About 20/20

So I’m still thinking about the 20/20 show that was on a few weeks ago about young kids coming out as trans.

& The thing I can’t quite get past is how many people who are gender variant grow up to be gender variant but okay with the sex they were born. A gay friend of mine called after the show was over & asked, “So what’s the difference between them & me?” because he went through most, if not all, of what one of the young MTF expressed. He did drag for most of his childhood, expressed the desire to be a girl as a child, and had a hard time dating guys who didn’t want to date a queen. I didn’t have an answer for him. I don’t know what makes some of us gender variant & some of us trans. Continue reading “About 20/20”

Maypoles, Martyrs, and Mary’s Head

Happy May Day, no matter how you celebrate it:

In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, Mary’s head (in works of art, school skits, etc.) will often be adorned with flowers.


The maypole is a tall wooden pole (traditionally of hawthorn or birch), sometimes erected with several long colored ribbons suspended from the top, festooned with flowers, draped in greenery and strapped with large circular wreaths, depending on local and regional variances.

or (my preference):

In addition, May Day in the United States is commonly regarded — at least by certain groups* — as a commemoration of the execution of the Haymarket martyrs who were arrested after the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago, Illinois, which occurred on May 4, but was the culmination of labor unrest which began on May 1. The date consequently became established as an anarchist and socialist holiday during the 20th century, and in these circles it is often known as International Workers’ Day or Labor Day. In this form, May Day has become an international celebration of the social and economic achievements of the working class and labor movement.

*That’s Wiki code for “pinkos.”

Five Questions With… Virginia Erhardt

Virginia Erhardt, Ph.D. is a licensed therapist, a founding member of the American Gender Institute, and the author of Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Crossdressers and Transsexuals. She published her first article concerning the partners of trans people back in 1999 after publishing a workbook for lesbian couples called Journey Toward Intimacy. She is a regular at trans conferences like the upcoming IFGE Conference.

(1) How long did it take you to compile the stories in Head Over Heels? Where did you find partners who were willing to talk about their experiences?

It was about two and a half years from the point at which I began soliciting participation in 2002 and then sent out questionnaires, until the time when I had created “stories” from the SOs’ responses to my questions. During that time I also worked on my substantive, didactic chapters. It took another two years and a few months from the time when I completed the project and signed a contract with The Haworth Press until Head Over Heels was in print.

I put out a Call for Participants to every online listserve and transgender print publication I could think of. I also requested participation from people at trans conferences at which I presented. Continue reading “Five Questions With… Virginia Erhardt”

One Big Answer

A recent conversation on the boards brought up the whole ‘brain sex’ debate again, and what I want to know is why all of these studies or conclusions need to be so mutually exclusive? Isn’t it possible for one person to be transsexual via brain sex & another person to be transsexual for another reason?

I don’t think like a trans person about this stuff, but being gender variant, I “could” pin my gender variance on my high levels of T. But that doesn’t explain why I was a tomboy growing up, either. Maybe it was having a lot of older brothers. I don’t doubt, either, that some of it  had something to do with the way women are treated in this culture. It could have been anything, but I tend to see it as an amalgamation.

& While I understand the necessity of “proving” it a medical condition, I don’t see why a combination of womb hormones, brain sex, karotype, etc = might not be responsible.

Why do we always want/need One Big Answer? Especially when the systems we’re talking about = reproduction, cell formation, genetics, sexual identity, consciousness, ETC = are all pretty damn sophisticated unto themselves?

4th Preview of She's Not the Man I Married

Excerpt from Chapter 4 – Snips & Snails & Sugar & Spice:

Gender variant heterosexuals often are the people others gossip about, the ones that people mumble are just closet cases married to each other. Those slightly feminine older bachelors who everyone assumes are gay are probably at least occasionally crossdressers. Some of them are perhaps surprisingly het—as Betty and I both were to many people who knew us, including our families. But we exist. (I like to joke that Betty’s parents didn’t care so much that I was a liberal because they were so relieved I was a woman.) I would imagine not a few of us just learn how to get by; Betty hid her gender variance from a young age because of how huge the taboo against being a sissy is, and I was free to be a tomboy until puberty. We both got a slight break in the androgynous ’80s, and we’re both very thankful for that bit of cultural good timing. But once we were both in our twenties, we tried very hard to perform our respective gender roles properly. For Betty that meant pretty much avoiding relationships, and for me, it always felt like playing a part. My guess is that we have both now begun to acknowledge our gender variance because we have found a place to do so: the larger LGBT community. Since the T has been added, we have effectively been welcomed into the only subset of American culture that acknowledges gender variance. We are those mysterious “queer heterosexuals” that are starting to get mentioned in academic journals and LGBT papers.

