Review: ‘Transvestite Wives’ on BBC America

Edited to add: “Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.

Last night, I caught the premiere of BBC America’s “Transvestite Wives” episode in their BBC America Reveals series. From their website:

Transvestite Wives looks at three transvestite relationships, as seen through the eyes of their wives and partners.

In the Scottish Highlands, Sheila discovered seven years into her marriage that her husband Dennis was a transvestite. In Newark, 20-year-old Sam, is embracing her 40-year-old partner Chris’ tranny lifestyle; and in Barnsley, Robyn, who has struggled to be accepted for her weight problem, at last finds happiness with her cross-dresser husband Dean.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised from the title, but none of the relationships had the trans partner in full-time mode. The couples were shown in both same-sex and opposite sex modes, although in the case of Sam and Chris/Rachel, we saw only Rachel for the majority of the episode.
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Family Ties (that bind)

My aunt sent me this e-mail/link today. The link is for a “recovered” transsexual whom I agreed to meet with almost 2 years ago as my family was struggling to accept my being transgender. They thought if this person could be saved then I could be saved as well.

http://www.leaderu.com/stonewall/pages/jerry_l.html

Here is my response to my aunt and a glimpse into what struggles I face from a family point-of-view.

While I have met with and heard Jerry’s amazing story firsthand it does not mean that he and I are on similar wave lengths. Yes, many trans people share a very similar story, but along the way there are instances where the individual story line takes a different path from what others may go through. I respect what Jerry went through & even respect that much more the fact he realized what was best for him before it, perhaps, could have been too late for him to recover. Our stories may be similar in some ways, but, it is very different in others.
 
Sure, while I was first attempting to deal with my feelings I thought that sex was the only way to express the woman in me. And for a few years I did things that I am not proud of to try and express those feelings outwardly towards men. Thankfully I managed to survive a few instances that could have turned ugly, and I now know that I was acting out in an un-healthy and, unnecessary manner. Many never get a chance to learn that lesson. Many lives get cut short because they put themselves in the dangerous position of thinking sex is the answer. I have been lucky to learn that lesson before it was too late for me. Sex doesn’t equal respect.
 
If I recall correctly before I agreed to meet with Jerry I laid out the proposition of my family needing to meet with my therapist as an equal payoff for me meeting with Jerry. Out of love for my family I agreed to meet with Jerry knowing full well you all would never offer on your own to meet with my therapist afterward. I now re-extend the offer for you all to meet with my therapist. You could do this with me there or without me there. It doesn’t matter either way. Meet with her and don’t even tell me about it if you choose. But one thing is for sure you all need to let go the idea of me and Jerry being similar to the point that I will wake up one day and feel the need to ask God for forgiveness. I did ask for forgiveness, but, it was not for being who I am. It was for being the shell of a person I used to be and for my actions while I was lost for the first 30 or so years in the vast ocean of life.
 
Until you can grasp the idea that most of my life was spent in a depression filled fog in which I was unable to express my feelings about what I was going through you will not be able to feel happy for me that I am now no longer living with that fear and depression. Depression is a powerful thing as you know and having been there I am very determined to not go back into that chasm again. I do still get down sometimes just like anybody else would but for reasons that aren’t so much about who I am but for who it is my family can’t accept. I have nephews that are told I am sick and that is why I don’t call them. I have a sister that is scared (I think) to reach out to me in fear of being rejected by the family for trying to understand my situation. I have three very beautiful cousins who are like my sisters that perhaps feel the same way. I have an aunt that tells me she serves an awesome god that loves all the creatures he creates but somehow fails to recognize that her awesome god made me this way for a reason. Unfortunately I have a mother who is stuck in the middle of watching her two oldest children fight like two kids on a playground that want the best seat on the swing set.

Since I have moved to Columbus I have accomplished things I only used to dream of doing. I enrolled in college (this time because I wanted to) and made the honor roll 2 terms in a row. I have been accepted into a program being sponsored by the United Way of Central Ohio that is training me, as a member of the GLBT community, in what it will take to one day be in a position to help those less fortunate than I am. I have found a job where I can be my self and not feel the fear of being rejected by co-workers because I may be different in the eyes of the customers I interact with on a daily basis. I am only one person, but, I am a face of the Ohio Historical Society. Everyday and at every special event OHS puts on I am trusted to be in a place, not where I can’t be seen, but, rather, in a place out front like any other trusted employee should be: greeting the public. Since December of 2007 I have been on the board of Trans Ohio. My duties have involved speaking at OSU and a few other places to show that I am just a person dealing with many of the issues facing everyone in today’s world. The minor difference being that I happen to be transgender, or, at least, minor in my mind, anyways.

