Trans Forming Families - Book Reviews
Review By: Arlene Istar Lev (Published in Trangender Tapestry, #89, Spring 2000)
Arlene Istar Lev CSW-R, CASAC is a therapist, educator and activist. She is an individual and family therapist who specializes in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered families. She can be reached at Choices Counseling and Consulting, 321 Washington Ave., Albany, NY, 12206, 518.463.9152, or firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.choicesconsulting.com
This new book is a wonderful and heartwarming collection of stories by the family members of transgendered, transsexual and intersexed people. The stories are written by men and women, mothers and fathers, siblings and spouses, grandparents and children of trans identified people. Mary Boenke is a retired social worker, but this is not a clinical book. It is however a healing book -- like warm soup on a cold day -- Mary's book serves as a kind of herbal medicine for queer families. As the mother of a transgendered son and a member of PFLAG, she understands all too well the inner journey of discovery for family members of transgendered people. She has collected a diversity of voices expressing the confusion and fears, as well as fierce advocacy and deep acceptance that is the journey of many family members. It is the first book of its kind, although I know it will not be the last.
Family members are often in great pain as Ann Samson one of the writers describes. " We came up with every alternative explanation we could think of in order not to have to deal with the unthinkable proposition that our intelligent, sensitive, highly talented firstborn son would have to spend the rest of his life coping with a condition only those who have it know much about . No one tells you that when a child turns out to be totally other than you dared assumed, it is very much like a death."
Many families come through their initial rejection and pain, to a place of welcoming and excitement for their loved ones. Ann Giles discusses her husbands gender transition and says, "Diane's transformation has provided me with an opportunity for self-examination, growth, and learning, and has deepened and improved our relationship. She is so much happier -- gender euphoric she calls it -- and that happiness is reflected in our lives. I thought I was sacrificing to make Diane a fulfilled person, but in truth I, too, have benefited greatly."
Some of the most moving stories for me were from the parents of young trans children, who are moving mountains in small town schools so their gender-bending children are assured safety and creative opportunities to grow. Lovers and spouses -- heterosexual and queer -- negotiate the shifting of their own sexual identities when partners change their gender presentation. Mary Boenke has given us a gift. Buy this book and read it. Make sure you local library has a copy, and pass it around to friends and colleagues. Share it with your trans friends -- it will give them needed hope. Let us never forget that our trans family members need us desperately. Let us do our work so we can be present for their journey as well as our own.
Review By: Nancy Nangeroni,
Host, GenderTalk radio, Former executive director, International Foundation for Gender Education
This groundbreaking work provides unprecedented insight into the diverse personal experience of families with transgender members. It will be of great value to all families dealing with transgender issues, as well as to others with an interest in learning about how families cope with such issues. It is to my knowledge the first such compilation, and without question the leading work of its kind. It will surely find a receptive and grateful community of families, friends, supporters, and service providers, and we all owe Mary Boenke a debt of gratitude for its creation.
Review By: Phyllis Randolph Frye,
Out TG activist since 1975, out TG lawyer since 1981, founder and past executive director of the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy, accepted butterfly spouse, accepted butterfly parent and former Eagle Scout while still a caterpillar.
The thirty-one different stories (plus that of the parent-editor) of Trans Forming Families -- Real Stories About Transgendered Loved Ones is one of THE, yes THE, most pro-family books I've ever read. If you know of any grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse or child who is having difficulty dealing with a transgendered family member or spouse, you would show them a great act of love by getting this book into their hands.
These are not stories written by transgenders. No, they are all stories written by the mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, spouses and children of transgenders. Now with Trans Forming Families, a book about the struggling, learning and accepting family members of the transgendered is no longer a non-existent item. Further, the inclusion of so many stories about the female to male half of our transgender community gives this book the balance that so many other books about transgenders have lacked. I cried with every story. I cried with agony as I read stories from loving people in the family positions of those who have rejected me for going on twenty-four years. And I cried with joy as I read stories from loving people in the family positions of those who have accepted me during those twenty-four years. Those family members who wrote of their own struggles to understand and then to accept and to relove again their transgendered relatives often used the caterpillar-to-butterfly metaphor. They never forgot their caterpillar relative, but they now understood, accepted and reloved the butterfly relative who they saw as being released from an long-term, inner hell. I wish to thank Mary Boenke for all of her work to bring transgenders officially within the mission of PFLAG and for compiling this very, pro- family book that will help many who are also Trans Forming Families.