Sorted by Jackson Bird

I’m actually a little surprised – and very excited – to report that I just read a new trans book I really liked: Sorted by Jackson Bird. Not to be a jerk, but the prospect of YETA (Yet Another Trans Autobiography) usually fills me with dread. I’ve read way too many of them and they tend to repeat themselves.

But this one I liked. I was only vaguely familiar with Jackson Bird as I’m not much of a YouTuber – I prefer reading over listening or watching things for info – and while I expected this to be the regular I was born / my gender wasn’t right / some bad shit happened / I transitioned narrative, it wasn’t. Overall it’s a great introduction to trans identity: Bird’s voice is engaging and warm and funny, and his informational sidebars – on things like hormones and pronouns – are pretty much on the money, brief, well worded, and smart.

There are still too few autobiographies by trans guys and even fewer by trans men who attempted – much less thrived in – a very feminine presentation. There was Matt Kailey’s Just Add Hormones – rest in peace, Matt – and … and …. you get my point.

Bird’s telling of his story articulates an important generational difference: his work unraveling his gender identity comes before and during his complications with sexuality. For those of you who are older, or who have only read narratives of older transitioners, this book is a good way to change your perspective on how people experience trans identity, and to put aside some presumptions about how people come to realize their need to transition.

(Personally that’s still a puzzling thing to me: so much of what Bird describes is so similar to my experience except for that “oh, I’m a man” moment. I am trying to write about being gendery/non binary but not trans in the new book, promise.)

If you’re on the feminine spectrum of things, this is a good book to see how the other half lives. If I’ve got any criticism, it’s that there’s a lot of privilege being expressed, but I also think he’d be the first one to admit as much.

Check him out. He’s got a bunch of videos but I liked this one especially for demystifying the sexual orientation/gender identity issue:

My New Website

Hey everyone! It’s long overdue but I’ve just updated my professional website Helen Boyd Books where you can find my bio, info about the books, lectures/talks I’m available to give, and all sorts of other things.

Please do share the site with people who are in a position to hire me as a speaker, trainer, consultant, tutor… whatever it is. I’m good at a lot of things and I’m not teaching very much anymore and so could use the gigs.

Look at this handy dandy list of talks I can give:

  • Trans Etiquette 101 : How to Navigate Trans Identities and Pronouns
  • Co Conspirator to Transland: How To Ally
  • A Brief History of Transland: How Trans Identity Became Visible
  • Trans Relationships: Love Is Not All, Actually
  • Becoming Queer: Chosen Families and LGBTQ Life
  • Becoming Poly: It’s Not Pie
  • Trans Inclusive Feminism: Or, Why Trans Women are Women
  • Writing in Private, Publishing in Public: On Writing Memoir
  • Non Binary Identity: Emerging and Eternal Genders

OR I can tailor one to your group’s needs.

I’ve also gathered a bunch of video, links to interviews & articles, lists of my published writing, and descriptions of the books = basically everything you’d want to know about me as a writer and speaker.

18 years later.

i. sitting in the top observation deck in one of the seats that was in the windows and looking straight down between my new boots feeling suspended in light and sky and seeing all the way to pennsylvania, hundreds of feet above the ground, sitting on a few strips of metal and a masterwork of engineering

ii. passing through one day and stopping, briefly, to watch tibetan monks create a sand mandala — the image of which i meditated on for months after

iii. going to see radiohead at liberty state park across the river, concert tickets bestowed as a wedding present by our awesome friend michael because we’d never seen them. i danced the whole time, watching them framed by the lady and the towers, and that night my brand new husband expressed surprise and admiration that anyone could dance to 2+2=5 as we changed trains on the ground floor of marble and tall ceilings high on the music and the night and the stars and the 3rd encore oblivious, utterly, joyously oblivious of the scenes that would unfold in that same space not too much later

iv. the word welcome in hundreds of languages on the tourist elevators, very 70s design, different fonts for different languages, a comforting barrage of welcome wilkommen bienvenido bienvenu welcome. now step to the back to let another 400 people on.

v. i was supposed to do a reading that night. i have no idea if i ever did it, whether it was canceled or rescheduled.

vi. i was supposed to see a firewater concert that week and when it was rescheduled everyone was excessively, pathologically drunk and screaming the lyrics along with everyone and tod a. he’d go on to write “electric city” — his brokenhearted goodbye to his town: shine electric city shine like six thousand wings in the sky over the scene of the crime

vii. going up through the utterly familiar penn station to walk into a corner full of crowds and sunshine on 32nd street with men in full riot gear, army men with big guns, and knowing already that nyc would be ruined maybe not immediately, but eventually, somehow, for me.

viii. watching my jewish neighbors hold hands around the local muslim middle school and form phalanxes around the kids so they could get safely to their parents, buses, subway stations. oh brooklyn.

ix. walking into my office months later and seeing on my whiteboard 9/11 computer mendel noon. he lived because he was dropping one of his 13 children to school that day. i quit not long after, & not well. i’m still friends with mendel.

x. i still look for them when i’m home and have to remind myself that the new one is there instead and wish deeply for the multiverse where it isn’t & they are, instead, still.

