I want to move into talking about personal relationships on this blog, for several reasons. One is that this is the area most fraught with difficulties for trans people. During transition many of us feel our lives are too baffling for others to deal with, we ourselves are dealing with a liberation as well as a transformation, being the same, but being different to everyone else. It is a time of life-on-hold, and everything takes too long. And it’s lonely. Another reason is that others need to understand that relating to us need not be confusing, that the confusion isn’t in us, but in them too. Cis people need to learn that trans people are as loving and feeling as they are, not strange and to be distanced. A third reason is that relationships are like confetti thrown to the wind, and lots of questions are raised that we prefer not to have to examine anyway.
Hearts are broken all the time. Human beings change their preferences: someone turns up who is more attractive, more sexy, more exciting, reinvigorating. Your partner seems boring, inattentive, disinterested in you. Your significant other thinks it’s OK to have sex with someone else, you do not. You meet a soulmate while either or both of you are in a long-term relationship. What do you do? Stuff happens, people are hurt.
‘If only I’d got it right first time’, many would say. ‘Now I’m lumbered or I leave.’
I am old-fashioned. Yes, really. I took lifelong commitment seriously, I only had sex with the person I married, and I stuck with it – out of love as it happens, for over 30 years. And yet I too got hurt.
Fixed or fluid?
Of course I understand. Your sexuality is as likely in your genes as is your gender. It is a fixed identity, isn’t it? The truth is, I just don’t know. Don’t ask me! I used to say just that, when people asked my opinion ‘from a man’s point of view’. I still say it. When you have lived as I have, in both binary camps, nothing is clear cut any more. Everyone I knew was happy with me living ‘as a man’, thoroughly convinced, and enough were finding me desirable. They knew what I was; only they didn’t. I know enough older women who have taken to female partners after marriage, to know that sexuality is a bit more fluid than we would like to believe.
I, like many trans* people, wonder what my life would have been like, if when I started to realise I wasn’t like other boys, I had been free to be one of the other kinds in a wholly accepted way. What if I had been a desirable person and partner, not for appearing to be a man? What if I had entered marriage as I really was? What if I’d never had to be binary?
And what now? I have made, and experienced, such changes, and met such a wide variety of people, that I feel there is a fluidity in all of us, surrounded with sea walls so strong that the tides change nothing. Take away the social sea walls, and I suspect there would be a lot more freedom of expression in both gender and sexuality than we see.
But then you can’t ask me, because I cannot unsee what you may never have seen, and my view of the world is very different from that of the average cis hetero person, who simply doesn’t need to go beyond a binary view of life that fits adequately. I can no longer see the world as you do; it has changed dramatically. Would you like to see the world as I do? Or is it just fine enough to see it as it is to you?
Maybe we ask too much that you should stand in our shoes, even walk a mile in them too. I mean, why should you? Is it scary, to open up the possibilities? And why does it matter?
Relationships make us what we want to be
Relationships are complex things, begun, fostered and ended for many reasons. But all along we compromise hugely in order to create them; we need them. The trouble is, we find it easier to see a relationship in terms of what it gives us, than in the balance of what we can also give. Relationships help to make us what we want to be. They are props and acquisitions in many ways.
That sounds selfish doesn’t it? I think it probably is. And it means that not all relationships are right, to be maintained at all costs, because to be fair and creative and productive, they do need to be fully reciprocal. An article in The Guardian newspaper recently remarked that modern marriages are for more than food on the table and a shared roof: they are to enable us to explore ourselves and grow as people. Now that is scary. What if your dream girl or hunk (or lovely sensitive man) does grow, expand, develop and become more real? Is that what you want? Your dream girl has a brilliant career that brings here a strong social standing of her own, or your sensitive man ‘becomes’ a woman, or androgynous, or queer? Does that leave you dispossessed, as with a gadget that no longer works? (Is it still under guarantee? Can I take it back?)
So you bought the pepper mill that doesn’t grind too well, and you see the one that (at least when new) works a lot better for you …
We all have choices, and they are our own. We can see relationships in many ways. I’m not saying that we should not be honestly utilitarian, only that we should be honest. So here’s an everyday conundrum: two married people meet and fall in love. They want commitment, and feel that being together is where they should have been from the beginning. Which of them wants to be committed to another who plainly is (now) not committed, but ready to have an affair, even split and join them? I married you because you cheated (with me) … can I trust you, or are we simply agreed that we are happy cheaters together?
It’s funny how love can make you think more flexibly. If you want to. I just want to invite you to think about what you love, as well as who, in a relationship, and which matters most? And when you have decided that, whether you are prepared to say that to each other. Understand what you mean by ‘love’ and be clear that it is conditional. And be content that you can expect nothing better in return.
Is your kind of love a deal, or do you want something deeper?
Next: What to do with a trans* partner