And That's the Way It Is!

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #103, Fall 2003.

by Monica F. Helms

A dark and dismal Phoenix apartment sits empty, waiting for its one lone occupant to return. Enter one Monica Helms, a broken shell of a transsexual woman, eking out a meager existence in a life of endless solitude and anonymity. Little did she know, as she put her groceries away, that her life would soon change. The concept of change is not unfamiliar to a transsexual. However, the kind of change Monica will experience can only be found in? the Twilight Zone.? (Insert theme music here.)
Monica placed the last can of baked beans on the shelf. ?My life is so dull and boring,? she sighed. ?Just once, I wish I could have a little excitement.?
The telephone rang. Monica answered. ?Hello??

?Monica! Thank God, you?re home! This is Amanda.?

?Oh. Hi.?

?You gotta help me, Monica! I called fifty people here in the Phoenix area, and you?re the only person at home.?

?I?m always at home. What?s the problem??

?We?re been given a chance to do some lobbying in D.C., and I need a second person to come with me.?


?No ?buts,? Monica. We have the money, so pack your stuff and let?s get going.?

?I?ve never lobbied before.?

?You?ll be fine. I?ll be there with you.?

?I guess. If you say so.?

?I do. Now start packing. I?ll be there in
thirty minutes.?

After a successful trip to Capital Hill, talking with Arizona representatives and senators, Monica returned once again to the loneliness of her
apartment. No sooner had she put away her clothes than the phone rang.


?Monica, this is Greg at the Center. We need your help.?

?I?ll be right over.? Monica felt tired.

For more than a year, Monica worked on various issues in the community until one day, she had had enough.

?I have to get out of here!? Looking around, she shouted, ?I know! I?ll move to Georgia. Nothing?s going on there.?

One month later, Monica moved into her new apartment in Marietta, Georgia. As she placed the last can of baked beans on the shelf, the phone rang.


?Monica? This is A.C. You gotta come to Washington for lobby days.?

?But I already lobbied once before.?

?That was when you lived in Arizona. You?re in Georgia, now. Get yer butt to D.C. on the

?Oh, all right,? Monica replied, in a dejected tone of voice.

Once again, Monica found herself wandering the halls of Congress, lobbying for her rights, this time with Georgia representatives and senators. As soon as she returned from Washington, her phone rang and she was asked to help in all kinds of local issues. She did workshops and panels and spoke to university classes, senators and representatives, civic leaders, law enforcement officials, and homeless shelters, and became involved in groups both local and national. The internationally known magazine mogul, Dallas Denny, asked her to write a column for IFGE?s magazine. Monica found it hard to sleep. She had little money and little time of her own.

Then one day, Monica received a call from Yvonne of the International Foundation for Gender Education. ?Come to Philadelphia. We have something for you.?

In Philadelphia, a crowd of people gathered in a large room to see Board Chair Julie Ann Johnson hand Monica a beautiful statue called the Trinity. Julie then said, ?When you go home, put this on your mantel, then get yer butt back to work! You think you can rest now? HA!?

?What have I gotten myself into?? Monica mumbled. Sure enough, as soon as Monica arrived back home from Philadelphia, the phone rang off the hook with calls from people asking her to get involved. ?When will this end!? she screamed. She slumped over onto the couch. ?When will this end?? she whispered. ?When will this ever end??

Stretching out on her couch, Monica fell into a deep sleep. In her dream, she wore ruby red shoes and muttered, ?There?s no place like home. There?s no place like home.? Upon awakening, she noticed that her apartment somehow looked familiar, but couldn?t get her bearings at first. Then it hit her. She was in her apartment in Phoenix. The calendar read ?January 10, 1998.?

?It was only a dream. But it was so real!? Then, she thought of all the good times she had had, all the good things she had done, and all the wonderful people she had met. She began to cry. ?Damn, it was only a dream.?

Once again, Monica Helms found herself alone and forgotten in her dark apartment. Was it a dream, or a wish that came true? The walls closed in like a prison, keeping her mind from returning to that dream. There?s an old saying that goes, ?Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.? Of course, wishes and dreams will always have a stark edge of reality to them?when they happen in the Twilight Zone. (Again, insert theme music.)

NGLTF Changes ED in a New York Minute

One could almost feel the blood vessels pounding on the temples of transgendered people across the country when the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced the name of its new Executive Director?Matt Foreman, the Director of the notorious Empire State Pride Agenda. Matt would take the NGLTF helm in May.
For three decades, ESPA fought to get the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act passed by the New York legislators, and for three decades, it fought to keep transgendered people out of the law. With Foreman as Executive Director of ESPA, New York finally passed a nontransinclusive SONDA on December 17, 2002. In an interview with Roslyn Manley in the May issue of Orange County & Long Beach Blade, Foreman stated, ?The month preceding the SONDA vote was the most painful month of my life.?

Transgendered people felt concern that by selecting Foreman as their new Executive Director, NGLTF was weakening its resolve to include transgender issues in their mission. But after various interviews and statements made by Foreman and others at NGLTF, these concerns evaporated. Foreman not only pointed out that NGLTF is a far different organization then ESPA, but he vowed to continue the Transgender Civil Rights Project and to let Lisa Mottet, the Project?s lawyer, continue to devote all of her time to transgender issues.

After so many years of being excluded from SONDA, most of the New York transgender
community didn?t like hearing that Matt Foreman would head NGLTF. The rest of the country is taking a ?wait and see? attitude to his appointment. Can NGLTF take the man out of ESPA, while taking the ESPA out of the man?

