the while try not to speak for you.

We need more support from the trans community, and we need for the rest of the LGBTQ+ community to realize we’re here and we’re queer and get used to it, already. Sometimes we look straight but we’re not. Sometimes we are straight and don’t know how to do this. Sometimes we need someone to say, “Hey, you look nice” and sometimes we need people to understand that transition is like some crazy combination of marriage (name change), medical crisis (hormones, surgery) and divorce (social ostracism, pity). It’s a lot to deal with at once, and often, when the trans person is busy dealing with all of the emotions and fears and new discoveries, we are picking up an awful lot of slack emotionally and even just logistically. But you get to be brave and living your own truth, or whatever condescending stuff it is that non trans people say about transition these days. You are noble, and suffering, while we’re often assumed to be codependent or desperate.

We get asked all the offensive, obnoxious questions they know not to ask you by now.

IN Just Made Bigotry Legal

from Lambda Legal, via Jillian Weiss:

Today, the Indiana House of Representatives, with a vote of 63-31, passed a bill designed to allow private businesses, individuals and organizations to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds. Lambda Legal condemns SB 101’s passage, which Governor Pence has vowed to sign into Indiana law.

We are extremely disappointed that Indiana’s House, despite knowing the vast implications for all Hoosiers, voted to facilitate religious discrimination in many areas of life for Indiana’s families, workers and others. Once the governor signs this bill into law, women, racial minorities, religious minorities, people living with HIV and many others will be much more vulnerable to the whims of any individual or business owner who refuses services to particular groups of people based on religious objections to who those people are.

We urge members of the LGBT community to alert Lambda Legal if they experience discrimination explained as due to religious beliefs about gay or transgender people. If you have questions or feel that you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, please contact our Legal Help Desk

Five Questions With… Miriam

The last (for now!) of my interviews with partners of trans people who wrote narratives for Transgress Press’ Love, Always, is not, by far, the least. Miriam Hall is also a friend, fellow writer, & fellow Wisconsinite. She’s a writer and photographer and teaches both as contemplative practice. You can check out more of what she does at her website.

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

I am always writing about this process, so there’s nothing I wish I had included in this particular essay that I won’t just include elsewhere. One of the hard things about this process is that just when I think I’ve “finished” a particular experience and can write about it, then something else emerges. The writing is a living process – not a reporting, but something that then feeds back into my life and vice-versa.

I know that I will look back later and wish I had a clearer view on co-dependency, say, in this essay, but I also know enough by now to know that its worth it to write as I go along, not just “after I have figured it out completely.”

2. What is the biggest misunderstanding you confront as a partner to a trans person?

The biggest misunderstanding I encounter is the assumption that this is their experience. This one is really subtle, but it’s a constant micro-aggression: How is she doing? That must be really hard for her! I can’t imagine what that is like for her! These are good signs that folks are expressing compassion and concern for her, but – and this is not all folks for sure – often that overlooks the person who is right in front of them.

3. Where do you get your support?

I get my support from a few main folks. I have feet in various support communities – including yours! – but I am really a one-to-one person. As Ilana’s transition quiets down, increasingly I find I can get the support I need from non-trans involved folks (eg soffas and trans folk, who were more my main support in the first few years). Plus my peeps are pretty well trained by now.

4. How has your experience been in bringing up your own difficulties with the trans person you’re partnered to?

We have a lot of co-dependency in our relationship – Hello! Normal for everyone! – and I am starting to understand how to look at it in that more universal way. It’s not that trans relationships are all co-dependent, it’s that transitioning makes everything – e-ver-y-thing – that much harder, while also masking it all at the same time. It is really only now, post-transition, that I am even allowing my own issues to really come to the front. That having been said, we do have an exceptionally loving and supportive partnership, so I have never felt she only wanted to focus on her own issues only.

5. Do you think you would partner with other kinds of trans people? That is, if you are partnered to someone feminine spectrum, would you date someone who is masculine spectrum? If they’re binary, someone genderqueer?

Yes. I am certain now that I am queer. I always identified as bisexual, but now I realize I am more than that – or not just that. Spectrum sexual. Attracted in particular to folks whose genders are in flux, in terms of presentation, as well as whose physical sexes are in flux. Somehow – call it my Buddhist-ness – I am more comfortable with the ambiguous and constantly changing than the fixed.

Erica 3.0 Beta

A brilliant, geeky post by a friend about her ongoing exploration of what it means to be her.

A note from the design team

It is difficult to believe that Project Erica has been going on for over fifteen years! The idea of creating a workable system that would gain public acceptance has animated the lead developer for nearly 40 years. For most of that time, feasibility and resource allocation issues, together with limitations of imagination, kept Erica on the shelf. Now, the design team has pulled together all the release notes to date: what better way to look forward to the next fifteen years!

