Learning and forgetting

  • Posted on October 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

I love my new flat. It’s bright, it has a feeling of space about it, and apart from one ochre wall behind me, is mercifully tolerant of all my colours. Already it feels like home, a few friends have been round, and I’ve made it my own. At the same time all the most useful small boxes for books have gone to my storage cupboard ready for the next move. I have no idea how long I shall be here, but if they offered to sell, I’d stay.

I have peace, I have colour, and I have a home that feels like it only has female presence to it. I love it.

This is where the learning starts. I am finding out all sorts of things, like where I put things after arriving, why have I still not found the teaspoons, did I really not buy mushrooms?? Until my brain maps onto this new way of living, there aren’t the right places to keep certain things! I’m learning all the trivial things too, like the smoke alarm is easily triggered long before anything burns, and doesn’t appear to have a reset button. Or like when the bins are emptied, because nobody here seems to flatten their recycling. And thirty steps up means it’s better to use bags than crates at the supermarket!

I am also learning that partnership, whilst it has a bit to do with sexuality, is a lot more to do with helping each other out, and, in my case, being told to sensibly stop, rather than carrying on until very late at night, just because stuff needs doing. And that it might feel more finished to end up cooking at 10 pm, but 8pm is better for the digestion. Partnership is about parallelism, working alongside. Single is serial. However good I am at multitasking, it’s threading tasks in turn, not actually being able to do twice as many things in the same time. It isn’t actually a good idea to use an electric hob whilst building shelves!

I’m also learning that many friends are families and partnered, most are easily as busy as I am with other things, and that when you most need a hug, it just isn’t there. A snog? Forget it. So one thing I still haven’t learned is where on my shelves to place The Art of Loving. I left all the sex books behind, because I think I can still do all that pretty well (if ever I get the chance again) and wouldn’t learn any more from reading (if I ever did). But loving? There must be something I didn’t quite get right there.

Emma Cantons has just published her book If You Really Loved Me about her life with Victoria, who has finally gone through her gender reassignment surgery this week. I am also about to publish with Bramley Press, Laura Newman’s A Love Less Ordinary, which questions and answers the roots of love, the possibilities, and about finding yourself, your real self, and knowing that you have made the choice to be authentic (and that’s Laura, not her trans* partner Nicci!). Each is a life story about partnering and staying with a trans* lover. Special stories maybe, but not unique. A special love certainly, where sexuality is questioned, where love exceeds the power of norms, and where a realisation that something about the other is greater than the personal challenge.

The art of loving has been very close to my heart for a very long time, and I am faced with it by these new books. They are such an antidote to all the others that tell you relationships cannot survive, or that relate appalling accounts of rejection, violence and hate when a married person responds to their trans* identity and gives up fighting against themselves. But there is a message that is really important to all partners and family members of trans* people:

“If a trans partner or family member is prepared to face all the challenges of being trans* in a cis world in order to be authentic, how much am I prepared to discover myself by stripping away my own conditioning of who I am and how I fit in the world?”

Recognising and responding to your innate gender identity, with all the challenges, pain, expense, loss, all of which are huge in themselves, is one of the toughest things you might ever have to face. People look at me, how I am, how positive, happy, outgoing, how supremely confident about my gender I am, and they express a deep respect. But I wonder how they might re-examine any aspect of their own lives and respond to any truth they might find. We think we know who we are because we fit. What if something you’ve taken for granted all your life as the way to be, to relate, to express yourself, even the way you understand love, were, on closer inspection, found to be more about societal expectations than about your true potential? Would you dare, as trans* people do, to undergo a radical reassessment, and in front of all the world, be different?

I still haven’t worked out where to put The Art of Loving so I don’t lose it, but I do know I still have a lot to learn. I have moved on, and whenever I find someone to learn with again, I hope that we shall both be incredibly daring.


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