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Gender change and a family’s undoing: Shutesbury woman’s memoir stirs controversy

  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

    Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.
    JOSH KUCKENS
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    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

    Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.
    JOSH KUCKENS
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

    Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.
    JOSH KUCKENS
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>
  • <br/>
  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>
  • Christine Benvenuto in her Shutesbury home Tuesday. Benvenuto, a freelance writer, recently finished a memoir entitled "Sex Changes," chronicling her experiences with an ex-husband who underwent gender reassignment surgery.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS<br/>

Several years ago, Valley writer Christine Benvenuto and her husband of more than 20 years went through a bitter divorce. Their children were heartbroken, and Benvenuto was devastated. But the sad story had an unusual twist.

The marriage dissolved not because her husband left to be with another woman. He had begun the process to become one, from growing his hair to ingesting female hormones.

“For two years I watched my husband die,” she said.

Benvenuto, who lives in Shutesbury, eventually came to terms with the circumstances. She gradually confided in friends, came to better understand her ex’s situation and met another man. And now, she has detailed the experience in the book “Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On,” recently published by St. Martin’s Press.

The book takes the reader through grief, anger, bewilderment, self-recrimination — as well as some dark humor — as Benvenuto confronts the end of her marriage and the steady disappearance of the man she fell in love with as a college student. She becomes a single mother to three active children and finds herself worn to a frazzle.

While Benvenuto says her story can help families in which a member has gender issues, not everyone agrees. It has sparked a local protest which included Margaret Cerullo, a Hampshire College professor of sociology, who admits she hasn’t read the book, but nevertheless calls it hurtful, containing negative stereotypes about transgender people based on excerpts she read online. “These kind of portrayals are very damaging, especially for young trans people, who are already struggling with self-image ... it seemed unnecessarily cruel,” she said in a phone interview.

Last month Cerullo, a group of Hampshire students and others — including friends of Benvenuto’s ex-husband — showed up at Benvenuto’s reading at Amherst Books to voice their objections, an episode that ended with police being called. Cerullo said the group was attempting to have “a dialogue” with Benvenuto. Benvenuto, however, said the protesters shouted obscenities, even though children were present at the bookstore, and seemed to be seeking “a violent encounter.”

She insists her book is not a statement about or portrayal of transsexuals as a group. “I completely support their rights,” she said. “This book is my story — it’s about my very particular experience.”

A mistake, then hope

Benvenuto and her ex remained together for two years after he told her he felt like an alien as a man and was taking steps to change genders. In retrospect, that was a mistake, Benvenuto says, as it bewildered and then angered her children — then 12, 8 and 2 years old — while creating insurmountable tension between the couple.

Of the night her husband broke the news seven years ago, she wrote: “From that evening on, there would never be another easy moment between us ... ”

Yet today, Benvenuto, who declines to give her age, says she has softened, even though her children’s relationships with their other parent are still evolving. That was part of her impetus in writing her book, she says: “I did end up feeling pretty good about my life, that it didn’t just come to an end, and I wanted to give hope to people. I believe families need to be supported in supporting their kids ... because this is a difficult and painful thing for families. It’s not going to be a good outcome to tell your kids that everything’s going to be fine.”

Benvenuto, a freelance writer and editor who has written fiction and feature articles for various publications over the years, does not identify her ex-husband in her memoir, referring to him by the fictitious name of Tracey. According to past newspaper stories, however, her ex-husband was Jay Ladin, a writer and poet who at one time taught English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ladin made national and even international news about four years ago when, after teaching literature at Yeshiva University in New York City for a number of years, he returned to campus as a transgendered woman, Joy Ladin. Officials at the Orthodox Jewish school at first put Ladin on administrative leave but then allowed her to teach again.

Joy Ladin published her own memoir this year, “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders,” in which she details her struggle to live as the “wrong” gender and the steps she took to become a woman. She also offers a frank appraisal of what her transition cost others: “My gender identity crisis had destroyed my marriage, shattered my family, and turned me into an unwelcome stranger in my own home.”

“My children were grief stricken, angry and baffled by the double blow of losing their happy family and the strange transformation of the father they loved,” Ladin adds.

Road to realization

Benvenuto says her ex-husband went from being “a wonderful father” and her closest confidant to a detached, secretive and sometimes belligerent stranger, completely consumed with changing his gender and angry that neither she nor their children seemed to be happy for him. She in turn increasingly saw him as a narcissist who was willing to throw four lives overboard to meet his own needs.

