She’s Not The Man I Married: My Life With A Transgender Husband, by Helen Boyd. Seal Press, 2007.
by Samantha P.
This book is about Helen Boyd’s experiences and feelings as she watches her husband heading along the trans path. It is an open, honest self-searching wherein she lays herself bare. Throughout I could feel her anger; anger at society’s ignorance concerning trans issues, anger at Betty for stealing away her beautiful husband, and anger at herself for her anger. I could feel her frustration at the lack of understanding, so apparent, on the part of society at large concerning gender and the issues it presents.
This book is also about love; Helen and Betty’s deep love for each other, a love which has held them together at a time when most others would have long ago separated.
The book consists of a preface and a section of notes on language, pronouns and taxonomy, followed by seven chapters and a final note from Betty. Throughout, the author often amplifies a word or phrase by reference to notes on each chapter which are contained at the back of the book. Although the trans reader probably doesn’t need to refer to these notes, no doubt other readers will.
When I read a non-fiction book I generally flag what appear to me to be quotable quotes. I usually end up with five or so. When I had finished reading this book I counted twenty-two! If you have read other reviews I have written, you know that I usually include one or two of what I consider to be the most meaningful of them. I am not going to do that here. If you really want to read them, I’ve listed them [here].
One thing for sure, Helen Boyd has a very firm grasp of trans issues. For example in Chapter One, Girl Meets Boy, she says, “But the one thing you learn when you hang out with someone who might be transsexual is that almost nothing is more important than gender; not relationships, not children, not employment, not career goals or financial stability. When something isn’t right with someone’s gender, nothing could be more wrong or more important.”
Later on in the chapter I found it so easy to agree with her statement, “It’s a cold, cold day when death seems easier than what you’re facing. A cold, lonely, miserable, heart-wrenching day.” Having “been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt”, it was a flash-back I didn’t really want to experience, one with which almost every trans person will readily identify.
One of the criticisms I have read of this book is that it is repetitive. That reminds me of a week-long seminar I once attended wherein the requisite pre-reading was Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. Most of the attendees complained that each chapter seemed the same, that the book was too repetitive. My reaction to that was, “You didn’t read the book!” It’s the same with Helen’s book. If you find yourself thinking that what you are reading is a repeat of something you have read before, you are not reading it! My suggestion would be to re-read, and re-read that passage until you ‘get’ its true meaning. Repetitive? Hell no!
I found it difficult to put this book down. I found it so soulfully appealing, so full of “Yah’s!” and “Aha’s!” that, like her previous book, My Husband Betty, I will be recommending it to all who come my way for advice or assistance. The last chapter, Love Is A Many-gendered Thing, really brought me up short. Helen’s description of the life faced by newly transitioned women not only set me on a path of careful reassessment as to my objectives, it sent chills down my spine. It opened my eyes to things I hadn’t given much consideration to before.
She’s Not The Man I Married has been a godsend for me. A graphic description of the effect that trans issues can have on a love-filled marriage, this book is filled with sound advice, delivered with impact and insight.