If you haven't read the recent critical post about me, the following will make no sense to you. If you have, please know that every story has two sides. Please read both sides and decide what feels right.
Nearly 20 years after Leslie left home, I initiated contact. For about two decades, we had what I felt was a loving relationship. Leslie and Minnie Bruce and I met in San Diego and enjoyed a trip to Tijuana, Mexico. We met here in my home town and drove up the coast to San Francisco together. I visited them in New York, and stayed in their apartment for several days.
A year ago September I flew to Syracuse to celebrate Leslie’s 60th birthday.
I have many pictures of us together, smiling happily, our arms around each other.
I had long ago written Jumpstart the World. At the time I wrote the book, I was welcome in Leslie’s home.
I also sent Leslie the manuscript of Jumpstart the World quite a long time before it was published. I was given no feedback. I don’t know if or when it was read.
But I do know this:
The book has nothing to do with Leslie, or with Leslie’s life or experience. The only connection is that my upbringing caused me to care. That’s all. I developed an interest in transgender acceptance while growing up.
In interviews for the blog tour, everybody asked the same question. Why did you write about a transgender character? I said it was because I grew up with a transgender sibling and have a good current friend who is transgender. But I didn’t say who. I didn’t state names. I just said “sibling.” Anonymous. Because by then, things had changed.
At Leslie’s birthday, I noted that I was writing a book about Rwanda. Leslie was horrified, and challenged my right to do so, and my motivations for doing so. I attempted to defend myself for about 20 minutes (usually a bad idea, but I was caught off guard), then we went to the party.
The following day, Leslie and Minnie Bruce drove me to the airport, suggesting I come for a future visit.
The day after that, I sent Leslie one more email. Not to argue about the Rwanda book. Just to clear the air. To say that in some ways, though difficult, our disagreement had helped me, because I had decided to write my Rwanda book through the point of view of an American teen. But I also said something I’ve never said to Leslie before. That I, too, have a right to my views. That I am not a communist, and, though I am very liberal, my political views are not the same as Leslie’s. I thought that went without saying. I thought we both knew that about each other, and accepted each other’s differences. I guess I was wrong.
Leslie emailed back and expressed the desire to have no more communication from me. I have respected that request 100%.
A few weeks ago, Leslie sent me a message saying that I must immediately stop making any reference to a transgender sibling, even anonymously.
To keep peace, I refrained from any further reference to a transgender sibling.
And Leslie did this anyway.
I am not hostile toward Leslie, and I have no axe to grind. I have always loved Leslie, and was hurt by the rejection. But not hostile.
Did I make mistakes in my descriptions of transgender individuals? Maybe. But I will say this. I gave the manuscript to both Leslie and my good friend Doug, and asked for feedback. Doug thought it was fine. Leslie did not respond. Until now.
I apologize for saying transgender is “a type of birth defect,” not because I didn’t mean it the right way, but because I should have known how easily it could be misinterpreted. It’s actually something I heard a transgender person say, and I may have quoted it badly. What I intended to say is that a person like Frank, who wants to transition into being male, feels his body is in error, not his inner self. It’s the fact that he was born female that’s the “defect,” not the person.
If I’ve made any other mistakes, I apologize, and would hope to correct them.
But my book is not in any way based on Leslie, Frank is not Leslie, is not intended to be Leslie, shares no personality traits with Leslie, period. The only connection is that my experience, yes, MY experience, growing up, caused me to want to write a book that furthers transgender acceptance.
Also, I’d like to mention that I’m gay, part of the LGBT community, I have a good current friend, as I mentioned, who is transgender, and I’ve been involved in the local support group Tranz Central Coast. I did say “this is totally my story to tell.” But the rest of that quote was taken out of context, combined with something Leslie paraphrased. The quote was “'Being someone who loves and supports a person in my life who is transgender is totally my story to tell,' said Hyde, who grew up with a transgender sibling and counts a local transgender man among her closest friends.” (San Luis Obispo Tribune, Nov 8, 2010) It’s not because I’m Leslie’s sister. It’s because I love and support a person in my life who is transgender. Present tense. This is my friend Doug. That's why I told the story from the POV of someone who moves from a lack of understanding to loving and accepting a person in her life who is transgender. Because that I know first-hand.
I thought this book was a good step in the direction of transgender understanding. Leslie has a right to disagree. Many others already agree with me. I hope others will decide for themselves.
And by the way, Leslie, every single “bigotry” that I related to you from our family past is misstated in your post. However, I did defend you. Vehemently. And would still, today.
A note about comments. I welcome differing points of view. But comments I consider abusive toward me will be deleted. Also comments I consider abusive toward Leslie will be deleted. Civil discussion welcome.