This Labor Day, Support An Artist’s Labor

As you all know, I’m on Patreon these days to support my writing, but I am also on there to support other people who do great work. Maybe you like some of these people — if so, do sign up to support them.

For Harriet publishes and amplifies the stories of black women.

Hanne Blank gives you reasons not to quit.

Iljeoma Oluo writes angry words. (She’s the one who got swatted a few weeks back and would, no doubt, appreciate your support right about now.)

Does Julia Serano need an intro here? If so, she’s the one who wrote Whipping Girl.

S. Bear Bergman wrote Butch Is a Noun and is always full of gracious wisdom.

Sophie Labelle makes all those cool trans comics, Assigned Male, that you all share all the time and rarely credit. If you do, sign up.

Eli Clare is the author of Exile & Pride and writes poetry about gender & disability.

Scott Turner Schofield is telling trans stories at Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps.

Tristan Taormino writes queer things about sex positivity and is currently writing a memoir.

Wear Your Voice is a collective of black feminists whose voices are essential for me.

Jon Hakes is a local friend, scifi writer, & the one who convinced me to sign up for this thing.

Nebal Maysaud is a former student and a composer of color.

So there you go. A bunch of cool people doing cool things and whose labor benefits your life maybe indirectly: by providing me with insight, company, and solace with their own work.

Activism, Crankiness, & Enthusiasum

This piece was partly inspired by the awesome work of Scott Turner Schofield.

Tomorrow I’m going to be handing out flyers delineating Chick Fil A’s anti LGBTQ donations to people waiting in line for one of their restaurants to open. If you’re in Appleton, feel free to come by the line outside Chick Fil A around 4PM to cheer us on, make a donation, or help hand out flyers.

I don’t feel particularly strongly about this boycott, because I’ve never had Chick Fil A & don’t care to, and because I think the whole corporate overlord / factory farming monolith is heinous in general, but I met a new, young activist who was inspired to act so I got involved. A lot of times I do so to make sure no one gets hurt; to make sure the action or protest is appropriate for its audience; and to make sure, too, that a young activist full of fire becomes empowered. It’s one of the ways, as an older activist, I can do the work without always having to storm the castle myself.

If you don’t have a younger mentor to teach you, you get old and bitter fast, anyway. My knowledge and caution benefits him; his enthusiasm and energy benefits me. Win-win.

What I’m thinking about today, however, is how much lateral hostility or general crankiness there is within activist circles, and specifically within LGBTQ ones, so I want to offer a little advice because I have seen myself do some of these things in the past and they were not best practice nor my best self.

When another member of your activist community wants to do a thing and you think it’s unimportant or inessential, you don’t have to volunteer. You also really shouldn’t be down on the person or the event or the cause: you can just say “My plate’s too full right now” or “not my kinda gig” to excuse yourself from having to participate.

What you don’t have to say is: “but there’s so many things to do and why are you doing this?” or “this isn’t important (implied, to me) so it should be to you” or “it won’t make a difference so why bother?” Apathy is more infectious than anything, and it lets people off the hook.

I say all this as a cranky, older activist who has a tendency toward eyerolling someone else’s enthusiasm and energy; some of that, perhaps, is organic to now being 50, but it’s also something to work against – no matter how organic it is. It is very easy right now to look at the world and not know where to begin, or what might make the greatest impact; I find, in general, that activists are often only working on their own cause, holding onto decision making power when it comes to money, and lacking the ability to support other people – usually people with less power in a system that’s benefitting you – to do what they do.

In future, when someone says “boycott chick fil a” you might, instead, want to say, “not my gig but go do the thing.” Or ask why the person putting so much time and energy into something is doing what they do. Similarly, you can find a thing, instead, that inspires me: start that fundraiser on FB.

When I first started doing this work – advocacy or activism or whatever you want to call it – I’d get roundly criticized or come up against general malaise and feel like shit for a week. What I learned to do was ask myself, “what have they done?” and more often than not I found a lot of criticism comes from people on the sidelines who are not doing a damn thing, who never put themselves in a position to be criticized or censured, and who don’t, in general, show up.

