Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Brian Belovitch

Episode 64

A conversation with Brian Belovitch


59 min. Recorded on 26 September 2021. 

Brian’s pronouns are he/him/his, and he identifies as a cis-gay male of trans experience. Find out what that means to Brian in this episode.

We also talk about being different and growing up in the 60s and 70s, looking for validation, living a fantasy life, performing the role of perfect woman, dealing with judgement, how everyone’s journey is unique, finding a different way to be comfortable, and going full circle and reaching a new destination.

“It’s hard to make your way in the world if the message you’re receiving right from the get go is that you’re wrong; there’s something’s wrong about you. You’re not right.”

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]

Esther: Hello and welcome. What’s your name?

Brian: Hi, I’m Brian Belovitch.

Esther: Hi, Brian. So tell me about your gender experience. This is quite a different story from the ones I’ve shared so far. So feel free to start wherever you like.

Brian: Okay. Well, I am someone who was assigned male at birth and at a very early age, transitioned to female. And this was during a time in the seventies and eighties, when you know, it wasn’t quite as accepted as it is now. And then in the eighties at the age of about 30, 31 through a series of events, I decided to retransition after living as a trans woman for almost 15 years back to my male gender.

Esther: Well that, that was in a nutshell. Right. So, wow. When you say you transitioned at a young age, what age was that initially?

Brian: Well, I, I guess my story is traditional in some sense, because I was always mis-gendered as a little boy, which caused me a tremendous amount of confusion as a kid with no one to explain why this was happening to this little five-year-old kid.

And so eventually I started to internalize the messages that I was receiving from adults, from siblings, from teachers, from friends, you know, that, you know, maybe there was something wrong about my gender and that you know, maybe everything that everyone has always been saying about me was true. And that perhaps there was a mistake in my gender and that I, you know, maybe I, I started to think along the lines that maybe I was a girl. Maybe I should, should’ve been a girl. And so when I was old enough to act out on it in my teens, like about 14, 15, I started to cross dress, not knowing what changing my gender meant at all back then I would, you know, wear women’s, you know, articles of clothing or I would, you know, wear a purse or I would wear something, you know, not what boys were wearing back then.

And I started to also get into drag. I started to run away from home and met other gay people and started dressing in drag and going out to the clubs and, you know, getting lots of attention for how I looked. And so it became, you know, more of a more serious for me when I got a little older and I started taking, you know hormone pills.

I was very young, so I started to develop little breasts very early on and I started to really fully transition because a very good friend of mine for him, it was fun. It was dragging. But for me, it was a way of getting validation for myself in a way that I had never found possible before as a child, as a teenager.

And it became like a drug for me in a way. Yeah. And so when I was 19, I started to fully transition Regular, you know, I started dressing 24 hours a day as female. I changed my name legally. I went to court and, you know, got a name change, and you know, my hair was growing longer and I, you know, I was living 24 7 is what the kids call it today you know, I was always presenting as female from that moment on.

Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, You know what, the thing that is different now is that back then, there were no, you know, the only thing I knew about gender transformation was Christine Jorgensen. And, you know, even when I was a 14 year old, I went to the library and took the book out of the library and hid it in my room under my mattress.

So no one would see me reading it. So that was the only reference we had back then about someone who had decided to change their gender.

Esther: So when you started your hormone treatment, was that in any way, like supervised by medical professionals or was that something you just did yourself?

Brian: No, it was through other, other trans women that I had sort of, you know, when I ran away, you know, I was always getting kicked out of my home.

My parents were not accepting or loving or caring and they did not understand any of it. I came from a pretty working class, you know, rough and tough background. My brothers or I have five brothers and one sister. They’re all very heterosexual and Uber masculine. And, you know, they w I was even physically they were much bigger than I was.

They were like six feet, five, you know, these like incredible athletes and athletic, and I wasn’t any of those things. So it wasn’t easy to, to be in my home. So I was always getting kicked out or running away. And finally, I ran away and I joined a group of trans folks who I met by my high school. This is a kind of an interesting story by my high school. Across the street, there was a building, a three story apartment building, and you couldn’t even make up this name.

It was so perfect that it was called the Lola apartments, L-O-L-A like the Lou Reed song, the, you know, the, the Kinks song, Lola. Yeah. So it was called the Lola apartments and, you know, after class, my friends would go out and smoke a cigarette and watch these Queens running in and out of the building, flagging down cars, running in and out of the beauty parlor, you know with rollers in their hair.

