I’ve been meaning to wrap up my interviews with partners by putting up a small piece of my Epilogue for Love, Always. I read it Saturday night at a FORGE meeting because Trystan Cotten, Transgress Press’ Managing Editor, was in town.
Also, he’s an awesome guy & you should all buy more of their books.
In the meantime, here’s that snippet:
And we do it all in a wilderness with little support from our own closest friends. Sometimes, when I speak to partners, I remind them that We Are Out There and we may not have a Prof. X to find us all, but we are. We are raising children and packing lunches and going back to school ourselves and sighing at our in-laws or at Oprah getting it wrong again. We are sex blogging and arguing with doctors and following the arguments about Prop 8 and DSM V.
No wonder some of us forget who we are, forget our self-care; no wonder we occasionally rant and sob and grow some giant-size anger.
Where we find ourselves is often between that infamous rock and hard place: if our partner’s transition makes us look like half a lesbian or gay couple, we have to deal with homophobia; but if our partner’s transition makes us look like half of a straight couple, we often lose the support of the lesbian or gay community we’ve belonged to and found safety in for many years of our lives.
Because we transition into trans partners, no one really knows anything about us. We don’t become lesbians when our wives become women, and we don’t become straight when our guys become men. That joke, as Morrissey so famous quipped, isn’t funny anymore. We end up in a place where we have our own histories, our own orientations, hidden from public view, especially if our trans love isn’t out as trans. Some of us opt to identify as bi- (to explain, perhaps, why we’re married to women while nursing a crush on Mark Ruffalo – at least in this partner’s experience, I swear my taste in men got bigger and hairier as my partner transitioned). We find stories to explain why we’re lesbians and why we’re sad about Leslie Feinberg’s death – or why, indeed, we even know who Leslie Feinberg was. In straight and gay communities, an awful lot of people think you’re only ever one or other; we have some common ground with bisexual people in that we’re largely invisible and must, must, be repressed/oversexed/self-hating/whatever crappy things people think about bisexual people these days. Yet some of us don’t like bi- because it’s binary. So a lot of us, you’ll find, wind up under the big bad queer umbrella, so we don’t have to explain a lifetime of dating women but being married to a man; we don’t have to explain becoming non monogamous because we miss certain kinds of sex or desires or even ways of being desired. We don’t want to feel like jerks for missing the bodies or parts or sex acts that we love. But we also don’t want to be judged for loving your trans bodies because they’re trans.
We are always standing on the edge of the forest, machetes in hand, hacking our own paths.
We can’t complain to people we know because we know so many of those around us want us to fail or cry or be pathetic and pitiable or even to condemn the trans. If you give in a little, if you complain about the transition to a good friend, then all of a sudden the whole reason you’re unhappy is that your partner is trans. That happens with therapists, too, way too often.
In trans community, when we’re allowed to partake, the complaining we do or the gentle mocking or the loving critiques or not so loving critiques – please stop dressing like a 19 year old, dear, because you’re 35 – are often viewed as transphobic. If we are not on board and behind every single decision the trans person makes, we’re out. Suspect. If we ask the trans person to slow down so we can catch our breath or save up some money or come out to someone else who needs to know we are, again, judged unwilling or transphobic. We can’t refer to our former boyfriend as a boyfriend even though he was because she is our girlfriend now and has only ever been so and don’t you forget it and that’s even when your own trans person is perfectly okay with hearing you talk about what a cute guy/hot butch you once were. We don’t seek to offend but we do need room to deal with transition our own way. We’re going to screw up pronouns and new names and you know what? So do trans people, sometimes. Our intentions matter.
Despite feeling like outsiders in so many other communities we once belonged in, we often feel liminal even within trans community. We know that. We own our cis privilege, if we are cis. We know more than anyone else what it means to have it. And that’s when we’re even allowed in. So many lesbian women and their trans guys get shut out of queer women’s events; so many straight women and their trans female partners are never let in. Gay men flirt with my wife as if she’s a guy in a dress, and sometimes straight women do, too. Queer women fetishize trans guys as if they’re prizes and yet refer to our trans husbands with female pronouns when they’re not around. We end up defending your gender identities and yet all the while try not to speak for you.
We need more support from the trans community, and we need for the rest of the LGBTQ+ community to realize we’re here and we’re queer and get used to it, already. Sometimes we look straight but we’re not. Sometimes we are straight and don’t know how to do this. Sometimes we need someone to say, “Hey, you look nice” and sometimes we need people to understand that transition is like some crazy combination of marriage (name change), medical crisis (hormones, surgery) and divorce (social ostracism, pity). It’s a lot to deal with at once, and often, when the trans person is busy dealing with all of the emotions and fears and new discoveries, we are picking up an awful lot of slack emotionally and even just logistically. But you get to be brave and living your own truth, or whatever condescending stuff it is that non trans people say about transition these days. You are noble, and suffering, while we’re often assumed to be codependent or desperate.
We get asked all the offensive, obnoxious questions they know not to ask you by now.