New site coming this week

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Dear friends– many of you have been following me here at THERE FROM HERE since the early 2000s.  We have come a long way together, haven’t we?  In the next week we will be unveiling a new site– same web address, but a new look, and new sense of order and style which will, with any luck, help to bring Jenniferboylan.net up to date.  Most of the resources and writing here will still be available, so fear not: plus I hope we’ll unveil lots of new features that will help you follow both my own writing as well as the greater realm of LGBTQ advocacy in the coming years.   In the meantime, stand by. We hope to have the new site up by week’s end.

I want to pay a tribute of thanks to Rachel Crowel– the “Betty” of Helen Boyd’s magnificent book, “My Husband Betty.”  Rachel was the designer of both this site and its previous incarnation, and was the webmaster for years and years.  This site wouldn’t exist without her, and I’m grateful.

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Join me at “Origins” Conference at ASU.

Happy fall, and happy beginning of a new season of touring n talking.  First stop will be Tempe, Arizona, at Arizona State U, for the “Origins” Conference– this year’s theme is “Political Bodies.”  I’ll be on stage on Wednesday night, Sept. 7.  More info is available here. 

 

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Hot Flash: What Would You Do to Prove Your Love?

Or: Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

via GIPHY

It was the third time we’d been through menopause, the two of us, and by now we were sick of it.

My first time, ten years ago, we’d been caught off guard. I woke in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat. During the daytime, I complained angrily about the sudden changes in the house’s temperature. “Don’t we ever change the batteries in this thing?” I said, meaning the thermostat.

“It says sixty-eight,” said Deedie, my partner, with a voice that suggested, not unreasonably, that the problem was all in my head.

I was forty-five then, and I’d only been female for a couple years. I knew that transition for transsexual women meant an ongoing experiment in endocrinology, that the ingestion of serious quantities of Premarin and Spironolactone would have dramatic changes upon my body. I had, of course, looked forward to those changes hungrily, had desperately, passionately, longed for them for most of my life.

When people asked me what the combined effects of the estrogen and the testosterone suppressant were, I’d cleverly say, “The one pill make you want to eat salad and talk about relationships. The other pill makes you dislike the Three Stooges.”

It had also given me breasts and hips, softened my hair and skin. Which was, you know. Nice.

We’d weathered the transition together, Deedie and I. Then… (read the rest of the piece at Medium)

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Why Third Party Candidates Are Like Having Raccoons Live in Your Chimney

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The thing about third party candidates is that, like love affairs, they are not unlike having raccoons in your chimney.

I began my romantic life as a Republican, a long time ago, back when there were Rockefellers and Nixons, politicians who — crooks though they might have been — were still in many ways to the left of the current Democratic party. In college, however, I flipped over to the Democratic “lifestyle” — first behind my parents’ back, in secret, but by my senior year, openly, and without shame. I was all cued up to slip a ring on Jimmy Carter in 1980, but then along came Jon Anderson of Illinois, and I fell, hard. I knew it was wrong. But I was young, and…..

(Please read the full piece over at Medium.com!) 

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Where did the Orlando shooter learn his hate? Hint: It wasn’t Osama bin Laden.

The Source of 3195935035_12feecefefHome-grown Terror

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Donald Trump wasted no time. “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism?  If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

This was early on Sunday, as the country was waking up to learn about the massacre in Orlando. Fifty people dancing at “Latin night” at a gay nightclub, The Pulse, had been killed by shooter who, at that hour, had not yet been identified.

The facts weren’t all in then, and are even now still being revealed.  But it wasn’t too early for Donald Trump to decide on the source for this tragedy. “I called it,” he tweeted, referring to his pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

There are a lot of threads in this story: gun rights, terrorism, ISIS, Latino and Latina identity, immigration, and the endless and execrable campaign of 2016.  It is hard to understand this catastrophe without taking the time to understand how all these forces intersect.  The weeks ahead will give us the chance to learn more.

But one thing seems clear already.  Omar Mateen didn’t learn his hatred of LGBT people from a distant cell of terrorists in Syria. He learned it on American soil.

