Last night Prof. Jenny Boylan
, author of fantastic transition memoir She's Not There
and now Stuck In the Middle With You
about being a trans parent, did a reading last night at Gay City under the auspices of Ingersoll Gender Center.
I'd put this in my calendar for the wrong day. If it hadn't been for my compulsive checking of Facebook yesterday, I would have missed it. Naturally I didn't have a book for her to sign, so I bought the new one on the spot and went totally fangirl on her when she signed it. Seriously, folks: I meant it when I told her that she wrote my story better than I could have.
I've never been in a room with that many trans women in my life. I'd guess at least 80% of the fifty or so people in the warm basement were trans women. There were even two or three trans men.
She read four different passages from three (?) books, but about half of the hour was taken up with discussions of being a trans parent. I'm something of an authority on the subject and a bigmouth, so I told the story of when I told m'boy I was going to change sex on him. If you'll recall, he tried to shake Aspiring Ex down for an iPod an hour later. Good for a laugh. He also thought my physical changes would be organic and therefore more perfect than they are.
Jenny did coming out to your kids right: one of her two boys was so young when she transitioned that he has no memory of her bad old days, and the other wasn't much older. From the Dept. of Irony, she seems more naturally protective of her boys, even the one in college, than I am of my son, and my son arguably needs it more. It was also a painful reminder of what I've missed by not having a neurotypical kid.
After the talk, meeting some of the other trans women in the audience, and then pizza & drinks at Via Tribunali. (Love their pizza vera
, by the way. It's pizza that doesn't make you feel gross. Pricey, though.) It turns out that Jenny likes to sing: she led us all in a couple of Irish trad songs.
I got to sit next to her. Eeeeeeeee!
And I got to ask her a question that didn't really fit into the time or theme of the reading: what would you tell your younger self?
She asked if I meant the ghost of my former self - the theme of one reading - or trans people who are pre-transition. As someone who's spent a lot of time with queer Microsoft interns and at Lambert House, I meant younger trans people.
What I've told them is that they need to get an education and otherwise make themselves as indispensable as possible to society. Trans people face so much job discrimination that to do otherwise is sheer folly. Jenny's said things like that, and gotten criticism for it. Unbelievable.
She also said that she's come across so many "plane wreck[s]" - she did an imitation of a dismally unsuccessful attempt at femme presentation here, complete with the voice - who are grateful to her for inspiration that she's loath to assume the responsibility of advising any of us. And she's right to say that trans people don't want advice; they want permission. That was certainly true in my case.
I get the impression that Jenny is getting tired of talking about transitioning, transsexuality, and gender in general. That's common among trans people who are many years past Full Time, and it's even more understandable when you've been writing & speaking publicly about it as much as Jenny has for the last ten years.
"I know it gets old, but we need you very, very badly," I said.
"I'm dismayed that it's me that we need."
What I think she meant by that, in addition to being just plain tired of gender, is that she's been getting lip from younger, hipper trans & genderqueer people about how she's just telling her gentle, often happy stories and not doing more to stick it to the Man. Not only is that unfair to Jenny, who's never pretended to be anything but a writer of stories; I think it's bad strategy. The greater queer community has made its many recent gains by convincing everyone else that we're human beings. No one is better equipped to do that for trans people, and trans women in particular, than Jenny.
She wouldn't let me pay for the 'za we shared. *Dies*.
Oh: I ran into stepchyld
there, which is hardly surprising considering how active she is in trans things, but she gave me a ride home. We naturally talked about dating. Yes, it's sucked for her almost as much as it's sucked for me - she's currently in a newish relationship - but she said one validating thing: the key is to keep being social, even via OKStupid.
In other news: makeup & bra shopping
with the Siberian Siren on Wednesday night. Unlike me, she didn't try any assistive devices or need anyone to adjust her breasts. (Aw.) This time it was her turn to try on a gazillion bras at Nordie's, but she ended up ordering some that weren't on the rack. She & I have diametrically opposed fitting issues: I have a big chest & teenage breasts, and she's a tiny little thing who's pretty well-endowed for her size.
"We should find the woman who's the average size and beat the crap out of her," I said.
"She doesn't exist," said the Siren sadly.