Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking Back: Two Dads With a Difference—Neither of Us Was Born Male

The Village Voice

Family Values

by Patrick Califia-Rice
June 21 - 27, 2000

Patrick (left) and Matt with their son Blake
photo: Timothy Archibald

Our mornings follow a set routine that any parent with a high-needs baby would recognize. We stagger out of bed, sleep deprived and anxious. Our eight-month-old son has reflux, and has only slept through one night since he was born. He usually wakes up every two or three hours, frightened and hurting. We have become expert at consoling the inconsolable child. While Matt shovels food and medication into the baby, I try to assess how much my fibromyalgia is going to hurt me today, and eat some breakfast. Somehow we coordinate showers, getting dressed, and packing Blake up for his stint at day care. Matt heads out with the baby in tow, and I am off to work as well, either in my therapy office or the home office downstairs.

Since the baby arrived, there are precious few moments when Matt and I can meet each other alone. The occasions when lust can break through the fence are even more rare. We are oddly shy during these adult-only interludes, as if becoming parents has made us strange to one another. The house is sticky. Piles of clean laundry that we can't find time to put away topple over and get mixed up with the dirty clothes. Yet we continue to be loving and kind with each other and with Blake. Matt especially is a monument of patience. I am often struck dumb by his profound and consistently deep love for our son.

Matt and I are doing something most people take for granted. We are two people in love who live together and raise a child. We plan to be together for the rest of our lives. But our family is not like other families, and so we are always afraid that some malicious person or powerful institution will take action against us and disrupt our lives. That's because we are both transgendered men (female-to-male or FTM), and my boyfriend is the mother of my child.

It happened like this. I met Matt nearly 10 years ago, as one of the "jack-booted dyke thugs of ACT-UP Chicago," as Matt called himself then. This was before he transitioned. I was living in what was supposed to be an open relationship. But my primary partner couldn't tolerate the threat of my torrid affair, so I broke things off with Matt. We connected again three years ago, after Matt had been on testosterone for several years, had chest surgery and a beard, and was a bartender at the Lone Star, San Francisco's notorious bear bar. I had been single for more than a year, and was dealing with my mother's impending death from breast cancer.

I chased Matt shamelessly, alternating sincere and humble apologies for my bad behavior in the past with X-rated e-mail. I probably didn't deserve a second chance, but he gave me one anyway. Our relationship was a scandal. We were generally perceived as a fag/dyke couple rather than two gay/bi men in a daddy/boy relationship, which was how we saw ourselves. When I had to go to Utah to care for my mother in the last month of her life, Matt came out for her funeral, and was promptly fired from his bartending job. That was when I started talking to Matt about maybe transitioning too.

I was having early symptoms of menopause, and I simply couldn't see putting estrogen in my body on purpose. As a child, I frequently told people I was going to be a boy when I grew up. Puberty made me even more uncomfortable with my female body and identity. I investigated sex reassignment in my twenties, but was discouraged by the poor quality of genital surgery and terrified of the isolation. I wasn't sure I could separate the effects of misogyny from gender dysphoria. So I tried to be a different kind of woman, a sexually adventurous gender-fucking dyke who enjoyed every possible male prerogative. But it just wasn't enough.

At 45, I was terrified of changing my gender, afraid it would mean that I'd no longer be able to make a living, since my income was based on being a lesbian therapist and journalist. But I didn't know what else to try, and the cognitive dissonance had worn me out. Matt started talking to me about wanting to raise a child. He had been unable to take testosterone for a couple of years because of side effects like blinding migraines. He didn't think he could adopt a child, so he wanted to have one of his own.

I had always believed there wasn't room for a child in my life. But when my mother passed away, I realized I had also been afraid of her disapproval. A staunch right-wing Mormon, my mother never accepted my queerness, and she would have moved heaven and earth to prevent me from raising a kid. It seemed to me that it was part of Matt's spiritual path to be a parent. Witnessing my mother's death had opened my heart. I needed to be part of creating a new life.

We didn't want to do anything that might harm the baby, so we got the best medical advice we could. We went to see a lot of doctors, who all told us that what we wanted to do was unusual, but biologically possible. So we started auditioning our betesticled friends for the role of sperm donor. That turned out to be quite a soap opera. Guys who thought nothing about throwing away their sperm daily, in Kleenexes or on the floor of a sex club, got very precious with us about their sacrosanct bodily fluids. Time after time we went through the same scenario. The guy we asked to be a donor would say, "I don't want to be a father. I don't want the responsibility." We would say, "That's OK. We don't want you to be a caretaker. And we'll be using multiple donors so nobody will know exactly whose gametes got lucky." Then the guy would freak out and say, "But how can I tell if the baby is mine?"

We are transgendered men (female-to-male, or FTM). My boyfriend is the mother of my child.

