What happens when a husband decides to become a wife? It depends where you live, according to a really interesting story in the New York Times.
Improbably, Tina Kelley’s story from New Millford, New Jersey reminds me of a vortex of confusion that engulfed me in Jakarta, early in our research into transgender sex workers. In a story about two women who have been married since one of them was a man, Tina writes about the impossible confusion of laws relating to same-sex marriage and sex changes in the U.S.
Lawyers for Christie Lee Littleton, a Texas male-to-female transsexual suing her husband’s doctors for wrongful death, noted the confused landscape: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”
When we were training researchers for a study of transgender sex workers, or waria, in Jakarta, I was explaining questions about sexual partnerships. It’s a wee bit complicated, because most waria are transgender (they live as women) but not transsexual (they still have all their male tackle). This obviously racks up the sexual possibilities. “Ok, Section E is about sex with another waria who is paying you,” I intoned. Resty, one of the waria on the study team (pictured below), raised her hand. “What if you’re getting paid, but not by the other waria?” Patiently, I explained that we’d already covered payment by male clients in section C. Impatiently, Resty corrected me. “I know that. But I mean, what if a client pays me to have lesbian sex with another waria?”
So now we have a straight guy who is paying two people with penises and XY chromosomes to pretend they are women having lesbian sex. Isn’t the world a wonderfully varied place?