Alpha (pre-1998)

The idea for the product that would eventually become Erica started as a series of random experiments. It was clear from the earliest operation of the system that it was probably capable of running both in standard mode and (what would eventually be named) Erica mode. Still, while the core concept was always intriguing, the practical considerations and internal issues never indicated that a real prototype would ever develop. The period until 1998 is best considered the “Alpha” stage of Project Erica.

Tina 1.0 (April 1998)

The first integrated prototype that bears any resemblance to Erica as now in circulation was code-named Tina. The developers were able to demonstrate it in limited internal testing in early 1998. Tina’s general shape, as well as the “look and feel” of the external interface, was surprisingly similar to Erica 1.0, though the final product is a bit larger due to a wider feature set.

Tina’s development was made possible by the improved availability of online tools and additional lab space. The project was mainly a hobby of the lead developer. The project manager (code-name “WIFE”) was not advised of this work, mainly because the lead developer was concerned that the project would be summarily shut down (as being incompatible with Corporate priorities) and partly because all activity was performed off-the-clock.

Tina 1.1 (August 1998)

Minor incremental improvements to the external interface were delivered during 1998, resulting in Tina 1.1. This was the first product release that was photo-documented, though no user manual or external documentation was published or released. Eventually, of course, the product would be subjected to extensive photo-documentation, as well as a real-time user experience manual (discontinued in 2010) for the benefit of developers of similar products.

Tina 1.2 (January 1999)

Bug fix addressing an external error: insufficient skins for the core product. Easily remedied by recourse to readily available online tools (, and By this point, the code name had been adopted as the de facto product name.

Tina 1.3-1.6 (various release dates from 1999-2000)

Minor improvements to the external interface. Also, with the resources of the internet community deployed, the number of product skins proliferated to the point where the developers had to worry about system storage resources! More ominously, during this period it became apparent that one major external issue and several internal issues precluded any chance of Tina achieving full potential. The internal factors have been amply documented elsewhere – particularly in the real-time user experience manual. (See The external issue was persistent and serious: a “beta external application rendering defect”. This was a recurring concern to the development team that ultimately was called by its acronym: B.E.A.R.D. There was no question that even if the internal issues could be resolved, the B.E.A.R.D would preclude any external release or public consumption. Put simply, the market would have rejected the prototype utterly.

Tina 2.0 / Erica Beta 0.1 (September 2000)

An enormous breakthrough arose in September 2000. It was determined that a minor subroutine, applied during bootup every morning, temporarily eliminated B.E.A.R.D. When the developers finally saw the external interface freed from the B.E.A.R.D., they were astonished at how polished a product they had on their hands. (B.E.A.R.D. had profoundly obscured the incremental developments since version 1.2.) Following some extensive photo-documentation of this quantum leap in the external interface, the developers realized that some of the internal issues were also rendered less serious. The reason for this change is still unknown. The photo documentation of Tina 2.0 was released in white paper format to a limited subset of the internet community; response was highly favorable.

Due to poor interaction with Marketing, this prototype was interchangeably known as “Tina” and “Erica”. While the genesis of the name “Tina” is unknown (speculation abounds), “Erica” was easily derived from the name of a friend of the project manager. Limited focus group testing suggested that the name did not distract from the product, and the main impediment to universal acceptance of “Erica” was squarely with the developer group.
Continue reading “Erica 3.0 Beta”

A Note on the Term “Late Transitioner”

To clarify: the term is used usually for trans women who live significant lives assigned male before transitioning to female. There are many trans men who transition later in life after significant lives assigned women.

They are not, by any means, the only kind of self appointed trans spokespeople who screw up. There are sometimes recently transitioned trans men who say sexist shit, or there are young, firebrand activists who don’t seem to know their history and think that anyone who transitioned over the age of 40 is a drag queen, or that trans women who came up through drag shouldn’t be considered women.

That is, “late transitioners” are a big group who often get the majority of the media attention because the whole “look at this hugely successful macho guy/captain of industry who became a girly girl” somehow delights the media. I’ve always thought it’s because we can’t, as a macho, patriarchal culture, imagine why on earth someone with so much male privilege would ever (1) “want” to be a lowly woman, and (2) because we’re generally obsessed with penises so getting rid of one is a spectacle.

Zoey Tur’s ignorance and judgment of the larger trans community is not an illness shared by all late transitioners, by any means. Many of the most awesome movers & shakers in the trans community have transitioned later in life. What I was making fun of, more than anything, is exactly how predictable this specific variety of self appointed trans spokesperson is: there are times I wonder if there is a legal, SOC-mandated need for a trans woman to immediately declare herself “not one of those icky, perverted crossdressers” because so many have done it.