Luckily, we found three men who loved us but didn't love children. A year and a half later, here we are with a son who shrieks with delight at the sight of the tortoise-shell cat, viciously bites Cheerios in half and then lets them slip out of his mouth on a waterfall of drool, and opens the kitchen cabinets to drag out the very largest pots, so he can drum on them with a grubby spoon. Our birth families and straight neighbors have been pretty sweet to us. The only people who've gotten upset are a handful of straight-identified homophobic FTMs online who started calling Matt by his girl name, because real men don't get pregnant. One of these bigots even said it would be better for our baby to be born dead than be raised by two people who are "confused about their gender."

Our large and loving chosen family, made up of gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, transgendered people, and straight allies, buffers us from this kind of hostility. We are also hearing from more and more FTMs who have had or want to have children. As Blake's dads, we have created a village to help us raise him.

I started taking testosterone a couple of months before Blake was born. While he learns how to grab things, click his tongue, hold his own bottle, and walk while somebody holds his hands, I am going through my own metamorphosis. My hips are smaller, my muscle mass is growing, and every day it seems like there's more hair on my face and body. My voice is deeper, and my sex drive has given me newfound empathy with the guys who solicit hookers for blow jobs. When I think that I can continue with this process—get chest surgery and pass as male—I feel happier than at any other point in my life. And when I think that something will stop me, I become very depressed.

Most of my dyke and fag friends have been enthusiastic about my change, and so far my therapy practice has not been shut down, nor have the writing assignments dried up. I don't mistake the small island of acceptance that we enjoy in ultraliberal San Francisco for real freedom or tolerance. Our family configuration is bound to be controversial even among lesbians and gay men, especially those who believe mainstreaming is the best strategy for securing our civil rights. But at least among some queer activists, those who are prepared to live in a genuinely diverse society free from gender tyranny or proscribed pleasures, we can enjoy a place at the table. And we do.

Patrick Califia-Rice is the author (under the name Pat Califia) of several volumes of queer theory and smut. His recent work includes "Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism."

TS Alexis and Betty meet in elevator

Rebecca Romijn as TS Alexis in "Ugly Betty"

"Ugly Betty"

Gendersafe in a World of Gender Stereotypes

Article Date: 09/18/2007

By Brittney Hoffman

I never really had to think about my gender identity or expression. I identify as a female, which so happens to correspond to my assigned sex at birth. I have long hair. I feel comfortable wearing skirts (and pants). I wear make up. When making a decision about which restroom to use, the only pause I ever had to take was outside the bathroom door waiting in the inevitably long line for the "women's" restroom. It wasn't until college when I started to ask different questions about my gender and the gendered environment around me.

I had a lot of friends in college whose gender identity was no longer a given. Short hair, strong bodies, pants and ties—these women challenged my own gender stereotypes and those of their campuses and cultures. During my four years on campus, I was often asked to accompany my friends to the restroom in a dorm, a dining hall, a gas station or a restaurant. For a while, I just thought it was the usual group trip to the bathroom to chat about the failures that were our dates or to laugh about some mundane detail of our day.

But one time, I didn't want to go. I was preoccupied, busy, tired. My friend looked at me, took my hand and said, "But I need them to know that I'm a girl." Without me, she said, she couldn't pass, and if she didn't pass she didn't feel safe.

In a recent survey conducted by the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) reports that nearly 1/3 of the students who responded reported experiencing harassment for not meeting expectations for femininity or masculinity. One in four respondents of color reported similar instances of discrimination and harassment. Gender, race, and sex continue to intersect in these moments of miscommunication, prejudice, and violence. These were not isolated incidents—this is an epidemic. And it affects all of us—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, straight and questioning. . . .

Gender-bending bugs take battle of sexes to new heights


PARIS (AFP) — Sexual relationships between humans may be complicated but they are nothing compared to the bizarre sex life of the African bat bug, the British weekly New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue.

Renowned among entomologists for a particularly horrible form of reproduction, these insects have now been found to show "what could be the most extreme form of transexualism yet discovered," it says.

Male bat bugs never use the vagina, instead piercing the female's abdomen and inseminating directly into the blood, where the sperm then swim to the ovaries.

In response to this, female bat bugs have evolved defense mechanism -- they grow a paragenital structure on their abdomen that limits the damage by guiding the male's sharp penile prong into a spongey area full of immune cells.

Scientists led by Klaus Reinhardt of the University of Sheffield, northern England, studied bat bugs in a cave on Mount Elgon, Kenya.

They were stunned to find that males had been using their penises to stab other males in an attempt at copulation, and many had scarred abdomens as a result.

In response to this, many males had been growing their own version of the defensive genitalia to protect themselves from other males.

Stranger still, when the team looked at 43 preserved female bat bugs, they found that 84 percent of them had male versions of the defence genitalia.

Females with this male version had less scarring due to penetration than other males.

Reinhardt describes it as "a spectacular example of evolution through sexual conflict," New Scientist says.

