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Today's MMMMonday post is an excerpt from a new book called Trans-Kin: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People. Trans-Kin is a collection of stories from significant others, family members, friends and allies of transgender persons (SOFFAs).
These are real stories from SOFFAs, so they may not always have the "perfect" or "right" answers, or they may talk about the process of getting to a place of understanding that they didn't originally start at. These stories, plus a comprehensive glossary, a list of frequently asked questions, and a list of books and organizations, promote awareness, insight, and understanding of the transgender community. The excerpt below is an essay by Cat Moran from the Significant Others section of Trans-Kin.
My partner, Charlie, and I met almost five years ago at NYC's Dyke March. We converged on Washington Square Park with scores of queers, and we danced and drummed and made eyes at each other.
Charlie is a trans man, and at the time, I was a bisexual-identified ciswoman. Shortly after meeting him and beginning to hang out with more trans and gender variant folks, I realized that "bisexual" limited things to the gender binary, and I certainly didn't. Rather, I was a queer woman.
Early in Charlie's medical transition, before his top surgery and in the early days of his testosterone therapy, we would sometimes be treated as a lesbian couple. One chain restaurant that we frequented had a particularly problematic waiter who we affectionately referred to as "DudeBro." The first time that DudeBro served us, he was attentive, and it was clear that he read us as a couple. We figured that we were "passing" - Charlie passing as male, and me passing as straight.
On our next visit, however, we were seated with another waitperson. DudeBro walked by our table and gave us a friendly, yet stomach dropping, “Hey girls, how’s it going?” It was hard to shake him and his mis-gendering from that day forward. He always seemed so friendly and bubbly about it that we wondered what he was thinking, if he was conjuring up thoughts of the fetishization of lesbians, or if he was so pleased with himself because he "treated some gays just like everyone else today!" When we were feeling like giving him the benefit of the doubt, we wondered if someone he's close to might be gay.
While we flubbed the first few times we saw him, after that, we managed to speed up our response times. One of us would let out an incredulous, "Did he just call us ladies?" and we would chortle, since DudeBro, and any other person who might have addressed us that way, was clearly mistaken.
Sometimes, during this process of transition, it has been obvious that someone has known that Charlie is trans, and their kindness has not wavered at all. When Charlie had top surgery, I waited for four and a half hours in a waiting room by myself, and finally, I was allowed back into recovery to see him. After a while, a nurse told us that Charlie could have some juice, and after naming apple, grape, cranberry, she finished with, "And ice pops."
"You didn't tell me they had ice pops!" Charlie said.
The nurse smiled and brought him an ice pop, and I held it for him since it hurt to move his arms. He decided he was finished about halfway through, and I absentmindedly licked at the second half of it.
A young, scruffy nurse walking by stopped outside our curtain and said, "You know, I can get you your own ice pop so you don't have to share."
We laughed. "That's ok, he decided he was done with it, so I thought I'd finish it," I said.
"She's lying!" Charlie burst out. "She stole my popsicle! I'm bedridden and I can't move and so she stole it!"
We all laughed, and Charlie admitted he was kidding and I wasn't, in fact, a popsicle thief, but the nurse seemed to take a liking to us. A while later, he saw that we were leaving, and he offered to take a photo of the two of us.
"You're probably busy doing important things," I told him.
"This is an important day," he said. It was ridiculously touching, and I am honestly glad we have that photo of a groggy post-op Charlie and I.
There have been other moments like these, where I have smiled so hard that my face hurt because of the kindness that others have shown us. And there have been many, many times when I have been uncomfortable, for myself, and even more for Charlie, like with the waiter in the restaurant. There have even been times that were scary for us, though I'm relieved to say that most of them are events that we're now able to laugh about later.
The more time I spent in the trans community, among friends who accepted me, the more I realized that I, too, did not identify as cisgender. Looking back, I realize that I have always been a bit of a gender anarchist, though I didn't have the words to describe my identity until I found community. Now, I identify as genderqueer, and I present more androgynously. Between my presentation and Charlie being further in his medical transition, we now get read completely differently than we once did!
One of the first times that we got mistaken for two cisgender guys was in a situation that made me very nervous. We were only a mile or two from home, and we got pulled over for having a headlight out.
"How're you boys doing tonight?" the cop asked.
I thought I must have misheard him. Charlie answered for us. "We're good."
"You live around here?" he asked.
"Yup," Charlie said. "Right over there." He motioned towards the traffic light up ahead.
"How about you?" he cop asked me.
I realized that the cop was not viewing us as a couple, and that I hadn't misheard him. He thought we were two young guys, perhaps out to cause some trouble.
"Where are you off to tonight?" he asked. It was the weekend, a Saturday night, perhaps eleven o'clock.
"Just home," we answered.
"You sure?" he asked. "Not headed out to party tonight?"
He wasn't asking in a way that was condescending. Instead, he asked in a way that was almost accompanied with a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge," or that the follow-up question would be, "Aren't ya going to go try to nail some chicks tonight?"
"No sir," Charlie answered. When I had realized that the cop thought I was a cis male, I zipped my lips. My voice is low for a female-assigned-at-birth person, but I worried that if I spoke too much, the cop would realize his "mistake." If this happened, I was scared that he would get angry and cause trouble for us.
"Well, you have a taillight out," the cop said, putting his arm on the top of the car. "Make sure you get that fixed this weekend, you hear?"
"Yes sir," Charlie said. We drove off and I finally exhaled. As soon as the flashing lights were out of the rearview mirror, we were able to laugh about it, but in the moment, it had been nerve-wracking.
Over time, these kinds of negative incidents have lessened, and when they do happen, we deal with them with more grace. Also over time, there has been more of an understanding from society about transgender and gender variant people, and less people say the "wrong" things, and more people act in solidarity with us.
What has not changed during all of this is our relationship. Some people told me in the beginning that a relationship could not survive transition. I know that this isn't true. It's not always easy, and it's certainly not simple, but our relationship has lasted, and so have many relationships of people we know. Listen to your partner. Learn from your mistakes. Find community (the internet counts!). Love, above all.
Trans-Kin on the web
Trans-Kin on GoodReads
Trans-Kin on Facebook
Trans-Kin on Amazon