Archive for May, 2013

The Amazon Trail

Crossing America Without Two Cats and a Dog

by Lee Lynch

3/13/13 And so we set off on our second cross country drive in two months. My sweetheart set up a navigable home, then flew back to Tampa while I unpacked (very little), spent time with dear friends and returned to my job in the Pacific Northwest. Of course we spent most of our time on the phone, e-mailing and sending each other lovelorn cards, but we survived the separation, found a great cat/dog sitter and soon it was my turn to fly to Tampa, incredulous at our continuing odyssey.

Without our little darlings meowling, barking and barfing up kibble in strange motel rooms, we were free to see some of our friends along the way.  Becky Arbogast, of Bella Books and the old Naiad Press, and her partner, author Robin Alexander, met us for dinner. It turned from a get together to a boisterous hoopla event when Becky’s mom and friend joined us for some tasty Tallahassee grub.

3/14/13  We drove to Metairie, Louisiana, tossed our essentials into the motel room and splurged on a taxi into New Orleans. Our driver was from Pakistan, and regaled us with tales of Mardi Gras shootings. The writers J.M. Redmann and Greg Herren, after full days of work, kindly agreed to meet us at The Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro on Frenchmen Street in the heart of the blues and jazz Marigny district. Missing our kitties, we stopped at The Spotted Cat Music Club and discovered a marvelous retro mix of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald in Miss Sophie Lee and her band, The New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings. If you can’t get to NOLA, buy her CD “Tallulah Moon.” The Snug Harbor boasted the best cheeseburgers in town, but I tried blackened redfish and ascended to culinary heaven. My sweetheart, who is thrilled by Nola’s open container policy, imbibed some of a Hurricane and a bowl of gumbo. While a jazz quintet provided the mood music, we talked shop with J.M. and Greg, sister Bold Strokes Books authors. Greg drove us home in an interesting jalopy only a New Orleans writer could love.

3/15/13 It would have been hard to beat those two gay literary America nights and we didn’t. We got stuck in Louisiana road construction: swamp and more swamp for hours and hours. Our motel’s internet had been down that morning, probably with a major NOLA hangover, so we had no motel reservation. Out of swamplandia at last, we chose a Denny’s for its wi-fi, but, alas, that had been eaten by an alligator or sunk in quicksand. After a meal that didn’t quite measure up to Snug Harbor fare, we discovered that our three-month old GPS, Mrs. Bundt III, after her last ill-fated trip through Texas, had gone on strike.

Next up was Columbus, Texas, where we had been stuck with a flat tire for two days over New Years. We were reluctant return, but it was getting really dark by now. My phone gave us some numbers and we called them all. Every goddess-forsaken motel was full to the brim with – who? What were all these people doing in Columbus? We were flabbergasted, as well as homeless. One place said they were booked for a wedding. But the rest? Was the town having its annual Great Tumbleweed Contest? Gay Cow Festival? Then we got lost. We almost squabbled until we found an open convenience store. He didn’t know why anyone would stay in Columbus either, but he directed us out of town, without even calling me sir. I guess I needed a haircut.

Finally we spotted, ahoy!, the Weimar, Texas, Days Inn. The first sign of trouble was the cards on the desk which read “Scottish Inn,” not Days Inn. The new owners hadn’t gotten around to changing the sign. Or anything else. There was a scribbled warning on the elevator: “Out of Order,” The clerk told us that people used it anyway. My sweetheart said, (sotto voce) “And they were never seen again.” She later sang lines from the Eagles’ “Hotel California” like, “You can check out anytime, but you can never leave.”

There’s more. Both beds were concave. No exaggeration, they dipped so far into in the middle they must have rested on the frames, if there were frames. I thought my sweetheart was going to barf at the sight of the rug. She said the stains were like something out of the film “The Shining.” We looked at the bathroom. She guessed they bought the whole room from a salvage yard, almost intact. The fixtures were rusted, the tub was missing large patches of enamel. Needless to say, cleaning was not in the owners’ vocabulary. “House of horrors!” cried my sweetheart as we fled back to I-10.

We spent the night in Flatonia, Texas. My sweetheart wisely asked to see the room first. It was dark enough to hide any faults so we collapsed for the night. Or my sweetheart did. After she fell asleep, I spotted a small bug on the blanket over her leg. I’d checked the bed for bugs, honest. After our last stop, though, I panicked. I grabbed my tablet and frantically researched the sizes, shapes and genealogy of bed bugs. I studied the one I’d put out of its bedbug misery. I woke my sweetheart and told her I wasn’t positive what the critter was, but we had to leave. She mumbled something that sounded like she wasn’t waking up and leaving that bed if I found a giant mutant Texas Horned Lizard in the room.

I sat shotgun for the next two hours, scanning the bed for anything that moved. Slowly, suspiciously, I let myself read a few pages on my Kindle, scanned the bed again, checked under the mattress again, read a few more pages, imagined a rifle resting across my knees, loaded for bug.

We were a mere third of the way home.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013

Taking Off Your Shirt in Public

By Barbara Ann Wright

BarbaraAnnWright,2x3

My dining companion was topless. She hadn’t been before I glanced around the restaurant, but when I looked back, she was feeding her baby. She’d put on a privacy blanket, but I could see in from the side. She shrugged when I told her. “Second kid,” she said. “I don’t care anymore what people think.”

The Pyramid Waltz, http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/products.php?product=Pyramid-Waltz%2C-The-%252d-by–Barbara-Ann-WrightBSB_The_Pyramid_Waltz_small my first book, felt like that. New baby: worry, pamper, buy all the latest gizmos to help raise it up right. Obsess over it, hardly leaving the house.

With the second, yeah, not so much. The excitement lives on; it’s the worry that gets left at the door. With my first book, I was excited, sure, but I was a wreck inside. There was a frantic quality to my feelings, the urge to cry resting right under the surface, a fear so great it kept me up with cramps at night.

I had gotten published, my ultimate goal, but now what? Expectations. How’s it selling? What are you doing next? How far do you intend to go? Questions coming from others but also from inside. I’d been dealing with rejection for a long time. I was used to the brain weasels telling me I’d never succeed. I’d more or less put them to bed. These were new weasels, bigger and more ferocious yet more insidious. Now that I was published, they said, it would prove that I was a failure. I’d written a book, I’d tricked someone into publishing me, and now someone would read it and see what a fraud I was. No one would buy it, my rating online would be negative stars, and the only people following my twitter feed would be trolls. I’d probably end up hooked on meth, living under a bridge, and holding “conferences” for bags of leaves that I called friends.

Enter book two, For Want of a Fiend. http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/products.php?product=For-Want-of-a-Fiend-%252d-by-Barbara-Ann-Wright BSB_For_Want_of_a_Fiend_small Suck it, brain weasels.

I’m phenomenally happy with my success so far. I’m being invited to speak at various functions, and I’m pretty sure that those inviting me aren’t leaf bags. The excitement is still there, but that franticness, the oh-shit-what-if-I-screw-this-whole-thing-up feeling is gone. What happens after the book is polished is out of my hands, just like no amount of gadgetry is going to determine what kind of adult a baby will be. Sometimes, you just have to sit back and let it happen, and the guy at the next booth at Chili’s might see your goods. I never knew that could be so freeing.

Building Worlds: A Conversation Between Jane Fletcher and Nora Olsen

Jane Fletcher:

fletcher

Hi Nora – Thanks for letting me have a preview of your book. I really enjoyed reading it.

One of the things that hooked me was, although set in a women only society, it wasn’t a utopia. I know, when I started reading lesbian fiction, in the few spec-fic novels around, a women only world was often idealised to the point of incredulity. The women were pacifist amazons, flawed only by a tendency to go off on a neurotic, emotional bender for no justifiable reason, other than the plot needing it.

When I created my world for the first Celaeno novel, it was a very deliberate decision on my part not to make it a utopia. I didn’t want to make it a distopia either. I wanted good and bad in it – rather like this world.

Reading your book, I was wondering how much of a conscious decision it was for you, not to make your women only society perfect. What are the reasons for your world turning out the way it did?

Nora Olsen:

best professional nora pic

 

It was definitely a conscious decision. I had a similar reaction to you when I read some of the world-without-men utopia stories. My experience in real life has been that women-only spaces are sometimes amazing, but certainly not paradise. Also, if you write a utopia, then where is your conflict? A lot of times in lesbian fiction, the perfect all-female or all-gay society is at war with the neighboring reactionary society. I wanted to try something a little different.