"Males started getting nobbled by other males, so they evolved the female defensive genitalia. As this reduced the amount of penis damage they were getting, females evolved the male version of the male genitals."

Bat bugs are blood-sucking parasites that feed on bats, but bite humans in the absence of their primary hosts. They are cousins of the bed bug.


Ted Kerr/

Meet Laura, your friendly next-door gaybour

Laura Crawford is a 24-year-old thinker, drag king, poet and work-in-progress who grew up in Kingston, Nova Scotia, population 3000. She is a self-identified transgendered, big bodied PhD student who for me embodies many of the current waves within the queer movement and is an important voice regarding the shape of things to come for all of society.

With a kind, humourous and giving personality, she challenges my assumptions, un-thought-out niceties and conclusions and has led me to think more as well as differently.

Currently living in Edmonton, Laura is doing her PhD at the U of A, which a University of Western Ontario prof lovingly told her was home to “Canada’s queerest English department.” Her dissertation is on 20th Century Architecture and Transgender.

Laura’s use of architecture is not just a clever cross-discipline look at the transgender experience but a useful employment that draws upon the practical and metaphorical aspects of the word. Architecture is the science or art of building, and when coupled with the already used metaphor of construction to examine everything from our identity to our reality, transgender can be seen more as an “artful practice of the body rather than something from the inside having to be dealt with on the outside,” as she says.

She has sectioned her study into two prongs: the first looks at architecture considering transgender, as it exists now. The best example of a building with transgender sensibility is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbo, Spain. For Laura the much talked about Bilbo Affect has nothing to do with “starchitecture” and everything to do with how a building can embody ideas beyond the hetronormative ones. Gehry celebrates curves in exchange for straight lines (no pun intended) and creates confusion by blurring the lines between exits and entrances (pun intended). . . .

Transgender Life

SmellyCat-13's blog

The following is an article I wrote...junior year, high school, I believe...that would have made me sixteen. I remember the interview like it was yesterday - it was an amazing experience, especially since just a year or so before I was in school with the daughter of Risa Bear. I want to note that I did take out the name of the daughter and the name of the school we went to together because I wouldn't feel right having her name here for anyone to see, and the school's name is removed for...well, my own paranoid security reasons.

I do beleive that this is the unedited version - just to warn you.


When he was six years old, Richard Bear discovered something about himself.

He was at a summer camp. On the boys side of the camp, he was severely abused by his campmates. His mother - who worked at the camp - brought him over to stay in the women's lodge. While he lay in bed that night, he watched the shadows on the ceiling cast from the next room. The were shadows of gracefully moving women folding clothing. He heard soft, gentle voices. It was such a gentle and comforting sound, like soft singing lullabies. After spending a painful day with the guttural growls of boys who harassed and tormented him mercilessly, this sound was like another language.

"I realized that this was my language. Some how, some kind of mistake had been made," said Richard Bear, who now goes by the name of Risa and works as a researcher at the U of O Knight Library. . . .

Ten Minutes with Rebecca Romijn


By Fred Topel

Transgender women probably wish that real life medical procedures could make them look like Rebecca Romijn. Alas, she is only an actor playing transgender on Ugly Betty. While transgender women have to suffer through treatments to feminize their features, the TV dramedy tends to glamorize the results. But it never belittles the struggle transgender people have in society.

"I happen to have several friends who are transgender so it’s something that is a very sensitive subject and it’s very close to my heart," said Romijn, who plays Alexis on the show. "It’s something that I would never want to make any choices that would insult my friends. I also feel like I’m part of a movement of people that are sort of making it into mainstream society and don’t really have a voice yet or are still finding their voice. It’s kind of an honor. At first it just sounded like a really fun character to play. Now it feels a little bit more important."

Those friends of hers in the community approve. "[They have been] super positive," she says. "I’ve met a lot of transgender (people), which has been really interesting. They love it. Everything that I pick up for the character, I pick up for them. It can be a sensitive subject. To make that decision to change your gender is a huge decision so of course I would never want to offend my friends. Hopefully I have not and the writers are all very knowledgeable and supportive and sympathetic with the character." . . .

Australia refuses to recognise married transsexual

20th September 2007 12:00 writer

A post-operative transsexual has been told by Australian authorities that in order to be registered as her correct sex she must divorce her wife.

Completing her gender reassignment in 2002, the unnamed woman, who is happily married, has been unable to change her gender on her birth certificate in her current married status as same sex marriage is still banned in Australia.

The couple took the case to court claiming discrimination on the grounds of gender and marital status but the case has been dismissed from both federal court and the appeal court.

Marriage in Australia remained undefined up until 2004, when a new law was passed to specify the union between a man and a woman.

Civil partnerships are also not recognised by Australian federal law.

Transsexuals in Australia who are still in the process of transitioning are now banned from having their intended gender on their passports following an amendment made to passport legislation earlier this year. . . .