This is not a formal book review, but it is a recommendation.
I have just finished reading Helen Boyd’s book called ‘My husband Betty’. It is a book written about crossdressers, transgendered people and the broader trans* community. Helen Boyd is a genetic woman who is very accepting of her husband’s crossdressing. That does not mean that she does not have concerns, doubts and the odd panic attack but she clearly loves and accepts her husband and participates in his life.
This book is written from a genetic woman’s point of view but Ms Boyd has taken great care not to make it about her or her husband. She has read widely and researched the topic extensively. She has interviewed numerous people and has made herself aware of the politics, challenges, quirks, strengths and shortcomings of our demi-world. This is therefore one of the most balanced and representative books I have seen on the subject (not that I claim to be particularly well read in this regard).
It was also refreshing to find someone who is prepared to be completely honest about our community. Often we are so afraid of being considered weird (or is that more weird), we shy away from some of the ‘harder’ issues such as sexuality, sexual fantasy, sexism and transitioning. I think this is especially true of us married trans* people who fear that we have a lot to lose.
Being a feminist means that Ms Boyd comes at us from a particular angle and she pulls no (or very few) punches whilst being respectful and balanced. She points out that some trans* people claim to be empathetic towards women but then behave like total jerks. She notes that our sense of the feminine is inherently shaped by a masculine world view and that we need to stop pretending we know what women are like based on our projected sense of femininity. This is something that I would like to explore more as it is a subject close to my heart and that I have experienced at first hand. On some internet forums for crossdressers, people claim to be ‘close’ to women. to know what it is to be a woman etc but as a soon as you challenge the community and ask them to question how they talk about women then all of a sudden you are being politically correct (as if that invalidates your point of view).
I particularly liked the fact that Ms Boyd presents her subject matter from a woman’s point of view. She makes it very clear where we as crossdressers and trans* people add value to our partners lives, but she also shows where our selfishness, lack of respect, lack of understanding etc negatively impact our spouses. This was hugely beneficial to me and I was able to understand much more of what my spouse was going through and this allowed us to communicate more effectively.
Ms Boyd also challenges us to stop being scared. To stop hiding and to stop being afraid that if we align with the LGB(T) community we will lose something and be considered homosexual. This is a good point. We cannot expect society to accept us if we will not accept others. We cannot hope that rights, privileges and happiness will drop into our laps. We need to campaign for this ourselves, no one will do it for us and the only way for this to happen is for us to step out of our closets and move around in the world with pride.
I did find a number of typographical errors (possibly caused by converting the text into a digital format – I read the book on my Kindle app on my iPad) and this did detract a little from my reading pleasure but the errors do not make it difficult to follow. I also felt that the heavy North American focus marginalised those of us who live elsewhere a little, but I suppose we cannot expect full representation and in the main Ms Boyd is very good at acknowledging the diversity that resides within our community.
This was a very empowering, honest and enjoyable book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to all trans* people as well as their spouses, friends and family.
My Husband Betty: Love, Sex and Life with a Crossdresser by Helen Boyd is published by Seal Press. It is distributed by Publishers Group West. Its eISBN is 9781560255154 and it is available through Amazon (and possibly elsewhere) as an e-book.