Jan. 20th, 2011

Or why "She's Not The Man I Married" is the worst book title in the universe.

Okay, so both my girlfriend and I have repeatedly gotten the question "are you staying together" since people found out I was transitioning. Now, maybe that seems like an innocent question to you, dear reader, but I'd like to take the time to explain why it isn't a simple or innocent question, and that there is deep and nasty bullshit lurking beneath the surface.

Right off the bat, I'd like to combat any notion that this is a perfectly natural question to ask. Would they ask this if I were dealing with any other medical condition? Would they ask this if I were changing careers? Would they ask this about essentially any other major, life changing, decision other than, perhaps, announcing that I was moving across the world? The answer, I think one can reasonably see, is "no".

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'd like to enumerate some various kinds of heinousness that I think are at play here.

So, first, I'd like to address the obvious heterosexism, and to a lesser extent bisexual erasure, involved. I think it's pretty clear that the line of reasoning is that since we got together when I was presenting as male then we clearly were a good upstanding pair of heterosexuals, and now that I've gone and broken the asymmetry something needs to change.

I don't think I need to explain to this limited audience why that's such a horrible line of reasoning.

I'm queer and so is she. There really wasn't going to be a problem in either direction.

I get the impression that people aren't considering this possibility when they find out I'm transitioning.

Second, I think there's some deep seated cissexism at play. The tone people always use when they ask this question is one of "are you going to overcome this problem?". Of course, there's no real problem to begin with. I was always me! She fell in love with me the same way I fell in love with her. I don't see how the fact that I'm being more open and more honest about who I am should be detrimental to the relationship. This is why I absolutely hate the title of that book "She's Not The Man I Married" - admittedly, I haven't read it, but the title alone belies some serious respect issues for trans women. That's right, she's not a man. Good on you for figuring that out! Do you want a cookie? If a trans person coming out really is the end of the relationship, I'd argue that it was unlikely you loved the trans person for their real self but rather a person you thought they were, a person you hoped them to be.

I was actually asked by my girlfriend's parents, the one time they've talked to me after coming out, if I was just trying to "give marriage a shot" and "see if things worked" and was accused of deceiving her into this relationship. Perhaps this is unfair, but I see shades of the sentiment every time someone asks if we're staying together. I think there's just a little bit of the notion that she was snookered into this relationship by The Evil Tranny and now she needs to decide if it's worth sticking the relationship out now that she knows what I really am.

At heart, I think this all comes down to seeing trans people as somehow inferior to cis people. That we're damaged goods, something to be put up with out of previously earned affections.

I don't think, when people ask that question, they seriously have considered the possibility that my girlfriend loves me just as much as she always did, and that she finds me just as - if not more - attractive now that my body is becoming more female, that she loves my breasts and my curves just as she loved my more typically male-looking body.

I'm just glad she really sees me and loves me better than anyone asking the question could imagine.

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