Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall are co-authors and co-conspirators of the groundbreaking new book Queerly Beloved, an unusual love story about a beautiful long-term relationship that survives and thrives after one partner transitions from female to male.
Robin: Congratulations on the new book! I hear it’s generating quite a buzz out there! In Diane’s Epochalips interview from a couple of years ago, she described the upcoming book as “how we went from two little 22 year old baby dykes in love in Idaho to a mixed gender couple in Los Angeles and what transpired in between and how it relates to the lesbian world we’ve thrived in.” Is that still accurate?
Jacob: Not really. We wrote that story, but our editor felt readers would be most interested in how our relationship survived my gender transition.
Diane: Technically, it’s how we went from a lesbian couple to a husband and wife and our connection to lesbian culture (since I’m a professional lesbian). But, when we got the first edits back our editor sent a note that said, “You’ve got a really great start here, but what I need you to do is cut out the first 23 chapters.” Instantly, 23 chapters—and maybe 60,000 words—were cut from the manuscript; eliminating about the first 16 years of our marriage.
Jacob: Which was funny because we felt the answer to how our relationship survived was in those first 16 years. Queerly Beloved starts maybe six months before I come out as trans.
Robin: Sorry, I need to ask the question that is probably top of mind for most people: How can you be married to a man and still be a lesbian?
Diane: When people ask me that, I used to retort: “Is your identity tied to your partner’s genitals?”
Jacob: Ultimately, it’s not our place to identify someone else as gay, straight, bi, or queer. It’s completely up to them to decide and verbalize what their sexual orientation is.
Diane: But I think Robin has a valid point and I do think my identity has changed through this experience. I think I will always be politically and culturally aligned with lesbians but now I often say I’m either a bisexual-identified lesbian or lesbian-identified bisexual. But really, both of us identify as queer. We’re in love, we’re monogamous, but we’re queer. Did I lose my lesbian cred the minute he transitioned even though I’d been exclusively with women since I was 18, and have been working professionally for lesbian publications for 24 years? We certainly feared Jacob coming out, as trans might impact my career. He even offered to stay closeted or use a pen name so it wouldn’t. We met with both my publisher at Curve, Frances Stevens, and our book publisher, Len Barot, at Bold Strokes Books, and were sort of amazed by their responses. Bold Strokes had yet to publish our first book and at they had never :published a man before but Len insisted we use our real names. She had faith that her readers would still buy and read our books (and they certainly did). Meanwhile Frances (Franco is what we all call her) had the best line, she said, “There’s nobody in this country better qualified to run this magazine.” Her support was really amazing because it set the standard for how my colleagues should and would treat me. And I repeated that phrase often any time I was challenged.
Robin: One of my goals in creating Epochalips is to educate our community. I’m appalled at the rampant ignorance around transgender stereotypes. Has the lesbian community’s perception of you as a couple changed after the gender shift in your relationship?
Diane: Sometimes we are invisible in the LGBT community now. We’ve been in lesbian spaces and it’s clear that some women are wondering what we’re doing there.
Jacob: It forces us to come out on sometimes a daily basis. Which can be painful at times. Because being out as a trans person means constantly undermining the very thing you’ve been yearning for your whole life–to be seen as the man or woman you know yourself to be.
Diane: But overall lesbians have been remarkably accepting. Of course becoming a man meant Jake could no longer go with me to women-only events, and that was sad for me. When I had a wife we could do everything together; now we’ve realized how many spaces (in the LGBT and mainstream worlds alike) are sex segregated. I’m alone much more now. But we also recognize women’s space is important and we can’t bring Jacob along to those places (trans women, however should totally be allowed in those spaces). We have, however continued to go on Olivia vacations at their specific invitation and we’ve been welcomed by the women on board. We were on the anniversary cruise with all these legendary performers like Cris Williamson and in the audience listening and Jacob turned to me and said, “This is our history. This is amazing.” And it was.
Robin: Tell us why this is a must read and why its so important to get your story out there.
Jacob: When I started transitioning Diane and I read and watched about every trans story out there. And nearly every one of them ended the same way—with the trans person alone. It was important to us to share our story so other couples would know it is possible to survive transition with your relationship intact.
Diane: But I think the reason it is getting such good reviews is because Queerly Beloved is ultimately a love story that makes people think about what their own relationships can survive. It’s really the story of a relationship, warts and all (because we try to be brutally honest with it) that has endured 23 years so far.
Jacob: We also share stories about queer publishing, trying to have kids, and foster parenting. And our experience raises questions about gender, sexuality and identity. What’s been amazing is how many people come up to us now, most of them who appear to be butch lesbians, who say, “I think I’m really trans, but I’m afraid to tell my partner.” We’ve become relationship coaches by accident.
Diane: That’s been really rewarding, actually. We hear from all sorts of LGBT mixed couples now. We’re thinking of officially doing some private relationship coaching in our spare time, because there’ve been so many inquiries.
Robin: I met you both (Jake was then Suzy) back in the mid-1990’s when we all worked together on Girlfriend’s Magazine. Suzy was quite cute, but I have to say, Jake is a VERY hot boy. Does the book describe the evolution of your sex life?
Diane: [Laughing] He did become a hottie.
Jacob: While Diane is always eager to talk about our sex life I’m a little shyer and as a trans person, I get weary of people’s interest in my genitals and how I have sex or go to the bathroom. I write about this in the book and we share what we’re comfortable with. One thing Diane does talk about is how when I first transitioned she worried about treating me “like a man” in bed.
Diane: Yeah, for a while I avoided oral sex because I so identified it as “hot lesbian sex.” I don’t know why, we’d always been adventurous in bed, so I should have understood that sex is sex. But I so ID’d it that way that I avoided it at first, in favor of other positions, shall we say, until Jacob was like, “it’s not lesbian sex or boy-girl sex, it’s just sex.” And I realized, oh, duh, of course. Going down on me doesn’t invalidate his manhood. It just makes me orgasm.
Robin: Where can we buy the book and is there anything else you’d like to add?
Jacob: Queerly Beloved is available on Amazon and in bookstores—
Diane: And we’re thrilled wherever you buy it (instead of downloading it for free or ignoring it altogether).
Jacob: But we encourage those who can to instead buy via the lesbian-owned Bold Strokes Books which sells it via paperback or ebook, or directly through us via Square if you’d like it autographed. Those options put more money in queer pockets instead of Amazon’s and that’s important.
Jacob: Queerly Beloved–the story of how my co-conspirator, Diane, and I survived a transition from lesbian couple to husband and wife–is available now.