reviews

Praise for She’s Not the Man I Married

“Like a tightrope walker, Helen Boyd performs several amazing feats simultaneously in her impressive book, She’s Not the Man I Married. She provides a postmodern reflection on transness; she writes a feminist critique of gender and culture. Above all, she gives her readers a sense of the deep love she shares with her husband Betty, a love we see in all its complex, messy wonder. Through its author’s honest, lucid prose, She’s Not the Man I Married is brilliant, unsettling, and sweet.” - Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There

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“This is the first public voice of a new identity in the world, whose story includes and goes far beyond boy meets girl, boy meets boy, and girl meets girl. How stunning is that! The author’s courageous vulnerability makes her tale accessible, moving, and pee-in-your-pants funny. She pulls no punches, and she’s blessedly kind-spirited; which encouraged me, thrilled me, and scared the hell out of me.”
- Kate Bornstein
, author of Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

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“Thoughtful, sharp, and provocative, this book delves into one of the most terrifying and universal elements of a relationship: change. Helen Boyd’s courage and insight are remarkable, and we have much to learn from her about redefining gender roles, marriage, and commitment in this century.” - Tristan Taormino, author and Village Voice columnist

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“The (im)perfect modern love story, She’s Not the Man I Married tackles the big questions—the meanings of gender, why we love the people we love, how we love the people we love—honestly, articulately, and with tremendous eloquence. The brave and personal nature of Helen’s story offers deep insights into true love, romance, commitment, and how to handle it when the other woman is your husband.” - Josey Vogels, sex columnist and author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy

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“Between the covers of this book, you’ll hear how love sounds when it’s so honest it bleeds. Trans liberation is more certain to “win” because Helen’s on the team.”
- Leslie Feinberg, author of Stone Butch Blues, Transgender Warriors, and Drag King Dreams

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“Written from the rare perspective of the spouse of a transgender person, Helen Boyd’s new book is a daring love letter for her partner, their relationship, and any couple who has dared to love outside of the traditional gender script. Part journal, part queer studies, part liberation manifesto, Boyd fearlessly surrenders her own comfort zone to illustrate how there is a cost for everyone — trans or non-trans — to function in our world constructed by engendered expectations.” - Abigail Garner, author of Families Like Mine

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“I’ve been preparing myself to lose my husband for the past few years,” observes Boyd in this humorous, self-deprecating follow-up to her first memoir, My Husband Betty. “There is another woman, in a sense. My husband is that other woman, or might become her.” Delving deeply into the question of gender identity, she explores the role of gender and its impact on how and who we love. Boyd, an androgynous-looking heterosexual woman (often mistaken for a lesbian), is married to a heterosexual man, who for the past few years has been “presenting as female” most of the time. Betty hasn’t yet decided to have “the surgery,” while Boyd isn’t sure she’d be able to stay in the relationship if Betty does fully “transition” into being a woman. When referring to Betty, Boyd switches back and forth from “he” to “she” -even within the same sentence- portraying the confusion that a “trans person” presents daily in defining gender. Though she covers her complex topic well, and even includes a chapter of sex advice, Boyd’s attempts to conceptualize her experience are unnecessarily repetitive. Part love story, part psychological treatise and part cautionary tale, this book will speak most directly to those who are confronting gender’s perplexing contradictions.(Mar.)Publishers Weekly, 1/29/07

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Boyd’s first book, My Husband Betty, explored her life married to a cross-dresser. While a fascinating and smart read, it often felt as if she was observing and writing about someone else’s life, as if she wasn’t yet ready to actually accept and live in her own situation. The sequel, She’s Not the Man I Married, finds Boyd and her husband Betty a little further down the transgendered road, and offers an intimate first-hand look at the experience of marrying and deciding to stay with a man who first wants to dress like a woman, then is considering actually becoming one. Described by one source as “part journal, part queer studies, part liberation manifesto,” She’s Not the Man I Married is, as far as I’m concerned, the most personal, compassionate, relatable, well-written and reliable book on the subject of trangenderism I’ve come across. A great read. – Josey Vogels, hour.ca, 6/21/07

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Helen Boyd’s fascinating memoir-cum-social analysis, She’s Not the Man I Married, turns a personal dilemma into fodder to discuss what we mean — or don’t mean — when we pin gender labels on each other.

For starters, there are those pesky terms, “male” and “female.” By way of introduction, Boyd informs readers that the book is the story “of how a tomboy fell in love with a sissy, how a butch found her femme, how a boyish girl met a girlish boy. Who is who is not always clear and doesn’t always matter. In some ways, that’s the heart of this book: the idea that a relationship is a place where people can and do and maybe even ought to become as ungendered as they can.”

Sounds great in theory. But again, there’s that pesky thing: reality. Here, we smack head-on into the blues and pinks of childrearing and the homophobia that undergirds the sexuality we develop.

Boyd wasn’t raised in a bubble, and understands the obstacles that make complete “ungendering” a utopian fantasy. Like all of us, she carries ideological baggage and is unabashedly honest about her heterosexual preference. Nonetheless, when her husband, “Betty,” whose male name is never revealed, announced his interest in crossdressing, Boyd was nonplussed. In fact, she found it something of a turn-on and enjoyed helping him primp, apply make-up and shop for female attire. But shortly thereafter, when Betty opted to move from the boudoir to the streets, spending more and more time as a woman, things got increasingly thorny. To wit, Boyd had to confront both public perceptions and her own deep-seated ideas about sexuality, propriety and physical appearance.

Casual observers watching the pair toddle down the street, for example, saw them as an attractive lesbian couple. Was that okay? Did it matter? What’s more, Boyd has had to ask herself if she will stay with Betty if he opts to surgically alter his body. Will she still desire him if he physically becomes she?

It’s not your standard boy-girl stuff and Boyd admits that she vacillates about the answer. On some days, Betty is the love of her life, regardless of which genitals she possesses; at other times she is far less certain. Luckily for both, it is a non-issue since Betty is currently not pursuing medical intervention.

Still, presumptions about femininity and masculinity are always front-and-center in Betty and Helen’s dyad. Take shoes: Boyd is shocked to see Betty swoon over lacy pumps or six-inch heels since she has always opted for flats or Doc Martens. Princess and bride fantasies, as well as frilly girl duds, similarly revolt her, but not Betty.

In the end, Boyd writes that despite the obvious discordance, the central issue is whether society can allow — or can be pushed to at least acknowledge — that men and women exist on a continuum that includes butches, superfemmes and everyone in between.

Pretending otherwise, Boyd writes, is damaging and limits our exploration of who we might become. It also limits with whom we associate, a point driven home by Helen and Betty’s dramatic love story. Make no mistake, even in its manifold difficult moments, theirs is the kind of love that people fantasize about.

She’s Not the Man I Married is by turns funny, heart-breaking, illuminating, expansive and humane. While it asks more questions than it answers, this is ultimately its strength. Provocative and smart, it leaves readers rooting for the winsome, witty and stylish pair.

“I have a husband and a girlfriend on the side,” Boyd quips, “but they both happen to be the same person.” Her smile is evident beneath the words.

Only a fool would call Helen and Betty’s relationship easy, but the two seem content to take it one day at a time. Their commitment is to a life based on shared interests, passion and respect. Who could ask for more?

Boyd scrutinizes the reciprocal love between a straight woman and a trans person and candidly describes the problems they’ve encountered. Although I wish that the book had included more information on how, or if, their respective families have dealt with Betty’s female persona, this is a small gap in an otherwise incisive and thoughtful narrative. - Eleanor Bader, “Boyish Girl Meets Girlish Boy,” The Indypendent, 6/23/07

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