I really wanted to write a dystopia, because that’s a genre that I’ve loved to read ever since I was a kid. When I started writing Swans & Klons, I had in my mind something akin to bullies at an all-girls school. You know, maybe they’re not punching their victims or dunking their heads in the toilet, but they’re using psychological torture and verbal abuse and exclusion. And the victim doesn’t even know it’s bullying and she thinks the bully is her best friend. I wanted that kind of pernicious atmosphere for my female-only society. I figured that actually, an all-female world could be incredibly evil! It could be a subtle, exquisitely twisted kind of evil!

I can really see how your Calaeno series has a mixture of good and bad, just like real life. In fact, my favorite thing about my favorite book in that series, The Walls of Westernfort, is how there are really no villains in it at all even though there’s a lot of fighting and conflict. I felt sympathy for every single character. For my part, though, I love writing characters who are pure villains.

Jane Fletcher:

I totally agree with you about the trouble with conflict in Utopias. If you paint one side as paragons of virtue and the other without any redeeming features, you end up with a one-dimensional, very trite examination of the obvious. There is no possibility of any sensible internal conflict for your heroes.

I’ve read too many books about a lovable band of disparate characters fighting the evil hordes of the dark lord. It could pass as original when Tolkien did it – not any more. But it’s the lack of internal conflict I feel most hamstrings a plot, because it removes what would normally be the main driver of character development.

For similar reasons, I wouldn’t want to spend too much time on a total villain. The Mad Butcher in Shadow of the KnifeKnife-cvr is the closest I get, and she is very much in the background. The typical opponent for my heroes is someone who has managed to convince themself that they are doing the right thing. I certainly spend more time thinking about their motivations than I do for any other character.

There’s a premise that writers need to be at least a little in love with their villains. I’m guessing you meet this criteria. Which leads me to one of my favourite topics – do you fall for your characters and let them run with the story to see where it goes, or do you start with a story and then flesh out the characters to make the story work?

Nora Olsen:

I used to start with the characters and let them lead the story, but these days I start with the story and then flesh out the characters. I think my results for both approaches are about the same, but I have to do less re-writing when I start with the story. And I hate re-writing! The first draft is always much more fun for me. And yes indeed, I am always a little in love with my villains.

Jane Fletcher:

Ah-ha a reformed panster. <beg>

I am definitely in the plotter camp, and I agree one benefit is the reduction in re-writing. I also wonder whether it also leads to more diverse characters. If I were to start with the character, there would be a strong risk of always effectively having the same protagonists, distinguished only by their backstory, and the same dynamic with their love interest.

Many fellow writers talk of their characters running away with the plot and doing things that the writers hadn’t planned. My characters always do exactly what I want, but they frequently become people I wasn’t expecting. For example, it was a complete surprise to me when I realised what an adrenaline junkie Riki was, in Dynasty of Rogues. Or that Ellen, in Shadow of the Knife, had to be about 10 years younger than I had first thought.

Nora Olsen:

When I read Shadow of the Knife, it almost felt like a YA novel to me, because Ellen is young and just starting out in the militia, but with a very for-grown-ups romance element.

Jane Fletcher:

Looking at my novels, I see myself veering towards the ‘coming of age’ type of story. Shadow of the Knife is this with bells on. It’s not deliberate, but a definite marker of the way my imagination goes.

Nora Olsen:

 

A surprise I sometimes get is when my minor characters turn into major characters. But here’s my big question for you: is it hard for you, or was it ever hard, to write a female-only world? When I was writing the rough draft of Swans & Klons, a few times I tripped up and wrote “he” for very minor characters who were doing jobs that are traditionally associated with men, for example a security guard. Even though I know perfectly well that many women do those jobs. It made me feel extremely brainwashed and sheepish to learn that “security guard” signalled “man” in my head. There’s nothing like writing to show me the prejudices and stereotypes that are so deeply embedded in my lizard-like brain and need to be rooted out. Did anything like that ever happen to you?

Jane Fletcher:

 

As for my ingrained inner stereotyper, I did not have any slips in the Celeano series. However, my conception of the world for the Lyremouth stories had no proscribed gender roles whatsoever. Yet when I came to edit my first draft, I also discovered that a high percentage of guards were men, and an equally skewed ratio of shopkeepers were women. This was especially the case with the very minor, incidental characters who don’t even merit a name.