This was no foreign born terrorist who furtively snuck over the border, like those Mexican “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists” Trump has mentioned.  This was a man born in New York, raised in this country.  Whatever he is, he is the product of our own culture.

We know that Mateen had been married, for a year, and that the marriage was marked by violence and abuse.  But we also know that he had used an app called Jack’d, a dating site for men.  He’d once proposed meeting a gay man for a drink at Pulse, the very club where he would later commit his atrocity.

One possible narrative of this tragedy is that it was committed by a man who was attracted to other men, and who found it impossible to accept the truth of what was in his heart.  So instead he decided to destroy what was in himself,  by lashing out at his brothers and sisters, to destroy the lives of people living with an absence of shame that he could not imagine for himself.

This was a man who had learned that it is better to commit mass murder—and suicide—than to accept oneself.  This was a man who had learned that the lives of gay and lesbian and bi and trans people are expendable, that his own life, if he was one of us, was not worth living.

From whom did he learn this lesson?  Did terrorists in Syria send him telegrams?  Did the Taliban reach him by phone?

Of course not.  He learned hatred of LGBT people, and of himself, right here at home.

He learned it from a county in which 200 anti LGBT bills have been introduced in the last six months.

He learned it in a country in which legislators have approved bills making it legal for any business not to approve services for marriages on the basis of religious objection.

He learned it from a country in which in one state, people with female anatomy and appearance are legally required to use the men’s room, because of what might appear on their birth certificates.

He learned it from a country in which, in another state, mental health professionals are permitted, if they so choose, to refuse services to gay people.

He learned it from a country in which people like me, and families like mine, are blithely referred to as “abominations.”

He learned it from a country in which the Lieutenant Governor of Texas—the second highest elected official in our second largest state—responded to the tragedy in Orlando by posting the message on Twitter: “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

He learned it from a country in which more than a third of transgender people have attempted to take their own lives.  One such victim, seventeen year old Leelah Alcorn, threw herself in front of a truck last year rather than live in this culture. “Fix society,” she wrote in her suicide note.

The society Alcorn wanted fixed is not the society of the Taliban in the mountains of Pakistan.  The society Alcorn wanted fixed is not the society of the Islamic State.  It was the society of her home town of Kings Mills, Ohio, a state that has no protections for sexual orientation or gender identity outside of state employment.

It was the society of Orlando, Florida, where a person who survived the massacre at the Pulse on Saturday night can be legally fired on Monday morning for being gay.

On Sunday, just hours after the Orlando shooting, a twenty year old Indiana Man, James Wesley Howell, was arrested in California with an arsenal of weapons he apparently intended to use on an attack on the Los Angeles Pride celebration.  His car contained three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition, and a five gallon bucket containing chemicals.

From whom did Howell learn his hatred? Hint:  It wasn’t Osama bin Laden.

We cannot create a more loving and compassionate country by sealing our borders.  Hatred of people like me, and of my family, does not come from overseas.

The fault is not in our stars. It is in ourselves.

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you’ve got gold

Boylan.Bourgainvillea.Prine 2 (1)

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“Am I Surprised? No. I’m Never Surprised by Evil.”

As part of a series of articles on the 1 year anniversary of Obergefell vs. Hodges, (the SCOTUS verdict that made marriage equality the law of the land), Steven Petrow of the Washington Post asked me these five questions:
1. What’s your take on the past year when it comes to LGBT acceptance? Is it different in different regions?
Professor Boylan outside of Burp Castle in the East Village, NYC

Professor Boylan outside of Burp Castle in the East Village, NYC

Things have gotten better. But they haven’t gotten better everywhere, and they haven’t gotten better for everyone.  If you’re a person whose only issue is marriage equality, or someone living in a blue state,  things are looking up.  If you live somewhere else, or if you’re a transgender person, especially a trans woman of color, things are as hard as they’ve ever been, and you stand a very good chance of being unemployed, or homeless, or being on the receiving end of violence.   And this cannot stand.  The right to live your life free of fear shouldn’t be dependent on geography.

