So today my wife & I put up photos celebrating our 13 years married. We met 16 years ago, in fact, but weddings & marriage are what “counts” right? I’ll save that diatribe for another day.
& Here is the thing that I didn’t bother to say on Facebook but that I really need to say: anyone who think it isn’t difficult to survive a transition can stick it. It is. It’s about the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and we two had a surfeit of love to start with. But the inherent narcissism of the thing caused her to disappear some, to focus more on the “me” than on the “us”, and that pretty much caused me to do the same in turn. As with other couples who wind up in situations that are full of one-sided caretaking, it can take a long time to get things righted, back into balance. And sometimes there’s a lot of anger and resentment and frustration while you’re trying to do that.
My wife is a beautiful woman. That I prefer to be around people who understand I chose to marry a man and will always carry some sadness about that loss seems obvious. For many people – heterosexual people, for the most part – they just see one queer couple as if they are like any other queer couple. We are still together and still happy so that’s that, right? Yeah, no. When a lesbian marries the woman she loves, she gets to be who she is and be with who she loves. And when a straight woman unwittingly marries a woman, she doesn’t. She get to be with who she loves – albeit in a slightly different form – but she really doesn’t get to be who she is. I feel lucky to have been queer enough to pull this off, but not a week goes by that I don’t miss the man I married. I loved him, after all. I married him. And I’m glad this 2.0 version was enough to keep the soul of that person in the world so I could share my life with her.
I assume I feel a lot like people who mourn the death of a loved one very deeply, who stay sad for years and years. I know you’re out there. For some, even the loss of a pet can be sad forever, and who knows why, or why we bond so deeply with some things and not with others, or why we have a hard time adjusting to some changes and not others. I am not good with change; I never have been. My hair, yes. My life, who I love, where I live, what I eat? About those things I am about as conservative as a person can get. I want the familiar; I want what feels like home.
As the trans community has changed, and awesome memoirs like Jake and Diane Anderson-Minshall’s memoir have been written, I feel more and more like I’m just supposed to be okay with this. And you know what? I’m still really not. I’m still trying to find my way in this post transition marriage, still trying to find the man I loved in the woman I live with, and some days it’s brutally hard. What sucks even more is that it’s obvious to me and everyone that my wife is a remarkable, talented, beautiful, sexy woman. She is funny and brilliant and loving and still one of the brightest lights I have ever been near. And she still adores me. So the guilt I feel some days that I can’t seem to love her the same way I loved him is back-breaking. But there it is. I can’t. I try. I fail. Over and over again, I fail. And she would tell you – tell anyone, really – that I have more than once told her that she deserves to be with someone who loves her as the woman she is and not for the man she once was. But she doesn’t want someone else. She wants me. And that’s amazing, and awesome, and fills me with gratitude and love that I can’t even contain, but it feels me with guilt, too: guilt because I worry I don’t, guilt because I worry that she is hanging around for that magical day when I feel about her how I felt about him.
So when I hear Janet Mock say that you can’t say trans women were ever men – that Janet Mock herself was born a girl – I wonder where partners wind up. I was recently talking to the filmmaker Ashley Altadonna who reassured me when she said Mock’s new paradigm didn’t thrill her, either, that her struggle – to realize she was a woman, to find the medical care needed, to come out to friends and family, to suffer some rejection and some awesome acceptance – is too much a part of her to think of herself as always having been a woman. She said it kind of sidestepped all of what it means to be trans, to be herself.
There are days I am still overwhelmed by how awesomely liberating it is as the partner of a trans person to hear a brutally honest trans person admit to something like that. For Ashley, transition was a BFD. For me, and for most partners, it is too. And while I don’t think Mock was trying to diminish or belittle or make invisible the struggles trans people and their partners go through – because that is so not her gig – I have lived so long with a woman people see as a woman and in a place where no one ever knew her as a man that I know what it means for people to see my marriage as if it is between two cis woman, where no one was ever male and no one was ever het and no one ever transitioned. And it denies way, way too much of who I am and how I am.
(For the record, this is part of the upcoming book.)