She recalls one conversation in which she asked, “What if you knew if doing this would destroy one or all of the children?” She writes that her ex-husband, “ice cold,” responded, “I would do it anyway.”

Looking back, Benvenuto says she did not understand the depths of her ex-husband’s misery, feeling he was trapped in the wrong gender. There had been some hints in the past — one time, as a much younger man, he had told her he wished he’d been born a girl — but she says she attributed that to his difficult childhood and strained relationship with his father.

“I thought [gender confusion] was a psychological problem,” she said. “I still don’t completely or really understand this issue, but I know that it’s not as if you can get over it with the right therapy. If a person is saying, ‘I have gender issues,’ then they do.”

But at the time, she was overwhelmed with confusion, fear and rejection, and not just because of her ex. Some friends and acquaintances were sympathetic to her, she says, but others in what she sarcastically calls “The Valley of the Politically Correct” seemed more interested in the symbolism of her ex-husband’s change.

“I do think there was a strong element of ‘We have to embrace this, we have to celebrate this, and we can’t stop and say, wow, this is really hard for you, this is really hard for your kids,’ ” Benvenuto said.

“I would be waylaid at grocery stores or on the street or at school events with the most intimate questions,” she added. “Sometimes it was people who maybe wouldn’t have spoken to me before but would say, ‘How exciting this is! Has your husband had surgery yet?’ ”

She was also disturbed by what she calls “an anti-feminist element” among some people, primarily women, whose attitude appeared to be “we’re going to support your husband — you’re the wife and you’ve got to shut up and back him and sacrifice, and if your kids aren’t on board with this, get them on board.”

As one woman said to her, “Look, he’s a transsexual. Whatever he does is what he needs to do.”

Benvenuto would eventually leave the Jewish Community of Amherst synagogue, which she and her family had attended for years, because she felt she wasn’t getting support from some members. “Ultimately it was too hard to be there,” she said.

Her grief was compounded by shyness and reticence. It took her months to tell friends her marriage was on the rocks, and months more to say why it was failing. Her own upbringing, Benvenuto adds, made it painful to see her ex-husband feminizing himself, and she was horrified to discover he was playing dress-up games with her older daughter, then about 9.

As she writes, “It is inescapable: for me there is something slightly creepy and more than slightly sad about a man in women’s clothes.” These “admittedly terrible” feelings, she notes, mark her as “hopelessly retrograde. Hopelessly, viscerally outside the pale of political correctness.”

That said, Benvenuto notes that she has told her ex-husband she wishes she could have been more supportive of his change. “It would have involved letting go of the marriage much more quickly, saying, ‘We’re on separate paths but I can be supportive of you on your path.’ ” she said. But she says her ex refused at first to move out of the house, and for nearly two years the couple tried to keep up the appearance that things were “normal.”

Benvenuto, whose previous book is “Shiksa,” about the experiences of gentile women married to Jewish men, said she’s searching for her next writing project. She added that she hopes her new book is read “more as a story about divorce and mid-life crisis and how a lot of things happen, but you pick yourself up and go on. The specifics of my story are a little unusual, but the theme is more universal.”

“I clung to stasis like a fraying lifeline, kicking and screaming as it slipped through my fingers,” she writes in her book. “But against my will and finally because of it, my life changed, and changed me with it.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

Just heard this story on NPR. My heart hurts for this poor woman, but mostly for the three (?!) children who were forced into this unfortunate situation. I'm not homophobic, transphobic, or whatever other new term that's been created to describe situations like these. I just think that the decision to "transition" could have been a little earlier, maybe before the THIRD child was created. Appallingly selfish, in my opinion. (Just being honest and expressing my views. Not interested in a circular debate with Ladin, thanks.)

J. Turner, you are right. I don't get to decide. I'm stating that it makes me feel sad to see people being treated this way and attacked personally because of another person's theoretical belief and suggesting that it might worth considering kinder public discourse in our community. You may choose to say whatever you want. We will each sit with how it makes us feel to put our chosen messages out to others and our community.