To get over this, I had a coin on my desk while I edited the story, and as each new character appeared, unless there was a real, plot based reason not to, I tossed the coin and assigned gender on the result. Hence over a third of the characters in the first 2 books of the Lyremouth Chronicals had a sex change between the first and second draft. I did not though, change anything else about them. Interestingly, no reader has ever got back to me, criticising a character in the books with comments starting “No woman would ever…”, or “Only men ever say…”

Nora Olsen:

I love the coin idea! That is brilliant.

Jane and Nora’s conversation will continue on Friday, May 17 on UK LesFic Blog (http://uklesfic.wordpress.com) and Tuesday May 21 on Women and Words (http://lesbianauthors.wordpress.com/). Please join them there!

Bios:

Jane Fletcher is a GCLS award-winning writer and has also been short-listed for the Gaylactic Spectrum and Lambda Literary awards. She is author of two ongoing sets of fantasy/romance novels: the Celaeno series and the Lyremouth Chronicles. As a child, her resolute ambition was to become an archaeologist when she grew up, so it was something of a surprise when she became a software engineer instead. Born in Greenwich, London, in 1956, she now lives in southwest England where she keeps herself busy writing both computer software and fiction, although generally not at the same time.

You can find Jane at on the Bold Strokes Books website (http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/categories.php?category=Paperback-Books/Lesbian-Fiction/Browse-by-Author/Fletcher%2C-Jane), her own website (http://www.janefletcher.co.uk/), and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jane.fletcher.3110?fref=ts)

Nora Olsen was born in 1975 and raised in New York City. Although her mother, a prize-winning author, warned her not to become a writer, Nora didn’t listen. Swans & KlonsSwans & Klons 300 DPI is her second YA novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Collective Fallout and the anthology Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction. Nora lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her girlfriend, writer Áine Ní Cheallaigh, and their two adorable cats.

You can find Nora on the Bold Strokes Books website (http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/categories.php?category=Paperback-Books/Young-Adult-Fiction/Browse-by-Author/Olsen%2C-Nora), her own website (http://noraolsen.com), and her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-End-Five-Queer-Kids-Save-The-World/177651288926440?fref=ts).

Making Transitions

By

Eric Andrews-Katz

I first met Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall in Palm Springs, California at the yearly Bold Strokes Books book event held there. To me they seemed like the perfect couple, well balanced in personality, career and energy. Diane’s gregarious personality exudes being an editor/writer for The Advocate among many other publications, while Jacob’s subtlety seems to ebb forth like a warm tide. When Diane identified herself as lesbian and Jacob as her transgender husband I was taken aback. Not because of any procedure, but because I have met very few people that radiate a personal harmony, an energetic serenity more than Jacob did from the very first moment I met him.

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of listening to them read from their upcoming memoir, Queerly Beloved (tentative release date 2014, Bold Strokes Books). I found myself intrigued by not only the obvious challenges they’ve faced over the last 20 years, but how they handle the day-to-day obstacles life throws in everyone’s path. I wanted to know more about them, and was highly pleased when they agreed to do an interview.

Eric Andrews-Katz:              What was your name given at birth?

Jacob Anderson-Minshall:  I was born Susannah Christine Minshall, but preferred to be called “Suzy”. I was born a girl but my parents let me be a Tomboy. They didn’t force me into gender roles.

Eric:                Describe the family you were born into and the life you had growing up?

Jacob:             My parents are both scientists and I am a middle child. My older sister is two years older, and the other is ten years younger than I. We lived in Pocatello, Idaho (then it was the 2nd or 3rd largest city in Idaho with a population of about 40,000). We moved five miles outside of Inkom, Idaho (population 800) when I was about 8 years old. While my family was Catholic, Inkom is more conservative and more Mormon of an area.

Eric:                Were there childhood incidents that helped you recognize your true identity?

Jacob:             Looking back there are a lot of things, but I had been blind to them myself for many years. I used to hang out with and play with other boys, but after we moved to Inkom, they saw me as a girl and therefore different. So they stopped playing with me. People had more restrictive ideas of what was appropriate behavior for girls vs. boys. It was that period, when other people were focused on my gender variance, when I had the most problems.

Eric:                What were your ‘Coming Out’ experiences like?

Jacob:             When I first came out as a lesbian I thought that all those feelings that I didn’t understand were what made me a lesbian. I was always thinking that being a Tomboy was being a lesbian and that that was the ‘lesbian experience’. I didn’t admit it to myself until I was 35 the other possibilities. When I started to look back there were all these incidents. At one time I convinced the other boys that I was a boy (I insisted and convinced them so I could hang out with them). I was just me, and no one told me I wasn’t a boy until we moved to the [Inkom] farm. Because I was only hanging out with boys at school, I was taken to the school Psychiatrist. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with them anymore.

I am thrilled that there are kids now who are three or four years old and know they are trans [gender]. They vocalize it. There are people who come out later in life, like I did, with my same experiences and they don’t recognize themselves for whatever reasons. I think we [trans people] all recognize it at different points in our lives, but just don’t know how to vocalize it. It’s really hard to understand [those feelings] that make you feel different. Once you identify that, it all makes sense.

Eric:                How did you first meet Diane?

Jacob:             We met at the Boise, Idaho pride parade.

Diane Anderson-Minshall:             It was only the 2nd gay pride parade in the state. We were both 22 at the time. A friend of a friend introduced us, but there was no big ‘click’. A few months later he came up [to where I lived in Idaho] and we hit it off.

Eric:                How long were you two together [as a couple] before the subject of transgender was brought up?

Jacob:             We were together 15 years before the actual subject was broached.

Diane:                        I started becoming aware about six months before he told me, so I had six months to process and worry. I went into ‘Emergency Mode’; ‘what do I need to do’? ‘Who do we need to see and figure it out’? I wasn’t thinking about myself as much as what Jake needed as part of his Gender Dysphoria (former called “Gender Identity Disorder”). I just wanted to solve the issue immediately. The feelings came later.

Eric:                How do you differentiate between the feelings of attraction to women – as a biological woman, versus the attraction as your true self as a man?

Jacob:             I don’t think it was like that. It was really of more being honest with myself about my true identity. I was always uncomfortable in my skin and was not always good at figuring out why that was. At that time, I was about 35, Diane was working on an anthology called “Becoming: Young Ideas on Gender, Identity, and Sexuality”, and she recommended it to me. I started reading and in some of the stories I heard parts that I was identifying with, people were writing and capturing my feelings. I started to say, “Maybe if I was born in a different time I would identify as transgender. At first I felt that maybe if I were younger I would identify as a ‘boi’ *

Diane:                        * B-o-i is a political spelling used by women as a way to identify themselves, on a scale of masculinity, as a gendequeer person.

Jacob:             Diane was also – at that time – writing for ‘Bitch’ magazine and they assigned me a number of transgender subject books to review and write about. I did think that if maybe I was younger I might identify more with being ‘transgender’ or some other word, but I thought that at my age it wasn’t open to me anymore. Over more time and after hearing more stories, I identified more and that’s when I said I was ‘trans’.

Eric:                At what point did you decide that making the transition was the right decision for you?

Jacob:             Immediately, that’s the funny thing. I told Diane I felt trans and I wasn’t sure if I was going to transition. Diane was very much a ‘go forward and try to solve your problems’ kind of person. Once I finally said it out loud, Diane said that it wasn’t a stopping point, but it was a beginning point of finding out if that’s what I wanted to do.    

 

Eric:                Were/are your family and friends supportive?

Jacob:             Almost everybody is in a supportive place now. There were struggles and the interesting thing for us is that some of the people we thought were going to be supportive had reservations, and vice versa. There was a distinct gender difference input. Most men were congratulatory, while most women said, “How could you do that to Diane? Can’t you just be a different ‘kind’ of woman?” or “But you’re so happy! You’ve had this marriage and everything is going right, so why would you be unhappy?” They didn’t understand back in 2005.

Eric:                Diane, how did you react when Jacob first discussed it with you?

Diane:                        I saw it coming long before Jacob did. I saw the wheels turning about 6 months before. We’d been together for 15 years, and I knew him. I knew he was becoming more interested in trans narratives, and those identified as ‘transgendered’ or ‘gender queer questioning’. It mirrored the other people that had come through having similar movements, and I saw other lesbian feminists having similar thoughts – so it wasn’t completely unheard of. By the time Jake actually said, “I think I’m trans”, I was ready for it to happen in one-way or the other.

Eric:                There must be many steps taken before the final step in making the transition. What are the steps needed?

Diane:                        I was comfortable with the binary, ‘male’ and ‘female’ but no so much in the in between. I was hoping we weren’t going to stay in that in between space, as it was hard for me to navigate. I thought it would be harder than the whole losing a wife and gaining a husband. And I wanted Jake in therapy.

