A heterosexual couple with a twist

Nicole Capozziello

Lecturer in Gender Studies and author Helen Boyd delivered a talk and reading Monday, Feb. 18 to a hall jam-packed with students, faculty, and people from all over the area.
Following a reception in the Science Hall atrium, Associate Professor of Physics Megan Pickett introduced Boyd and her partner Betty Crow. Boyd and Crow took the stage at 7 p.m. and, over the next hour and a half, delighted and enlightened the crowd with their talk titled “Transgender Couples, Queer Heterosexuals, and Marriage Rights.”
The two met in New York City and one month into dating, Betty, then presenting as a man, told Boyd she occasionally liked to dress as a woman. Boyd and Crow, then an off-Broadway actor, began to go out together in drag sometimes.
As members of the artistic community living in New York, it was a fun thing to do — one that neither thought that much of at the beginning.
One night, on their way back from dinner out, Helen looked at her partner, then dressed as a woman, and realized how natural it seemed. It was at that time, which they now call the “Mexican Restaurant Moment,” that Betty’s transition became a reality.
The couple was married in 2001 in the state of New York. They were married as a man and a woman, or as they put it, “A heterosexual couple with a twist,” but their submission to the institution of marriage was still an issue.
Queer friends criticized them for partaking in a corrupt institution that they couldn’t be part of. In the end though, they wanted the legal rights allowed through marriage and the chance to bring their family and friends together in celebration.
When Crow began to transition, Boyd had questions of her own about the ease of gender transition and couples like them “making it.” However, in the world of transgender literature and information, Boyd found almost no accounts of couples surviving a transition together and even fewer from the perspective of the partner.
Boyd began asking questions and doing a lot of research before writing her first book, which was published in 2003.
“I wrote ‘My Husband Betty’ to give couples like us more information,” said Boyd.
In the time following the publication of ‘My Husband Betty.’ Crow was living more as a female than a male. It was this experience that convinced Crow that she wanted to live as Betty full-time.
During her transition, Crow always made a point to keep everything in context: “After transitioning, a lot of people find that they’ve isolated themselves from their friends and family, lost their job. They find themselves in the middle of wreckage and realize they were the bomb.”
From the beginning, Crow made a point of transitioning as slowly as she could so her loved ones, particularly Boyd, could keep up with her. Both developed the philosophy of presenting themselves and being seen as a person first and above all else, as so much of what makes up our personalities is not gendered.
Crow’s transition did, of course, have its complications. Boyd, who had always considered herself heterosexual, found Crow’s transition harder for herself than she had anticipated. When in public, the two went from being a socially acceptable heterosexual couple to being perceived as a lesbian couple, a change that Boyd admitted took a while to adjust to.
Crow began transitioning socially a few years ago and since that time have spoken together at conferences and given book readings all over the U.S. Boyd wrote a second book titled “She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband,” published in 2007, which she read from during her talk.
They will be celebrating their tenth anniversary this April.
When asked where they see themselves in 30 years, neither knows except that they hope to be there together.
For more information, check out Helen’s blog at myhusbandbetty.com or her Web site helenboydbooks.com, where you can also buy “My Husband Betty” and “She’s Not the Man I Married.