Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hard to believe November is nearly gone.

It's also hard for me to believe that I've added more posts to this blog this years than in the last two combined. The year isn't even over yet. I stand a decent chance at the rate I'm going to get to 100 posts this year, and you know, that would be so cool. Though to be honest, I don't know why it would be. But I'll figure that out later.

I had a number of things to talk about tonight (well this morning really) but I'm going to leave them for the morrow. Right now I want to express a certain indignation. Black Friday has left me once again annoyed with the vultures at big oil. Thursday night on the way home from Thanksgiving I paid 1.48 a gallon for gas. I'm glad I got gas then, because Friday when I went out I noticed the price had jumped up to 1.65. Why? Because it was Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and they HAD to take advantage of that...

So, that said I'm going to mention three books I more or less read. I'll get into details in the next handful of posts, but I want to mention them here briefly. "My Husband Betty," "She's Not The Man I Married," and "Whipping Girl" were all on my list for a while to read, and I'm feeling somewhat disappointed in all three to be honest.

The first two are excellent arguments with someone, I'm just not sure who, more like technical manuals, with a certain undercurrent of anger and disappointment, that short of the wives of Cross dressers, these two books have left me wanting. They are technical to the point of near obfuscation, and I wonder who exactly the target audience is. Helen's writing on her blog is of much better quality, and less technical and more feeling than the first book by miles, and a good distance from the second.

The books are lonely, lost, and searching in their tone, with like I say equal helpings of anger and disappointment that I'm not even sure Helen is sure she meant to include. Frankly these books, while I doubt seriously they were intended to o this, play to the sensationalism of modern media, and frankly send the wrong message in many ways. In ways, the arguments Julia makes in "Whipping Girl" are what's so wrong with the first two.

Now, that said, I'll be the first to admit what little I know about Cross Dressing and the people who do it is somewhat colored by the limited contact I had with that community early on. Simply put, it was less than positive, full of anger, hatred, and demands for things they (the CD community) don't quite understand. There is this latent negative energy that pervades things, poisons things, and does nothing toward unity, understanding, tolerance or growth. It seems like this has made it into Helen's books, just from the other side of that community, the wives.

There is a great deal of detail in there, but what's odd is I'm not sure who it is for. CD folk who want to feel less alone? Wives of CD folk? Both? The rest of the world? Well short of CD folk, Academics and Talk Shows, I don't know who'd want to read them? Putting myself in the shoes of a possible CD, there's a subtext of anger there, something they get enough already, plus massive amounts of whats wrong all the way around. So, misery loves company maybe? Wives? Wow, I don't know. Putting myself in the shoes of a wife, there's so much I'd have already been dealing with, and the prose is hard edged, technical, arguments opened, rehashed, and of course the anger and disappointment. I get that, and maybe some women could relate to it, but it's delivery is cold, distant, hard edged, nearly impossible for me to connect with, develop any sympathy for it, or the person who wrong it.

So I hate to be negative, but I better understand the couple of interviews and confusion in them. It honestly comes off as someone arguing why they shouldn't be so distant, and why other human beings should be more understanding, without showing that either. Honestly, in simplest tens, both tomes have the feel of airing dirty laundry in public.

That is however my opinion, and mine alone. I could easily be wrong. I write this not to offend Helen, but more to ask "What were you thinking? You ARE smarter than this, and a better writer than this." Might I suggest your next book be "What I meant to say, a mile in my shoes" and let your heart guide you pen.

I will say if your are transitioning, and have never been involved in Cross Dressing, there is left than no point in reading either book. In fact I would strongly advise against reading either. Seriously, don't read them. Sorry Helen. I'm not trying to be mean, really.

Tomorrow I'll look at "Whipping Girl" and how that felt to me. I'll warn you up ahead, I wasn't much thrilled with that tome either.

4 comments:

Véronique said...

I have not read My Husband Betty. By the time I would have got 'round to it, it was no longer relevant to me or my spouse.

We both read She's Not the Man I Married. I don't know what my spouse thought of it, but I felt more positive about it than you did. I quite enjoy Helen's writing, in the book as well as on her blog. She's witty and clever. I think she addressed both books to wives like herself and to anyone who wanted to read that point of view.

Even though I liked the book, it was not pivotal for me. I don't think I'm that much like Betty. Still, I thought it was good to see things from the side of the spouse. I also liked a book called Head Over Heels, which is a collection of essays by wives of both cross-dressers and trans women.

Samantha said...

Well truth to tell, of the two books, She's Not The Man I Married was much better than the second, because there was more to connect to. Helen seems to have a better handle on her own feelings in the penning of the second book, and as she herself said at one point, it is more about her feelings than the first one.

That said, it is still quite obvious she's fighting with herself in the prose, and the thoughts she shares. Like genitals don't make the person, don't make the gender, but she's still clearly fighting with her feelings about Betty's bits. She seems more human in that telling, but it leaves me with the disconnect of taking the high road intellectually, but emotionally, still not quite with it herself.

I think part of the problem for me, is that Betty has always struck me more as a woman like us, and not a CD. So it gives the whole thing this surreal quality to it in ways. I was touched by Helen's discussion of the disconnect between what is social reality for women, verses men, and how Betty now kinda skirts the line. Can still pull off the guy stuff, but can easily do the girl stuff. How her career and her presence in a room would be so different depending on how she's presenting. What she can "get away with" as it were.

I know from my own life that yes, there is far and away a great difference between my presence in a room then and now. For me though, I never wanted that old version, so I don't feel this loss. Yes, men have an entirely different way of dealing with men, a whole different view of me, but for me that's fine.