Jacob:             We were in the San Francisco Bay area and part of the Kaiser HMO plan; it took a referral to get into the gender studies program. WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) and the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care lay the steps out exactly what should happen, when, and under what circumstances that a person should move onto the next part of Transitioning. Seeing a therapist is first, preferably someone used to being part of the gender program. My therapist had been working with transitional people for over 20 years, and she knew the ups and downs of everything going on with me. We had no idea how much we lucked out with her as our doctor. She told me that ‘if anyone in the Kaiser facilities ever treats you differently, tell me immediately and I’ll take care of it’. They immediately made me feel completely comfortable there.

The amount of therapy you need depends on the individual. They judge on where you are, making evaluations to determine that [what you’re feeling] isn’t something else; that it isn’t a mental health issue, or that someone is trying to hide their identity for legal reasons. You have to pass that test before moving forward.

The next step is the Real Life Test – living in the preferred gender role. The rules have changed now [in this day and age], and that’s a good thing. It can be dangerous for someone going from male to female, dressing and living like a woman but still being a biological male. Today there are shorter periods of time to wait between dressing and living [as the preferred gender] and starting the hormones. It now depends on when your therapist thinks you’re ready.

Top surgery for Female-to-Male trans can happen sooner, but the bottom surgery is usually suggested to wait for another year or so. That way the body can adjust to the hormones. For many decades they recommend that you moved to another city and started life over. But now you go away for a month or so and come back a different person.

Eric:                Have you fully completed your transition with all surgeries including Phalloplasty?

Jacob:             There are a lot of trans people that will never have ‘full’ bottom surgery and consider themselves fully transitioned. The idea of being ‘done’ with transition simply isn’t a concept that many trans people understand. For some there is certainly an end point, but for many others, it is an ongoing process, kind of like life itself.

I don’t talk about which surgeries I have or haven’t had because that’s unfair to other trans people, many who don’t get bottom surgery (or even top surgery) because they can’t afford it, don’t want it, don’t have access to it, or are reluctant to get a flawed surgery (as phalloplasty is often seen as). Bottom surgery is still a very expensive process, can range between $50,000 – $100,000, and is rarely covered by insurance, although Medicare is currently considering altering their policies. Until it isn’t out of reach of so many trans people, having bottom surgery is a huge privilege. Those without it often haven’t ‘chosen’ that path, but they are sometimes denigrated and discriminated against for not having it. Also, I should add, more trans men these days are having metaoidioplasty, a procedure that creates a micropenis from the clitoris.

The penis question feels like a way that non-trans people judge you, asking “Are you really a man?” and by not answering it, I challenge you to accept my manhood on my word, not on my genitals.

As for my transition, it’s been a 7-year process. It’s a whole new way of looking at a new world. It changes how everyone treats you and is a constant learning experience. I don’t think it’ll ever be done.

On the other hand, the minute I said ‘ I am now Jacob’ and started doing the Real Life Test, I started passing in my life in many ways. I wasn’t working at that time, due to a work injury a couple of years before I transitioned, so since my workload was by computer (in print as a freelance writer) I immediately became Jacob [in the byline].

In other ways it was definitely harder when we lived in a small community. Everyone knew my family. Everyone knew me. Everyone knew my dog! It was real obvious to them even when I looked like a boy because they knew me as ‘Suzy’. It’s a constant coming out process.

Eric:                What was the first thing you did as your true self as a man?

Jacob:             Cut my hair and get a new outfit. For the longest time when we went to buy clothes, Diane would steer me to the Girl’s area. I was so happy that I could finally go to the Men’s section and buy a wardrobe!

Diane:                        I wanted to put rules on what kind of man he could become. I kept saying things like, “Hey a lot men shave their chests you know.” And I’d see certain guys and shout, “Not that!” Finally, he said exasperated, “Well what kind of man can I be?” and I thought for a minute and said “Ryan Seacrest.” He was the perfect inoffensive metrosexual. So after that we began using that to make decisions on clothing and other things. Our new mantra became WWRSD – What Would Ryan Seacrest Do?

Eric:                What was your emotional path like when your wife of many years tells you they need to make this type of transition?

Diane:                        There was a lot of over-compensation. When Jake first transitioned we were worried about keeping it a secret. I was the editor of CURVE magazine, and we wondered how people would respond to him, or how people would interpret my work, and us and how it would affect my career. But there were no worries.

