Meredith and I are a perfect couple in every way. We're that sickly-sweet couple that constantly argues, "No, I love you more!" and daydreams sappily about our future together. In the time we've been together, not a day has gone by that I haven't thanked my stars for finding someone so wonderful, so compatible, and so deeply in love with me. The three of us-- Meredith, myself, and my daughter-- form a perfect sort of family that I never thought I would have.
Life isn't just sunshine and roses for us, though. People don't look at us and see Genevra and Meredith. They see Genevra and John, who look like a happy heterosexual couple taken out of the pages of a fairy tale. Meredith, you see, is transgender-- she has gender identity disorder, which is often characterized (and oversimplified) as "a man trapped in a woman's body." And, unbeknownst to my family and many of my friends, she is pursuing a complex series of hormone treatments, hair removals, and possibly surgeries, all of which constitute what is known as a "sex change."
At this point, we lead a double life, and I have no idea how to escape it. Around Meredith's family and our closest friends, she is recognized and acknowledged a woman. She wears skirts and make-up, gossips in giggles with our best friends, and teases me for my complete inability to walk in high heels-- while strutting in stilettos with the grace of a supermodel. In those times, I sometimes forget that the "sex change" is months or years away from completion, and I don't conceptualize us as anything other than a normal (albeit lesbian) couple.
That feeling gets broken, though, when I get a text message from one of my family members asking how "John" and I are doing. My family is crazy about my boyfriend, and couldn't possibly be happier to see me in such a wonderful and fulfilling relationship. Whenever they call, they first ask to speak to my daughter and then to my so-called boyfriend. I hear Meredith deepen her voice-- something that sounds strained and fake-- when she's playing John. And I wonder, as the conversation between my parents and their future "son-in-law" lingers on, how long we'll be able to keep this up.
There are few things in the world that scare me as much as the idea of telling my family that my boyfriend is having a sex change. I know that their reaction will be one primarily of confusion, since the media consistently equates transgender women to gay men, drag queens, and perverts-- and my partner is none of those things. I know that, while they more or less accepted my bisexuality years ago, they aren't likely to attend a wedding with two brides. In fact, they may decide to never speak to me again.
I can't keep it a secret forever. It's already hard enough to remember to switch the pronouns and names I use when I talk about my partner, and my daughter-- now just three years old-- isn't likely to be able to a secret and lead a double life. And, even if she can, it doesn't seem like a healthy or appropriate thing to ask of a child. As the laser hair removal tears away at those vestiges of masculinity, and as hormones start to sculpt a female figure on her innately male body, I wonder how long she'll be able to pass as a man. My only options are to abandon our relationship-- something that would destroy me, given the deep, passionate love that we have for each other-- or to risk losing my family, many of my friends, and my privileged social status as a woman in a straight relationship.
When the media highlights the sensationalized, voyeuristic stories of "shemales" and the dramatic narratives of the broken people "born in the wrong body," the stories always reek of tragedy, showing the daily struggles of the people whose bodies don't match their brains. What they don't show-- and almost universally overlook-- is the fact that other people's biases and prejudices are the primary problem faced by transgender people and their partners. Meredith and I have a wonderful relationship, and her gender identity has no impact on that. The biggest problem we face is hoping for acceptance from other people. If we had that, our lives together would be truly complete and truly happy.
Related Work by Genevra Reid