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 www.myhusbandbetty.com.

***

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. 

Process

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.

Mini Fundraiser (Help Me Write the New Book)

So just in time for me to sit down & work on the new book my laptop serves up a blue screen of death. Printer is on the fritz (though it is 15 years old, to be fair) and Rachel’s equity dues were due and emergency dental surgery and and and…

All in all I need some emergency funds to get a new computer & printer pronto because I’ve got until mid September to finish this book.

If you can help, please do.

The Next Book: Questions

I’ve been working (again) on the long awaited 3rd book and have been structuring the chapters around some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years and around questions I want to answer in public. Feel free to add your own and maybe I’ll answer them.

I feel like the current WH has forced my hand, tbh.

asked by others:

1 – are you only married for the tax benefits?
2 -how do you feel about being called helen in real life?
3 – how does poly work for you?
4 – “but you’re cis”
5 – how do i support my wife/kid/parent while also taking care of myself?

questions i want to answer:
5 – what did i get wrong? (in the first 2 books)
6 – what haven’t i said?
7 – what was organizing in the trans community like in the early 00s?
8 – one i’m just calling ‘maternal testosterone’ which will be about taking care of people
9 – becoming the catcher (in the rye)

Please do add your own. I’ll be working on this all summer. Come join me on Patreon for drafts and updates.

Gender Inclusive Language, Theatre Edition

My friend and Rachel’s colleague Will Wilhelm at Oregon Shakespeare Festival wrote this piece about the experience of changing the language of Shakespeare – yes, Shakespeare – in order to include all the genders.

Our #AsYouLikeItOSF director, Rosa, came in with many ideas for the “all the world’s a stage” speech that focused more on an inclusive experience-It comes at the end of the play, not the middle, as a parting gift to this audience, who we’ve tried to represent more fully in this feminist, diverse production. Some of the women stand powerfully behind Erica Sullivan’s Jacques onstage. The rest of us run into the audience to stand within the patrons, our faces glowing from the lanterns in our hand. The effect is stunning. However, after our first read of this beautiful treatment, I noticed one line that still felt exclusive.

I approached dramaturgy team to ask for an edit of “and all the men and women merely players.” A part of me almost quieted this impulse. My worst inner demons asked, “why do you think that your qualms merit changing one of the most iconic lines Shakespeare ever wrote? Why is the rest of the inclusion in the speech not enough? What does it really matter?” I’m so glad I asked. Amrita, Wiley, and Rosa were more than receptive. They’d in fact already been thinking about it themselves.

Last week, at a discussion with some students, I noticed one teenager in the circle having sort of a rough time: a little weepy, clinging to the hand of their friend. No one was addressing it much, so I assumed everything was okay and kept leading the discussion. Halfway through, they were able to take some deep breaths and raised their hand. The student, Star, shared that they are non-binary and had yet to meet a non-binary adult, let alone see one onstage.

Star let me know that as soon as they heard the line “and all the people in it merely players,” they burst into tears. So did the rest of their classmates. Because they know and care about Star. Such a simple change might be nonsensical to a Shakespeare purist, but this class knew it meant everything for Star to be included in this moment.

So here’s a reminder for those who still say “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls”: ask yourself if you really mean to include “all the people.”

Mariette Pathy Allen Retrospective

I found out this morning that a retrospective of 40 years of the awesome Mariette Pathy Allen’s work is hanging at the Museum of Sex in NYC. It turns out a photo of us is in it as well as in the article on Dazed about it.

It’s called simply “Partners” and listed as 1995 but we didn’t meet until 1998.

So let me explain further, as I used to have these photos on the site and this is what I said about them:

The beautiful black and white photo of Helen Boyd & Rachel Crowl was taken by Mariette Pathy Allen during Fantasia Fair ’04. We were both honored and pleased to pose for Mariette – who is, after all, the official photographer of the transgender community.

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