And it was like a scene out of like, you know, like Tales of the City, you know, East Coast style. And I was fascinated because I saw other people that I thought would be like me. And so eventually I made my way over there and, and got friendly with them. And that’s where I ended up running away to. And those folks, like older trans women took me under their wing and, you know, taught me everything I needed to know about transitioning.

And so I would get hormone pills from them. I did go to a doctor and you know, lied about my age. And got, you know, injections a couple of times, but but by the time I was 19, I was getting medically supervised. But earlier on, no, that was a long answer to your question.

Esther: That’s all good. That’s all good. So what happened after that? Let me just see, looking at your bio here. You transition. Well, you came out three times. It says so when as a queer teen, first as a queer teenager, then as a glamorous transgender woman named Tish. So tell me a bit more about Tish.

Brian: Well in the seventies. And again, with this group of trans folks that I lived with at this apartment building, you know, we, one day we went to the movies and we went to see the new film with Liza Minnelli, Cabaret, which came out and there was a character in the film that was played by Marisa Berenson. And I never forget the scene. She opens the door and Michael York is standing there very young and handsome, and she introduced herself to him and, and she says, hello, my name is Natalia. And I just love that name, Natalia. And I thought, oh, that’s so exotic. And so beautiful. And so I think I was in, it was a funny scene.

We were in the movie theater and I was like, that’s it. I’m going to be my name. It’s going to be Natalia. And, you know my friends like be quiet, we’re going to get thrown out. And but back at the Lola apartments, there was a bunch of other trans women and drag Queens who would do sex work at night.

You know, even during the day, but mostly at night and one queen in particular, her name was Mona. Mona Golmes and she was a speed freak. She spoke like 20 miles a minute. She, she talked really fast. You could hardly hear everything. She spit words out, so she could never say the word Natalia. Yeah, it was too much of a tongue twister for her.

So she would call me and then Natasha, Natasha Natisha fishy look, Tasha, Leticia, you know, whatever your name is. And then my best friend thought that was really hilarious. And he started calling me Tish. And so that became like a nickname. And then from then on, you know, close friends would call me Tish, even though my name was changed to Natalia at the time.

And then Tish, you know, was, you know, I was very young. I was very, you know, inspired by the, you know, women that were positive role models for me as a kid. You know, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner and, you know, Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. And so, you know, I want it to be a pinup, you know, I want it to be as glamorous and beautiful as I could.

And so, you know, I modeled myself after those women and. I had done a lot of electrolysis. I had a nose job and my you know, I had a breast implants, you know, I had silicone, you know, use silicone injections back then. It was very popular in the seventies. Everyone was running up to the doctor’s office and pumping treatment into their faces, their hips, their butts, you know? And so, you know, I didn’t go a little, I didn’t go too overboard with that. So I ended up becoming quite attractive and nine times out of the 10, 10, most people did not know my gender at birth was not female. So I had what the kids call passing privilege.

Yeah. And I went to college and I did pretty much everything as a trans woman that people looking back now, they wouldn’t think much of it, but back then going to college as a trans woman, you know, I married, I married a man. As a trans woman, I married a GI who was in the, you know, my, my boyfriend joined the army when he was, you know, he was a little younger than me and, and I, I ended up living in Germany with him on off the base in Germany as a military wife.

And no one knew our little secret, you know, cause I, I had perfected this identity. And, you know, I really, that was like my whole life was about just being, it seemed to anyway, looking back at it, looking back, it seemed like my whole life was just about being this perfect woman or my idea of what perfect would be, and so as scary as it was to do, like, I never really thought of consequences. I don’t know. I think I was stoned most of the time. So I think that kind of prevented me, you know, I smoked a lot of weed and drank a lot and you know, drugs are a really big part of my story too, which was sort of the moment in my life when I stopped using drugs and alcohol, and really started to take a look at my life in a new way with a sober conscience is when I started to realize that, you know, I did a lot of the things for many, for many of the wrong reasons. And I was terribly unhappy, even though I was, you know, I mean, to look at me, you would think, wow, that person’s really got it going on.

You know, she looks fabulous, she’s got a husband and a career and, you know, I was a singer and an actor and I was playing, you know, I had was trying to carve out a little career for myself as an actor and play cis-gender women’s roles. You know, there wasn’t anything that I didn’t try to do as a trans woman, but every, every road I turned down to into was there were obstacles and.