So for all of you activists out there who are well aware of how much criticism you can get just by speaking out or planning an event, fuck ‘em. Until you’re being criticized by people who do as much as you do, please tell the keyboard warriors to show up or shut up.

Everything counts; everything matters. Supporting others who are doing things even when you can’t is far more important than letting your own guilt or shame cause you to criticize anyone trying to make a difference.

I’m writing a lot more on my experiences with activism and advocacy on Patreon, and in the new book.

My New Bios

I’m working on a new website to highlight my lecture work and the like, and wrote a few new bios.

I’ve got a Wiki.

The short version:

Helen Boyd is the author of My Husband Betty and She’s Not the Man I Married, books chronicling contemporary crossdressing culture, relational gender, and her own marriage to a trans woman. While she isn’t teaching, she consults on films, delivers lectures, and does training in gender diversity for corporate and community groups. Her blog (en)gender is at


The longer story:

Helen Boyd Kramer is a lecturer in Gender Studies at Lawrence University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in English and Masters in Writing from City College of New York. She is a prolific writer with many essays published in anthologies, journals and magazines and is the author of two books. Both portray an honest account of her relationship with a transgender partner.

My Husband Betty: Love, Sex, and Life With A Crossdresser, published in 2004, has been called “a standard text in gender studies,” and was nominated for a Lamda Literary Award. Her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life With A Transgender Husband has been described as “the (im)perfect modern love story” and “a postmodern reflection on transness.” You can follow Boyd’s thoughtful prose through her blog (en)gender or follow her on Patreon.   

At Lawrence, Boyd teaches such courses as introduction to gender studies, feminist theory and practice, queer theory, and transgender lives.

Her commitment to the rights of women and the LGBTQ community is extensive.  She regularly gives interviews, guest lectures at universities and devotes time to corporate and government training on trans identity and related issues. In 2011 she appeared on Dan Savage’s podcast Savage Love, and that same year, received the Fair Wisconsin Community Activist Award. In 2016, Boyd attended a roundtable hosted by the Office for Violence Against Women in Washington DC.

But really:

Boyd is the pen name of Gail Helen Kramer, who almost always has at least three cats, hails from Long Island, was made in Brooklyn, and misses her hometown despite having figured out how to live life in a northern town in Wisconsin. She hates patriarchy and still loves punk rock. She believes the world is by and for creatives, queer folx, and misfits. Raised by working class social justice catholics, she is a proud SJW and made up of equal parts earnestness, compassion, and anger.

[Excerpt] Transition

I’ve posted a new piece from the upcoming book today on Patreon, about how her transition was not the worst of what we’ve survived.

Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt:

She always has preferred partners of trans people to trans people themselves, but I’ve always preferred trans people to their partners, so it works out. More than that, we learned from those other people. She would listen to partners talk about their person’s transition and suddenly hear something she didn’t understand when I’d said it; I, in turn, listened to trans people’s frustrations with transition and would finally have that lightbulb go on over my head. We heard each other through other people’s stories, which helped us get to an important place of understanding that nothing either of us was angry or scared or sad about was either of our fault’s; most of what transition wrought was what any major change might bring.

You get to read all my early work on this book for a whopping $1/month, so please do join me over there and tell me what you think. 


A couple of people have asked about how I write a book, how you organize so much material, so here goes. This is a general outline.

Generally I already have written things – on this blog, on my Patreon, elsewhere — on various topics. I look through those, sometimes printing out pages and so try to figure out what will be substantial enough for a chapter.

Once I have those chosen – (currently, the chapter list looks a lot like my question list, previously posted) – I figure out what the intro to the subject is, the key stories (because stories) and write those. Then I expand outward in both directions – more intro and concluding sections until I have something that “feels like” a complete chapter.

Somewhere in here, too, I start to think about word count (100k is the goal) or the # of chapters (5-8? not sure yet) and start dividing material up in that way. For both previous books, I had a word count I needed to meet daily… which I should be doingfor this one like maybe yesterday.

I may work on these all at once, depending on what’s inspiring me, or I may work on them one at a time. That’s up to my brain, and I find it’s useful to let it lead instead o trying to force it to do anything.

Eventually some topics get folded into others & others appear. Over & over I print the material and look at it as if it’s already a book, looking to see what order might make the most sense, and finally, I write opening & closing paragraphs to lead from one into the other.

For She’s Not, my editor went back and forth on whether or not the 2nd & 3rd chapters should be switched about a dozen times and now I’m not sure which was which.

Right now, with this one, I’m mostly asking myself “so what’s happened since 2006?” On a variety of topics (marriage, sex, transition, etc) & just answering the question.

Come join me on Patreon where I’ll be talking more about process, and if you can, help me buy that printer now that you know how badly it’s needed.