It makes me really sad to see the comments and discussion in response to this story. Clearly there has been a very upsetting, hurtful, life changing experience for an entire family. There have also been many stories that ended positively when a person in the family has decided to transition to a different gender. What strikes me is that unfortunately this marriage ended very poorly and bitterly which is very common in marriages for all kinds of reasons, yet in this case, one person's very personal and difficult experience being transgender is becoming the public target of all of the hurt and anger that came out of that bitter separation. I'm not saying that the transition had nothing to do with the separation and I am not saying it hasn't been incredibly hard for all involved. But to take a horrible experience like the collapse of a marriage with children and turn it into strangers and people who are known publicly attacking someone for their gender identity... Joy has already said that the alternative was to kill herself. Perhaps this kind of public attack isn't necessary? I don't know either of these people, though I am a member of the synagogue referenced. None of what I am saying is to discount the pain or experiences of Ms. Benvenuto or their children. I truly believe it was very painful for all. I am just sad to see the pain from a messy divorce be turned towards hurtful and viscous attacks on a person's personal identity rather than their behaviors. Again, I'm speaking of the comments here, not necessarily the article or book.

What you perceive as viciousness is really just a small enclave of honesty; a rarity in today's world. Being female is a biological reality not a personal identity one can put on like a cloak. Just because a man loathes himself and his culturally determined sex roles, doesn't mean he can somehow shed his biology. There is no flowering into femaleness, no voyage to womanhood, no magic tunnel a man can pass through to become a woman. Surgery and HRT can't turn men into women. I support Joy's choice to wear the clothes, shoes, makeup and jewelry he likes and to express the parts of his personality that society normally shuns in men. However, I don't support the appropriation of femaleness by men, because it amounts to nothing more than a harmful display of stereotypes they hold about women. In addition, I can not support the dismissal of scientific facts, reality and biological sex differences for the sake of one's ego fulfillment.

J. Turner, I'm not looking to debate the topics of sex, gender, feminism, or identity with you. They are very complex issues and are certainly topics for interesting discussion in a different venue. My point here though is that I DON'T think having those debates here is the right place nor is it necessary to debate the whole concept in relation to one specific person. These are individuals who have been through a very traumatic and emotional experience. One of them shared her story about it in a public manner, the other chose to add her own perspective on that particular story. Debate the theories elsewhere. There is no need in our community for attacking a specific person about how they might see themselves when really you just want to debate a theory. As Ms. Benvenuto says herself, "her book is not a statement about or portrayal of transsexuals as a group. “I completely support their rights...This book is my story — it’s about my very particular experience"...” No need to make your personal feelings about such a wide-reaching topic be turned into such personal attacks on one person.

Luckily, you don't get to decide what, when or where people discuss issues that are important to them.

Joy Ladin said "I wouldn't think that you would support the idea that women should meet cookie-cutter standards for how others expect them to look, but that's one of the consequences of campaigns against trans women - you end up enforcing fairly rigid definitions of "woman." I ACTUALLY SPIT OUT MY COFFEE. Joy, someone who has or had a penis is "male." Is that rigid enough?

Actually, you are not one of the subjects of this story. But it is typical of men to think themselves at the center of every story. And save your lectures on 'gender essentialism' for your 'gender studies' course. We have all heard it before, time and time again, as an answer to any and all critical examination of this phenomenon you call transgenderism. (Or whatever you call it.) The plain truth is much harder to face, I have no doubt. You can try to bury it under charges of 'transphobia' all you like, but actually, trying to name any critique as a mental illness is really a stretch. WHO has a mental illness? Look at yourself again, and try to remember, it isn't ALL about you.

If you read the story, you will find many comments about me - comments from Ms. Benvenuto, and reporting from the author, who took it upon himself to give my name when Ms. Benvenuto had withheld it. The story isn't ONLY about me, but it is also about me, and Ms. Benvenuto has framed her book in terms of me, from the title on. Isn't it sexist to disparage the behavior of individuals in terms of gender, as you do here? By the way, I'm not saying that gender essentialism is mental illness; it's a pretty common attitude, and even more common among conservative people than among feminists.