I was fun to have around and I was fun to be with, and people love to invite me places and, you know, take me to, you know, fabulous events. And, you know, I became a producer and an actor and I had a show, you know, a stage persona, but you know, really when it came down to it, that was very limiting because when I try to have a career as an actor, when I try to, you know, have us have a music career, when I try, you know, Those obstacles were not removed.

People never took a trans person seriously. Like they would not, they would only up to a point. It was okay. You know, it’s kinda like with gay people, like sometimes like from the outside, looking in, when you’re a gay person, you you’re accepted up to a point. And so there was always like, this sort of barrier that happened. And it was very frustrating. And then of course, you know, I was doing quite a lot of drugs and, you know, I became a drug addict. I mean, I always had always drugs and alcohol, always a part of my story for that up until that time for about 15 years or so. But things really escalated in the eighties and I, you know, became a crack addict and nearly, you know, I almost didn’t make it here today to have this chat with you, but, you know, so once I was able to get that problem solved I started to look inward and things and I was getting older and I was, you know, thinking like, gee, I got to really do something with my life here. And I was so unhappy, Esther, I was, you know, I put on a really good front and everything. Like I said earlier, if you looked at me, you would think, wow, she’s just fabulous. She’s got she’s just, and this is the thing that really freaked people out. When I eventually did come to understand that my gender was more than just me presenting as a, as a female, that my gender was fluid. This is one of the reasons why I was so excited to talk to you today about this, because this is a new, not so new, but it is a revelation now that we’re understanding about gender is that it is fluid. It’s not fixed. It’s not binary. And for some people, which I totally understand and totally respect gender is a destination for some people to arrive at and feel comfortable in.

But for me, there was always, always, anxious apartness and this anxious irritability about like, is this really the right thing for me? I’m not you know, like, even though it seemed like I really was comfortable, I was never really comfortable. I never liked the feeling that I had. You know, I didn’t fit in the straight world.

I din’t fit in the gay world, you know, and the trans world. It was okay. It was kind of a safe place, but I really didn’t like this feeling that I was always battling with of sort of not really feeling complete. And you know, once I started, started to look at gender with a new lens and look at what is masculine about me… What is feminine about me? What did I like that was masculine about myself? What did I like that with feminine about myself? I learned, or I came to the realization that I could really incorporate the best of both worlds and have both, and I could be feminine or, you know, soft and sensitive and whatever as I wanted to be, or I could be really, you know, tough and, and, you know, you know, this, I’m talking, using stereotypical versions of like what’s masculine and feminine, which sort of has to do with probably with my age more than anything.

But you know, so I was able to incorporate the best of both worlds and realized like, you know, Hey, I don’t have to, it was pretty dark. I mean, you know, once I had got sober and stopped drinking and using drugs and other addictive behaviors, you know, I was left with me. I was left with my authentic feelings about things and I was very unhappy about a lot of the choices that I made and the, and the boxes that I was sort of being put in. Yeah. I just, you know, and, and, and the other part of this, which is really interesting, I think your listeners might appreciate is that, you know, I had this and I didn’t even know what it was called, but I had this really internalized homophobia about being gay. Like I grew up in a family that freely use the F the F word faggot. And I don’t know if you can swear on here, but I won’t use curse words. You know, the faggot queer, you know, fairy, you know, Mary, you know, my brothers, you know, would constantly use those derogatory terms to tease me and even, even teachers in the sixties and seventies were allowed to like, Hey, little faggot over there in the corner, stop talking, or you’re going to be sent to the principal’s office.

Esther: Wow.

Brian: Can you imagine doing so, so I had this already on top of the confusion that I felt about my gender. I had this really awful sense of like being gay was the worst possible alternative. You know, also being an effeminate gay boy in the gay culture in the seventies and eighties was that. You know, it was not easy and it’s still not easy for a lot of effeminate gay men to to find partners, to find love, to be taken seriously. You know, I mean, there’s, there’s a pot for every lid, but at that time it was, it seemed like, you know, his, from a historic standpoint, the choices were very limited back then you either, you know, like you were butch gay guy, or if you were all feminine, you were pegged or you were pigeonholed into like, oh, you should probably pursue a sex change or you should probably, you know, become trans. We didn’t have transgender transsexual, you know? So it was, the lanes were very… We didn’t. People w people’s awareness of what gender presentation was back then was practically non-existent.

You know, we don’t, we didn’t have the gender non-conforming. We didn’t have gender queer. We didn’t have, you know nonbinary. We didn’t have, I mean, we had a word for it back then, you know, if you were running around in drag, like half drag and half boy drag, you know, they would call it scare drag or. You know gender fucking or whatever.

Yeah. But, but there weren’t a lot of terms is what I’m saying. So the choices were pretty limited.

Esther: Yeah. So when you eventually, I guess, would you call it detransitioned? Is that a term you’d use?

Brian: I think that’s the word that, that sort of evolved from this. But I prefer the word retransition because you know, why would I want to go back to something that was so painful and difficult to begin with?

And detransition sounds like negative to me, it sounds like, oh, it’s kind of like going.

Esther: Yeah, it kind of sounds like I was wrong or I made a mistake, right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I mean, before you tell me a bit more about, about that, which I’d love to hear about, I was thinking, looking back, do you regret, or would you do anything different about your gender journey if you had another chance?

Brian: I’ve thought about this a lot. I think that, you know, I think if anything, I probably wouldn’t have gone as far with the surgical interventions. Like I probably wouldn’t have experimented with hormones and silicone and, you know, breast implants and, you know, I probably would have been a drag queen, if anything, I mean, or, or, you know, a drag performer. You know, I’ve done drag now as Brian. I, I actually, when I retransitioned back in the eighties, I fell into a theatrical troupe, which had a very long stellar history has with drag performers, drag actors. It’s a very famous theatrical company in the, in the Greenwich village called The Ridiculous Theater Company.

And so there I was after having this experience of, you know, retransitioning and becoming, coming out as gay, and then I’m back in drag on stage as a drag performer. Was very interesting. So I think had I done anything differently I might’ve, and I never really paid too much attention. I I’ve always been kind of an impulsive sort of reckless person in my youth.

And so I never really paid much attention to consequences. Which is what I worry about, you know, for, for, for kids, you know, I worry about like kids have that same mentality. Like, you know, I never really had the wherewithal to think things through, to like, think of like, you know, potential side effects or I never, in my never imagined that I would be making this decision.

After all of those years of living as, as, as a female, you know, like I never thought like, oh, well maybe someday I might want to be a man again. You know, I never, I never, I never, I never thought of that at all until much later in my life. And, you know, I have some, some, some consequences physically from some of the choices that I made, you know, especially with the silicone injection. I had a very bad allergic reaction to the silicone almost like right away, but it didn’t stop me from continuing to do it. Right. And so I’ve had a couple of operations to sort of correct that, but they can never really correct it. So that’s something that, you know, I think, you know, I hadn’t really thought of, you know, it was very young when I started to do it. I was 19 when I started, you know, running up to Harlem and jumping on some lady’s kitchen table, who does, she was a nurse at the doctor’s office. She would steal the silicone.

Esther: Wow.

Brian: From the doctor and then, you know, charge too. But it probably wasn’t sterile.

You know, probably was. Yeah. So I had a lot of problems with that. But yeah, I think that might be, I guess the answer is that I would, you know, maybe I would just be a fabulous drag queen, like, you know, Ru Paul or, you know, or Lady Bunny, or, you know some of the other kids today, you know, I mean, Ru Paul, Lady Bunny, they’re not kids anymore.

Esther: Yeah. Hindsight. Huh? So when you were, I mean, I just wanted to revisit, like when you’re in Germany, living as a military wife as such. So between then, and sort of, I guess, coming out as a gay man, what, what happened there? I mean, tell me a bit more about the decision.

Brian: Oh, that’s a good question. No one ever asked me that question.

That’s a really good question. Because in Germany I was sort of living this sort of my fantasy life of like what I thought I was transitioning for in the first place. I was like, I was a woman and I was a wife of a soldier and I was keeping the house and I was shopping and cooking. And not that those are bad things, but I was entertaining. I would have the GIs come over to the, to the house. Cooked dinner for them and go shopping on the PX on the base. I would go to the commissary with the other wives that would have parties. So in my mind, during that time, I was thinking, wow, this is kind of fabulous, but actually it wasn’t. I mean, it wasn’t, it was an amazing experience which I’ve written about in my book, Transfigured, and you know, it was kind of an out of body experience at times, but also it was very dangerous. Again, I never really thought of the consequences, you know, I mean, other GIs would hit on me or they would, you know, try to, you know, make a move on me. And, you know, there’s another story out there in the world called soldier’s story about the story based on Calpurnia Adams, who is a trans woman who did have a boyfriend that was in the military. And when the guys found out that the boyfriend was seeing a trans woman, woman, they killed them. That’s in a, a film was a film. I think it was in the nineties. I think it came out Jane Fonda’s son was the actor who played Troy Garity. He played the boyfriend of, of the trans woman. So again, not thinking of, I mean, I guess somehow, I guess somehow I knew that that was a possibility I had to always be very careful.

