Joanne Herman is the author of Transgender Explained for Those Who Are Not, an easy-to-read primer on what it means to be transgender, suitable for parents, relatives, colleagues, friends, allies and even journalists. An openly transgender woman since 2002, Joanne is active as a spokeswoman for transgender awareness and understanding as a speaker, educator and advocate. She can be reached at www.JoanneHerman.com or via Twitter: joanneherman.
Joanne is the first transgender member of the Board of Directors of Fenway Health, the largest LGBT-focused health center in the world. She is also the first transgender member of the national Board of Directors of Point Foundation, the national LGBT scholarship fund, where she is Treasurer and Co-Chair of the organization’s Finance Committee, and Joanne is the Founding Chair of the Transgender Rights Project Founders’ Circle of GLAD, the New England LGBT legal rights organization.
Planning A Transgender Wedding...My Own
Joanne Herman: Transgender advocate and author of Transgender Explained For Those Who Are Not
Posted: February 15, 2010 10:44 AM
Valentine's Day this year found me dreaming about my upcoming wedding. What's different about a transgender wedding? Nothing, if I have my way.
Terry and I will be married later this year in a combined religious and civil ceremony at Old South Church in Boston (UCC). The church has been a part of this country's history in many ways since its founding in 1669, including being one of the first to bless gay unions. Old South has never had a problem recognizing me as a woman and has always made me feel welcome.
When I met Terry, it was truly was love at first sight. She proposed to me last year and wanted to get married right away, but I responded, "I need more time!" Not because I wasn't ready to marry her, not at all. I just needed more time to learn all the stuff about weddings that I likely would be aware of by now if I had been raised a girl.
I certainly never thought about being a bride. I never read Brides Magazine nor imagined being Cinderella. When I married my late wife Barbara in 1975, I was the groom and my name was Jeff. But after figuring out later in life that I was transgender, I often found myself tearing up at the sight of wedding gowns and wishing I had had the experience.
So how could I make up for years of missed learning in a matter of months? I decided that a wedding planner would be a must. Yet, I'm a transgender woman. Could I find a wedding planner who would be comfortable with that?
My concern led me to choose Bernadette Smith, founder of 14 Stories. Bernadette bills herself as the country's first and foremost same-gender wedding planner, with good reason. When Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-gender marriage in 2004, Bernadette was ready to start assisting the happy couples.
After six years of same-gender weddings, 14 Stories has compiled an impressive roster of venues, caterers, florists, printers, bridal shops, and musicians who all see no problem with diversity. I figured that the the last thing I would want in planning my wedding would be to get lectured to by a vendor who didn't believe my marriage was proper.
Bernadette happily signed on and earned her keep almost right away. I couldn't imagine that a bridal shop would be prepared for a transgender client. Moreover, I worried that there would not be a gown suitable for me, with my narrow hips and broad shoulders. But Bernadette knew of just the right place, I immediately found several gowns I liked, and I left that day with THE gown! It's has a beautiful sweetheart neckline and an A-line skirt and... oh wait, you're not supposed to know until wedding day! I can tell you that I feel positively regal in it.
Like other weddings, the person I will be marrying will be wearing a suit -- in our case, a tux. Terry has always wanted to wear one. I'm really excited about this -- she looks great in suits.
After the church ceremony there will be the customary reception, and of course there will be dancing. I'd like Terry to lead me in the first dance, and Terry is willing, so we start dance lessons in March. I'm not only going to be a bride, I'm finally going to get the "honor" of dancing "backwards and in heels," as was once said about the late, great dancer Ginger Rogers.
My wedding party will include two bridesmaids and two groomspeople -- fairly typical. I'll have my niece and one stepdaughter-to-be as bridesmaids, and my nephew and other stepdaughter-to-be as groomspeople. Yes, one of Terry's daughters dislikes the usual feminine things. She has no desire to live as a man, but like lots of women these days and she prefers more functional and practical clothing. In a transgender wedding, it's totally fine if she wears a suit.
I'm positively tickled to have Terry's two daughters in my life. Barbara and I had thirty wonderful years together until her passing, but that life never included children of our own. I had always deferred to her on that choice since she was the only one who could have carried them. So I'm truly thrilled that Terry's daughters have completely embraced me, transgenderness and all. They have even started calling me "mom."
The only thing left that will make my wedding totally typical will be a wedding announcement. But... will The New York Times accept a wedding announcement from a transgender bride?