With the arrival of the brand new paperback edition of Sex Changes in my mailbox (St. Martin’s Press’ official publication date is November 26) come reflections on the year since the book’s publication.
It’s been a year of nasty surprises as, perhaps naively, I never imagined that my ex and cohorts would attack and attempt to censor me. It’s also been a year of deeply heartwarming encouragement from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers: readers.
Early in the year my incredibly supportive agent and editor helped me to understand my memoir as belonging in a collection of books best titled: Stories Someone Doesn’t Want Told. In this light they offered an array of examples, from memoirs exploring the writer’s less-than-pristine personal experience of a well-regarded public figure, such as the beautiful and evocative A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage by Sally Ryder Brady, to, at the other end of the spectrum, exposés of global importance, like the first books to be published about fallout from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m not comparing my book to any of these (nuclear fallout? me? never!). Rather, it put the shocking and unexpected instances of cyber-stalking, harassment and censorship by a group that views itself as politically correct in useful context.
When I think about this year of going public with my story, I’m struck by all the other stories I have read and heard, some in the news media, in which gender change has become the event du jour. Most of all I’m moved by all the stories I have been privately privileged to receive, as readers have reached out.
I’m moved by those from the trans community who have written to tell me they share many of my views, and are appalled by the attacks on me, which they see as all too typical of some in their community.
I’m moved by the women and children suffering through a husband and father’s all too familiar exploits. I’ve come to realize that not only are there others who have lived through the strangely awful and awfully strange experiences that my children and I survived – we weren’t the only ones! – but there are other families going through their own private eerily similar hells right now. Women whose experiences of husbands they once loved, trusted and admired have curdled into betrayal and disillusionment. Who use identical words to describe them: narcissistic, cruel, out of control, and so on.
I’ve heard from women living through the dreadful upending of their lives that they feel isolated and alone, as I once did. In some cases, seeking support for themselves and their families, they find themselves shunned, the demand being that they keep their mouths shut and accept their new role, and their children’s, as collateral damage: the refuse of the heroic life of a trans hero. Living through their experiences in this peculiar moment in time, they aren’t entitled to their own lives or their own stories – or so this line of thinking goes.
Seeking help for the traumatized children of one of these would-be heroes I was told by an unusually frank psychologist that it would be very hard for me to find a therapist to work with them in my neck of the woods. At lot of her colleagues, she told me, would be excited by the opportunity to feel politically correct. “They won’t want to hear what these kids are saying.”
Her words stunned me. Not that I hadn’t already had so many experiences myself that back them up – maybe just that a neutral professional would admit this about her own colleagues. I’m haunted by her words. Rephrased, I hear them as: “These kids aren’t entitled to their stories.”
To be the victims of an oppressed minority is to experience a unique isolation. The oppressed of the oppressed have no place in heroic narratives.
That’s why we have to write our own, un-heroic narratives; narratives of coming through. Even if there are some people who won’t want to hear them. Survivors in this peculiar moment in time, we owe it to ourselves. We owe it to each other.