So one of the things about it that I. Was that was so challenging was I always ha a heightened state of awareness that, you know, this could go really badly.

Esther: That sounds a bit stressful.

Brian: And I found, and so there was always stress all the time, constant stress. I was stoned. Most of the time I smoked a lot of hash. I drank German beer with my 60 year old, you know German neighbor. And so, you know, I was always masking and never really fully dealing with the reality of, of how I really felt about this situation. And then the last part of it that was challenging was that my husband… We loved each other. And we were both very young and he was thinking along the lines that maybe I would have gender confirmation surgery.

And that was always the goal. But by that time, it wasn’t the goal for me, it was something more that I was questioning. And I remember, I remember after leaving Germany, I think I wrote about this in my book. I hope I did anyway, but I remember leaving and living. When we left Germany, we had to finish a tour of duty in Washington state.

And there was a beautiful woman that lived on the ground floor of our apartment. And she lived on the first floor. She was the lovely person, just really physically beautiful, stunning redhead. And I could see my husband was interested in her more than neighborly. I’ll just leave it at that. And it really freaked me out.

And I remember waking up one day and just having like a practical, like, I mean, I had it like almost a nervous breakdown. I was just saw and I was close to 30 by that time I was in my mid, late twenties. I was sobbing hysterically, and I could not understand what was going on. I just, I was just so freaked out by this idea of this idea that I just didn’t know.

You know, it was almost like a pre, it was almost like foreshadowing to what was going to come many, a few years later that I, I felt like, oh my God, I, I got to do something and I wasn’t sure what I should do. And you know, I remember just this deep sorrow and it was almost like regret for like, you know, where I actually was in my transition at that time and it really freaked him out.

So then, you know, eventually, you know, he also became very domineering and very jealous and, you know, we didn’t have, he never hit me, but we were in, we were having some issues in the relationship about what each one of us wanted out of life. And eventually I left him and we split up and that’s when I, I jumped into my career in the nightclubs and I became a sort of like a New York celebrity, you know, a darling of the, you know, the media. And it was like before cell phones and before Twitter and before, you know, all that, it was, you know, we were out at parties every night, rubbing shoulders with, you know, famous people and performing and stuff. So, yeah, but the Germany thing was sort of like I did it. I also wrote a play about this and one of the lines in the play, which always got a great laugh was, you know, “Being a woman, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and believe you me, it takes trying to be one to know.”

Yeah. Because you know, you know, no one took me seriously as, as my female self, they didn’t think I had a thought between my cleavage, you know? I mean, they, they, you know, it was, it was the misogyny alone. I, my heart goes out to women the way that they’re treated by men and other women, you know, and other in gay men, I mean the misogyny, you know, you, you, you know, I, I, that was another thing I never considered, you know, giving up my, my male privilege.

Yeah. You know, if we want to have a conversation about that, that’s a whole other, that’s another podcast, but I relinquished my male privilege to be a subservient, you know, like, you know, geisha, like, you know, sort of like, you know, following the man and doing the man, whatever the man wanted me to do and the male or the, so that was a whole trip into itself.

Esther: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting what you said about internalized homophobia, because we all have internalized misogyny as well. And women obviously do to, you know?

Brian: Yes. And yeah, I was terrified of being gay. I did not want to be gay.

Esther: What made you embrace that in the end though? I cause you did in the end, like.

Yeah. As I was thinking about the title you gave me for the, or, you know, when we talked about labels and stuff, or when you gave me the labels yeah. You said you’re a CIS gay male of trans experience. So that that’s really interesting. So you’ve, you’ve kind of got, would you say you’ve kind of gone full circle?

Brian: Yeah, 360. I was going to call my book 360. Yeah. You know, because some people didn’t like that title, but I always liked that title 360, because really just tells you though it could be 360 about anything. I mean, I guess the publishers didn’t want to go with that because it wasn’t descriptive enough about, you know, well, you went from A to B to C, but, but anyway, it is sort of a full circle experience.

