What’s going on in the heads of two people in a relationship? Each person holds an entire world of thoughts. A queer/genderqueer couple shares both of their perspectives.
I’ll admit, I was nervous. I tried very hard to enter into new relationships with hope and cautious optimism: the person who was straight, so incredibly straight, and could accept my queerness only if it was appropriately mediated for their gaze and for their benefit; the person who, when with me, experienced homophobic abuse and perhaps realised that being with me would mean that they would no longer be read as straight; the person who, I suspect, went through my desk drawers, found my medication and finished things shortly afterwards.
I wrote a piece about it. I perform it sometimes, when I am feeling confrontational and frustrated and tired:
I will always be too awkward and difficult. I will become your transgressive experience, residing in stories that begin “I once dated someone who…” and you will fill in the blanks: who was brown, who was genderqueer, who was queer. This will make you seem like an open-minded and generous lover, willing to consort with such a weird, awkward body.
Interesting enough to flirt with, perhaps sleep with – but ultimately, I, with my dysphoria and sometimes achingly bad mental health, am a hard person to love.
After all, we are told that no one will ever love you if you can’t love yourself. We read countless times that trans people’s partners are tremendously inspiring for bringing themselves to touch us. We read it in dating profiles (no blacks, no rice, no spice). We get it at gay bars, these supposed havens for lesbian and gay community where we cannot use the toilet or get asked if we speak English or get aggressively and creepily hit on to be someone’s transgressive experience for the night.
Eventually, I got to the point where I was comfortable with myself and comfortable living as someone whose gender and race appeared ambiguous to others and whose gender lacked a convenient label, comfortable living in the spaces and in-betweens. There’s a lot about myself and my physicality that I learned to accept, even enjoy. I wasn’t sure if anyone else would want to embrace my messy, complicated whole but I knew I was not longer prepared to deny crucial aspects of myself in order to fit into someone else’s ideas of an acceptable partner.
And then I met someone for whom this wasn’t an issue. I held my breath for months, years, waiting for it all to become too much for her. I am still holding my breath, still tensed for the inevitable heartache that has not come. Perhaps I can cautiously hope it will never come.
For me, the bigger issue had to do with entering another long-distance relationship, not my partner’s gender identity or lack thereof. I’ve never felt it was my job to be the queer police or the gender police. It seems so stupid to stop being attracted to someone based on their body parts.
It’s been explained, very patiently, to me that this is not how other people see the world.
That’s not to say that being in a relationship with my partner is always easy. For example, the hardest part for me is dealing with my partners’ pronouns and getting everyone else to do it too. I try my best, but several of my friends are non-native speakers of English who struggle with the idea of singular “they” applied to an individual rather than “he” or “she”. It’s tough, and even I mess up more often than I would like.
They look great when binding (and when not binding too – but they don’t like to acknowledge this. The bits of flesh hanging off a body aren’t the only thing that makes someone attractive). They especially look amazing in their button-down shirts. But after 5 years of ongoing binding, their binder hurts them. We talk about it like a sausage casing: it keeps their bits in, but it’s not really ideal. Binding means my partner is really reluctant do anything that requires wearing a binder more than they have to. Luckily they have a flexible working arrangement, which lets them work at home most of the time. They don’t wear their binder at home, but it means that when I’m around all the tasks like grocery shopping and answering the door for the postman and running errands fall to me. I wonder what they do when I’m not around. Fun date days to a museum or an all-day or all-afternoon event at the weekend are often out of the question, as it means one more day of wearing a binder. I don’t complain though – as many cis women know, bras are awful enough; imagine having to wrap yourself in a sausage casing to feel like yourself every day!
It’s tough to hear about the trials and tribulations of the gender clinic. Here in the UK the gender clinic is covered by the NHS; in my home country, this is inconceivable. Even though the kind of coverage the NHS gender clinics offer is apparently very inconsistent, with lots of moving, flaming hoops to jump through, it is still taken out of taxpayer money. At home, there are fewer hoops to jump through but any surgery contributing to body modification costs big bucks out of your own pocket. That can be hard to reconcile. We argue about the merits, difficulties and indignities of these different systems a lot. All healthcare should be accessible and it’s terrible that the road to a legal non-binary identity is so complex, but at least in the UK medical treatment free. This isn’t much comfort to my partner who endures appointment after appointment of disbelief and reluctance to act.
I worry a lot about my partner: that by choosing to love me, she has chosen difficulty. She has chosen awkward pronouns, chosen tricky explanations, chosen to allow my identity as a genderqueer person to shape hers as a queer woman, chosen a life that will come with footnotes and caveats. I have to trust that she makes this choice freely and willingly and lovingly, and trust that she can and will say no.
For my part, every day I take a leap of faith that this person is okay with our relationship, okay with me, okay with dealing with things she wouldn’t have to deal with if she had a cis partner.
But despite all the things I’ve said above, being with my partner is great. We have our own little queer universe together, full of our own inside jokes. They are non-judgemental of my gender identity as a cis woman, And they’re enormously handsome and cute and attractive every day, regardless of the bits of skin attached to them. (Oh, and they have a great butt.)
About the Authors
The authors are a queer cis woman and a queer non-white genderqueer person both living in the UK.
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3 thoughts on “Featured Voices: In Dialogue”
yes, yes! Although this was probably intended to educate the binary, it is beyond wonderful to hear our own non-binary story in someone else’s mouths. We have our own issues, but similar sounding negotiations. We each have qualities we deemed to be unlovable (including being trans, mental health), and so that rang so true. I am a fan.