location: Transition > Partner's Perspective
My wife Molly wrote the following entries for my website. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I met Ethan for the first time at a bookstore coffee shop. I knew immediately that I was in trouble. When he looked up at me he gave me the most amazing smile. And his eyes, oh my god, his gorgeous blue eyes. I was already feeling weak from the challenges of the last few days, and he looked at me and I almost started crying. Instead, I sat and asked him how to solve my kitten's behavior problems. For two hours we talked non-stop. We realized quickly that we are a lot alike and have many things in common. Part way through our conversation he gave me a framed picture of my cat who had recently passed away. It was the sweetest gesture. When they announced that the store was closing he said in a disappointed voice "They close at 10?" I asked him what he was doing that weekend, and he invited me to go contra dancing with him and some friends. I hesitantly agreed, unsure of what contra dancing entailed. As we left, he looked at me and I knew I was in trouble. I didn't want to fall for him, but it seemed like it might be too late. That night he emailed me with a song. It was perfect.
To explain further: I knew Ethan identified as a transman and had read his website (which as you know is quite thorough). However, I had not read all of it, only the main pages so there was still a discovery process in the beginning around his experiences. It was nice to hear some of his stories from his mouth instead of his website. Additionally, I identified externally as lesbian. In the last ten years I had only dated women. Internally, and to accepting friends (which believe it or not, most of my lesbian friends were not) I identified as bisexual. I had deeply loved a man once and knew that I had equal attractions to men and women, only that women seemed to fill an emotional need that I had not felt possible with a man.
I suppose I should explain myself a bit. I was raised very gender neutral. I'm not sure why, or whether it was a reaction to my personality that my parents dressed me in boy clothes or vice versa. Regardless, I was often mistaken for my mother's son. I had very short hair, preferred to play outside and get dirty, and hated girl clothes. When I tried to be feminine in middle school it just came out as awkward. I always felt different and was often picked on for the ways that I was not girly. When I was first discovering my sexuality, around 14, I spent a lot of time on the AOL trans chat rooms talking to trans people (mostly MTF) about what it meant to be queer and feel disconnected to one's birth gender. I began binding my chest and going to gay clubs in NYC to hook up with gay men. Unfortunately, they didn't buy it and I stopped because I saw that I was putting myself at risk. So in some ways I have always understood the feeling of not fitting into a gender binary. When I first came out as a lesbian I was very "butch" with a shaved head, tattoos, and only wearing men's clothing. However, over the years I began to feel freer and began allowing my feminine side out. More recently, I have passed as straight. It has been a mixed experience. I liked my righteous dyke attitude and appearance, but it just wasn't congruent with my professional aspirations (being a child psychologist) so I toned it down a bit. I do still wear Harley boots to work everyday. Despite my exploration with my gender identity, I never felt like I was in the wrong body, just that my sexuality and gender identity did not fit simply into one of the boxes that were presented to me. Thankfully I had friends and family who supported me throughout my adolescence and early adult life and accepted my various incarnations.
One of my first experiences with Ethan, dancing at a conservative local contra dance, I realized that I was passing. We looked straight. After spending 10 years with women who would not be affectionate in public (for various reasons, but mostly due to fear of bigotry), it was odd to be able to dance with him and not get a single strange look. I had a similar moment of realization when days later we were waiting for a table at IHOP and holding hands and kissing. No one even looked at us. I liked it and I felt guilty for liking the heterosexual privilege that I had somehow been thrust into by looking straight. It seemed easy to let go of the vigilance that I had been carrying around, even while living in a liberal, queer-friendly community.
What is it like loving a transman? Loving Ethan is the easiest thing I have ever done. I think he's perfect, at least for me. Being transsexual has very little to do with anything regarding my connection to his heart. On a more superficial level, I really like (and feel guilty about) the fact that we pass as a cute, young heterosexual couple. It's been interesting telling my friends and family, who have been very supportive but have had questions that I didn't always feel qualified to answer. Thank god for Ethan's website - it's a great source for answering people's questions. I can't tell you how many people I've given the web address to. I hesitate often about putting "this is who I'm dating" and "he's trans" in the same sentence. Although it is an important part of his identity, it is also not who he is or how he should be defined. But if I don't, then I feel like people are confused about me and whether I am still queer, which I do still identify as, despite being in a heterosexual relationship. One of the more challenging things in being with Ethan is that he is still not completely happy with his body, and won't be until he has metoidioplasty in June of this year. My fear is that even then he won't be. I love his body and think he is perfect and super sexy. I don't see any part of him as female and often have a hard time thinking of him as previously being perceived as one. His parts are undoubtedly man parts. I think because I clearly see him that way, he has been more comfortable with me than with women he has been with in the past. I also asked. I think this is sometimes hard for people to talk about. I asked him what was OK and he told me, and then he asked me. It was so simple and really basic, and I don't understand why everyone doesn't do this; but hearing from other FTMs, it's not a conversation everyone has. Realistically, I did make some assumptions based on my knowledge that he is male and that it would be insulting and inaccurate to call any part of him by female terms. In fact, it didn't occur to me that people would do that, but again, I heard from other transguys that they have been with people who have improperly referred to their body parts by the wrong gender. I can't imagine how that must feel.
