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Offline, in my so-called real life, I don’t talk much about Jaime. Instead, I refer to her by the more mainstream version of her identity, “James”. There are a few who know, but I can count them on one hand. It’s probably going to stay that way for a long time. I also have been moving towards the decision to essentially never tell my family about her, and just make up excuses for why “James” can’t visit on holidays, or why I’m coming home alone for a visit. But for others, I plan on slowly, subtly, explaining it. When I become a lawyer, I plan on placing a picture of (hopefully then) my wife on my desk, referring to her in casual office chit-chat when asked about my life outside the office, and not hesitating to invite her to functions where spouses are welcome. For now though, that seems like a dream more than anything else. Transitioning into womanhood is slow, and without handy things like hormones or a good command of a make-up brush, it’s too hard for my poor Darling to convincingly “pass” as a woman.

We’re in the process of preparing for “coming out”, but at this point, the idea of coming out is very vague, very uncertain. See, the thing is, there is not a single, big, television-worthy event which just settles it. You have to come out, again and again, to different friends, different relatives, different bosses, different casual acquaintances and different strangers, depending on your comfort zone. Am I living as openly queer now because I’m open on the internet, refer to my significant other with feminine pronouns and use her chosen feminine name when talking to her, and do so with my closest friends? Or does it not count until I am 100% out in the open? How can I ever be open when I know I could never tell my mother without her calling me a freak of nature, disowning me, bribing my girlfriend or me into breaking up, attempting to “set me straight”, or saying she’ll never speak to me again? How can I live “openly” when mom’s cruel boyfriend and his son would very possibly attempt to murder my girlfriend, since they have in the past expressed glee and a borderline erotic frenzy at the idea of murdering trans people? How can I come out to a family where people are known for going outside wearing shirts that say “I’ll only support gay marriage if both women are hot”? How can I live with being threatened by people who call themselves “family” with beatings, death, or permanent silence?

The answer is, for now, I can’t. Call us cowards all you like, but that’s life right now. And it’s getting more and more complicated to lead double identities. A few times, with people whom I should really not slip up with, I’ve referred to Jaime with feminine pronouns or her real name, and get a weird double-glance. Usually it’s brushed over with a crude joke about me “wearing the pants in the relationship” and forgotten, but the fact is, the line between the life we lead when we are alone and when we are in public is blurring, and they are aching to combine into a single world, against the strong wishes of myself and Jaime. At times, I want to climb onto my roof, scream “I am in love with a woman, get over it!” to the world. Other times, I so greatly fear the repercussions, I vomit, and sometimes wish that I could go back to that simpler life, when I didn’t have to imagine my mother offering me money, jewels, or who knows what else she will think of, to get me to break up and go out with a “real man” (I’m not being hyperbolic here, I know my mother well, she would do that)

It may seem dishonest to some to live a life like this, reaping the benefits of being seen as a heterosexual couple in public and then “playing lesbian house” (as one person sneeringly called it when I explained the situation) but for now, it is what works best for us, and to hell with anyone who thinks we don’t genuinely count as a queer couple. I’ve heard that sentiment expressed frequently, either because they don’t think that hormones and a dress do a woman make (Go take a shit in the ocean if you feel that way, you’re not welcome here) or that we don’t count because we’re presumed heterosexual by 99% of the world’s population, or that we’re just “kinky” and this is all one big, elaborate sex game. Nuh-uh.

Our time will come when we can walk down the streets together as two women, start a family, have a wedding (Oh lord, thinking about whether or not to hold a fake hetero wedding to please my relatives and their ilk gives me a headache and nightmares) and live together happily, living as our true selves. But for now, that’s not an option for us. It’s not dishonesty. It’s just a matter of safety and progress.