2. Have you been surprised by the backlash in general, and then more specifically, against trans people?
It would be nice if the movement for progress were a nonstop flight toward a better world. But things never work that way. For every advance there is a new round of resistance.   If you think about Prop 8 in California, that tremendous setback came in response to emerging freedoms.  But that very defeat further inspired people to advocate for justice, and for love, and in time those forces carried the day.  But it takes time, and it means enduring a tremendous amount of hatred in the meantime, and it just breaks people.  Am I surprised?  No.  I’m never surprised by evil.  Those forces run pretty deep in human nature.  Fortunately, so do the powers of love and forgiveness.

3. Why does there still seem to be so much fear of trans people if not antipathy and hate?

Well our numbers are smaller, for one, so it’s less likely cis people will have a trans man or woman as a family member or friend, and it’s that kind of connection to oppressed people that makes all the difference in terms of recognizing our humanity.  But more importantly, trans people’s struggle requires a kind or moral imagination that many people find a challenge. What I mean is that straight people know what it’s like to be in love– so a movement based around the idea that “everyone deserves to love whom they love” is not a hard sell.  But transness isn’t about who you love; it’s about who you are.  And many people just can’t imagine what it must be like to find yourself in a body that doesn’t feel like home.  But they should try to imagine it.  In the name of God they should try to imagine it.  Because it’s a very hard life, and this vulnerable, precious community deserves love and kindness and understanding.  Instead of being turned into whipping girls and boys for people whose stock in trade is hate.

4. What needs to happened next in terms of acceptance?

Everyone needs to open their hearts and treat their fellow man and woman with love.

5. Anything else you have to add?

Well, just that I know that “open your heart and treat people with love” sounds like an easy thing to say, and that I recognize that in fact it’s not.  Treating other people with love is in fact the hardest thing in the world. But we can do it.  One soul at a time.
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Love and Kindness are a Form of Politics, too.

My dear friends.

I have struggled to find a path that seems loving and peaceful, politically, this year. I know people who vote across the political spectrum and I refuse to see anyone as my enemy. We are here to love one another, and that includes–for me– trying to understand and open the hearts even of people who wish me dead. And by dead, I don’t mean metaphorically dead, but ACTUAL DEAD, like the kid I met after a 13335837_10208505004918705_3134377357487735525_nspeech in Ohio, who said he thought people like me should be “exterminated.” I hope to find love in my heart even for him. Yes, even for him. 

Politically my issues are closest to Sanders. Now that Senator Clinton is the presumptive nominee I will vote and work for her. I hope Senator Sanders, whom I love– and whom I once met at Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont –as well as his supporters–will put country ahead of self now. We should all criticize her, as Senator Sanders did, to make her a wiser candidate. But let’s talk like grown ups. We can criticize her without our eyes rolling back in our heads and going, conspiracy, Benghazi, Goldman Sachs, Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul. One part of the journey is over, and another now begins.

For those of you voting for Donald Trump, I will continue to speak to you kindly, as many of you I have known for a lifetime. I hope that by doing so we can see each other as humans, and not as cartoon adversaries. I am certain that you will speak to me and other progressives like your fellow countrymen, and women, with the respect and thoughtfulness that we deserve. Won’t you.

I will ask that folks take the stuff that comes out of Mr. Trumps mouth seriously. And hope that you will agree that racism and bigotry have no place in our country.

I ask that we open our hearts to each other, to see each other as the vulnerable, imperfect souls that we are. And do what we can to move forward together.

I guess what I am saying is that everything does not have to suck. Kindness and love are a form of politics too, and I think we should practice them, even when it seems stupid. Or naive. Or in vain. Then most of all, in fact. How else do we create a new world?

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JFB & Oprah do update show.

8 19 2015-WATN @ The Lot studios in LA

8 19 2015-WATN @ The Lot studios in LA

Here’s my piece on the plaintively-titled “Where Are They Now,” in which I cross swords with Oprah Winfrey for the fifth and–who knows?–perhaps final time.  We talk about my writing, my marriage, and our awesome sons, about whom I say, “having a father who became a woman helped my boys become better men.”

 

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Russo & Boylan on Plot Twists in our Books and in our Lives.

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Jennifer Finney Boylan and Richard Russo at Colby College in 2003. Boylan is standing on a lower step to make Russo look taller; Russo is standing on a higher step to make Boylan look shorter.

