Five Questions With… Loree Cook Daniels

Another interview with one of the partners whose narrative is in Transgress Press’ Love, Always. Loree Cook Daniel’s is the “partner’s partner” and has been working on SOFFA support and inclusion in the trans community for 20 years. She works primarily with FORGE, the awesome trans advocacy group out of Milwaukee.

1. What didn’t you write about in your narrative but wish you had?
I’ve been partnered with a trans person for a total of 32 years now; there is a LOT that wasn’t covered!

2.  What is the biggest misunderstanding you confront as a partner to a trans person?
The thing that most irritates me is when someone tells me that because “I’m cis” I don’t get it.  First of all, I don’t identify as cis. But secondly, I’ve been working on trans issues for more than 20 years, and from the beginning I have had a really strong commitment to understanding and representing the tremendous diversity there is in the trans community. It ticks me off when someone who came out last year or the year before that says that because of their experience, they know more about being trans than I do. Kinda like the heart patient who says she knows more about heart attacks than her heart surgeon: if you had a heart problem, which one would you rather get advice from? I’ve had people who said they didn’t want me to train them because they wanted to hear from a “real” trans person.

3. Where do you get your support?
When my first partner first transitioned, I was active on a lot of the partner’s listservs. But those didn’t always feel supportive to me, because Marcelle and I were not comfortable with a lot of the group norms, some of which involved being a “good (silent, nonequal) partner.”  So it seemed like I was either involved in a conflict or just giving advice from what I’d gathered in working with so many people; I didn’t get support for myself. I think this is still true.  I still have trouble finding/feeling support for me and my issues. Except, of course, that both of my partners have been *extremely* supportive of me. I just don’t feel much support from “out there.”

4.  How has your experience been in bringing up your own difficulties with the trans person you’re partnered to?
Most of the problems I had when my first partner transitioned were with the larger trans community, and he responded to that by becoming “the SOFFA’s SOFFA,” supporting me (literally) in my work to make the community a more inclusive space for SOFFAs. He was also extremely supportive as I realized how much I was going to have to change my own understandings of men and women and how the world worked as a result of having my gender applecart upended. I think the reason our personal transition was as smooth as it was is that we really did do it as a partnership: we supported each other in working through the issues transition brought up for us individually and as a couple. In my current (15 y/o) partnership, we just have the “everyday” types of difficulties, which we work through like other couples who are committed to staying together: we keep working at the issues, sometimes with therapist’s help.

5.  Do you think you would partner with other kinds of trans people? That is, if you are partnered to someone feminine spectrum, would you date someone who is masculine spectrum? If they’re binary, someone genderqueer?
I realize that having been partnered with two transpeople for more than 30+ years, I would meet some people’s definition of a “tranny-chaser.” But the truth is, I picked both of them because of their brains. If I were so unfortunate as to be single again, I’d again be looking at brains first, everything else second. That’s my orientation: sapiosexual.

6.  What motivates your ongoing activism in trans rights and partners’ rights?
I have a spiritual belief that I was put on this earth at this time for a purpose, and that purpose is advancing human rights and empowerment. Part of what’s going to have to happen for that is that we’re going to have to throw out these beliefs we’ve held for millennia that people can be divided into categories that should be treated differently. As long as we divide and box humanity, that’s how long we’ll be unable to work together to make good things happen. One of the most basic sets of boxes is the gender ones. I do support people who are comfortable in a gender box, but I want the system thrown out. I want people to choose gender like they choose fashions: as an expression, not a mandate. So for me, this is the work that is going to change the world and bring heaven to earth!

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