Thursday, March 27, 2008

FTM Newsletters

If there's an FTM or an FTM organization out there that would like a bunch of copies of the FTM Newsletter, let me know. The issues I have are #s 38 & 39, 41 & 42, 45 & 46, 48 & 49.

First come, first served.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Answer: His Killer

The cover story of this month's Advocate wants to know who's to blame for Lawrence King's murder.

Their insinuation is that those who would have advised Lawrence to be open about his sexuality and gender identity are.

Bruce Parker at Bilerico has posted an open letter to LGBT Ally organizations that will be sent to The Advocate in response to this article.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Courage of My Two Sons

When you first hold a brand new life in your hands, whether you are the father or the mother, your mind races on how they will turn out as adults. You could be holding a future President of the United States, or the next Ted Bundy. You never know what Fate has in store for your child, but you know part of their future is shaped by what you will do, or don’t do in the next 18 years . . . and beyond.

My two sons were born almost exactly 2 years apart and will be 26 and 24 in early June. Robert is the oldest and Bryan is the youngest. Bryan was born on my mother’s birthday and since the age of five he and her would go out to lunch or dinner to celebrate their birthdays together. Bryan never forgets.

(The Photo, left to right: Olivia [Robert's Fiancée,] Robert, Donna [my ex,] Bryan, Hilda [Bryan's wife, in the back,] Xavier [my grandson,] and me.)

Over the years, my ex and I did the best we could to raise Robert and Bryan, giving them as much freedom to do things so they could learn adult responsibilities. They rode the city bus by themselves to the mall at age ten and had a savings account at age twelve, learning to deposit and withdraw money on their own. At age 16, they worked in stores on commission and did a great job.

We also emphasized the importance of accepting all people, regardless of any differences. This was evident when they brought over friends of all races and colors to play at our house. Today, Bryan is married to a Hispanic woman and Robert is engaged to one. Both my ex and I really adore those two daughter-in-laws of ours.

As we all know, and many have experienced, transitioning for a transsexual can cause a lot of problems for their children. I’m sure that coming out as being a gay, lesbian or bisexual person can also cause problems with any children you may have. The only difference is the child doesn’t see their parent change appearance in a short period of time. When I started living as Monica in June of 1997, Robert and Bryan had many issues with it.

Robert told me he was harassed by friends at school and his response to them was that they were no longer his friends. He went through many other problems in high school, but his female cousin helped him get through those tough times. At age 20, he joined the Marines and since I served in the Navy, it created an instant bond between the two of us. To this day, we are very close.

Bryan appeared to be okay with my transition, not feeling uncomfortable being seen with me in public. I remember one Saturday we were in Home Depot getting supplies for large lizard enclosure he wanted me to help him build. I stood in the long paint line to get a specific color, while he and his friend rushed around the store finding parts we would need.

When Bryan found some hinges for the enclosure, he came up to me and said, “Dad, dad. I think these will work.”

“Sure, Bryan. I think they will, too.” Then, I looked around and other shoppers were staring at me. “Ah, Bryan. Maybe while we are out in public, you can call me ‘Monica’?”

“No Problem.”

Bryan and Robert came through those early years a lot less scathed then others I have heard of. And, in spite of the courage they have shown over the years, they will be stepping it up a notch in a couple of weeks when they attend the International Foundation of Gender Education’s yearly conference in Tucson, April 2nd to the 5th. Not only will they be attending one of the premier transgender conferences in the country, but they will be giving a workshop with Monica Canfield-Lenfest, a member of Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE.) Her father also transitioned as an MtF transsexual. The workshop is titled, “Children of Transgender Parents.”

“How do I feel?” you might ask. “Nervous” is one word that comes to mind. “Amazed” is truly one of my feelings. “Proud?” Absolutely. I told them to tell it like it was and not hold back on anything. Others need to hear what they went through in hopes it could help. Do I risk humiliation having that part of my transition exposed to the world? I don’t see that it will be an issue. The importance of showing others in our community that some children make it through okay and that they need to watch out for the pitfalls far out weighs any issues I could face from Robert and Bryan being there.

I love my two sons and they love me. What more could I ask for? I get to be with them at the IFGE conference and introduce them to my friends. I see that as a dream come true. I’ll write another piece after the conference on how it all turned out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lambda Lit Transgender Finalists

But despite the absence of Whipping Girl, I do want to congratulate the finalists:

  • Transparent, Cris Beam (Harcourt)
  • Male Bodies, Women’s Souls, LeeRay M. Costa, PhD, (Haworth)
  • The Marrow’s Telling, Eli Clare (Homofactus Press)
  • What Becomes You, Aaron Raz Link & Hilda Raz (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Nobody Passes, Mattilda, aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore (Seal Press)

I have an essay in Mattilda’s Nobody Passes of course, but I especially wanted to congratulate Eli Clare and thank him for all the work he’s done in/for the trans community.

Whipping Girl

The Lambda Literary Foundation’s list of finalists for the 2007 Lammies is out, and She’s Not the Man I Married didn’t make the cut. And I’m okay with that; it can be a little tiring to see how even trans people don’t seem to care, often, about how loved ones see/relate/deal with transness, but I’m getting used to it. Besides, I got my props the first time around, when My Husband Betty made finalist.

