Memoir Tells Two Sides of Transition

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders, by Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall


Published:

 For the past several years, I’ve been waiting for a memoir like "Queerly Beloved: a Love Story Across Genders" by Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, to appear. As far as I know, this is the first memoir written by a (formally) lesbian couple where one member of the couple transitions from female to male and stays together.

With trans visibility reaching an all time high, and many women who’ve previously identified (or still identifying) as lesbian now dating trans men, it’s past time for such a book to appear. There’s been a severe paucity in writing that reflects on the experiences of couples, especially when one member is trans and the other cis-gender, or when one partner transitions in a long-term, committed relationship. While some say “love is love”, or believe gender shouldn’t matter, transition is a major life event, bringing major changes. So while a person’s essence may stay constant through a gender transition, hormones do change a person: physically, emotionally, chemically, sexually, relationally and even spiritually. So how might one partner’s decision to transition affect a lesbian couple who’ve already been together for more than 15 years?

It’s a fascinating question, and not one that’s been previously, and so publicly, explored. There have been a few books which have crept around the edges of this topic, including individual memoirs by trans men, and pivotal books such as Helen Boyd’s "She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband".  But what makes Queerly Beloved so groundbreaking is not only that it features both the voices of Diane and Jacob throughout, in separately and linked sections, but their bravery, as a well known queer couple, to write so honestly about this journey.

Writing about your relationship so publicly is a gamble, and not something most writers, including myself, have been willing to do. You need to have an extremely strong ego (probably bordering on narcissism) to share your most personal and private struggles in print. You’d probably also better be interesting and well known enough to ensure people care enough to read your story. Given Diane and Jacob’s extensive history as LGBT writers and community figures, this was luckily already a given. They have co-authored many books together, were the founders of Girlfriends magazine, and Diane worked as Curve’s editor for many years before becoming Editor at Large of the Advocate. Jacob also penned a long-standing column called TransNation, which was syndicated in national LGBT newspapers and is a prolific freelance writer. As a queer power couple, they were the right people for the job!

What makes this book so special, and what will make it most useful for many readers, are the moments of deep contemplation and insight of the writers. My copy has many dog-eared pages, not for the quality of writing per se, but because of the relatibility of its expressed sentiments. A few topics I found especially interesting in Queerly Beloved: both partners attempting to come to terms with their new unknown “identity” as a previously lesbian couple, how grief and loss play out in even the most supportive couples, Diane’s fears that Jacob’s transition would negatively impact her career as a public lesbian and Curve editor, and Jacob’s exploration of the “double standard” of why trans men often prefer to date gay men or heterosexual women rather than lesbians. Discussions of foster parenting and their shared love of The Simpsons don’t fare as well as story fodder, but do allow readers to see the authors as an authentic, well rounded couple, not just the “subjects” in a story about transition.

I’m hopeful that more couples will step forward soon and publicly explore how a partner’s gender transition has impacted their relationship. While this area of literature is still in its infancy, Diane and Jacob’s memoir will be remembered as an important early submission in an emerging field.

 

Rachel Pepper, MA, MFT Intern

Author of Transitions of the Heart (Cleis Press 2012)

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