At the end of last month, I was in a coffee shop with my girlfriend, Brittany, working on my schedule of articles for this month, trying to come up with ideas which would still be relevant within the next few weeks, and then I remembered an idea from a couple of weeks before. I turned to her and asked, “Will you write a guest post, talking about what it’s like for you?” Which seems like a very vague question, but we have a constant dialogue about gender and are constantly asking each other questions, I about her experience in dating a transman and she about all facets of my knowledge of gender.
I have always been interested in knowing what it is like from the other side of a relationship, following several trans* partners’ blogs on tumblr, such as SOFFA Support and Partners of FTM People (if you know of any others, please pass them my way), to try to understand how I need to support my partner in whatever relationship I’m in. I have written before about gender and dating, my thoughts and experiences, but I wanted to be able to share with you a different perspective:
I will be the first to admit my gender is one of the few things in my life I have never questioned. In forging the identity I carry today, I have never felt anything other than utterly female, though my femininity does not necessarily fall in line with societal standards. I have never felt out of sync with my body beyond being unable to attain the body ideals I’m apparently supposed to emulate. In the past few years, I’ve come to accept that fact. I’ve come to accept that I am vertically challenged, I have brown hair which will never go properly blonde, and my eyes will never stay light blue. I’m short, I’m female, and I’m gay.
We met briefly one evening two years ago, danced once, parted and didn’t speak again until this past May. This most recent meeting sparked something, helped along by a mutual love of Tamora Pierce, cooking, and exploration. We started spending time together – and I don’t mean in a gradual, moderate, just-starting-out way. We spent a whirlwind four days together, from just after dawn until well past dusk every day. I went to more restaurants in my town that weekend than in the three years I have lived there. I was introduced to hideaways and back roads I never knew existed.
I was drawn to this man who could be so thoughtful, sitting in silence with me; who could enjoy chai and steak and sushi all in the same day; who could guide me through a bookshop with such quiet assurance that I immediately stepped back and followed his lead. He was intriguing, handsome, charming, gentlemanly and would go out of his way to make me laugh. I found myself incredibly attracted to him, and, in my forward fashion, I blatantly told him so. Sitting on the other side of the couch in his apartment, I could swear he froze for a moment.
Maybe I imagined it, though, because the next moment he turned to me with a slow smile, his head tilted questioningly. I stared back at him, more curious than anything.
“So…it doesn’t bother you?” he asked, looking somewhat confused. I was quickly moving from curious to confused myself.
“It doesn’t make you question things?”
I was now utterly lost, and my blank face must have given me away because he began to explain – how several of the girls he had been interested or involved with in the recent past, all of whom identified as lesbians, had issues with being involved with him because he identifies as male. I’m pretty sure my face was still rather blank, as I realized – it hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Yes, I did (and still do) identify as gay; and yes, I have dated exclusively women for the past few years. But it hadn’t even occurred to me to think about whether or not being attracted to Cael would invalidate my sexual identity. I didn’t begin to think about his maleness and my homosexuality as possibly conflicting until he mentioned it to me on the couch. Now, I know this is just my experience, and I’m certainly not trying to tout it as the better way or more enlightened or anything along those lines, but it was my truth in that moment.
What I continue to find most interesting has been the reaction of others around me. I was besieged with questions from a few of my lesbian friends about whether or not I was “still gay”, some of my male friends used the presence of a boyfriend as proof that I’m not really gay but just “experimental”, and my best guy friend took the idea of me dating a boy other than him very personally. Closer to home, my mother revealed she was finally ready to have the conversation with my much-younger siblings so I could come out to them and be totally open – but now, because I was involved with a boy, the conversation would have to wait. When I cut my hair most recently to a style I have been dying to try for a while, my mother disapprovingly told me it was a style “stereotypical to a particular demographic, which [due to my current relationship, I] should no longer be attempting to portray.”
I wasn’t really anticipating such a reaction, to be honest. I wondered at several points if I should be bothered, if I should be re-evaluating my identity as a lesbian woman. Ultimately I decided since it wasn’t something I was intrinsically concerned with, I probably shouldn’t expend the effort to try. My friends understand now that I am attracted to Cael – his person, his hands, his thoughts – and they know he treats me wonderfully and we are really enjoying getting to know each other. That is enough for them. My mother still struggles with the idea, but she was just getting used to the idea of a gay daughter, so I have some sympathy for her.
Cael and I have a very open dialog about seemingly everything, and can spend an afternoon walk pointing out various women we each find attractive – heads up, brunettes with glasses! I know, in the event of this relationship ending, I again will be dating women. He knows that, too. But in the meantime, I have a fabulous something with a wonderful man, and I’m content to see where it goes.
I wanted to say, thank you Brittany for writing this guest post. And I also wanted to say something about trans* relationships as well. All of them are different, with the individuals in them deciding how to present their relationship to the world. That being said, I wanted to explain Brittany and I have had many, many conversations about how we are comfortable. When she identifies herself as a lesbian, it is in no way disrespecting me or my identity. It is how she identifies, and I respect that. I will not demand for her to reassess a part of her and compromise what she has come to know of herself. I am the guy who takes her camping and out to eat, who sends her random packages and has six hour conversations with her on the drive home from the beach without any music on. That is what matters. And if being together opens a dialogue with friends and family or people we meet, so much the better because that is how people learn. We wanted to share this to give another perspective. Other trans* relationships operate differently, and just as there is no such thing as not trans* enough, there is no wrong way to define your relationship between yourself and your partner as long as it is something you agree on and based on the respect you have for each other.