Monday, May 25, 2009
What can I tell ya. I LIKE Tobasco.
Be that as it may: what next?
Grades filed, commencement done, boys guided through the Memorial Day parade, fiddle lesson, homework, and heaven knows what else.
Now? Well now, my friend, Professor Boylan spends some serious time chillin'.
Chillin, in my case meaning, writing as constantly as possible on Falcon Quinn Book 2, which I hope to have a rough draft of by summers' end. Book one will return to me in galleys and pages etc throughout the summer on its way to hardcover in 2010.
I'm also maybe writing a screenplay for my old friend Peter.
In the meantime, we'll be heading out to the lake place in a week or two, after Deedie/Grace returns from a week at my mom's house (watching the Devon Horse Show). Today I put Rustoleum on the outdoor furniture. In days ahead I hope to get our boat in the water, and then, oh please oh please, maybe I will just float around and catch some fish.
This summer looks to have our boys off at camp for quite a bit-- Zach is building a kayak and then sailing it, at the Chewonki Foundation in July, and Seanie is doing soccer camp, followed by French Horn camp, which we have promised to call "music camp" because "band camp" sounds bad. Anyhow, there's that.
Mostly I want to come to rest a little bit. Being me, "coming to rest" will mean writing a lot, two author appearances--the next of which is the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, coming up on June 10. But there will be time for the Red-Sox Yankees game the following night, and lots of floating around on the boat. Drinking mojiotos. And yeah: tobasco.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Jenny B., left, at Umass, delivering a short speech after receiving the "Continuing Stonewall's Legacy" award. Note the bright red academic robes, plus the small Aladdin's Lamp (a gift from Mom Boylan) on the dias. The wish is granted!
Well, here we are, back from Northampton and Amherst, grades lodged, hanging out on a summer night waiting for the Survivor finale. Somewhere I will write about the LOST finale of Thursday (although what is there, ever, to say about LOST except, Whoa, you're blowin' my mind, dude!).
The ceremony at Umass was truly lovely, and it was wonderful to see the graduates and the guests, some of which included some of our own JB.netters. I was taken by my hosts for a lovely dinner on Friday, which included pomegranite martinis and squid and gumbo and popovers and Belgian ale. Debuted the story "Trans" at the Pride n Joy bookstore in Northampton next day, including a few more old friends in the audience, and then screamed on home to Maine, where I have now come to rest for 2009 and am starting to look forward to summer.
I DO have a couple of events scheduled for this summer, atypically for me, but I'll be doing some readings for the anthologies I"m in-- the next of which is at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, on June 9. But between here and there is mostly getting the boat in the water and writing Falcon Quinn II and starting the new grown-ups novel and CHILLIN.
I've been thinking a little bit about the thing I do: tell stories, and tell them usually from the first person as a transwoman. There are other people who write in the trans community-- Susan Stryker and Julie Serrano and Helen Boyd being three-- who might be better considered activists, or at the very least theoreticians. I have always been more concerned with Story than with Theory. And the Stories that I know are the ones that have happened to me. So what I tend to write about is my own life, and that of my family. This might make people think I'm narcissistic, or self-centered or something, but truly, my desire is not to talk endlessly about myself; my desire is to tell stories, since that is the only language I know, and my own stories are the only ones I feel confident about telling.
You're damned if you do, or don't, though: if you only write about yourself, people think you're self-centered; if you try to speak for others, well people rightly say, You don't speak for me.
Anyway, I have reached a resting point on this spring evening and will look forward to continuing to appear now and again to talk and to tell stories. And when I do, I hope I"ll run into some of you there. IN the meantime, sending everybody love.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
© 2009 Jennifer Finney Boylan
Op/Ed, New York Times, May 12, 2009
Belgrade Lakes, Me.
AS many Americans know, last week Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a law that made this state the fifth in the nation to legalize gay marriage. It’s worth pointing out, however, that there were some legal same-sex marriages in Maine already, just as there probably are in all 50 states. These are marriages in which at least one member of the couple has changed genders since the wedding.
I’m in such a marriage myself and, quite frankly, my spouse and I forget most of the time that there is anything particularly unique about our family, even if we are — what is the phrase? — “differently married.”
Deirdre Finney and I were wed in 1988 at the National Cathedral in Washington. In 2000, I started the long and complex process of changing from male to female. Deedie stood by me, deciding that her life was better with me than without me. Maybe she was crazy for doing so; lots of people have generously offered her this unsolicited opinion over the years. But what she would tell you, were you to ask, is that the things that she loved in me have mostly remained the same, and that our marriage, in the end, is about a lot more than what genders we are, or were.