Jay?s ?Joke? Jacks Jaws

Late-night talk shows exist to give people a chance to laugh just before they go to sleep, or to have some background activity while they have a little ?foreground? activity. The monologues of Leno and Letterman have covered many of the important issues of our day. But the laughter stopped for the transgender community on March 31, 2003, when Jay Leno said, ?The California General Assembly has awarded a man who had a sex change as its Woman of the Year. When he accepted the award, he said there was a part of him that
didn?t want to accept it?but that?s gone now. That?s gone now.? Jay?s ?joke? referred to Theresa Sparks, the transsexual woman member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, who was indeed named ?Woman of the Year?

by the California General Assembly. Over the next 72 hours, angry transsexuals and other transgendered people made calls to ?The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,? NBC headquarters, and the headquarters of NBC?s parent company, General Electric. E-mails were also sent to these locations?with little if any response. NTAC even put out a press release admonishing NBC for what had been said, again with little or no response.
One woman I spoke to at ?The Tonight Show? had a hard time understanding why we had a problem with the joke. Even after 30 minutes on the phone with her, I didn?t feel she understood. I finally explained that for most transsexuals, using improper pronouns was like using the ?N? word to African-Americans. The woman seemed to understand that analogy.

Since the beginning of the year, the transgender community has been the target of abuse in the media, especially on shows like Fox?s ?O?Reilly Factor? and MSNBC?s ?Michael Savage Show.? We expect these attacks from right-wing conservatives. However, it felt painful being blindsided by a bad joke in a Jay Leno monologue.

It took African-Americans decades to make white America understand how hurtful the ?N? word is to them, and they had more people to deliver the message. The transgender community may have to wait until the 22nd Century before non-trans people finally get the message about improper pronouns. Maybe, by then, society will do away with the binary-gender construct. In the meantime, let?s not forget to always respond to people like Jay Leno when they make a mistake with pronouns.

Mike Bailey, Won?t You Please Go Home!

I have to tell you, I?ve not seen so much Internet list traffic dedicated to one subject as I have to the new book titled The Man Who Would Be Queen, by J. Michael Bailey. I have to admit I?ve only read a small part of it, so I won?t comment on the contents. However, I will comment on the flap this book has caused.
The basis of the problem transsexuals have with Bailey?s book stems from the fact that he places all male-to-female transsexuals into just two categories. One
category he labels ?Homosexual Transsexuals,? who, he says,
are those transsexuals who
transition at a young age, and ?Autogynephilic Transsexuals,? who transition at an older age.
To me, trying to place all MTF transsexuals into just two boxes
is like trying to cram twenty
monkeys into a container that only holds two. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot get them all to stay in. If any of us don?t fit his narrow definitions, then does that invalidate our existence? This and many other questions have come up on the lists.

I found it interesting to see how many people on the various lists commented on the contents of this book without having read it. Those who did read it came back with intelligent responses, some even supporting Bailey. Dr. Ann Lawrence wrote a positive review of the book, but keep in mind, she also feels that autogynephilia is endemic to MTF transsexualism.

One of the strongest criticisms of Bailey?s book came from Lynn Conway, a former electronic engineer for IBM. She dedicated several pages on her website to TMWWBQ, pointing out the problems this book will cause and the inaccuracies she felt it contained. She felt that since TMWWBQ was printed by Joseph Henry Press?an academic publisher?it would lend intellectual validity to the false information Bailey presents. Some activists who have read the book pointed out that the inaccuracies could actually hurt the transgender movement. Others see it as just another book that only a few right-wingers will take seriously, assuming they even read it.

I may one day finish reading Bailey?s book?or I may not. One must judge it on one?s own. But please, read it before commenting on its contents. In activism, one learns quickly to have all the facts before picking up the sword. I know, because I?ve fallen on my sword more times then I can count. It hurts each time I do it.

Made In Japan

In late April, 2003, 35-year-old Aya Kamikawa became the first transsexual elected official in Japan?s history when she won a seat in the Setagaya Ward Assembly. With no party support, Kamikawa came in sixth out of the 72 candidates battling for 52 seats in the assembly. Kamikawa, a writer, says she would like to work on discrimination issues when she begins her term. Hearing that a transsexual has been elected to any political office in the world makes me smile.

There have been transsexuals elected to various public offices here in the U.S., but currently, we know of no elected officials. This doesn?t mean there are no elected transgendered officials. There are probably hundreds of crossdressers serving in public office today?but none would ever reveal it publicly. There have been speculations about some elected officials, especially former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, who appeared in public dressed en femme a few times. And even though J. Edgar Hoover wasn?t an elected official, his closet contained an abundant number of plus-size dresses.

In one episode of ?The West Wing,? the press secretary rattled off a number of statistics, one being, ?one in forty men wears women?s clothes.? Of course, none of us can say whether that statistic is true, but it makes for an interesting topic of conversation. If the statistic is true, then odds are at least ten male members of Congress are crossdressers. With our luck, they?ll all turn out to be ultra-conservative Republicans who scream, ?Men in dresses! Men in dresses!? whenever a bill comes up that includes sexual orientation.

We need to get more transsexuals elected to public office. That?s easier said than done. There have been candidates recently, but, sadly, no wins. I can?t wait for the day when an out transsexual is elected to Congress. That person could form the first Congressional Transgender Caucus. Maybe, just maybe, those ten crossdressing Congressmen will have the guts to join.
I?d like to visit Japan one of these days to visit Aya Kamikawa. Maybe, I?ll go to New Zealand and visit Member of Parliament Georgina Beyer while I?m at it.

Monica Helms is a prolific writer and an even more prolific activist. She resides in Atlanta Georgia in a sub-basement in the infamous Tapestry Towers. She is the first and only transsexual member of the United States Submarines Veterans. Her transgender pride flag was profiled in Transgender Tapestry #90.
Monica can be reached via
e-mail at: