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The Trans-Everything CEO


For a long time I was unsure of where I was—Martine’s home?—or to what I had been invited. I discerned, eventually, that this was a guesthouse and that Martine and Bina actually lived next door; that this would be a dinner party and that Philippe and Helen had been asked to greet and entertain me until the official festivities commenced. Helen offered me a Bud Light Lime Mangorita before she slinked off, sylphlike, to fiddle with the music on the wireless speakers.

Finally, Martine galloped in, followed by her three 11-year-old Labradoodles. Her hair, pulled back in a tight ponytail, was still wet from a day spent swimming Lake Magog, and her smile was direct and joyful. We talked easily about where our kids went to summer camp and the CD she recorded with her executive assistant before the dinner guests began to trickle in: The architect of the house, with his wife and their two daughters. A man who worked for Martine installing artworks in her various UT branch offices. Two women, a couple, who had been traveling with Martine and Bina for the last part of the summer. We stood around on one of the balconies drinking wine, laughing at Siri’s mispronunciations of French street names, and talking about UT’s Magog outpost, made entirely of glass. For most of this, Bina was absent. While Martine made conversation, Bina was in the downstairs regions of the pagoda house, figuring out what to do about the food.

Everyone who knows Martine says that for someone who lives so enthusiastically on the cutting edge of tech, she can’t even change a light bulb. She’s hopeless at the grocery store, and only slightly less disadvantaged in the kitchen. And though they raised their children to think liberally about gender—it’s Bina who can hoist a power drill, and Bina who can build a chicken coop—the marriage between Bina and Martine is more conventional than one might think. It was Martine, the husband, who ordered this dinner from a favorite restaurant in town, twice as much food as anyone needed, which was left sitting on the kitchen counter in large stainless-steel serving trays. It was Bina who understood, immediately, that ten invited guests couldn’t eat room-temperature lamb chops from metal troughs, and whisked about the house figuring out how to heat the food, and serve it, in some semblance of a party.

But to see Bina is to understand something else about the marriage. Martine is like anyone who feels gratitude for being loved by someone who exceeds her fantasies. Bina is not just handy, and a great cook, a clean freak, and accommodating in her ideas of what might go on, sexually, between a husband and wife. She is also a knockout, in ways that photographs somehow do not capture. When I finally encounter her, she is standing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of Zinfandel, wearing heels, a black T-shirt with cutouts along the sleeves, and ropes of glittering beads around her neck.

As the party wears on, the guests divide themselves by gender, with Martine remaining at the dining table with the men. Helen and Bina and I gather in the kitchen, where we talk, mostly about family. We start with religion, and Bina’s experiences trying to convert to Judaism as a black woman, and how the attendant on the day of her conversion said she wasn’t allowed to participate in the rite because her hair was in braids. Then: kids. Helen mentioned tension with Philippe’s sons from his first marriage, and Bina spoke ruefully about the day she had to pack Jenesis off to a reform school in Jamaica because her behavior was so out of control. She was drinking too much, Bina said, and not taking her medicine regularly, and if she didn’t take her medicine she would die.

Then Martine invited me up to the roof, where there was a large, fenced deck, two lawn chairs, and a huge view of the August sky. As Martine and I reclined in the chairs, she showed me around the universe, which had first pointed her toward the rest of her life: There were the points in the summer triangle—Vega, Deneb, and Altair—and also Saturn, and the constellation Cassiopeia. It was the season of the Perseid meteor showers, and low in the sky, nearly at the edge of the tops of the pines, I spied a shooting star. Martine has a gentle way of speaking, not intense or manic, but slow and fond, and as she talked about the inevitability of settling space and the sad chance that the naysayers and skeptics might be left behind to suffer on Earth, I thought of her as a young man in the Seychelles, looking at the giant satellite dish on a hill and seeing in it an escape from an unfulfilled life. Looking at the same sky now, from her own contented future, she must have felt her story to this point was proof that science fiction could be made real.


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