Guest Author: Michelle York

Des Scènes dans le Chemin Moyen
So, I’ve been thinking about this middle way stuff oh these last three or four…years. When I was married, it was to find an accomodation with my wife that would make us both happy; and now, it’s because of the very realistic possibility that it will be the only way for me to be happy, since I’m pretty sure just being a weekend princess won’t be enough but it remains very much to be seen if transition will ever make sense for me.So I wonder: how middle way am I? I know, no definitions, but…most days a week I wear a suit to work (even though it’s not necessary: but I like them to think they’re getting the high-priced consultant they paid for.) Sure, may nails are a little long, and if you look closely you’ll see I’ve “groomed” my brows (though I do wear my glasses a lot…)
And in my less princessy moments on the weekend I’m pretty metrosexual. I like floral shirts, I’ve been known to wear shirts to show off my chest and pants to show off my ass.
So right now I’m somewhere between Chelsea salaryman and victim of the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” guys, right?
But: I’m out to every important person in my life, though not all of them have seen me cross-dressed (I find “as Michelle” to be a somewhat creepy construction for me.) I’m out as CD and other stuff to my current flame. I’ve told every lover I’ve ever had before we became lovers; hell, my ex-gf and I went to Edelweiss for our first “date” (though it only retroactively earned that appellation.)
I don’t scream to the rooftops that I’m trans, though I care less and less if anyone knows. One of my neighbors in the building saw me coming home one night, so I know at least some folks in the apartment building know. (She always smiles when she sees me now. Hmm.)
The guys in folkmusicienne E.’s band have met me both ways without flapping an eye.
I go where I go crossdressed. OK, I haven’t quite gotten to the point of doing my grocery shopping while crossdressed, but movies and dinner and just being out in New York I do without thinking too much about it. I’m not even sure when the last time E. saw me not crossdressed was; I think it was back in the middle of May. (She said, “I haven’t seen you in a while.” I told her that was because she was hanging out with that crazy Michelle chick.)
I’ve taken dance lessons crossdressed, and had the odd experience of having “Michelle York” called out for attendance…this really bizarre understanding that this, persona, mask, whatever you want to call it, was beginning to become an actual person. I go walking in daylight now, usually from my therapy sessions to wherever I’m meeting E. I did that today, without anybody saying anything or even staring (well, staring more than they would at anybody wearing a white skirt.) I don’t think I was passing, either; my predilection for tank tops may get my “ordinariness” points fashion-wise but does little to hide the fact that my shoulders have benefitted from years of testosterone in much the same way that a fraternity mixer benefits from a truckload of kegs–to excess, and frequently embarrassingly.
So where does that leave me? Over 75% of my waking life I spend in male presentation (financially I want to do nothing to fuck up my contract until my new corporate masters get taken over by their corporate overlords in about two years.) I try to take care of my male appearance and actually like shopping for my casual clothes.
On the other hand, right now, if I can conceivably go out cross-dressed I usually do so. (Caveats, and yet another wonderful “isn’t it great to bond with women” moment: I was thinking a couple of weeks ago about catching a movie I wanted to see down at the Film Forum one Saturday night (for those playing at home, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows) and then heading out to get a few drinks. But I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I didn’t think it would necessarily be such a bright idea to go out alone to a movie dressed to go to a bar later. Especially seeing as I’m, you know, a man. Maybe I was being paranoid; but maybe not…) The idea that I will dress up when I can is becoming so commonplace to my mind that I plan almost unconciously around it. (Even so, I’m still only dressing in public 2 or 3 times a week.)
So, middle way? Weekend Princess? I don’t know. I feel better, mostly, about myself and glad that I have these chances, though to tell you the truth it’s also really stirred the pot of my gender fuckedupedness (sorry, dysphoria.) And while I don’t have the full-blown body dysphoria of the cut- it- off- cause- it- disgusts- me, I- can’t- look- in- the- mirror- cause- a- man- looks- back variety, I’m less happy with my body nowadays, disenchanted with my broad frame and my peasant shoulders and my cowcatcher jaw.
And the sense of oscillation, of vibrating between different extremes of emotion, is hard to take. It’s not like crossdressing necessarily helps, either, though in general it quiets some of my dysphoric feelings; or, as I told my therapist a while ago, crossdressing lets me stop having to fight my impulses to be feminine. But at the same time, I’m acutely aware of what I look like and how little I pass, and that makes me feel sad as well. As sad as wearing a suit instead of skirt can make me feel? I don’t know, yet. Nor am I completely sure that the good feeling I get from wearing nice men’s clothing–and I do have that, I enjoy my peacock moments–will be enough to compensate for never living as a woman.
So, some scenes from a little down the Middle Way. I’m not sure I can help going further into the woods; but I’m not sure I’m blazing a trail either.