And, you know, I often wonder, like, you know, I, I’m so inspired at my late age of 65 years old by the progress I see all around me of kids today that have these wonderful parents that are so supportive. And I get this question a lot too, when I’ve done other interviews. And when I was on my book, tour you know, like what, what would you suggest for parents of kids that are different or, or, you know, thinking about being trans or, you know, and the answer is really simple, just love and accept your children for who and what they are and support them in any way they feel they need to be supported because that love and acceptance. You cannot put a price tag on that because had I had that as a child in growing up in the sixties and seventies, you know, my life might, I mean, my life has been pretty extraordinary, you know, in many ways, but, you know, I often think like, gee, what if someone turned up my life.

As a little boy, rather than always trying to turn it down or put it out. Yeah. And so that was my life, you know, and I guess I’m just fortunate in the fact that I was able to sort of persevere and, you know, I had incredible mentors along the way, and people that did sort of try to pull me up, you know, and see the value that I had as a person, in life. But that came much later in my life. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that had I had a different experience in a home at home. And I had, you know, like some of the things that kids have today, I mean, there was no GSA, there was no Gay Straight Alliance club in high school. There was no counselor that you could go to, you know, and say, oh, I’m feeling, you know, I’m having feelings for boys.

Or, you know, I’m feeling like, you know, I’m very feminine. I don’t know people are uncom. You know, people were always. Always uncomfortable with my femininity. And I, I remember clearly as a little boy thinking, like, I’m fabulous. Like I just I’m so like I used to think, like, I, I always felt like I was so special because I was different, not shameful because I was different, but special until,

outside influences began to, you know, like I like to use this. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, cause I’m going to write another book, but turning out that light, like just, you know, dampening my spirit, you know. It’s hard to hide to make your way in the world. If, if the message you’re receiving right from the get-go, is that you’re wrong. There’s something wrong about you. You’re you’re you’re not right. And so that was my challenge in life to figure it all out and, luckily I did.

Esther: Yeah. And I love what you said about, you went from A, to B, to C, not A, to B to A, right. So in a way the 360 is like, it’s like a spiral, isn’t it, rather than a circle. So you’re at the next level of the spiral, although it might seem like the same position that isn’t something like that. That’s what I’m thinking. Yeah.

Brian: The thing about that, my story has never been a political story. This isn’t, I’m not making any kind of political statement. I’m not making I’ve, I’ve avoided that like the plague, I just do not, I don’t get into those discussions because I really feel that everyone’s journey or everyone’s path or, you know, whatever, whatever they choose in life is what they choose for themselves.

And, and I think that back then, when I did decide to retransition, you know, I really freaked a lot of people out, like, cause it wasn’t really something that was very much into people’s consciousness at the time. And the eighties, I in 1987, when I started to reverse some of the things that I had done.

And so it really freaked a lot of trans people out, because I think it, and I understand exactly why it would do that because it could possibly, and it has been there have been attempts by outside forces, like right wing groups or people that, you know, I th I know this is a big thing in England right now that there are a lot of, there’s a lot of pushback.

Decisions about, you know, transgender youth. And so, you know, I, I can see why that would be fearful for as a former trans person myself. I could see, I mean, I still consider myself trans in some way, but I’m not living as a transgender woman today. I could see why that would be challenging and scary, frightening for people to, for my narrative to be used as against them.

Esther: Yeah, that makes sense.

Brian: But you know what I hope, and I’ve been an advocate and I’m also, I’m also becoming a I’ll be finished at the end of the year. I’d be I’ve become a therapist. I’m going to be a licensed therapist in May, 2022, I’ll be finishing my program and I become an I’ve positioned myself as an advocate for this issue around, you know, people that decide, you know, maybe it’s not something that they wanted to do and that I need, we need to provide space for those people. People like myself in the same way that we’ve provided space. For those who are transitioning and want to transition and take a different path from their gender assigned at birth in the same respect, I feel like it would be hypocritical of the community to silence or criticize folks like myself who have found another way to be comfortable.

Esther: Yeah. And in the end, that’s an individual journey, isn’t it? It’s not the same for anyone. It’s just your journey.

Brian: Yeah. And, and, and I love the title of your, I mean, I was, so I can’t tell you, I was so excited to, to add another shade to, you know, to include another shade of gender, because this is another part of gender that, you know, it’s only going to become more understood, you know, and, and hopefully that will be by the work of people like myself and others. You know, we live in, we, you talked about mistakes earlier. You know, we live in a society where people that make mistakes are shamed into thinking that they shouldn’t talk about it, or they shouldn’t, you know, bring it out into the open and, you know, and, and, and a lot of people there have been a lot of people in my position who won’t talk about like, oh, they tried to go down this path or they didn’t work out for them because they’re afraid of being stigmatized, you know, because of changing their minds or making a mistake. So I, I approached this whole idea about, you know, we just need to love and accept everyone for who and where they are in their life.

