Censored by Trans Activists: Staying in the Same Town as My Ex – by Christine Benvenuto
December 6, 2012
The following essay was posted on the Jewish parenting site Kveller on Dec 3 2012. Within hours, the author’s ex-husband apparently started a campaign on Facebook to bully the author, and the website, into removing her writing. The essay is a holiday time reflection from a woman sharing her thoughts and feelings about remaining in the same small town as her ex-husband and some of the challenges this presents for her. Nothing in the piece is particularly critical of her ex. It is more of a personal reflection of some of her thoughts and experiences.
Nonetheless, within hours, her ex-husband was able to mobilize hundreds of people to complain about the publishing of his ex-wife’s writing.
On what basis?
Her ex-husband is a powerful man. He is a tenured college professor at Yeshiva University, and an author. He has a lot of friends. But more importantly, he is a transgender male who believes a woman never has the right to publicly share her thoughts and feelings about life after divorce if the man she was married to is transgender. Apparently HE is allowed to write and publish and do book readings on the topic of his life changes, but SHE is not.
You can read the hundreds of nasty comments left by his friends, and transgender activists – including Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland calling for censorship of this author. But you will have to read them via Google Cache HERE (before it expires) because, unbelievably, her ex-husband was successful in having her essay pulled from the site after a two-day campaign.
Was there something objectionable about the piece? Was it a personal attack against her ex-husband? Did it contain “dirty laundry”? Was it libelous? Was it discriminatory against transgender people? No. Her husband’s censorship campaign rested on the fact that she referred in her essay to her husband of twenty years with the pronoun “He” and “him”, because she had been married to A MAN.
Do you find it hard to believe that an ex-husband could so effectively censor and harass his ex-wife?
Not only is Joy Ladin harassing his ex-wife online but last week his friends prevented her from doing a local book reading by reportedly showing up and shouting profanity and threatening violence until the police had to be called. You can read about that HERE.
So. It’s time to make up your own mind. Did Christine Benvenuto write an essay that warranted censorship, or is her ex-husband Joy Ladin conducting a vicious campaign of harassment against her with the intent of destroying her ability to continue making a living as a writer?
Brought to you by GenderTrender: the site where readers get to make up their OWN minds:
The following is a re-print of the censored article, followed by a copy of the Kveller website’s censorship notice. Reprinted unedited under Fair Use.
Dec 3 2012
By Christine Benvenuto at 9:54 am
Recently, one of my children was referred to a new doctor. Somewhat unusually, my ex came along to the appointment.
The doctor entered the room where we sat waiting, introduced herself, and greeted my child. I introduced myself as my child’s mother. “And who are you?” the doctor asked my ex. “I’m the other parent,” my ex replied stiffly. “The other parent,” the doctor echoed, laughing and nodding. I could see her assessing the situation, making the obvious assumption about our family composition: I had given birth to my child. Her “other parent” was my former lesbian partner. Half right. Sketching in our child’s medical profile the doctor asked some questions about her brother and sister, and we provided the necessary information.
“But do they have the same father?” the doctor inquired. What she meant but didn’t say was, “Do they have the same sperm donor?”
“Yes,” we said in unison. What we meant but didn’t say was, “Yes, and you are looking at him.”
A funny thing happened on the way to my becoming a single mom.
My husband and I got together in our teens. More than 20 years and three children later, he decided to live the rest of his life as a woman. Our marriage melted along with his masculinity. I went through the anguish any woman might over the unexpected demise of a long and happy marriage. I faced the usual potpourri of dread–of penury, isolation–when I contemplated raising three children alone, the youngest still in diapers. Worse, I felt crushed by a sense that the reason for my marriage’s demise said something so terrible about me it would be intolerable to remain in a place in which it was public knowledge. Exactly what it said, I wasn’t sure. Maybe that was part of what made it so awful.
Everything was changing. I thought that where my children and I lived would have to change right along with it. But I love where I live. More importantly, my children are fiercely attached to it. They like that when my friends spot them in town without me, they want to know who they are with and what they are up to. They like knowing the trees that are tapped for our syrup and the chickens providing our eggs. They like noticing the way the flocks of turkeys who usually tie up traffic on our roads seem to go into hiding just before Thanksgiving each year only to reappear when it’s safely over.
Still. Weren’t we fighting a losing battle, hanging onto a place just because it was where we had once been happy? I couldn’t go, but how could I stay?