That said, Whipping Girl didn’t make the cut and that is absolutely 100% wrong. & I’ll tell you why.

Whipping Girl is, to date, the only book to address, theoretically, the uneasy relationship between trans people - specifically MTF transsexual women - and feminism, and that work was long overdue. It addresses sexuality, media representations, the historical pathologization of trans people by psychologists, the fetishization of tans women’s sexualities, the inherent misogyny of a feminist politics that mocks femininity, and then some.

It has been personally & politically important to me in confronting what remained of my own “natural attitude” toward my own gender, what Serano calls cissexism (and rightfully so) and proposes the concept of “subconsious sex” which did more to explain transsexualism to me than anything ever has — outside, maybe, of Betty’s “because” model.

It’s a real shame that this book was not recognized by the Lambda Literary Foundation. It will be considered a classic, revelatory and ground-breaking book in time; it’s just sad the Foundation’s judges don’t have the foresight to give it its due now.

Julia, personally: thank you. I always appreciate when anyone, with their words and logic and anger, can make me a little less of an asshole, and Whipping Girl did that in spades.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's (not) All About Me

Talented journalist, author and Trans Group blogger Jacob Anderson-Minshall contacted me recently with an expressed interest in interviewing me for his syndicated column, TransNation. Of course I was (and am) honored and quickly said yes to his request.

We met on a lovely day in early March at a terrific coffee shop in Portland called "World Cup". After expressing a mutual appreciation for each other's work he broke out an awesome, vintage Panasonic cassette recorder and we settled in at a table outside for a little taste of Jenn al fresco.

You can read the article here...and I must say that he did a wonderful job of turning my "stream of (un)consciousness" ramblings into a relatively coherent collection of observations. Thank you, Jake!

As we talked I found my mind wandering frequently to the spectacularly ordinary nature of what was happening. There I was, a mature (NOT old) transwoman being interviewed about my work with gender non-conforming children by a handsome and fascinating transman while sipping a hot chocolate (Jake was having tea) on the sidewalk of a major American city that wasn't New York or San Francisco.

It may not seem like much of a big deal to many, but for a girl who quite clearly remembers a time when such a scenario could only have happened in a Gene Roddenberry teleplay, it was yet another powerful moment.

It was a pleasure to just sit with Jake and share our observations about how this culture processes and responds to gender non-conformity. One man, one woman, both of trans-experience discussing ways to make the future brighter for trans and gender non-conforming children, youth and their families.

I may have been the subject of your article, Mr. Minshall....but you are the object of my admiration and respect. Thank you, Jake. You are, by anyone's definition, a role model for all people, but especially other young men.

Friday, March 07, 2008

more Dreger/Bailey stuff

For those interested, I wrote a column that was just posted on that discusses a few recent developments regarding Alice Dreger’s “scholarly history” of the Bailey controversy.

Also, I am happy to say that my “peer commentary” on Dreger’s article was accepted for publication, giving me the surreal experience of being able to say that I have a paper coming out in a sexology journal. Anyway, you can download a PDF version of my commentary here:

I also recorded a somewhat long-ish podcast where I talk in detail about all of the problematic aspects of Dreger’s paper (there were too many to fit into my commentary). If you’re interested, that can be found here:


Monday, March 03, 2008

(Partner) Anger & Trauma

I wrote this piece for our message boards in a thread about how/if trans people deal with their partners’ anger. It reiterated, for me, why I want to see the trans community understand feminist issues a little better & bring them more to the fore.

One thing that I wasn’t aware of & only recently discovered: it turns out that anger is one of the symptoms of trauma. There are so many of us women raised female with trauma in their lives - & in a lot of cases, with unexpressed or untreated trauma. Even treated PTSD doesn’t mean it goes away, but only that it’s there to be managed.

So I suggest, delicately I hope, that sometimes the transition of a spouse that has provided a sense of safety & security otherwise can be a kind of “last straw” for a woman raised female who has lived through other kinds of trauma.

The cycle of trauma that women can deal with goes something like this: (1) bad shit happens to you, which increases (2) your need for an SO, which creates (3) anger & self-criticism due to feeling that you need/are dependent on anyone for any reason, which fuels (4) anger that said security/safety is being taken away by transition, which is all exacerbated by (5) complete lack of awareness that most/any/all of this is happening, and (6) your spouse’s inability to understand that most/any/all of this is happening too, which is further frustrated by (7) an inability to talk about the trauma, the self-criticism, the dependency, or the anger.

Which is why, once again, I wish there were more awareness of feminist issues within trans communities. I have heard too many trans women react to their insanely-angry wives with hostility & even derision, & that maybe, if they understood women & their lives a little better, they might riddle that frustration with empathy.

We have been through shit too. Trans people are not the only ones who suffer, or who want relief from pain & maybe even to feel something like “normal.” & Goddamn when you have found your pain relief, in the form of a gentle man who provides you with solace & laughter & stability, only to find out that he is not who either of you thought she was.