Sometimes I worry. Sometimes I fear something negative - a comment, a gesture, a nasty look. I'm so conditioned to be defensive that I'm waiting for it. Really, I'm scared about bathrooms. For years, as a gender-fluid person I had difficulty, oddly, specifically with rest area bathrooms. Women would look at me then look back at the sign "women" then look puzzled or anxious or would snicker. Now that doesn't happen to me. But I fear something worse. In ever other way Ethan passes, but until he gets his surgery in June he cannot pee standing up. I am terrified that some asshole will find out and hurt him or rape him. I can't keep him safe. So I worry.
Before I met Ethan I planned on attending a conference in the city I live in. We ended up going together. I have never felt more accepted by a community. A few things resonated with me after the conference. 1) I worried about how there aren't adequate protection provisions for trans people (anti-discrimination statutes and such) and how that could potentially impact Ethan and my life together regarding marriage and family, 2) I heard a lot about therapists and doctors who treated people very poorly and unethically and felt frustrated that these are my colleagues. I decided to do something, but at that point wasn't sure what. I have been to a lot of conferences and felt that this was the best one I'd been to. Since then we have been to two more and plan on going to more in the future. During the last conference, the health care/mental health care access and knowledge issues came up again and again and I decided that I would write a survey about people's experiences with therapists. You can find this survey here. I hope this survey will help me to create a presentation to help educate therapists on mental health experiences of trans people. I'm already scheduled to present at a seminar at my work.
Ethan and I plan to marry in June of 2008. I am ecstatic. Soon after that, once income is stable, we plan on having children either through artificial insemination and/or adoption/foster care. When I first identified as lesbian I thought that I was this way as a biologically-designed form of population control; my partner couldn't get me pregnant, I had the intense maternal drive to parent so I would be a foster parent and provide a home to children who desperately needed one. I thought that was my destiny until I met Ethan. We still plan to eventually foster, but for the first time I truly considered bearing a child myself. I want to have his child. I wish my child could have his gorgeous blue eyes, but sadly they can't. However, a child who grows from our love - even if half the genes are donor #3345 - will be our child. Ethan wants nothing more than to be a father. This is one of the many things I adore about him. We've begun discussing how we want to approach being foster parents. Should we be open about him being transsexual? I feel strongly that we should be, even if it means we might get a big court case on our hands. An antidiscrimination law is currently on the books in our state and would likely be helped by our case. I am a child psychologist who specializes in treating trauma and foster children and a he will be a veterinarian; both of us would be fantastic parents who could provide a warm, stable, loving home to many children. Thankfully, we've both been good and have squeaky clean pasts (at least officially speaking). I guess we'll have to see what happens. I'm not looking for a fight, but I'll do it if I have to.
Maybe I'll write more later... feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions.
It's been almost three years since my original post. Ethan has been very gentle in his reminders that it would be nice to have an update
(seriously, he's not the least bit pushy or demanding, he would say "when you have time," which realistically I never have.). Many things
have changed since my first post. Most strikingly is that Ethan has had bottom surgery (and multiple revision surgeries), which were
challenging to him physically, but lead to him being much more comfortable with his body. This in turn has built his confidence and
sense of safety considerably. I almost never worry about him anymore, he has never not passed in my company and his transsexual experience
really has very little to do with our day to day lives. It's not that we don't acknowledge it, it just isn't as important a conversation as
it was when he had a superpubic catheter hanging off his abdomen for three months. Since the original post we have also gotten married
(best day of my life!), moved across the country (with a dog and three cats in one car!), and are currently pregnant with twins (YAY! check
out his daddy-blog). These big changes have solidified our life-long commitment and deepened our love for each other. I am honestly the happiest I have ever been. I am so appreciative of all that we have.