A nonfiction essay by Victoria Crossman
My sexuality has always been fluid, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how systematically ingrained I was with hetero-normative gender roles. I identify as a cis woman. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I identified as bisexual from the time I started puberty, and many of my first encounters were with the same gender. However, I didn’t realize that exempted me from believing and upholding stereotypical gender roles.
My first engagement was to a man. We separated for several reasons, but the most impactful for me was the realization that I identified as a lesbian. Or rather, that I didn’t actually enjoy penis. I would end up identifying queer years later, but from then on I decided to only date women.
I met my partner on Plenty of Fish. They identified as a lesbian and we fell madly in love pretty instantly. It was definitely a Uhaul beginning, but four years later we have a beautiful and solid foundation and relationship. About two years into our relationship, my partner began opening up about shifting from identifying as an androgynous gay woman to non-binary. We had a lot of open conversations, and I asked a lot of questions. I knew how to be in a same sex relationship, but my partner was essentially coming out as trans and it would also change the way I identified sexually.
My partner felt gender neutral and experienced body dysmorphia. They loved doing drag king shows (which I loved too), and they were beginning to really break the gender binary. I read a lot. There were so many things that I read, they all blended together and I honestly couldn’t remember everything I read or where I read it. But one thing stuck out to me and has stuck with me. I had read something in which a cis woman talked about her partner who had transitioned from being female to male. She talked about her personal identity and how she had always identified as lesbian. But now that her partner was a man as far as gender was concerned, she felt continuing to identify as lesbian was disrespectful. She had to find a new way to identify.
My partner is undecided regarding any type of hormones or surgery but definitely thinks about it often. It’s a part of the body dysphoria. Being gay and being trans are two totally separate issues. Many people in the gay community still dismiss gender neutrality or just don’t understand. But wrangling with my own identity was really unexpected. That woman’s words hit me like a ton of bricks and throughout my partner’s exploration of gender and identity, my own identity has shifted as well. Lesbian implies I’m into women – my partner and love of my life isn’t a woman; they’re non-binary. Gender neutral. Two spirited. They are misunderstood, judged, and deal with harassment or stares on a regular basis.
I identify as queer now.
Queer implies no specific gender. It doesn’t place either of us into any categories that we might not want to be in. It allows me to identify myself, and to proclaim my love for my partner, without pigeon-holing them into an identity they may not choose.
Relationships in general can be complicated, confusing, and difficult to navigate. Bringing two individual lives together and integrating them into one whole, while also keeping those two individual lives, takes effort, determination, and a whole lot of love.
When you have a trans partner, it creates a new layer of confusion and a new map to navigate. It requires more effort, determination and love to be able to not only remain open to your partner’s shifts, but the ones that might be required of you as well.
The keys to making it work are: honesty, communication and support.
Being honest and communicating your thoughts and feelings, and allowing your partner to do the same, lets you both understand each other. It gives you the opportunity to openly discuss your fears, concerns, and questions.
Support is needed on both sides. Your partner needs it as they determine their identity or transition into it. You need it as you adjust to the new reality. You both need to support the relationship as you move into uncharted territory.
We still have a lot of conversations. We talk about what feels good and doesn’t. We talk about pronouns and the possibility of them coming out to their family. We talk about body features they wish they had or didn’t have. Loving and supporting someone who is trans isn’t the same as someone who identifies as gay or lesbian. It requires another level of intimacy. It takes patience and empathy.
We have an incredibly intimate relationship I didn’t think was possible with another person. They’re my best friend and the love of my life. They know every dark, gross thing about me and still love me. They still want to be with me. I’m so grateful for my partner. They are my rock and my solid footing. We identify a lot with the saying, “You keep me wild, I keep you safe.” I keep them wild. They keep me safe. They’re an introvert and I’m an extrovert. We compliment each other in many ways that wouldn’t make sense, but communication and honesty are what keeps our relationship going strong. Queer relationships have a lot of different waters to navigate, but it’s undeniably worth it.