Esther: Absolutely

Brian: And not judge, you know, because I mean, this is again the going back to this idea of like thinking things through and like, I never thought that coming out as gay, after being trans was going to be something that was going to be like controversial. Yeah, I didn’t see that coming at all.

I thought, well, I’m going to be gay and it’s going to be like, yay. Brian’s gay. Now. Let’s love Brian as a gay guy, but don’t talk about his past because that could be upsetting to people.

Esther: Yeah. Yeah, I do. Yeah. Yeah. I like that because in a way, like, It’s all to do with doing away with shame, you know, because there is enough of that in the world and we don’t need any more of that.

Brian: Yeah. If you go on YouTube and put the word in detransition, you’ll be shocked to see what you…

Esther: well, I don’t think I will

Brian: In a good way, you would be like, wow, this is really something that’s happening. It’s educational.

Esther: So, yeah, it’s, it’s yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s very, it’s probably more, what would you call it? That there’s more of it out there, then people would think, but I was thinking I would dread to think the reactions people get for that, you know, it must be…

Brian: There are some, some, you know, there are some factors that, you know, there there’s always going to be that there’s always going to be someone that’s that’s uneducated or ignorant or, you know, make comments that are, you know, like, you know, I even haven’t read one comment about my book on good reads or something. Like some guys said, wow, to Gee, can’t this guy make up his mind, you know? Like, like that was the point of the book. I mean, like is that’s all you took out of the book was like, I couldn’t make up my mind. I mean…

Esther: See, yeah. That’s an interesting one. Even though you retransitioned rather than detransitioned, you ended up at point C not back at point A. So in a way it’s kind of like taking a journey, isn’t there, like going on a holiday, you’re just going to go home again. So you might as well not go, well, that’s not the point of the journey, is it right?

Brian: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. But I was doing a paper for school and I happened to Google the title detransition and I ended up on YouTube and there’s quite a lot of testimonies of young folks. You know, some people older, some but mostly a lot of young people and they are talking very honestly and openly about this, which was refreshing, was really, really, I stopped counting after 200 hits.

Esther: Yeah. I think the risk is when people start to think, oh, detransition or retransition, whatever term you want to use in the end, that that’s the thing. So no one should transition cause it’s all wrong. You know, that’s, that’s when it starts getting in dangerous territory, really isn’t it because everyone’s different.

And for some people it could be writing for some people it could not be. And I think some people might regret it and would change it. Other people would not.

Brian: Yeah. And I think we get into trouble when we start telling people what to do. Yeah, absolutely. You know, like, like I think that’s where the that’s where a lot of the controversy is today that people want to tell people what they should, should or shouldn’t do around their own person.

It’s similar to the abortion issue, you know, it’s like, yeah, Hmm, how am I going to tell a woman not to have an abortion? I mean, that’s nothing, nothing to do with me at all. That’s to be my opinion, but I mean, I’m not, I’m not, you know, I’m not anti abortion, but, you know, I mean, that has nothing to do with that’s a personal decision, you know, in the same way as anything you coming out about, like, if you’re coming out as a transvestite, that if you are fetishizing, you know, women’s clothes and that’s your thing. If you’re a cross-dresser, you need to be, you know, embraced and accepted for that’s what you like to do. Or if you’re a leather queen and you want to be living your life as a leather, you know, enthusiast, or, you know, whatever your thing is, I’m not there to judge.

You know, I was judged so much in my life for the choices that I made as a trans woman, that I would be the last person on earth to have any judgment about anyone else’s choices that they made today. I know what it’s like to be judged. It’s not, not pretty.

Esther: That’s quite a story. I mean, yeah, you said you’re writing another book, but your first book was called “Transfigured: My Journey from Boy to Girl, to Woman, to Man,” which is a catchy title if anything, probably not something you see anywhere else. So is it, how long has it been out? Was it 2018? Did I see that right?

Brian: It’s published in 2018. It’s still available. I, I think, I think it’s, you know, it’s, you can still find it’s still selling. It was a small publisher in New York, which was recently bought by Simon and Schuster and Yeah, the first print run. There’s there’s a few copies left out of the first print run. So I know, I don’t know whether they’re going to rerelease it as paperback yet. I think we have to wait another year for that, but it’s available on audiobook. There’s a fellow that they hired to read the book. I didn’t get to read it myself or the audio book, but there’s a fellow book actor that they hired, which did a tremendous job reading all the characters in the book and

Esther: Amazing. Yeah. And you said that the second book you’re writing, what is that about?

