Tag Archives: Sex Changes

Domestic Abuse: Nigella Lawson, Charles Saatchi & You

First Nigella Lawson is choked by her husband, Charles Saatchi, in public no less. Then she gets hit with a media blitz about her sad predicament, to which I’m now adding my bit.

The only good that comes out of these painful, sordid events is that they raise awareness of domestic abuse, which tends, after all, to happen behind closed doors, where victims remain alone to cope with their attackers.

This story happened to make headlines at a moment when I was reflecting that among the communications I’ve received from readers since the publication Of Sex Changes, some of the most meaningful and moving have been those that come from women who say that while the specifics of my story may not match theirs, the book has helped them decide to leave a relationship that is in some way – physically, emotionally – abusive. Helping anyone else in this way makes it all worthwhile. 

This Huffington Post Editorial skirts a blaming-the-victim attitude, which I don’t like or share. But it does make a good point: if the relationship is hurting you, end it. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/liz-jarvis/nigella-lawson-assault_b_3457587.html

And if you know someone in an abusive relationship, don’t blame them; help them get out while they can. 


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Fabulous Stories

Can I opt for some forms of censorship and not others? 

Do I get to pick and choose?

A high school in Western Massachusetts is feeling the heat for its decision to stage a production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” a satiric play by Paul Rudnick that retells the creation story of Genesis with gay and lesbian characters. According to school officials, pressure to cancel the production is coming mainly from out-of-state religious groups who are offended by a gay and lesbian slant on the sacred text. The school argues that the play is not anti-religion and is actually a serious exploration of faith.

I don’t know the play. If it makes a mockery of the Torah, my sacred book, or of Judaism, then, as a religious person, I would be offended by it. If it delves rather than mocks, if it sincerely re-imagines the story in a gay and lesbian context, then, as a Jew, I would call it midrash: a creative retelling, an extrapolation that spins out from the original words to expand and deepen our understanding and experience of the text.

I don’t know which of these the play is. When it comes to censorship, it doesn’t matter. As a writer whose work has recently been the target of a campaign of suppression, I understand only too well that even if the play offends me, even if I might question the school’s choice of this play (would they choose to mount a satire of Islam? Of Tibetan Buddhism?) since they have chosen to mount it, I must support it.

Of course I’m not unaware of the irony: in the Valley of the Politically Correct, some of the people who will support the school and the play will probably be the very same who call for suppressing my freedom of speech. My memoir, Sex Changes, tells a very personal story about the painful experiences my children and I endured with a transgendered former husband and father. For some, that is by definition a story that must not be told. Just as, for others, a gay version of a sacred religious text is by definition an offense. 

Sometimes the fabulous stories are the ones we’d rather not hear.


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New York Times Magazine, February 3, 2013

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine published a letter and response in The Ethicist column, to which I’ve posted a comment. Here’s the link.
> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/magazine/should-i-become-a-woman-and-risk-causing-pain-to-my-wife-and-children.html?comments#permid=59

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Helen Boyd’s comments on Interview with me

Helen Boyd has posted her own commentary, and comments from others, on yesterday’s interview with me:


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An interview with me about Sex Changes

Some questions about my memoir, up today on Helen Boyd’s site:


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Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, & Censorship

Attacks on British journalists Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill have made me feel it necessary to add my voice to those who decry censorship and intimidation. I have just posted this comment on Moore’s most recent article in the UK Guardian. 

When the brave and passionate Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian that women are expected to look like Brazilian transsexuals, was there a feminist alive who didn’t understand she was referring to the pressure women feel to achieve a level of perfection not found in nature but at the end of a surgeon’s knife? When Julie Burchill, was censored by the Observer for defending her friend and raising hackles in the process, was there a feminist who felt herself served by the suppression of a woman’s voice?

I never gave much thought to censorship until – yeah – it happened to me. 

In November I published a book, Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On (St. Martin’s Press), which was extracted in the Guardian, recounting my own and my children’s experiences with a husband and father who decided in midlife he didn’t wish to be either.

When a bookstore near my home attempted to hold a publication party, a mob of my ex’s friends several dozen strong attacked the event and succeeded in getting the bookstore shut down. They said they hadn’t read my book; my ex objected to it, that was enough. Belligerent, itching for violence, they refused dialogue, going so far as to heckle and physically intimidate a friend who identified herself as a lesbian. Does this sound like political activism? Or a fascist mob? They vowed that anywhere I appeared they would set their network in motion to stop me. Presumably Moore and Burchill have been keeping them busy.

A few weeks later, I published an essay about my decision to remain living in a small town after the demise of my marriage on a parenting website. Within moments of its appearance, my ex sent out what one recipient termed a “call to arms” instructing supporters to deluge the site with hate mail and force them to remove the essay. Two days later, the website did so, with a statement sickeningly, scarily echoed by the Observer’s John Mulholland writing that his paper “prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views.” The little American website can boast something in common with a prominent British newspaper: both claimed to be forums for open discussion while ending their readers’ ability to believe it.

My ex ‘s mob gloms instantly onto anything connected to my book, conducting attacks very like those against Moore and Burchill. The explicit aim is intimidation, fear. Suppression: of a personal memoir or political discourse.

Where is the voice of feminism in this? According to Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place is hell for women who don’t help other women.” Will feminists call that place home?



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Huffington Post

An excerpt from the book, on Huffington Post:





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THE WEEK: The Best of the British and Foreign Media

An extract from Sex Changes appears in the December 8, 2012 edition of the UK magazine The Week: The Best of the British and Foreign Media, under the title “My husband left me for another woman: himself.” Available in print and iPad editions of the magazine.

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Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews September 26, 2012

A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On
Author: Benvenuto, Christine

Review Issue Date: October 15, 2012
Online Publish Date: September 30, 2012
Publisher:St. Martin’s
Pages: 304
Price ( Hardcover ): $25.99
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-312-64950-0
Category: Nonfiction

The brave, often funny account of how a woman came to terms with her husband’s decision to become female.

When Benvenuto discovered that Tracey, her husband of 20 years, wanted to live as a woman, she was shocked. Suddenly, their shared closet became filled with women’s clothes ranging from “tarty and juvenile [to] conservative and middle aged.” The author watched with a mixture of sadness, amusement and horror as her husband began shaving his body hair and taking the hormones that would cause him to lose weight and permanently complain of “fatigue, stomach ailments and dizziness.” As difficult as it was for her to see Tracey’s transformations, it was even more confusing for her two young daughters and her pre-adolescent son. Was Daddy a man, a woman or, as her toddler asked, a “guy-woman”? Friends (especially female ones), therapists and even the members of a Jewish community group to which the pair belonged all seemed to side with Tracey and his struggles. Few understood Benvenuto’s own awkward position as a “transwidow” or the fact that she was unwilling to rewrite her past life with him so that Tracey could become “she.” The author finally divorced Tracey. Even in the aftermath, however, neighbors and strangers in the hometown she calls “the Valley of the Politically Correct” still display a voyeuristic delight in inquiring whether Tracey had taken the last surgical step toward attaining womanhood. In an unexpected twist, Benvenuto found fulfillment with another man. The personal and moral complications in this book are many, but all make for thought-provoking reading.

A refreshingly gutsy narrative that offers a compelling view of sexual maturity and a sexual coming-of-age at midlife.

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