>Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of comments from fans, telling me that I am “saintly” for accepting and loving my girlfriend as she transitions. Well, thanks to you all, I’m grateful to see the support, obviously. But it’s not a task which I consider arduous, or worthy of sainthood. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at all difficult, or if there weren’t nights when I lay awake wondering about how it will all go, but anyone with an open mind, and open heart, and a healthy attitude towards love can do what I am doing now, whether as a family member, a romantic partner, or a friend. I’m hardly an expert, but these are the things which I have dealt with while she transitions.
I’d say probably the biggest challenge for me when I first realized that transition was going to be the route she would take was coping with how I, her, and our relationship would change in the eyes of the world. If you want me to be brutally honest, I was reminded of the scene from Fiddler On the Roof when Chava is begging Tevye to accept her love for her non-Jewish boyfriend, and he shoots her down, declares her essentially dead in his eyes. I haven’t told any of my family yet, but I’m expecting just that, based on past statements about trans people and my mom’s horror at the suggestion that I might be bisexual (That was my attempt at coming out, which quickly fizzled and forced me to abort all attempts to talk about it)
Family is one thing, and I have been building myself up mentally for the possibility of being disowned by them for several months now. Beyond them, I am also fearful of other folks, ones I haven’t even met yet: Landlords, future bosses, coworkers, airport security officials, basically, I have internalized a fear of every stranger who may have power over my life and how I live it. When I read stories about trans people being deported when trying to travel abroad, having a difficult time being treated with dignity by healthcare professionals, or being denied housing/employment, I bite my lip, and try to remind myself that not all will be like that, that there is hope. But I worry often about our dreams of travel. She and I used to spend hours awake together, whispering “Let’s go to Bahrain” or “Let’s go to Ukraine” or “Let’s go to Java”, and detailing our adventures, the sights we’d see, the museums we’d frequent, the food we’d try, the bodies of water we would swim in.
Occasionally we would worry about some places being unsafe to travel, either because we are Westerners, or because I’m Jewish. But now, it’s much more frightening to think, as two women travelling together, one of whom is trans, about our safety when travelling abroad. Hell, it’s a nightmare to think about our safety in our very own neighbourhood! That has probably been the biggest shocker to adjust to, more than anything else. It’s a truly unfair choice: Live as we truly are and be ourselves, or have to give up on a good portion of a dream we shared as a couple.
Another thing which I have had a hard time adjusting to is having to be patient. My girlfriend, bless her, she’s a physicist. Her interest lays inherently in plotting things out, looking for the little cogs which make the big machine work, and carefully conducting step-by-step to get to the end. I’m the exact opposite. I am interested in results, fast. So when she began going to her therapist, I thought, “Well, that’s great, we can get the ball rolling, put you in a dress, and I’ll teach you how to wear heels without breaking an ankle.”” No,” was the answer I got. “We have to take this slow. Make sure to gradually begin to feminize [girlfriend’s] appearance, little things, like growing out hair more, and then we can work our way up to electrolysis, feminization, and hormones.”
That frustrated me. What probably aggravated me the most was the fact that my girlfriend was reluctant to “come out” to the world. As far as the majority of the world of our friends and acquaintances and people we see every day is concerned, we are still a heterosexual couple and my girlfriend is a red-blooded Canadian boy. I began to get impatient with the slowness, I was eager to come out, and we have probably had more fights over this issue than any other. I don’t want to live in a closet, I argue, and why should we hide who we are from our friends? We have nothing to be embarrassed about.
But in making this argument, I was ignoring my girlfriend’s right to control how she comes out and the pace at which she would feel comfortable. I’m an absolute jerk for doing that, I know. It was hard for me to cope with the slow pace, but that’s no excuse for being so bossy and domineering over HER transition. When I realized this, I apologized, offered her a hug, and decided it’s time for me to take Don’t Be a Jerk lessons, if anyone’s offering.
As time goes on, I know other issues are going to come up. Hormones can make people grumpy or curt, medical procedures are difficult to deal with, and all those years of integrated prejudice and bigotry aren’t going to come off with elbow grease alone. But I have to keep growing, keep learning, and realize above all else: It’s not about me. It’s her journey, and I’m just a helping hand. I’m not a perfect partner, but I’ve got to do my very best to make this as easy and pain-free for her as possible. It’s my honour and my duty to love my girlfriend and help her be at her happiest as a woman. Our relationship with each other, society, our family, and just about everyone else is going to change, but we’ll still be the same people, and still have love and unbreakable friendship as a foundation of our togetherness.