Jacob:             At first I would wake up and she would be balling her eyes out. That’s how she dealt with things when I was sleeping. There was a lot of crying in bed at night.

Diane:                        There’s dealing with packing up his girl clothes and adjusting to having mitigate his maleness; like shaving his legs. As a woman, he had these long gorgeous thin legs that any woman would love to have. Now he’s growing hair out on them. I would have a crying fit thinking about this beautiful woman becoming a man. I would try to keep things private since he had so much to deal with already.

Jacob:             Plus the hormones make everything crazy!

Eric:                How did you pick your name?

Jacob:             We took a long time to pick a name and wanted to be true to my parents – all of us kids were named after saints. I narrowed it down to Jacob. Jacob was supposed to be the first born, but his twin Esau prevented that in the womb and was born first stealing the birthright. The true one was supposed to be born first and didn’t make it. I like that idea that my true self was supposed to be born but something prevented him.

Diane:                        One of my favorite songs is Jack and Diane, so it worked as well.

Eric:                How has your life changed post-transition, on a physical, spiritual and mental level?

Jacob:             Basically, I’m the same person I was before but also very different. One of the biggest changes was in terms of my emotional range. As a lesbian feminist I always believed the differences between men and women had everything to do with socialization and nothing to do with biology. After the testosterone started I know better. I don’t have the emotional range like I used to, and that is a relief! I was very sensitive and felt like my nerves were always exposed. Testosterone thickened my skin and my emotions as well. It protected me from the outside world – I became ‘dulled’ so to speak. Diane interprets my emotional range as anger. Apparently my expressions are reduced in range as well.

Eric:                Aside from the physical what traits have Jacob lost after making the transition?

Diane:                        He can’t do the ‘lesbian processing’ thing anymore. That’s a big loss, honest to God! We’ve always been close and talked with each other. Laying around and listening to folk music, talking for hours…we don’t do that anymore. It’s just not in him and he has no tolerance for that kind of conversation any more. It’s different. There are less highs and lows, and he’s just more even-keeled emotionally.

Eric:                Have you ever had a funeral or mourned your former self?

Jacob:             We haven’t. My parents have mourned for the loss, but for me it was a relief. It was difficult for Diane for a while. There are moments where I get stumped in the weirdness. How do you embrace your childhood when it’s not really your childhood anymore? Our society separates us. I was on a basketball team when I was younger, but it was a girl’s team, and not a boy’s team. Parts of my childhood are hard to keep a hold of and maintain because of the transitioning between then and now.

Eric:                Diane, do you miss your former wife?

Diane:                        In the beginning there were periods I felt that. I missed certain things about Suzy that did stop after the transition. Not all of them were about him as a person. I realized how often two women could actually be together. There was the first time I went to the gym and had to go to the changing room by myself. Or at the spa when we used to sit and chat in the hot tub or sauna, but he was ushered into the men’s section and separate gender experiences. I felt robbed that he couldn’t be here with me. It was then that I felt alone.

On the other side of that coin, we instantly got heterosexual privileges that I didn’t even realize we were missing. The day after we officially got married (we were a Prop 8 couple, so we had to end our legal marriage and our domestic partnership in order to re-marry as man and woman), I called the creditors. In the past I had to jump through hoops to get access to his account information, but as soon as I changed one word (from ‘wife’ to ‘husband’) they instantly gave me unlimited access to his files. No passwords needed. We had also asked our friends (who couldn’t get married) for their permission, and everyone knew we had advocated for decades for marriage equality, and they all urged us to do so.

Eric:                Are there attributes (aside from the physical) that Jacob brings into the relationship that Suzy couldn’t?

Diane:                        Jake is definitely more comfortable as a man and that has helped, but in ways that doesn’t depend on his maleness.

Jacob:             When you are perceived as a man there are definite tradeoffs.

Diane:                          He’s less approachable. Women perceive him differently. A woman can smile at a stranger’s child, and can approach them in ways that men can’t.

Jacob:             If I see a lesbian couple approaching I give them the ‘we’re both lesbians’ nod, but they perceive me as a man.

Diane:                        It didn’t affect our bottom line, but it does affect him as a man when he goes to a mechanic.

Eric:                How has your intimacy as a couple changed since the transition?

Diane:                        Intimacy is different from raw sex. That’s what most people want to know about. Do we have sex? You bet we fuck!