I would be happy to spend some time with Ms. Tur and explain how hateful some of what she’s saying is, how the intersections of race, class, age, educational background, and family support make her kind of transition impossible for many; I could explain that I find the late transitioning women who are all too aware of their lack of passing privilege some of the most amazing, heartfelt, deeply grounded people I have ever known. I could explain a lot of things, as could many others, if only she would STOP TALKING to the media and maybe learn a few things first.

What she could do, at the very least, is recognize exactly how goddamn fortunate she is to have had the money and ability to transition the way she has and to remember that many, many people are not even close to as fortunate and that those who make her uncomfortable are pretty much the same people as make the rest of the transphobic bigots uncomfortable (transitioning youth, crossdressers, people who can’t afford medical intervention, etc.) and that perhaps she should use all her good fortune to make the world better for those who are the MOST VULNERABLE instead of throwing them to the media & political jackals.

In the meantime, I am hoping she can find the time, and grace, and peace to forgive herself for the horrible things she has said about some of the most awesome people in the world. We’ll leave the light on for you, Zoey. You really can be you and still be loved by this big mess of a trans community, but there’s some humble pie in your future.

Zoey Tur & The Late Transitioner’s Media Tour of Meanness Drinking Game

First, I want to remind everyone that this awesome trans community has survived the likes of Zoey Tur and it will, no doubt, do so again. But in the meantime, to keep the rest of us from going mad, we’ve got a new drinking game. (Non drinkers, feel free to substitute with chocolate.)

& Yes, there are rules:

Drink for:
“crossdresser”, “crossdressing”
incorrect pronouns when referring to other trans people
image of putting on make up

Double drink for:
being amazed that people interrupt her/other loss of privilege

Chug for:
Rocky Horror allusion, even unintentional
insulting well-respected trans women of color
denying rights to younger trans people based on genital status

Suggestions are more than welcome to complete this one. Check out Monica Roberts’ take-down for ideas.

Five Questions With… Melissa

Melissa Contreras is an old friend, a past participant on the mHB message boards, and an amazing person. Here’s her interview, to round out the amazing narrative she wrote for Transgress Press’ Love, Always.

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

I would have liked to go into more detail about our sex life, but I honestly didn’t want to cross that line, upset her, etc. Our sex life was always amazing, it never waned in any way – it was an interesting transition, to be sure, when her body started changing, but it never ceased being “amazing”. Since it was gradual, I never had to deal with a shocking, “OH GOD WHAT IS THIS” moment, I continued to enjoy it and adapted well at every point. It was a lovely surprise, when it came down to it.

2. What is the biggest misunderstanding you confront as a partner to a trans person?

People were and are very surprised that I stuck around. People assume that I would have left or wanted to leave. honestly, I wanted to stay with her forever, and if we were going to split up, it would have been her call, not mine. I loved her and was devoted from Day One.

3. Where do you get your support?

In the beginning, I got ALL of my support from MyHusbandBetty community forums and the personal relationships I made from there. These are/were people who were in the same boat as me, in some form or another, and I valued their experience and advice.

4. How has your experience been in bringing up your own difficulties with the trans person you’re partnered to?

My biggest complaint, really, was being stuck in a ‘closet’ of sorts – she never wanted me to talk about her with other people, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to talk about being a transpartner with other people, as it would “out” her and that was only her call to make. But this put ME in a closet, of sorts, and I had to live with ‘pretending’ for most of the time we were together. I was a very proud trans partner and wanted to shout to the world how proud I was of my wife, but she was more uncomfortable about being trans than I was being a partner, so I had to respect her wishes. Even when she came out, I had to be careful and respectful of her wishes, because it had to be on her terms and with her approval. That put me in a ‘closet’ of sorts and it was very uncomfortable, to say the least. I wanted to talk about it openly, and proudly.

5. Do you think you would partner with other kinds of trans people? That is, if you are partnered to someone feminine spectrum, would you date someone who is masculine spectrum? If they’re binary, someone genderqueer?

I consider myself bisexual, so I’m open to relationships with people all across the spectrum – I have had relationships with people of all gender identities and presentations, so it’s really not an issue for me. I’ve noticed that chemistry is the main factor regarding who I’m attracted to and I don’t have a ‘type’, so it really depends on the individual. I would date anyone I was attracted to regardless of gender, or gender identity. Going by my past and present relationships, I tend to skew towards the androgynous side, either gender. But really, it’s not a significant issue.