What I don't agree with it her view that Betty would be losing so much, and that she wouldn't be able to be the life of the party anymore if she left her male existence behind her. When I need, or want to be, the "life of the party" so to speak, I'm still more than capable of pulling it off, and men seem to be just fine with it. In autoparts stores, yeah, I get dismissed as just a girl, what would I know about cars... But hanging around at a party, I never have trouble getting people to pay attention to me.

Admittedly, I've lived a life, and have stories that were well outside what people could wrap their minds around when I was living that other life. Now that disjunct is so much more pronounced because I'm so obviously NOT a guy. It doesn't prevent me from sharing the stories, just usually means outing myself as someone who's changed outward gender. Then again most people who know only me have trouble believing that alone, let alone as a basis for some of my other stories. So yeah, I do less of that than I once did.

What's good for me however is that I don't consider the female social role to be as much a sacrifice as Helen clearly does. Then again, I didn't grow up with four brothers, living as a Tomboy like Helen did.

You know, I'm glad we had this conversation! That's a part of it right there. Helen has one view of social reality for women that is, shall we say, tainted by her own conceptions of the social life of women. She's lived a life I can't really relate to, which is good, because difference is good and having everyone be the same would well, suck. I grew up with lots of women in my life, around me, I was the token sensitive new age type, so I have a very different view. Because of my issues I was always on the outside looking in to some degree. Having now fixed everything, I'm right where I should be, can relate best to other people, and social fit in better than I'd ever dreamed possible.

Then again I never did the tom-boy thing. Honestly, having seen Betty on a couple of shows/video interviews I think if/when she completes transition to whatever degree works best for her, I think socially she's going to be fine.

The part of this I don't know if Helen has taken into consideration is that what she feels Betty might be losing, may well be stuff Betty isn't going to miss. Plus socially I think Betty, not having had to socialize the way Helen did, is going to thrive. Some of her comments already support that argument. So some of what I was getting from the second book are more Helen's transition issues, NOT Betty's.

I'll have to read Head Over Heels at some point in the future and see how I find that.

Yeah, not pivotal for me either. Then again I never dressed, so it's a whole universe I can't even relate to in any way. I guess this is part of why I have so much trouble with the term Transgender... Cross Dressing folks are NOT "Transsexual" and vice versa, though there is sometimes folks who start out dressing and move permanently to women's country. I guess what I'm saying is "Transsexuals" don't really need to be having their lives cluttered with these two books. The worry I have is some might find their way to them, and find more of the negative than they are ready for, which would just make their lives harder.

Again, just my two cents for what it's worth.

Véronique said...

That was two cents worth, eh? :)

One reason I wanted to read both She's Not the Man I Married (Helen's second book) and Head Over Heels is that I have a spouse who has worked through this change with me. It was important for me to hear the voices of other spouses who have stuck with their trans mates, to try to see things from their point of view. I find Helen's point of view very interesting, and she's articulate and funny in how she expresses herself. I get her peculiar way of expressing herself, almost as though we grew up in the same era, even though I'm older than she is. (Part of that is because one of my several adolescences was during her fun time, the early 1980s. I can relate.)

The book was limited for me, because I was moving past where Betty was at the time, and their concerns weren't quite mine or my spouse's. But it was still interesting and valuable. I like Helen's "voice" in the book. I bet I would like her if I met her in person. I seem to relate pretty well to trans-spouses in general. Empathy, maybe.

Betty has moved very slowly, more slowly than I could bring myself to move, because that's how she and Helen worked things out. Each of us has a different story and different concerns, and I have no criticism of what they have done. My spouse and I have worked things out differently, and that only makes sense.

Betty is not a cross-dresser. She moved slowly through a cross-dressing phase. I was not a CD either. My CD phase went rather quickly. I knew that wasn't me. Frankly, I don't really understand CDs, not from their point of view, but that doesn't mean I don't accept them as being part of the transgender spectrum. Not transsexual, because that's a more specific term, but transgender.

Samantha said...

Well, you know I like to make sure that two cents buys alot? :-o) Maximum bang for the buck so to speak?

Yeah, admittedly I am way beyond the book at this point, and like as not that probably, almost certainly has colored my perspective. I like Helen's voice too, honestly the only reason I read the books is because I've been reading her blog for a while.

As to relating to trans spouses, yeah, I can so relate. I had a trans spouse once upon a time. I was a trans spouse come to thing of it too... But that's weird even to me.

Yeah, I didn't really thing Betty's a CD, she's certainly never seemed that way to me.

I think for CD folks, especially women who are just starting to look around seriously, and their partners, the books are awesome. Yes, Helen has a great written voice, I just feel like there was so much subtext in there is all.

Yeah, transsexual, big, huge difference.

Me, I'm a major fan of live and let live, that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting others. Guys who want to be more in touch with their feminine side, heck yeah, more power to them. Reshape and refine the "binary" so that people who are "different" in any way are okay and don't have to feel like they are outcasts, heck yes!

By the same token, while there is still problems, I don't want odd political games played that could hurt me. That's the only issue I have with the overall "Transgender" spectrum, and the LGBTIQ community.

Militant activists on any side of things make me crazy and I think, I feel, do more harm than good. That includes TS activists, many of whom I think should get over themselves and go away quietly. Many of them forget, or fail for one reason or another, to live life while beating on the drums. Makes them kinda clueless and dangerous...

Like A TS activist who says that "Stealth" TS women and men are doing harm to the community... Kinda that whole SILENCE=DEATH thing the GL folk missuse... But that's a topic for another time and place.