"Foreign" Chemicals

For various reasons of my own, I was doing some light reading on sex differentiation and H-Y antigens and I came upon a wiki article about fraternal birth order, which says:

“It is hypothesized that the fraternal birth order effect may be caused by increasing levels of antibodies produced by the mother to the HY antigen with each son. The HY antigen (histocompatibility Y-antigen) is found on the surface of the cells of male mammals. The presence of this foreign chemical when bearing a son could trigger the mother’s immune response, which may then lead to different brain development patterns in later male children.”

Which got my head going in all kinds of gyne-utopian scifi kinds of directions, because doesn’t it sound like the mother’s body is actively preventing too much macho in the world? The “different brain development patterns” being obliquely referred to is of course gender variance and/or homosexuality in males.
Dunno: it just sounds like Charles Wallace and his mitochondria, in a way, doesn’t it?

Guest Author: Gracie

Gracie wrote this piece in response to Donna’s question about internal gender identity, and I really liked it.
I don’t feel that I’ll ever be a woman or know what it’s like to feel like a woman because I wasn’t born with a woman’s body parts at birth. I think being a woman has many meanings, but when I hear other women say it to each other very rarely is it about is it about the social stuff when a serious point is being made. Hmmm.. ok, that’s not true. Ok.. not that it’s very rare, but when I hear women talk about things that are serious and refer to womanhood it’s about growing up a woman and the bond they have because of growing up a female which leads to womanhood. It feels like the describe a right of passage. The bond I pick up on is when they share the memories of doing things they had to do as girls that boys didn’t. Their experiences being young and their bodies maturing and the bond they formed then, then being looked at by boys as girls who had something the boys wanted versus just being girls with cooties they all have that in common. Then as they matured and men started treating them as objects instead of the girls they had once been (may be the wrong wording). Some women share the bond of knowing that their bodies can create life. Even if they don’t have children they know together what that bond is like. Then there’s “a mother’s love”. I’m not sure about this one and as women get older, to me they seem to diversify.
I feel as women get older (20’s and up) there’s not as much or less of a commonality between them that forces that womanly bond anymore. The body has finished developing and so it’s more about personality and life experience. One of the last things I think is HUGE (a big bonding thing) is pregnancy. Women hold that high and proud as a badge of womanhood. I don’t think any women rejoice when menopause comes along, but again women share in that bonding moment as well.
As a TS woman I missed all of that. I may be a female, but I’ll never have those experiences that women have. Can I define that as being the end all of womanhood? No. I can just tell those women who feel like they are a woman, I feel like I’m on the outside of that chain link fence looking in at womanhood. Though I can climb that fence and be in there and some men can’t figure out how to get in there at all or would be embarrassed to be seen in there. (most women would revolt and throw them out if they tried anyway) I had to climb in to the womanhood enclosed by the chain link fence I use as symbolism here. Women were given access inside the chain link fence by birth and walked in through a gate. They didn’t have to climb in like me. So I won’t ever know what it’s like to have that feeling of right of passage. I climbed in and will always feel like an outsider when they discuss womanhood.
I feel I relate with women who can’t have children, women who don’t want to have children, women who developed late in life, and women who never really felt like they truly identified with women. There’s not many of the latter I bet, but those are the women that after I climbed the fence and got in I’d seek out. Those are more likely the women who I’ll share a lot of “me too!!” moments with.
I’m not a woman because I wasn’t born one, but I am a TS woman because like women a lot of us grew up with the same kind of bonding. We knew at a young age we were girls. We were raised boys and knew that it didn’t feel right. We tried to be the boys we were told we were and like girls who are told “be a girl or else” we didn’t listen to those threats, but there were times when most of us had to. As a gal who likes women it was easier for me to fake that part, but for the ladies out there who have always craved men and shoved it to the back of their minds until after SRS or those who knew upfront they only wanted to be with a man they had it tougher, but they were still like me because they were born the wrong sex and forced to live as the wrong gender. We have a bond that others will not ever feel. It’s our right of passage too.
I think being a TS woman is just as profound as being a woman who was born in the right body, but it’s different and I won’t ever relate with women who, as girls, were raised to be women. I feel I can understand what it felt like, but I.. well.. I’ve said the same thing over and over so I think you know what I was going to say.
Whoa… I just remembered how in 8th grade I felt my sex was wrong (another of the billion times, but this one was reinforced every weekday). I just remembered when it was time for physical education (PE) and I wanted to go in the girls locker room like the rest of the girls, but I had to go to the boys locker room. That always sucked the most. I remember there were two ways to get to the locker rooms. There was sidewalk from one way and there was a sidewalk that if you went that way you walked to the boys locker room. I can remember hearing the girls chattering and walking by and seeing the entrance to the boys locker room. Wow.. the feeling of it sucking is still there! lol.. that’s deep and weird to me.
Ok.. my rambling alert just sounded so I better stop here. I love this topic and thanks because that’s the first time I’ve written my feelings down where I hear my own thoughts about this. It makes me even more sure that I haven’t lost anything by not feeling like a woman in the traditional sense because I share a bond with other TS women that others can’t understand, just like with womanhood for those who were born in the right body. *sorry I said that so much. I was trying to avoid GG.