This podcast on Stuido 360 features two old friends: Richard Russo and Jennifer Finney Boylan, talking about the twists and turns in our life, and in our friendship.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/richard-russo-jenny-boylan-everybodys-fool/

 

Richard Russo was in his early forties when he published “Nobody’s Fool” in 1993. The novel focused on the residents of a fictional mill town in upstate New York called Bath, including Sully, who Paul Newman played in the movie version of the book, and his slow-on-the-uptake friend, Rub. Today Russo is in his mid-60s, and after all these years he’s brought Sully and Rub back to life in a sequel to “Nobody’s Fool” called “Everybody’s Fool.”

Russo’s been friends with writer and novelist Jenny Boylan since they shared an office as professors in the early 1990s. But at the time, Jenny Boylan was Jim Boylan. She made the transition to Jenny about 15 years ago, and she wrote about it in her acclaimed memoir, “She’s Not There.” We asked Boylan to come in to interview Russo about his new novel and to talk with him about big plot twists — in their books, and in their friendship.

Jenny Boylan: The relationship between Sully and Rub, it’s really as deep as anything in a married relationship. Did you find it hard to write about that kind of relationship? The relationship between friends, maybe particularly between men, I think is hard to write about.

Richard Russo: It was a difficult relationship because on face value it seems to be one-sided because Rub really needs Sully for everything. But there is something going on there between them. Rub is a kind of foil, and maybe Sully needs Rub the way Don Quixote needs Sancho.

That’s funny, I was going to say the way Dean Martin needs Jerry Lewis.

Yes, both! And also I think part of Sully’s mechanism, the way he goes about life, is to ignore all obligations that are enforceable. So he leaves his family but what does he do? He goes and finds Rub, who becomes his surrogate son.

Do you think that readers believe in some sort of fictional Richard Russo based on the voice of the man who’s telling them this story? I’m asking you this because even though I write mostly non-fiction these days, people assume that we’re going to be friends. I’m frequently running into people here on the streets of New York who want to know if we can go and have coffee right then. What do people assume about Rick Russo the author?

I work really hard in all these books to create a better person on the page then I am in real life! So yeah, I think that’s what writers do. I think we’re never better than we are on the page. You write a book, and it takes you forever, and you make all kinds of mistakes, and then you finally figure out what you’re doing. And you go back, and you take out all of the worst mistakes, the ones that you can find, and you make it look like you knew what you were doing all along. That’s the final illusion. And that’s the person — that’s the Jenny Boylan that these people on the streets of New York want to have coffee with.

When you see me now do you see the person I used to be, or do you see the woman before you now?

I see the person that you are now. I see my old friend Jim in you, and I loved Jim the way I love you now. It’s for me just not an issue anymore. I told you at one point, after you had told me what was going on in your life and what your life had been like, and I said to you, it’s strange because there were very few people in my life at that point about which I would have said I would change absolutely nothing, and you were one of those people. And that is still true. But you’re different. You’re the same. You are my old friend, and you are my new friend. And none of the rest of it just makes any difference.

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  • The Boylan Family, summer 2010

    DSC_0063 "You hang around our family, you learn all kinds of stuff."
  • Will Forte as Jennifer Finney Boylan on “Saturday Night Live”

    WiFo-Jennifer Finney Boylan-1
  • Jenny with Barbara Walters, December, 2008

    wawa
  • Jenny atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin

    2036947979_34bfbec240 August, 2002.
  • Surrounded

    boylanWith President Clinton and Maine's Governor John Baldacci, fall 2006.
  • JFB and Edward Albee

    edward_albee_by_fred_j_field-150x150

    Edward had been my teacher at Johns Hopkins in the winter of 1986. He visited Colby in fall, 2007. As we took our leave of each other, he kissed me on both cheeks and said, "We have done well. You and I."

  • Jenny and her teacher, the great John Barth

    Boylan_Barth

    Jack was my professor at JHU when I did my thesis, back in the day. After many years, I can now confidently say I finally understand his definition of plot. Which is, of course, "the perturbation of an unstable homeostatic system and its catastrophic restoration to a new and complexified equilibrium."