“What does it mean for her – for my wife – to be in love with someone who blurs the lines of gender?” In honor of my 30th birthday, I’m sharing a personal piece about the history of my relationship with the most significant person in my world.
Featured Voices SOFFAs continues next week.
Husband and Wife
Legally, we are husband and wife. For her, wife is an accurate descriptor, though she says it makes her sound older than how she feels inside. This is someone who wears Snoopy t-shirts and Mickey Mouse shoes to work, who’d rather call herself a girl than a woman. For me, on the other hand, neither husband nor wife are quite a fit, and not just because of the shared sentiments around my own youthful spirit. Rather, because I don’t identify as a man, nor as a woman.
Had we been able to get legally married a few years ago, we would’ve been wife and wife. When I first asked what the T in LGBT meant, someone explained it as “wanting to be a man.” Growing up, I thought everyone hated being female, not just me. But I dismissed being transgender; as clear as I didn’t want to be a woman, I didn’t want to be a man either. Later I discovered that transgender encompasses an entire spectrum of people, including people like me, who feel an uncomfortable mismatch with their birth gender, but don’t necessarily see themselves as the “opposite” gender. Fast-forward five years, two surgeries, a legal name change, a legal gender change, and lots of botched coming outs later, and I’ve happily carved out an in-between space that brings me happiness.
Transgender people are appearing with increasing regularity in the media, with stories focused mainly on their transition. More progressive coverage now highlights well-rounded aspects, such as trans people’s groundbreaking artistic or even athletics careers. But what about those people behind the scenes, the ones who love us? And, what does it mean for her – for my wife – to be in love with someone who blurs the lines of gender?
Today, my wife will wear an old blouse of mine and we’ll joke that it belonged to her “ex” girlfriend. Most folks around her don’t get the reference; they only know me as her husband. Yet it’s still common for restaurant hostesses and taxi drivers to greet us “Hello, ladies.” In airplanes we’re frequently confused for a cute pair of adolescent siblings.
As I count down the last remaining days of my 20s, I celebrate that she’s seen me through almost the entire decade, which is just over a third of my whole life, and certainly the majority of my adulthood. We are that couple: adorable, attached at the hip, inseparable, can’t-breathe-without-one-another. We’re the ones that order two waters, one entree, no dessert. We sleep on a queen-sized bed, but would be equally comfortable on a twin. We eat next to each other, not facing each other. We like the same TV shows, dislike the same foods, have the same friends, sometimes even wear matching clothes (totally by accident, I picked my outfit first). We are the relationship our friends aspire to have. We speak in first person plural. “Is it weird that I missed you?” she’ll ask, after having been apart at work for a mere ten hours. Together, we comprise one human unit.
I wonder, were we always this stuck to each other, or did the glue slowly seep into the ever-shrinking divide between us? Others ponder a question they deem more compelling: who is she attracted to, exactly?
When we met, she had a short history of serial long-term monogamy with a few guys. She claimed to be straight, only because she had never questioned it before. Yet while she wasn’t too tied down to the label, she rejected me the morning after our first night together on the grounds that she had been curious to try “chocolate milk” but she really preferred “strawberry.” Meaning, she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of dating a girl. Because back then, that’s what I was. I simply replied that I was lactose intolerant.
I had a two year advantage over her in questioning sexuality and its labels, especially my own, having conclusively discarded them all as meaningless to my personal identity. In turn, barely a month passed after that fateful night before she was very quickly forced to break from the ingrained framework of heteronormativity. Amidst her confusion, I issued her an ultimatum over the phone: she couldn’t go around kissing guys then profess her love for me in the same evening. Thus, we officially began dating.
At first, she said she was only into me, definitely not into girls in general. Whatever; I wasn’t devoted to defining her sexuality, only to expanding her horizons insofar as those included me. She fell in love with my quick wits and quirky humor, my utmost loyalty, my vulnerable honesty. I vocally denied being in love, though her endless compassion (withstanding even statements such as those) drew me in more deeply each day. If she were a writer, it would read: ❤ ❤ <3. I know this because our house is littered with fluorescent post-its, sneakily hidden behind the bathroom mirror, the bottom of the cereal bowl, the inside of my underwear drawer, dripping with sweet affirmations.
Gradually the realization came that she might be into girls after all. Taking a break from late night studying, she reveled in watching queer movies, and especially dove into all the lesbian-themed books I was bringing home. But we really hated being called lesbians. We certainly felt out of place in straight society, but were we only welcomed by our LGB peers because we were seen as a “gay” couple? Both of us experienced the same awkward inner conflict in queer spaces; something didn’t quite sit well.
It’s cute to say we finished each other’s sentences, but it’s empowering to know she understood me at my core. She saw past my name, my clothes, my body, even before either of us could put a name to it. Transitioning into my androgynous self has only made me more “me,” she proudly claims.
Perhaps my unusual gender, despite not having completely surfaced yet, was the catalyst to her enlightened conclusions. I was a girl, but something about me… wasn’t. So claiming to be gay or bisexual made no sense to her. Just like no label seems to describe what my gender is – only what my gender isn’t – no label seems to describe her sexuality. Queer, the closest word, stands for not quite straight, not quite gay; strange, other. Her ultimate preference would be to remain label-less.
Eventually, she admitted gender makes no difference to her; she is equally attracted or un-attracted to people regardless of gender. With one exception: me. She is completely smitten with me, beyond anything she could ever imagine with anyone else. “Seven years down,” she wrote on our anniversary card once, “seventy to go.”
Nine years after declaring their relationship “official” Micah still refuses to admit he is in love. His wife knows the truth and loves him regardless. Both originally from Mexico City, this compact 2-human unit lives in minimalist-style colorfully decorated apartment in the right ventricle of the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco CA. Their greatest wish is to adopt a scruffy dog that is as cute as he is well-behaved. If the dog survives, only then will they consider a tiny human.
For the Love of Gender
Micah is the tiny typer behind Neutrois Nonsense (this blog) and its series Featured Voices. If you’ve been enjoying the stories and resources here, please consider donating any desirable quantity in solidarity with embracing all genders.