Brian: Well, my, my next book is going to be about reclaiming my, my male gender one pronoun at a time. Wow. Yeah. Cause I touch on it at the, in the book, but I don’t get enough. There’s not enough. There weren’t enough pages for me to include that experience in this book, but I’m going to, I, I, people always want to know more about like, okay, so what happened then? How did you undo? You know, you know, what was it like mentally, emotionally, physically to reclaim my male identity which had up until that point, been gone. So I’m hoping to do that. When I finished my, my program, that’s going to be my next project. And there’s also documentary in the can also that was premiered at the New York city doc Fest. And we were at South by Southwest, online on Amazon last year called “I’m going to make you love me,” which is a documentary directed and produced by Karen Bernstein, who was a former producer at American Masters.

And that, you know, what happened was, it was really, we, we made our premiere in New York and then COVID hit and everything shut down and everything. So I know that she is trying to, she’s still looking to seek distribution for that right now. As well, and there’s you know, there’s been a book it’s been a upstage play, which I wrote in 2000 there’s documentary and presently I’ve just, you know, completed another draft of my full length feature film.

Esther: Hmm. Wow. You’ve got a lot going on.

Brian: I’ve been busy, busy. I’m grateful for it. You know, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to, you know, to do all these things in my life, you know, today. So it’s been, been a gift really to,

Esther: Yeah. Well, do you have anything you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about yet? We talked about a lot!

Brian: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We packed in a lot of, a lot of things to know. I, unless you have any other questions I mean, today, I mean, today, I, I I’m married. I’m, you know, I’m in a, long-term, I’m married for almost well 19 years, you know, with my husband today and. Like I said, I’m finishing up my master’s program and you know, life is good.

Yeah. I don’t I think we covered a lot.

Esther: We did. Yeah,

Brian: We covered a lot. And just, just thrilled to do this, this podcast. Definitely because I want, I want to always be the voice of reason and I want people to take whatever they take away from my story is that I want people to understand that making the decision to return or retransition was, was equally, if not more difficult than deciding to transition in the first place. Yeah. Yeah. So it was quite a process.

Esther: Amazing. Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: And, and from that, you know, I hope that people will understand that there is an equal there’s, there’s a lot of, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that, you know, people that undergo this. Take this path or they decide to take a different, different turn in life, you know, are valuable, you know, we’re valuable resources in the sense that you know, anyone with, you know, with experience about matters like this. We can learn a lot from

Esther: Definitely,

Brian: So I hope people can learn a lot from my experience as difficult as it has been at times. There’s a lot to be gained from it.

Esther: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for sharing.

Brian: Yes. Thank you. It was lovely to meet you. And I know people can’t see us, but we’ve had quite a, quite a lovely conversation here and I’m very, very grateful to be a part of 50 Shades of Gender.

Esther: Yay!

Brian: Okay. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Esther.

About Brian

Brian Belovitch, author, actor, and activist is a longtime resident of NY. He has a storied career as a writer and gender outlier. He was featured guest on The Moth Storytelling hour on NPR relating a story from his recently published memoir, Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man published in 2018 by Skyhorse Publishers.

He has appeared on New York stages for more than three decades in various theatrical incarnations his last appearance as Alice, First Lady of the Earth in the critically acclaimed production of Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide by Charles Ludlam at LaMama marked the 50th anniversary of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company where was a member. In 2019, Brian was a recipient of the Acker award for writing that is given annually to East Village, NY avant-garde artists.

As a playwright, his groundbreaking Off-Broadway play, Boys Don’t Wear Lipstick, was honored with a 2000 GLAAD nomination. In June 2019, Brian was named one of the 50 most influential LGBTQ authors of all time by Barnes and Noble and participated in the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Gay Pride Parade in New York City. In November 2019, Brian was the subject of a documentary film that made its world premiere at DOC NYC titled I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, directed by Karen Bernstein.

More recently Brian is nearing completion of a master degree program in Mental Health Counseling at Hunter College and will resume his work in September as a therapist in training. As a long-term survivor of HIV, Brian lives proudly as an out beloved gay man, advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community in all its wondrous expressions.

You can find Brian on his website,, and on Twitter @bbelov, Instagram @transfiguredbook, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Book cover of Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man by Brian Belovitch
Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man by Brian Belovitch

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