It’s not been all champagne and chocolates. But it’s quite the interesting journey, if you can learn to not be a backseat driver.
>Oh, look at that, it’s just in time for Valentine’s Day too! Not intended on my part; this has just been the first day I’ve been able to get back on my blogging feet. Sorry about the delay.
Anyways, one of the reasons I’ve been having a difficult time getting around to blogging hasn’t just been schoolwork. Seventeen credits is a bit of a workload, but there’s something that’s been going on in my life which I haven’t been disclosing to my readers, or to anyone really, until very recently. It’s something which has forced me to re-examine my life, and is going to cast the privileges I have/had in a whole new light.
You may have noticed a slight shift in tone the few times I’ve discussed my romantic life with my significant other. At first, I used exclusively male pronouns, said “my boyfriend”, and talked about his talents, his non-neurotypicality, etc etc. If you’re sharp-eyed and a very devoted reader, you may have noticed that I’ve switched up to using gender-neutral language more and more. “My boyfriend” has become “my partner” or “my significant other”, and pronouns of any type are used sporadically.
The time has come for me to admit this is not coincidental. Nor is it an attempt at being more progressive and in solidarity with gender-non-conformists. This is because my significant other is a woman. An autistic woman. Just like me. Right now, she is in the process of exploring different gender expressions before deciding on whether or not to move into the territory of hormones and surgery, and we have an excellent therapist working with her to make this as stress-free and smooth as possible.
I have always known deep down that my girlfriend was not a typical person, either neurologically or gender-wise. When she first disclosed to me that she wanted her outside appearance to match her inside, it came as no surprise to me, and I have done my very best to try to be a supportive girlfriend, and will continue to do so. It didn’t take me much time to switch pronouns in my head, and switch names as well. But I refrained from disclosing my girlfriend’s true gender to others, adhering to her request to not be “outed” until she was ready. Now though, with her permission, the only time I use masculine pronouns and names in reference to her is when speaking to my parents or people whom my girlfriend is not ready to tell about her true self. I respect that, but there’s something more than wanting to be “ready” that motivates us from not being open about it. And that is fear.
I am fearful of the reactions of my mother and stepfather, who are virulently homophobic and ridicule trans people. The last time my mother and I encountered a trans friend of mine, she spent the better part of an hour (After my friend had left) babbling, “But, but, how does she look so, REAL? So, not like a man in a dress?!” And the words of my stepfather would be graffiti on this post, so I will not write them.
I fear the fact that not all people will be accepting of this relationship, and that we will be perceived as “attention seeking” just for trying to live our lives and love each other in a way that feels right.
For a while, I feared that the revelation that my girlfriend is a woman would drive several of her friends to blame me for the change, because I’m a vocal feminist and I feared they would think I “brainwashed” her.
But most of all, I fear how I will come to terms with our lost privilege. When we were perceived as a heterosexual couple, it never crossed our minds that our public displays of affection could inspire jeering or violent reactions. We could fearlessly go into any restaurant, any “couples”-oriented event, or dream of travelling to any tourist-town. Holding hands while walking was acceptable, and exchanging the occasional hug and kiss wouldn’t draw a second glance.
One we fully come out of the closet though, that will be a luxury we can no longer afford. Even in the most gay-friendly cities, our love is considered deviant from the norm. The fact that my girlfriend is a trans woman will add to that, many who are less-than-homophobic still express a great disdain for trans people. We will no longer be able to dream of vacations to foreign countries (Beloved and I are both history enthusiasts) without first considering whether we would be safe there. And even in my own country, the United States, our love will no longer be legally recognized as valid enough to warrant a marriage. Meanwhile, in my girlfriend’s country, Stephen Harper and conservatives are working to ensure that a bill which would guarantee freedom from discrimination in the law for trans individuals is defeated in the senate. This has led to many jokes between my girlfriend and me, where whenever something homophobic or transphobic rears its ugly head in our own countries, we start dreaming up our exodus to Sweden.
All joking aside though, being closeted meant a plethora of invisible privileges which are beginning to unravel, but there is more freedom out of that closet than any amount of PDA and trips to Morocco could buy. My girlfriend and I are resolute that we stay together, and that we fight together for our right to be recognized as a loving couple. Not just legally, but socially as well. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is. In the immortal words of Capt. Picard: “If we are to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”
Remember: Freedom is merely privilege extended, unless enjoyed by one and all.