JoyLadin said: “These comments reflect what’s called “gender essentialism,” Gender essentialism is when you say that female=long hair dresses, high heels, and pink frilly things. Gender essentialism is when someone says, “I love playing with dolls and wearing dresses so I must really be a female.” The idea of transgenderism--that we should fix our bodies to match our gender roles--therefore supports gender essentialism. JoyLadin said: “a confusion between physical sex, which is a matter of biology’ Yes, you are correct. Physical sex is a matter of biology. No amount of surgery, birth certificate revisions or legal mandates changes the fact that in our species, a male cannot become a female and vice versa. I am glad that you are able to recognize this and state this publicly. But many times when females point out this fact we are silenced, shamed and called "transphobic." Why is that? Joy Ladin said: “gender, which, as every feminist should know, is a social phenomenon” Hold on a minute–gender isn’t just some “social phenomenon.” It is a social hierarchy. It is a global system of domination, in which males hold power over females. Gender, like many other caste systems, consists of rules that mandate how the oppressed should eat, sleep, dress, talk, walk, move, etc. And the point of these rules is to keep the oppressed class of females in our place, allowing males to maintain and extend their power over females. JoyLain said: “and very much open to change.’ If “open to change” means that it is possible to destroy patriarchy and therefore there would be no gender hierarchy, then yes, the gender caste system is open not only to change but to complete abolition. But if “open to change” means that individual males can say “I like dresses, lingerie, makeup and long hair so I must be a female,” of course, you can call yourself whatever you want. But do realize that by reinforcing the notion that female=feminine and male=masculine you are reinforcing the patriarchal notion of gender and the gender caste system. Furthermore, you can call yourself whatever you want but you have no right to use your position of privilege to attack, threaten and shame females into agreeing with you. Here’s an analogy to put this into perspective: Let’s say you said, “I like tacos, sombreros, ranchero music and dark skin so I must really be a Mexican born in a white person’s body.” Or “I love basketball and rap so I must really be Black.” In this case, poc would quite reasonably point out that an affinity for things that are stereotypically associated with a certain race or ethnicity doesn’t mean that you belong to that race or ethnicity. They might point out that the the fact that you believe in these stereotypes just proves how ignorant you are of their cultures. They might point out that, in claiming a poc identity based on poc stereotypes, you are reinforcing those stereotypes that oppress poc. And I bet you and your friends wouldn’t go after these people yelling “transracephobic!!!” Why? Because you get that poc are oppressed by white people. But you really don’t get that females are oppressed by males.

Thank you for quoting what I say. I'm afraid you aren't understanding the meaning, however. Gender essentialism is any attitude, from "girls should wear pink" to "only people born with vaginas can have a female gender identity," that insists that biology is destiny, that the sex of our bodies determines our immutable gender. If you are actually interested in how I understand my gender - how a physically male person can have a female gender identity, and what it means for such a person to transition to living as a woman - I suggest you read my memoir. The claim that I don't recognize sexism or patriarchal oppression, that I am not a feminist and can't understand a feminist perspective, is insulting, wrong, and a transphboic steretype.

y Ladin: "gender essentialism is any attitude, from "girls should wear pink" to "only people born with vaginas can have a female gender identity," What do you mean by a "female gender identity"? Again, gender is so much more than an "identity." It is a system of oppression. If you are saying that the idea that only females should adopt stereotypically female characteristics, then yes, that is an example of gender essentialism. But if you mean that only females should call themselves females then there is nothing essentialist about that. It's just a matter of telling it like it is. A white person is white, a Latina is a Latina. A white person can definitely enjoy things that are stereotypically associated with Latino people, sure. But can a white person assume the identity of a white person? I suppose they could. But I wouldn't expect all Latino people to accept that transrace person as a Latino." @Joy Ladin: "biology is destiny." It's so weird. You use the words of feminism but only when it seems to fit your personal, individual agenda. You are confusing biology (female/male) with systems of oppression and hierarchy (gender roles). To be sure, our biology does determine many things. For example, I can't grow wings and fly because I was not born a bird. (Although I might want to claim a trans-species identity, as people such as the "otherkin" do.) @Joy Ladin "that the sex of our bodies determines our immutable gender" The problem here is that you are continuing to think of gender as simply roles, rather than as a system of oppression. If you mean that our bodies shouldn't determine how we dress, act, think, etc, then you are correct. Males shouldn't be forced to play with war toys and girls shouldn't be forced to play with dolls. This makes sense if you are speaking of gender as simply different roles. However, gender is much more than a system of roles. It is a system of unequal power. And yes, sex, biology at birth absolutely DOES determine where we are placed in this hierarchy. That's what gender is. It is a system of unequal power based on physical, biological sex. Just as you are born into a particular position in a racial or ethnic hierarchy you are born into a particular position in a gender hierarchy. Why do you keep ignoring this? @Joy Ladin: "If you are actually interested in how I understand my gender" Wow, really? Yes, by all means, go ahead and explain to me, a Latina woman who was born into the universally shit-upon gender class called "female" how YOU understand YOUR gender. On second thought, no thanks. @Joy Ladin: " claim that I don't recognize sexism or patriarchal oppression, that I am not a feminist and can't understand a feminist perspective,is insulting, wrong, and a transphboic steretype." I understand you are insulted by my explanation how transgender ideas uphold gender stereotypes and roles, thereby further reinforcing the gender hierarchy that oppresses women. It was not my intention to insult but to explain. I don't think you have explained how I am wrong. In fact, you seem to just ignore everything that I say about gender being a hierarchy that females are born into. I wonder why you keep ignoring this? And a "transphobic stereotype"? I am directly addressing the comments made here, by you. Although I do understand that the term "transphobic" is used just as effectively to silence feminists as the term "heretic" or "apostate" is used by religious devotees to silence those who won't bow down to their gods.

