I was out for a run the other day and usually a run allows me to lose myself in my thoughts and to let my mind wander. Being outside, getting exercise, is a great way to gain some perspective. It helps me work out problems and occasionally have a brilliant, random idea. On this particular run I thought to myself “we need to take responsibility for our gender identity”. And I was like yes! We do! And then I thought “what in the world does that mean?”
As my run continued, I started to break down this thought. My core belief is that this is who we are, we can’t change that. Call it nature, call it being born this way, we are who we are. We do not have a choice. The choice lies in how we respond to who we are. We can deny it (good luck), we can ignore it, we can accept it, we can embrace it. And we can act on it. Or not.
Our choice also lies in how we respond to those around us. When en femme I get a lot of looks. That’s not to say people are just fawning over me and they’re like OMG look at the pretty girl. No. Most of the looks are people seeing me and processing me. It’s not common to see a girl as tall as me, so I am given a second look. Not every girl is wearing heels and a beautiful dress at the store, so I am a little out of place. And of course, I am trans and there’s really not enough of us (but more than you think) where we are so common that we kind of blend in and are unremarkable. I am aware of the impact I have on people. That is not to say that I am enchanting everyone around me and everyone thinks I am beautiful or whatever. No. I am fully aware that I am a t-girl, I am wearing a cute outfit, heels, amazing eyeliner, and regardless of if someone thinks I am attractive or not, I am noticed and I am likely causing some sort of reaction. Reactions can include anything from “cute dress!” to “hey, a transgirl, cool” to “this chick is in my way” to “goddamn tranny”.
Regardless of the gender I present as, I take responsibility for everything I do. If I make a mistake at work, I own up to it. If I am too sarcastic and hurt someone’s feelings, I apologize. If Hannah makes you feel uncomfortable well, too bad. I don’t care. Get over it. BUT! I am aware that gender identity can be a complicated discussion and something some parents want to have with their children when it’s the right time and when both parent and child are ready to have the conversation. In my experience if I see a kid with a parent they will usually stare at me as they are processing what they see. Someone who is pretty clearly masculine wearing a pretty dress. I fully accept (and expect) that they may wonder, often out loud, why that man is wearing a dress. This is probably not a conversation many parents want to have while they are out running errands, even if the parents are extremely accepting and supportive of the trans community. So, because of this, I become hyperaware when I am out in public and there a lot of kids around. I don’t feel I am damaging them, but I feel I am presenting a perspective on gender that is likely outside of the experience they have had up until now.
This, I feel, is taking responsibility for my gender identity.
But for grown-ups, I really, really don’t care if I challenge your opinion and perspective and concept of gender. Grow the hell up. Let others live their best life. I don’t care what you think or feel. Lalalalala I can’t hear you.
BUT! It’s different for our family. My racist, homophobic uncles do not know about me, and they never will. But if they did, they would HATE me. And I wouldn’t care. Really, that’s their problem. I haven’t spoken to most of my extended family in decades anyway, so why would I care what they think? Especially when it comes to something like gender identity? Really, if you are transphobic or homophobic, that is 100% on you. I am not going to change your mind and I am not going to spend any energy trying to do so. I don’t know how to explain to someone why gender identity or sexual preference are not things to judge someone by.
BUT! Extended family is one thing, our siblings, parents, and especially our significant others, are another. My relationship with my mom has always been complicated and has rarely been easy. It’s gotten better as we have both gotten older, but i have accepted that she and Hannah will never go out for coffee. Accepting this is one thing, but I still hope for it. My mom’s opinion on one’s gender identity impacts me a little more. I love my mom, and her perspective on me, my gender, my choices, my life hits differently than my racist uncle. Who I am is important to me, and when people I love and care about have an opinion and perspective that differs from me about something as important as gender identity, well, it hurts, to be honest.
When I came out to my mom I knew this would have a huge impact on her. I didn’t know how it would go and I was nervous as to what our relationship would be like going forward. Let’s be real, most relationships can be divided between Before Coming Out and After Coming Out. I didn’t think she would disown me or anything, my mom is very liberal, my older brother is gay (not that being trans and gay at the same thing but there is some non-cis/non-hetereo precedent in our family). I came out to my mom on a Saturday night. The next day was a family gathering. The coming out conversation was planned this way on purpose. I wanted to open up to her in a way I never did before, and I wanted a family gathering the next day, just to re-establish a little more normality in her life and our dynamic and to kind of show her that although I was who I was, I was still who I’ve always been.
Of course, our talk the night before was all that she could think about. It was still sinking in. Even after all this time it’s probably still sinking in.
A few years ago my mom properly met Hannah. At the mall, of course. This, however, was not planned. Having a talk is one thing, seeing your son in a cute (well, I think it’s cute) pink dress, stilettos and makeup is another. I reopened the conversation completely unintentionally. Honestly I felt bad about that day. I knew she didn’t understand or even want to talk about this side of me, and then here I am 10000% en femme at JCPenney (hey they have cute dresses once in a while).
This had an impact on her in a different, more intense way than the chat we had at her dining room table a few years prior. Although my gender identity is mine and personal and is really no one’s business but my own, I was, and will always be, aware of how who I am can affect the people I love. I can’t, and won’t change who I am, but I certainly know how this side of me makes someone feel.
The most serious and sacred relationship one can have in their lives is the one they have with their spouse or significant other. You dedicated yourself to each other, you made a commitment. You invested your time, money, and energy to your relationship. Perhaps you have children, or own a home, or a business. You go through life’s challenges and successes and failures with each other. Everything either one of you does has an impact on the other. You owe it to them to consult with them on most of the decisions you will make in life. As your life goes on, individually as well as together, things change. Your children grow up, you change careers… and it’s possible your gender identity evolves as well. When things change you have an obligation to have honest and productive conversations with your partner.
They may not understand, they may not accept, they may not like this part of you, but your gender identity will have a significant impact on your relationship and on your partner. It’s hard to come out. It’s so scary but I believe if this side of you affects you significantly then you probably should have the talk with them. And yes, it’s hard to go into a conversation where you don’t know the outcome will be. I get it, I promise I do.
As we keep our gender identity bottled up, the desire, our feelings only grow stronger. They may get to the point where we don’t care about anyone’s opinion about who we are. And that isn’t a bad thing. When I stopped caring about complete strangers might think about me it gave me the freedom to dress to the nines and go everywhere from the gas station to the theater to Pride. But we can’t think that way about our spouse. You may be at the point where you are willing to risk it all because you need to acknowledge who you are, you may be at the point where you don’t care what anyone thinks. You may be at a point where you feel if others have a problem with this, well, that’s their problem.
And yes, you are not wrong….
But you can’t think that this is only your partner’s problem. You don’t have the luxury to not care what your wife, your significant other, thinks about your gender identity.
When you start to acknowledge your gender identity has changed since you have gotten married or made a commitment to someone this isn’t “their problem”. You HAVE to care. This is now something the two of you need to work through and work out.
Who we are is sacred. It is important we are honest with ourselves. It’s important we are honest with our partners. We made a commitment to them and yes, relationships change and sometimes they get to a point where two people are no longer happy, or in love, or the relationship has run its course. Our marriages require a lot of communication and mutual respect. Our actions impact them, and we must take responsibility for what we do, how we feel, or how we identify.