Five Questions With… Lisa Jackson

lisa jackson
Lisa Jackson was born in Fayetteville, Georgia, and her first
venture into rock n roll was as a Christian rocker. But at the age of 21 she followed her star to New York, where she formed the Steve Friday band. In 2000, she did her first gig in drag, and eventually began to transition in a very public kind of way. With the support of several downtown notables, like Jayne County,
Lisa has gone on to not only become a fantastic role model for the trans community but a fantastic rock n roller in her own right. Her band, Lisa Jackson + Girl Friday, regularly play gigs in New York and beyond, and her CDs rock. Her “Fabulously Done is also the endpage of My Husband Betty. If you’re in New York City during May, you can catch them on Monday nights at Arlene’s Grocery.
1) As a fellow 80s kid, which were your bands? Which band did you love that might surprise people the most? Were you Punk or New Wave?
Well the band that tops my list from that era would be Van Halen and that would be the David Lee Roth era only! But I was also a big fan of Men at Work, Till Tuesday, and even Journey.
Continue reading “Five Questions With… Lisa Jackson”

From the Mailbag

Dear Helen,
First, let me say that i thought your book < My Husband, Betty > was excellent. I’m not a crossdresser myself and had figured that out before i read your book, but since a friend of mine’s picture was featured in it, i simply had to buy the book. It turned out to be a pretty fair description of the crossdressing world that i had seen in my brief and peripheral experience of it. At least, that’s my opinion.

You wrote: “it always struck me as ironic that VP, who put these standards & membership rules in place, prefers she-male porn and is living full-time as a woman – and has been for many years.”

Meanwhile….. On doing some internet research on crossdressers who use non-over-the-counter hormones (the rationale of this puzzled me) i came across the above quotation. Who is the VP you are referring to? I know Virginia Prince is a “transgenderist”, but i always assumed her tastes were of a rather vanilla variety. Do you know if she also uses hormones? If not, does she have a position on their use by crossdressers. She has a rather perscriptive personality on most such issues, so I’m just curious.
Best Regards,

Yes, I was referring to Virginia Prince with that shorthand of VP.
From what I know – Virginia used hormones for herself until she got the breasts she wanted. Then, because estrogen disrupted her sex drive and/or functionality, she quit taking them. That said, she does live full-time as a woman and has for many, many years now – more than she lived presenting as a man at this point. In some ways, she’s like a transsexual who didn’t have bottom surgery.
If you want to know the whole scoop, you need to get Richard Docter’s book about her, From Man to Woman. That’s where I got the information about her liking she-male porn; she even admitted that if she were young now, that’s probably what she’d be doing. She was infamously oversexed.
I don’t know if she ever had a “position” on crossdressers using hormones, but I’ve met quite a few now who simply want breasts. Some of them use hormones to get them – and then “bind” for their male lives. In some cases, that kind of “treatment” is even recommended, to relieve body dsyphoria and gender role dysphoria by enabling the CDs to pass more easily when they do dress.
Like I said in the book, the definitive line between crossdressers and transsexuals is not so definitive. Often the distinction made is whether the person presents as female part of the time (= crossdresser) or all the time (=transsexual). Others make the distinction with body modifications – ie, hormone use and/or surgery. But there are plenty of transsexuals who opt not to have surgery, or who maintain male identities for their professonal life, & all sorts of other combinations. Still another distinction that’s been made (& one that I think is the least valid, to be honest) is that for crossdresser’s it’s sexual, and for transsexuals it isn’t.
This stuff is getting murkier & murkier every day, what with the internet & hormones being easily gotten, and according to some researchers, the largest category of people have always been the ones who don’t fit the “classic transsexual” or “classic crossdresser” definition.
Thanks for writing, and for the praise.