For the last several months, I've been in a committed relationship with my partner, Meredith, who is mtf transgender. In the earliest stages of our relationship, she was "out" to just a handful people and had barely begun the transition process. Over time, our relationship has evolved side-by-side with Meredith's emerging female identity and body. Our relationship is, essentially, perfect-- from the walks in the park with our daughter to staying up late giggling about internet memes. But our situation is certainly an unusual one.
There are definite upsides and downsides to being in a relationship with a trans person. Here are the ones I've found most noteworthy.
1. It's dark in the closet. To about half my friends and two-thirds of my relatives, Meredith is "John," a very effeminate man. They love him and they think we're perfect for each other, but they don't know who "he" really is on the inside-- or who "he" is about to be on the outside. While we want to be ready to come out to all of our friends and relatives, the idea scares me. I worry about how things will change when the cat is out of the bag. My father, who loves my partner dearly, likely won't take well to him as a daughter-in-law. It's uncomfortable to masquerade as a different kind of couple when we're in mixed company.
2. ...But it's fun to troll people.Maybe I'm a terrible person for it, but, to me, one of the best things about dating a trans partner is the opportunity to skew with people's assumptions. Frequently, we will go out with me-- a cisgender woman-- dressed in men's clothes, and Meredith-- who appears male-- in women's clothes. There's nothing quite as funny as watching people gradually realize that the butch and the "drag queen" are a couple. I've watched many people fumble, red-faced, and say "Wait, so, you're, uh, a girl? And she-- he-- she-- I don't know what's going on." A little tip for those people: most trans people and their partners aren't even half as offended as you think. We know you're confused, and we agree that this is all pretty funny.
3. The double-life is unpleasant.On a typical Saturday night, we'll have a group of friends over for drinks and movies. We'll all sit around, wearing our own clothes, being ourselves, and not worrying about the assumptions of others. On these nights, everyone in the room calls Meredith by her female name. There is no tension, no awkwardness, no slips of misplaced pronouns. We're happy in those times. Then, when Monday rolls around, Meredith hesitantly goes back to being feminine-guy John. "John" feels like a mask, a business uniform-- a person who my sweetie pretends to be as part of an unpaid acting career. As much as it hurts me, I know it hurts her even more.
4. We get straight privilege. Because she is still "John" on paperwork, we have the option to get married one day-- something that most lesbian couples can't do. My family was also very happy when they discovered that I was in a relationship with a "man," and they were much more accepting of my "boyfriend" than they have ever been of any woman I've dated. This won't last long, though, as antiandrogens and estrogen etch their way into my partner's physique. For now, I'm happy to enjoy the privilege that we do get to have as an apparently-straight couple.
5. Everyone wonders about our sex life. Our sex life seems to be something that many of our friends and family members want to know about-- and the awkward, insinuated questions are both amusing and a little awkward. Mostly, people ask if we "do it" like straight people or if we "do it" like lesbians-- and that always confuses me, because, far as I'm concerned, there is no specific way that straight or gay couples have sex. There are times that I feel like people ask these questions because they think of us as some circus side-show curiosity. I don't really wonder about my friends' sex lives; why do they want to know about mine?
6. I'm in love. My sister asked me recently why I'm willing to put myself (and my daughter) through the challenges of being in a relationship with a trans partner. These sorts of questions confuse me. Yes, of course: my life would be a lot easier if I settled down with a straight, cisgender male. But that straight-cis-male isn't who I fell in love with. My favorite thing about being in a relationship with a trans person has nothing at all to do with the fact that she is trans. I'm in love with Meredith because she's Meredith.
I'm in love with her because she parents our daughter like a pro, because she beats me nine-times-out-of-ten in Super Smash Bros., because she makes terrible puns, and because she always knows how to cheer me up after a bad day. In the face of love like that, empty labels for gender, orientation, and sex become unimportant. We build our home on a foundation of love. Bigotry be damned.
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