I give this woman great credit to share such a personal story.

@JoyLadin said: "These comments reflect what's called "gender essentialism," Gender essentialism is when someone says "I like dresses and long hair and pink frilly things so I must be a girl." In other words, the whole idea that a male who likes feminine things must have been born in the wrong body? That's gender essentialism. The opposite of gender essentialism is the idea that there is nothing inherently female about pink, dresses, playing with dolls, etc. Joy said: "confusion between physical sex, which is a matter of biology" Yes, physical sex is a matter of biology. No homo sapiens is capable of changing sex. No amount of surgery and no birth certificate revisions, can change this fact. Joy said: "gender, which, as every feminist should know, is a social phenomenon and very much open to change" Slow down a minute--Gender is not simpy a "social phenomenon." It is a system of oppression. Gender is a global caste system, a hierarchy in which males oppress females. Gender is the set of rules that tell women how females, as slaves to men, are supposed to act. Is gender "very much open to change"? If you mean that there is no biological basis to gender, then yes, it is possible to destroy patriarchy (the global system of male domination) and therefore eliminate gender. If by "open to change" you mean "a male who acts feminine can declare he is a female," well, of course, you can call yourself whatever you want. But you have no right to use your position of power to threaten, shame or force a member of the oppressed sex class (females) to call you female. Here's an analogy to put this in perspective: You could say that you always loved tacos, ranchero music, sombreros, mowing lawns, etc so you must really be a Mexican. You could say that you always loved rap music and basketball so you must really be Black. And then people of color would rightly point out that having an affinity for things that are stereotypically associated with Mexican-ness or Blackness doesn't change the fact that you are white. And I bet you wouldn't be outraged if poc pointed these things out to you. But when a female points this out to a male transgendered person we are bullied, attacked, harassed into silence. Why? Because you don't really get that females are an oppressed class, that gender is a system of unequal power between males and females, and that, by reinforcing the idea that feminine=female and masculine=male, you are reinforcing this system of oppression against women.

Interesting how J. continues to abuse his wife via comments sections and with friends in high places. Obviously zie hasn't lost the male privilege with zer clothing choice. I have bought this book and look forward to reading it. I'm sure it will be very enlightening after witnessing the sort of hatred and vitriol Christine Benvenuto has received for being a woman who is trying to explain her experience.

So Margaret Cerullo is campaigning against a book she hasn't read? And she is an academic?

I am not familiar with Ms. Ladin's situation but Ms. Benvenuto's posts and excerpts from her book have appeared all over the internet recently. I have two children of my own. I sympathize very much with the children in this case. I think it is abominable the way these children have been used in the most public way as they have by Ms. Benvenuto in a very self indulgent way. This is a graphic demonstration of the pot calling the kettle black. From what I have read, Ms. Ladin is legally female. I realize that other women across the political spectrum, from Ann Coulter to Rachel Maddow, have been subjected to the kind of abuse that Ms. Ladin has been exposed to. The mis-gendering is not innocuous. If, indeed, Ms. Ladin is legally female the mis-gendering is activist political statement. Is it the policy of The Daily Hampshire Gazette to advocate for a change to laws regarding legal gender transition or does your newspaper simply wish to show contempt for the law and it's implications?