Finally someone offered the most profound insight into my situation I have heard to date, uttering the words that set me free from this stalemate: “You aren’t the first woman to marry a jerk, and you won’t be the last.”
She was saying I had nothing to be ashamed of. My ex’s choices didn’t reflect badly on me. When a guy dumps a wife and young children for another woman, people–the wife in question, certainly–are more likely to think, “What a jerk!” than, “What a hero!” Why should it be any different just because the other woman is the guy?
I’ve stayed–so far. As long I remain I can’t ever get entirely away from my past, but then maybe I don’t want to. It’s mine, after all. Everything my eyes rest on, every Fall Foliage banner, every coffee shop and playground, recalls some moment of my children’s lives, some treasure I never want to lose. I was happy before. I’m happy now. I’ve made a new life without leaving. Astoundingly, I’ve moved on without leaving home.
On the other hand, I also can’t get entirely away from my ex’s presence. There’s no upside to that one. I can’t know when, not if but when, my ex will pop up somewhere or sometime I least expect him.
Last December I was behind the wheel of a pickup truck, a little before 9 in the morning, after delivering my children to their schools. I was headed downhill on a narrow winding road, a horse pasture on the other side of the fence on my left. There is an entrance to the pasture at the bottom of the hill but few vehicles stop there. I was expecting a 40 mile an hour shot down the hill, through the tiny town center and up another hill to where I live, what National Public Radio calls my local member station muttering sedately at the outskirts of my attention all the while. Then two things happened.
My former husband was in the truck. That is, his voice was in the truck. His odd, grown-male-straining-for-the-uppermost-register-of-his-voice voice. Saying his name. Saying, “What the holidays mean to me is–.”
I reached the knob in time to spare myself anything further. I didn’t learn what the holidays mean to my ex. Presumably not celebrating with his family. Not the intention, unfulfilled yearly, to make it to the lighting of the town menorah. Not the intention, always fulfilled, to light every menorah we own at least one night of Hanukkah. Not the turns around a frozen pond in skates bought long ago for other feet. Not New Year’s Eve in front of the fire, at least one child struggling to remain head up and eyes open. Not these things he isn’t around for.
The radio station was engaged in a December campaign, trite but previously benign, of playing the voices of area residents saying Feliz Navidad or Happy Solstice. I was engaged in a December campaign of tuning them out. Why my former husband? How did they choose him? In their efforts to be inclusive did they feel that merely by airing his voice, regardless of what he said, they could have a demographic covered? I couldn’t think about it right then. I was too busy stomping on the brake, trying not to rear-end the truck in front of me that had, in the split second I was devoting to my radio knob, stopped at the pasture gate. I just made it.
Usually the omnipresence of Bing Crosby and the Chipmunks is enough reason to avoid the radio this time of year. Now I had another. In subsequent days I had several opportunities to lunge for the dial. Friends caught the spot and shared their unique takes on it. “My husband said he heard your ex on the radio advertising himself,” one reported. “Why would he be advertising himself?” she wondered. “My husband said whatever the reason was, if he gets any money out of it he hopes he will give some of it to his family.”
So yes, my ex recurs like Christmas carols. But I don’t have to let him drown out the rest of my life. I knew the holidays would soon be over, and the echoes of his voice along with them.
The following is the notice of censorship published by the Kveller website:
Dec 5 2012
By Kveller at 12:07 pm
Kveller has always prided itself on being a place where people can discuss the most challenging parts of life and parenting—infertility, death, and yes, divorce.
We have seen how much support, encouragement, and affirmation people feel when their voices are heard and their deepest disappointments and difficulties are shared and discussed.
The honesty and courage of our writers are what have made Kveller such a compelling and valuable website.
At the same time, the social utility of our articles is something we take seriously. We want Kveller to help people feel more confident, more secure, more understood. Unfortunately, our decision to publish “Staying in the Same Town as My Ex” in the form that it was in has undermined that effort, and thus we have decided to remove it from the website.
When it comes to issues that impact a historically (and currently) persecuted community it is our responsibility as editors to be extra sensitive to the exact language being used. Kveller and its parent organization MyJewishLearning are committed to honoring the identities and life experience of all people, including transgender people. We do not believe that this article was meant to be transphobic, but we do believe that our failures in the editing process created an article that could be read that way, which is not good for the writer, Kveller, and most importantly, the LGBT community, which Kveller and MyJewishLearning are dedicated to supporting and working with to create a more inclusive Jewish community.