Eric:                Has Jacob’s transition changed the way you identify?

Diane:                        My partner’s genitals have changed, but my orientation hasn’t. It was important for me not to lose my identity. We are both transitioning. We have to adapt and recognize where we are in the world. I still identify as a lesbian, or a lesbian identified bisexual, if that’s how you want to define someone. I don’t want to disappear into the heterosexual community, although it is fine for other couples [experiencing transitions] to do that.

Eric:                How do you identify as a couple?

Jacob:             We like being ‘Queer’- it covers it all. Identifying politically is important.

Diane:                        I always insisted on called Suzy my wife, instead of partner. It’s more political and in-your-face. As he began transitioning we were thinking, ‘Now what’? Calling him my husband felt so ‘straight’, and that wouldn’t feel right for either of us. ‘Partner’ didn’t feel right, so I started explaining it as, ‘I’m a lesbian and this is my transgendered husband’.  Basically, you can call me what you like, just don’t call me a ‘Straight Girl’.

Diane Anderson-Minshall has been a journalist most of her life. After being an editor for On Our Backs, Girlfriends, and Curve magazines, she became the Executive Editor for The Advocate, and Editor-in-Chief for HIV Plus Magazine.

Jacob Anderson-Minshall is a freelance writer who has written several published essays, and has penned the nationally syndicated column “TransNation”. He has just recently been accepted onto the board of the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Together they write the “Blind Eye Mystery” Series (Bold Strokes Books).

Then I Go and Say Something Stupid like I’m Bisexual

 by Mel Bossa

Ah, identity. What a great and fucked up thing.

You know, I’ve been quiet for a year–well, not in my house, but on the web–and I took that time to step back and check it all out. See what you all had to say about this and that, and what really got you all heated up or snoozing. I went to my regular favorite websites and blogs, and hung around goodreads and LGBT review sites…

Oh and I wrote a book. But I’ll tell you about that one later.

Anyway, here’s the thing: I think bisexuality decided to take a sabbatical this year. I don’t know, but I haven’t seen it around much. If it wasn’t for Johnny Travolta and his little one man show, I don’t think we’d remember how to spell the word. Oh, and this just coming in, the guy from One direction might be bi directional. Okay, so that’s what we’ve got.

All right then.

We are slipping off the face of the earth, and yet, according to the latest studies, we are growing in numbers, people, Just like Nicholas Houx’ fans. Maybe, if bisexuals were zombies, we’d have more of a chance.

Oh, Mel, you whine so well.

I’m going to get serious with you for a second. I’m going to share something that happened to me and hurt me and forced me out of the dark and here, upfront,talking with you. I volunteer for a help line where I take calls from people who need to talk. One of the callers was a woman and she had much to say, so I tuned in on her pain and gave her my undivided attention, but you see when you’re in that zone, you’re real close to the person on the other line–almost like you can feel them sitting by you. It’s like holding their hand sometimes. In the middle of something, she says, “And I’m a lesbian.” That doesn’t change anything for me. I listen with the same attention. I don’t give gay people or straight people more of an empathic ear. So she adds, “And I’m not one of those fucking Bi Bi people. Those fucking women who can’t fucking chose what they want. Those fucking bitches.”

I knew the sentiment was out there in the real world. Of course I knew. I’ve lived on this earth long enough. But to hear it so close to my ear, damn. I know she was hurt by a woman who didn’t treat her right or lied to her. I know that. But the rage with which she said it made me feel like dirt. I sat there with my ears ringing and my face reddening, but kept my mouth shut.

But it isn’t dirt on me. It’s my identify. It’s my duality. I can’t back away and I can’t stand down. And I only wish we had more healthy role models in movies and books and even in our families. When was the last time an uncle whom everyone thought was gay, admitted he was really bisexual and had simply chosen to live his life with a man instead of a woman?

Oh wait, that’s my book.

I can already hear the tomatoes whizzing by my head with this character. People read the blurb and think: Cheater! Liar! Betrayal!!!

But wait, before you put this guy’s head on the guillotine. Give him a chance to show you what it’s like for him. Nothing is ever black and white.

In his secret lifeIn His Scret Life 300 DPI came out this month and I’ll be going back to my lurking, hoping my Davinder survives his coming out as bi.

Whatever happens, I’ll stand by this book and I’ll stand by Davinder.

Peace and love to you, my darlings! Be bold!


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