Deirdre is far from the only spouse to find herself in this situation; each week we hear from wives and husbands going through similar experiences together. Reliable statistics on transgendered people always prove elusive, but just judging from my e-mail, it seems as if there are a whole lot more transsexuals — and people who love them — in New England than say, Republicans. Or Yankees fans.
I’ve been legally female since 2002, although the definition of what makes someone “legally” male or female is part of what makes this issue so unwieldy. How do we define legal gender? By chromosomes? By genitalia? By spirit? By whether one asks directions when lost?
We accept as a basic truth the idea that everyone has the right to marry somebody. Just as fundamental is the belief that no couple should be divorced against their will.
For our part, Deirdre and I remain legally married, even though we’re both legally female. If we had divorced last month, before Governor Baldacci’s signature, I would have been allowed on the following day to marry a man only. There are states, however, that do not recognize sex changes. If I were to attempt to remarry in Ohio, for instance, I would be allowed to wed a woman only.
Gender involves a lot of gray area. And efforts to legislate a binary truth upon the wide spectrum of gender have proven only how elusive sexual identity can be. The case of J’noel Gardiner, in Kansas, provides a telling example. Ms. Gardiner, a postoperative transsexual woman, married her husband, Marshall Gardiner, in 1998. When he died in 1999, she was denied her half of his $2.5 million estate by the Kansas Supreme Court on the ground that her marriage was invalid. Thus in Kansas, any transgendered person who is anatomically female is now allowed to marry only another woman.
Similar rulings have left couples in similar situations in Florida, Ohio and Texas. A 1999 ruling in San Antonio, in Littleton v. Prange, determined that marriage could be only between people with different chromosomes. The result, of course, was that lesbian couples in that jurisdiction were then allowed to wed as long as one member of the couple had a Y chromosome, which is the case with both transgendered male-to-females and people born with conditions like androgen insensitivity syndrome. This ruling made Texas, paradoxically, one of the first states in which gay marriage was legal.
A lawyer for the transgendered plaintiff in the Littleton case noted the absurdity of the country’s gender laws as they pertain to marriage: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”
Legal scholars can (and have) devoted themselves to the ultimately frustrating task of defining “male” and “female” as entities fixed and unmoving. A better use of their time, however, might be to focus on accepting the elusiveness of gender — and to celebrate it. Whether a marriage like mine is a same-sex marriage or some other kind is hardly the point. What matters is that my spouse and I love each other, and that our legal union has been a good thing — for us, for our children and for our community.
It’s my hope that people who are reluctant to embrace same-sex marriage will see that it has been with us, albeit in this one unusual circumstance, for years. Can we have a future in which we are more concerned with the love a family has than with the sometimes unanswerable questions of gender and identity? As of last week, it no longer seems so unthinkable. As we say in Maine, you can get there from here.
Jennifer Finney Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of the memoir “I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted.”
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Here's a picture of my mom, with her family (taken at Christmas, 07, i think, and wow, have the boys grown since then.) My mom, who, upon learning about me, said, "I would never turn my back upon my child. I will always love you. Love will prevail." My mom, who said, "It is impossible to hate anyone whose story you know." My mom, who said, "Jenny, you'd look so much better if you just lost five pounds." Mom, whom I love. Happy Day, Mom. I love you!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
What next for that Jenny Boylan?
Well, this coming Friday I'm receiving some kind of award at U Mass Amherst, something called "Continuing Stonewall's Legacy". I'll be giving a short talk as part of that-- this is for a pre-graduation celebration for the GLBT students there.
Next day, May 16th, I'm giving a reading at Pride and Joy bookstore in Northampton, at noon.
Then it's home to Maine, and summer. I'm back at work on Falcon Quinn, book 2. And shepherding my family through the final weeks of grades 7 and 9, respectively. And getting ready to put the boat in the water. And thinking about moving into the summer house. And contemplating a dinner of fresh lobster, and fiddleheads, and cold white wine, on the porch.
Next public performance after that's at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge (Our Fair City), on June 9.
Looks like there'll be another op/ed from me in the bloody New York Times this week, too, so, as Bettie Davis used to say, "Fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!" Actually, this ride will be smooth. I am feeling satisfied and happy with the writing, the teaching, the family, you know: the world. "O Earth, you're just too beautiful for anyone to realize you." That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.