I guess it’s really funny. The years I spent described (not by me) as being ‘in role’, as if ‘living as a woman’ was an act, a choice, a play or a deceit … and now, here I am examining – my ‘role’!
Yes, the point is that in terms of my working life, I took a big step down, and now, long since the fear that I would be forever unemployable as trans* was proven wrong, I am feeling very under-employed. I feel a certain sexism that is not quite discrimination, but is nevertheless there at times, and part of me is screaming to be recognised for just how much I am capable of without having to fight for it.
My guess is that many women in work after family events breaking their careers, feel much the same.
But what is more in mind is how, over the past few months, living with a professional partner in a vastly more responsible job than I may ever see again, I am experiencing reversed roles. Not that I am complaining; it is genuinely interesting to see both sides, as I recall the hours I used to work, coming home late, and sometimes taking work with me on holiday. Nowadays, I am more likely to be first home from work, will set to making a meal, will accommodate late hours, the bringing home of office troubles and stress, looking after the home(s), and generally take a back seat when it comes to the pressures of work in life versus domestic pleasures. Don’t get me wrong, we do share things out very well – far better perhaps than I did when I was married – but I am recognising a bit of what it is to be the domestic wife supporting the (lesbian) husband!
Tonight I am starting this blog to fill in time while my partner works late to finish a report to a deadline. We hope to leave at 10:00 pm for our first weekend away, and employer demands have pushed us into second place. I can’t be angry, other than at situations intruding into precious personal life. I would have done the same. But I now see and understand what I was doing when I was the husband with the more important job, expecting everyone to fit around me. Once again, as a trans woman, I am seeing both sides of life: the privilege, the seniority, the primacy, the supporting act, the home-maker, the forgiver. This isn’t about rights and wrongs, but I am being faced with the feelings that I must have evoked when my job was so important (at least to me) that my wife simply had to sit and watch and wait until I was present and ready. (I’m not making an argument about employer pressure, our response, rights or wrongs; this happens, and we all try to do the best all-round thing at the time.)
I still do think it a privilege to live on both sides of life, see it as man and as woman, as husband and as wife, as lead earner, and as sideline. Quite what to do with this knowledge beyond personal enrichment, I’m not sure, but it is giving me plenty to reflect on, as to how our society’s patterns of working conflict with making the most or personhood and finding a ‘good life’.
Well, we did get away and had a wonderful weekend. We celebrated the ease with which, in this part of southern England, we could be ourselves, the clearly lesbian couple away for a weekend together. We spoke to kind strangers in the sauna as well as out walking, sat and people-watched over lunch, held hands everywhere and enjoyed the ease we have with each other.
Three months into our relationship, I still feel some surprise to be loved, but with it, day by day feel more completely in my gender. Friends did tell me before I had surgery that the onward journey had a great deal more change in it than I was expecting. Now I understand. The scars that healed many months ago are completely forgotten. The scars still healing are those from a lifetime of discomforts, and events and expectations joined to them. They don’t hurt the same, but as they fade into the life and love I am able to experience now, I am realising just how much I needed this complete transition.
And part of that is the understanding of role, the appreciation of gendered worlds, the very difficult male-minded design of work and commerce, the lesser value attached to person-oriented activities, the simply being female in society. I am very thankful to have known both sides and have gained a better appreciation of what it is to be human in the here and now, and I am happy to be wife and support, and possibly because I know that I also have an empowerment to be fully myself.