I need to quote a huge chunk of this article by Jacob Anderson Minshall. It’s in response to the idea that somehow, his wife’s insistence on her own identity as a lesbian makes him less of a man. He transitioned a few years back; they’ve been together for 22 years.
And over the years more trans people than cisgender people have questioned whether Diane’s insistence upon retaining her own identity is a slight to my manhood.
The questions I throw back at them are many: Is the partner of someone who goes through a gender transition required to alter their own self-identification? Is your sexual orientation truly determined by the shape of your partner’s genitalia? If so, where does that leave partners of trans people who haven’t undergone genital surgery? Or maybe it’s your partner’s gender identity or gender expression that determines how you should identify? What makes our right as trans people to self-identify sacrosanct, while our partners must have their identities determined for them based on particular attributes not about themselves, but about us?
If a straight woman is married to a man and that man transitions to a woman, then we seem to want to force them into a gay relationship and require them to identify as lesbians. Likewise, when — after nearly 15 years as part of a lesbian couple — I transitioned, people seemed to believe that Diane wass required to alter her identity, because, the theory goes, she could not remain a lesbian while continuing to be with me.
I find it almost offensive that this line of argument originates so frequently from trans individuals.
Trans people have often argued, almost vehemently, that it doesn’t matter what we look like physically, it doesn’t matter what other people think, it doesn’t matter what style of clothing we wear, it doesn’t matter if our voices have changed or if we’ve undergone surgery or if we started hormone treatment — the only thing that matters is how we identify.
Once I verbalize my gender identity, I expect to be taken at my word. If I say I’m a man, I expect you to accept that I am a man. I could be wearing a dress, I could look like Miss America, and if I say I’m really a man, then you are supposed to accept that I am.
So it’s almost incomprehensible to me that we as a community or that individuals who identify as trans would not use the same logic when it comes to other people’s identities. It is not our place to identify someone else as a lesbian or as a straight person or as a bisexual person. It is completely up to them to decide and verbalize what their sexual orientation is.
This double standard is offensive. We can’t demand the freedom of self-identification for ourselves and then not allow other people that same right.
Like everyone else, Diane has the right to choose her own identities and to proclaim, “This is who I am,” and be taken at her word.
I’ll add, as someone standing on the other side of this fence and who did decide to identify as queer at least in part because of my partner’s transition: Not only is there an expectation that partners change their identity, but if they do, they are criticized for that as well. “Queer” fit me better than straight ever did & made more sense once my partner transitioned, but my process of self awareness and “coming out” was often assumed to be codependent or worse. I am still often denigrated as a heterosexual wife, — which of course I was, once upon a time. And I still find LGBTQ people don’t see me as part of the community, but some kind of “ally” — which, as any partner of a trans person knows, is really ridiculous. Of course neither of us identifies as a lesbian, either, because – for similar reasons to why Diane still is one – we really never lived in the world as lesbians. She never dated women as a woman. I never did either. Diane, however, very much did. So to me, the idea is that people not just recognize their own choices, but really do try to respect their own histories and communities as their lives change.
When you can’t win no matter what you choose, you’re pretty much dealing with prejudice of the 1st order, even if/when it’s based on ignorance.
But thanks, Jacob, for affirming a partner’s rights to have their own gender identities and sexual orientations. It’s nice to have some company, at long last. It’s frustrating to have people “use” me to somehow prove that my spouse’s gender isn’t as real as someone else’s.