The narcissism the manipulation of the Ms. Joy Ladin’s comment on her ex wife’s book is part and parcel of the tactics that are being used against Ms. Benvenuto to damage her book’s opportunities for publicity. “I would have hurt or killed myself,” Okay, so staying alive meant Ms. Ladin spends her time trying to damage Ms, Benvenuto writing career. Please note that Ms. Ladin is the first comment and no doubt she is trolling her ex-wife. Does that really seem “stable” and “supportive” behavior? While “the trans” card has been a boon for Ms. Laudin, really a minor poet prior, she has since her transition made herself not only into a cause celeb but also, a speaker, an expert in Judaism and spirituality –-an all round opportunist on the PC circuit. Fine. But what is not fine is the fact that she has done and has her group do everything possible to make sure that Ms. Benvenuto does not get the publicity her book deserves. Internet communications have leaked out showing how group en mass sent out messages to people in the gay and trans communities and organize a campaign against Ms. Benvenuto book to protest it and produce bad publicity surrounding it. A launched a mob attack. And at the same time, all cried in unison—on 3 “TRANSPHOBIA” when they in fact were bashing Ms. Benvenuto. Why? Joy Ladin and her posse is bent on not letting Ms. Benvenuto have her own story as a woman, an ex-wife, and as a mother. Ms. Ladin, true to opportunistic form has rallied a band of people that hate heterosexual women like poison and who have slandered, maligned and insulted Ms.Benvenuto using every possible cliché about women, wives and mother’s Anyone who buys the poor pitiful me should be advised –this is one strong smart cookie, and no heterosexual women better ever try to get in her way. And that my friends is way more creepy than a man in skirt. I wish Ms. Laudin would really spare people the “innocence” pose documents reflecting the call to arms to “silence” Ms. Benvenuto weave their way to writers, editors, Rabbis all over—people hit forward in horror. And while there is real transphobia in the world Ms. Ladin has used the accusation in the most cynical and disgusting way possible, to damage her ex wife and in so doing she has damaged people, because to trivialize it corrupts any true and future claim. But manipulative people that bully are not often sensitive to any real claims because it is all just a power game. And if you don’t believe that Ms. Ladin is attempting to damage her ex wife’s carreer Here is a copy of the Review on Good Read Ms. Laudin Gave to the book. “It won't be giving anything away to reveal that this is an angry book. The author's anger about her husband's transition from living as a man to living as a woman is hard to untangle from her repulsion at the idea of transgender identity. As always, it's hard to evaluate the reliability of an angry memoir, to judge the accuracy of the author's account of what angered her. In this case, readers can (and should) also read Ms. Benvenuto's ex-husband's side of the story, in the memoir Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, by Joy Ladin, published in March 2012. Some of the facts are the same in both memoirs; some are very different. But the reader of both books will be able to evaluate Ms. Benvenuto's claims about Ladin's indifference to the suffering of her family, Ladin's mental instability, and Ladin's conduct of her gender transition.” (Emphasis mine by Joy Ladin) While it plugs her own book it neglects to mention that she is the reviewer and is the ex husband, and is the father of the writer’s childern— And (nice touch) she speaks of herself in the 3rd person. The criticism is ridiculous and spiteful. Anger is a sane emotion, in some situations and not uninteresting on the page. I would be angry too if my ex-husband was stalking me and launching tirades against me, not to mention leaving creepy comments everyplace that publishes or interviews me. What is an outrage is the fact that Ms. Ladin an expert an insincerity, manipulation and obfuscation can cry and howl—transphobia—Here is a phobia, my phobia--I am deeply afraid of people that organize at the drop of hat to go after a person to abuse them—that’s scary No doubt her rank and file will follow suit, always at the ready and continue to abuse Ms. Benevenuto. You can spot their writing, words like transphobic, angry (hetero woman are always fixed with label) biased, shocking, appalling—any language that exaggerates distorts and hates women, that’s them-- anything that portrays women as angry, unreliable, also them, anything that presents with faux and cynical righteous indignation, also them. Oh —never tried to stop Ms., Benivido from telling her story—replace “never” with “always.” So lesson: transphobia is very bad, but trying to destroy your ex wife’s career is good.

"Transphobia." This is what you men in skirts always claim when anyone, for any reason, at any time, says something about this that you don't like. Well, my dear, the backlash against this insanity is just beginning. NO ONE can change their sex. No matter how many surgical procedures, no matter the wigs, the makeup, the clothing--a male is a male, a female is a female. Ms. Benvenuto has every right to tell her story. You and your compatriots have NO right to try to stop her. The transsexual movement is anti-feminist. It does nothing but reinforce gender stereotypes. No mental illness or disorder can be 'cured' with plastic surgery and hormones. And yes, there is something creepy--more than creepy--about a man in 'women's' clothes.

Dear KittyB, Thank you for further demonstrating transphobia - the phrase "men in skirts" is classic, as is the condescension ("Well, my dear") and the accusation of "mental illness." These comments reflect what's called "gender essentialism," a confusion between physical sex, which is a matter of biology, and gender, which, as every feminist should know, is a social phenomenon and very much open to change. Physically, I will always be male in many ways - genetically, for example. However, I live as a woman, am treated and cheated and (as you do here) condescended to as a woman. In doing so, I am exercising my right to define my own identity (how do you know who and what I am?) by expressing my lifelong female gender identification. I've never tried to stop Ms. Benvenuto from telling her story, no matter how abusively. I'm just trying to offer perspective on that story - perspective that, as you dramatize here, many readers desperately need. Joy

There is no transphobia. There is only misogyny. http://pretendbian.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/joy-ladin/

"However, I live as a woman, am treated and cheated and (as you do here) condescended to as a woman." I disagree. I conducted my own experiment. I sent your pic to numerous people with this comment, "What do you think of this woman?", also, I did NOT mention a thing about you being transgendered. So far, I've heard back from 53 people. They vary in age from 13 to 73, and are comprised of Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians, some are religious, others atheists. In other words, they are a mixed bunch. Not one person who saw your picture thought you were a woman, not one! So, please tell me Ladin, exactly how is it you are treated as a woman, when quite literally no one "views" as one? -J.T.

Excuse the accidental omission of the word 'you'. It's relevant, so I must correct the sentence. "So, please tell me Ladin, exactly how is it you are treated as a woman, when quite literally no one "views" YOU as one? "

Dear J.Turner, This is so silly, but since you ask, I will refer you to my book, which explains what I mean in great detail, and I will humbly suggest that my experience of my own life is perhaps more authoritative than your survey of people who, like you, seem to have way too much time on their hands. The truth is that most people who meet me see me as a woman; a few wonder. As you must know, there are many genetic females who are also subject to mis-gendering because they don't conform to the usual expectations of what women should look like. I wouldn't think that you would support the idea that women should meet cookie-cutter standards for how others expect them to look, but that's one of the consequences of campaigns against trans women - you end up enforcing fairly rigid definitions of "woman." That's not only silly but hurtful - to me, and to many others, trans and non-trans. I hope you and your friends find something more worthy of your time and energy.

As conspicuous as Colleen Francis, you simply don't pass, therefore you don't get treated as a woman. The proportions and bone structure are off. In public, people practice polite non-observance and political correctness as social lubricants. Honesty is reserved for private locations with trusted friends.

As one of the subjects of this article (I was not contacted by the reporter), I would like to add some needed perspective. Ms. Benvenuto's story is just that - her story. It is about her, not about me or my relationship with my children. I told Ms. Benvenuto that I was transsexual - that was the word I used - when we were sophomores in college. My suffering over my gender identity was a problem that we discussed throughout our almost 30-year relationship. We loved one another, and both hoped that I would be able to continue living as a man despite my gender dysphoria and the feeling that because I wasn't connected to my body, I wasn't really alive. I continued to live as a man, and to live in the house and with my children, for as long as I did despite my increasing anguish because I agreed with Ms. Benvenuto that we should give our children a two-parent family as long as possible, and because I personally couldn't bear to live apart from them. I have never stopped taking care of them, never abandoned them or stopped supporting Ms. Benvenuto financially. I never "icily" dismissed their suffering; I did point out (correctly) that Ms. Benvenuto's fears that my transition would psychologically damage the children were exaggerated, and that they would be much more hurt if I killed myself, which is what I would have to do if I couldn't live as who I was. The article erroneously implies that the only protests against the transphobia that is unfortunately woven into Ms. Benvenuto's telling of her story come from people who haven't read her writing. The protest was organized by people (not me) who were outraged by the long excerpt from Sex Changes that was published by The Guardian several days before the book launch. Most people, Ms. Benvenuto included, don't know what transphobia is, but she eloquently expresses it when she asserts that for her "there is something slightly creepy and more than slightly sad about a man in women’s clothes.”

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