For all I have put my family though I am truly sorry, but I refuse to accept all the responsibility for what has happened since I came out to my family. Why, you ask do I not accept all of it? The reason for that is due to the fact that from the day that I came out I have been told how wrought with sin I am. I’ve been told there is no possible way that I would be welcomed back into your homes if this is the path I am taking. I have been, basically, put in exile in (your) hopes of being saved from my destiny.

I understand you miss me, Aunt Lisa. I miss you too. We used to be so close. You are one of the reasons for the kind of person I am today and believe it or not there are still people who think I am a good, caring, understanding person who is always willing to listen to others in order to try and help them work out a problem they may be going through. I always wanted to tell you sooner than I did, and there is a reason I told you first. You were one that I trusted to understand what it was I was going through, and ultimately you are one that I hope can stand by my side as my Aunt, as a supporter, and as some one that loves me for who I am today. Not the person you thought I used to be. The values that I was taught by those closest to me while growing up remain with me to this day. For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Just because I now live as the female I should have always been doesn’t make me any less of a person in my own eyes. In fact, the self respect I have gained by taking control of my autonomy tells me there is potential for great things in my future. Agreeing to disagree is a cop-out on all of our parts. Doing that does nothing to address the real issues at hand. I can no longer pretend to be Marcus for the sake of being semi-welcomed back into everyone’s lives. How would you have felt if I rejected you after confessing to me your eating disorder you struggled with years ago? I realized how difficult it must have been to tell me, and for you trusting me with that piece of you I felt that much closer to you. I felt that much more love for you. I didn’t get angry for you not telling me sooner. I chose to try and understand that side of you, and to love you as you were at that moment.

I’ll never stop loving my family, ever. But until we can all come to terms with me being transgender, until everyone stops feeling sorry for themselves and for me, and that I am so helplessly lost we may forever be stuck at the impasse of what it truly means to love some one unconditionally. Diversity, Love, Family, those words have more powerful a meaning when we actually take the time to comprehend what those words enable us to understand.

Sincerely,

Karen M. Patrick

 

Educating the World – Person to Person

I had a rather cool experience recently which showed me how small the world is – and how the right approach can cause people to be accepting even when you don’t expect it. My friend Abby suggested I share it with you all.

It all started one day at work – I was at lunch with my boss, co-worker G. and my trusty retirement-age volunteer worker D.

G. was talking about practicing guitar with his Tucson-based death metal band the night before and his musical history and aspirations. After some time, D. said to G. “You don’t happen to know a musician called something Blackstone, do you?”

G: “No, I don’t think so…”
D: “I forget his first name… something beginning with B…”
Me: “Bruce, perhaps?”
D: “That might be it. Yes, because the interesting thing about him was that he was in the paper recently…”
Me: “Oh, yes – I know him.”
D: “Yes, the paper wrote about him – he came out as a cross-dresser. So, how do you know him?”
Me: “Um… oh, the paper my husband worked for wrote an article about the band he is in…”
D: “Maybe that was the article!”
Me: “Oh, no… you read the recent one about the IFGE conference. The other one was back last year some time.”
D: “Oh, okay. Anyway, he does wonderful cabinetry. He did our whole kitchen. Very nice guy.”
Me: “Yes, he is.”

And that might have been the end of it. Except that, of course, it wasn’t. On reflection, I sent this email to D. after he’d left for the day:

You might be amused by this video that a friend of ours made, interviewing Bruce right after he’d talked to the Arizona Daily Star reporter

D. only volunteers for us one day a week, and he didn’t return my email, so I was a little apprehensive going in to work the next Wednesday. As I was walking up from the parking lot, I saw him, and he stopped to wait for me to catch up. He had a broad grin on his face and the first thing he said to me was:

“Thank you for that video link you sent me with Bruce in it. We really enjoyed watching that one! Yup, that’s our Bruce!”

I felt so happy to have been a part of helping educate the straight, white middle-class neighborhoods of Northeast Tucson!

On hearing of the reaction of D. and his wife, Bruce said:

Thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] They are repeat clients of mine and great people.

Since I am becoming more and more out, I realize that eventually the knowledge of who I really am will inevitably creep into my work life sometimes. This has caused me a little bit of concern because I am self employed and loss of income can be frightening … so far as I can tell there have been no consequences to my business by my being out. So , thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] – it’s also good in that [they] are now far less likely to have a negative reaction to other trans people.

The message I hope to get across is that it is truly worth it to share your true selves and those of your friends with others, even if you think they may not be accepting. Their reaction will often depend upon your demeanor as you talk to them. I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be, presenting the fact that I knew “that side” of Bruce as perfectly normal and natural. Whether you are yourself transgendered, or a SOFFA, you have a role to play, large or small, in educating the rest of the world.