A few years ago, Laura Newman found herself lost in a relationship. She realized she wasn’t living the life she wanted and found herself a new partner. One, who happens to be transgender.
On a search to find out more, Laura found not many people had written about her situation, so she wrote her own. Her book, A Love Less Ordinary, details her life, that of her partner and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
The book was released in 2012 and we got in touch, to see how things have changed for Laura, since the book was released.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 5' 11", slim, 39. It is almost impossible for me to do nothing. I am hardworking, tenacious. I am always thinking about the next project. I live life for the experience of it. I'm not an exciting thrill seeker but see new experiences and opportunities in everyday life. I am easily pleased by the simple things in life, like noticing the new daffodils in bloom. I love the people I surround myself with and they are what makes life worthwhile. I am a half glass full kind of gal. I believe in healthy eating; but with a little of what you fancy - and that applies to everything not just food. I work full time in a management position in the NHS for the last 7 years. After several years study I am about to qualify as a counselor in July this year. I also volunteer as a bereavement counselor at weekends.
Why did you decide to write your book?
I wanted to read other women's stories in a similar position/relationship to mine. Nothing I read resonated with my positive experience of being the partner of someone transgender, so I decided I should write from the positive side of the fence.
What were the easiest and hardest parts of writing your book?
Easiest was probably interviewing people - who wouldn't find sitting in cafe's and bars chatting to people fun! I am Dyslexic, and so the hardest part of writing the book was writing the book. Actually dramatics aside it was editing/proofreading etc. I had three rounds of different independent people proof read it. At one point it was set aside for six months with me not looking at it, due to my studies. When I did look at it I often found myself reading a sentence, or section etc and thinking; 'wow I love what the proof reader has done with this bit', then looking back at my original realizing nothing had changed it was all my own work.
There were lots of tears, and many times when I wanted to give up. Someone asked me at one point in the process, why would you do something that goes against a disability you have? I said "I'm not giving up on a dream, and giving in to dyslexia," Oh and; "Did you watch the Paralympics?" As an example I just had to type that word several times and couldn't figure out why it didn't look right. Eventually I realized it actually said ‘paraletics’ - I am very able to laugh at myself and my disability too - that's important
Which is your favourite part of the book, and why?
Generally the last chapter, I think there are a lot of life lessons in it - and if you want to know what they are you are simply going to have to read it. The very last sentence is probably my ultimate favourite because every time I read it I remember all the rises and falls, the tears, the tantrums, the laughter and all the celebrations along the way of creating it, and how incredibly proud of myself for achieving such an amazing goal, which has helped others. I also think that we don't pat ourselves on the back enough when we have done well, as we are too worried about seeming big headed.
Did you learn anything during the process of writing it?
Oh oodles; resilience, perseverance, that I have the stamina to never give up, and that I have the strength to fight through the times when I want to, the true power of getting out there and meeting people and the unexpected journeys pushing yourself can take you on. How incredibly kind and supportive and selfless people can be. To be open to things, and the power of saying yes.
What happened after you finished writing it?
The real excitement began. I had worked in the book industry and knew how hard it was to get published. I actually was prepared for the book never getting published. I didn't want to self-publish. By putting myself out there, and spotting opportunities, I ended up one day at a event run by PINK - a LGBT counseling organization. I got chatting in the break to someone who had just published their book and gave me the publisher's details. Overnight I was accepted by a publisher wanting to take the book on. This does not happen in the book world I can assure you.
Drumming up interest was great fun. Amongst the highlights along the journey were a photo-shoot and interview in Marie Claire, a book reading/signing with my book actually on the shelves of a book shop, a public speaking event, and most heart-warming and sometimes heart breaking all the beautiful emails that started coming in from people who said they had read the book and it had helped them - I cried when reading each one positive or negative - I am a big softy.
If you could change anything, or update your book, what, if anything, would you do and why?
Nothing. Not because it's perfect, not by any means, but it's real, it's honest. It would undermine its first journey. My second answer is; write another.
How did you find the publishing process?
Anxious, precious, overprotective. Some authors call their works their 'book babies'. I can see why; you are giving birth to something you have created. It is unique and it will be judged and you might get hurt. There was also a hairy moment over negotiating the cover I wanted. On this point I was a prima donna and nothing other than the image on the cover you see today would have been good enough.
You've appeared in magazines and given talks. How was the experience for you?
The Marie Claire photo shoot for the article was unspeakable indulgent. We were treated like celebrities. It was in an old listed building and the room we were in had been used for as a set that Darcy Bussell had once danced into a Ginger Rogers’ number. It oozed 1920's glamour. A whole range of continental breakfast was laid out for us and we swanned around in plush bathrobes whilst having our hair teased and make up done. However ever the sensible me, the only diva activity was when it came to me discussing what was to be written. I was very clear and very insistent of it being tasteful and taking the trans story forward. They did do a good job but I'm not sure I would do it again, as there was still an underlying current to the before and after sensationalism of what trans women look like transformed. I have had many conversations with several publications and journalist since, and sadly none of them wanted the angle I was offering; of the partner's story - without photographs of the trans person. To this day I have still not seen any publication do this and it remains an uncovered story, which is a shame.
One journalist said to me that if I wasn't willing to involve my partner then I wouldn't sell any books. I replied that I would still be in a happy relationship and I wouldn't have sold our souls.
The speaking events were terrifying. The most terrifying thing I have ever done, honestly. Also one of the most rewarding and exhilarating. Would I do them again? Yes, but wouldn't eat beforehand again. I'm happy to do one if someone reads this and makes me an offer.
There is only one word to describe speaking to an audience of transgender women; humbling.
Do you think your situation has changed since you wrote your book?
Ultimately no, in terms of we are still very happy in our relationship. Life has generally got better as I have continued to live with my heart on my sleeve. The ultimate answer though is you will have to wait for me to write another book one day.
There's been a growing media awareness around trans issues. Do you feel these have impacted on you?
I hope it has impacted on everyone, in a positive way. Personally no, because we couldn't be more out and open about my partner being trans.
As a partner of someone openly trans, how do you feel society treats you?
With respect. Sometimes with admiration (not that it is deserved). Sometimes with curiosity, and I welcome questions. But I generally find it very humbling. I have never had a negative experience or reaction (to my face at least). On a very few occasions people who I suspect are uncomfortable with it have referred to my partner as "your friend".
Do you have any advice for people in similar situations?
Everything I have described above about my experience I realise that I have been very, very, lucky. Living in London affords a huge freedom of people not caring. I have open minded friends and family. I can't give anyone any advice as everyone had different circumstances. But I would say this, the only person in this life who you have to live with is you. You need to go through life being happy with who you are, accepting yourself, and not pretending to be someone you are not, because you spend a long time in your skin and in your own head, and ultimately life is too short.
If you could change something about the world, what would you change and why?
Less intolerance - do I need to give a reason for that?
What do you think is next for you, in terms of writing?
I have had lots of ideas over the years, for lots of different books, on lots of different subjects, from elephants to lesbianism - hey maybe that is the next title. Actually I have really enjoyed writing this, and would like to thank you for the opportunity of rekindling the flame.
The next few years the priority is trying to build a career in counseling - then maybe one day the next book could be about that.
A Love Less Ordinary by Laura Newman can be bought from Amazon: