Being trans* is not easy for many reasons. Sometimes acceptance is hard to find. There are so many questions, so many what ifs. And I battle against those every day. But the hardest thing for me personally is relationships. I have amazing friends and a great family, but sex, love, connections: those are separate beings. The fact is that label designates an existence outside of the realm of normal experience, even for those in the LGB community who also step outside of those boundaries. If a lesbian dates a transman, what does that mean for her identity? If a straight female dates a transwoman, what does that mean for her identity? Or how does any other combination of trans* person and significant other affect that partner's identity? It takes a strong person to be comfortable enough with themselves and society to date a trans* person.
And there are so many questions to be faced: from friends, from family, from random strangers. How could I ever ask someone to navigate that turmoil to be with me? Without some kind of innate and powerful connection, who would be willing to go through that?
There is a conversation I have had every time someone has thought about dating me since I came out, since I became comfortable enough being Cael to think about that possibility. Certain questions continually enter into these conversations:
How do I explain you/us to my family and friends?
If you are a man and I am a woman, how does us dating affect my identity?
How does sex work?
What do I do when strangers ask me questions?
How do you handle questions?
The thing is, I can’t answer most of these questions. Only the ones directly pertaining to my experience can I answer. The others questions either must be thought out by the individual about their identity or by the both of us coming up with a plan as to how to handle our relationship with the outside world. Each circumstance is individual, and so must be dealt with on a situational basis. These are hard questions for someone to face, and it is difficult as the source of those questions not to blame yourself and to remain secure in your identity despite the turmoil you bring to others.
How do other trans* people handle relationships, though? What other approaches are there? As I struggle through things, I have been trying to find books to delve into. Mostly, my research for these articles comes from news or scholarly articles, not personal stories, though I do follow some personal blogs so I may come to know the experiences of others going through similar processes.
I did find one book which helped me to think about relationships from different perspectives: Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary, edited by Morty Diamond. Compiled of multiple stories written by trans* people about their true experiences with relationships, sex, or simply traveling through the world and coming to know social boundaries which before never existed to them. Each narrative reflects how an individual has come to interact with other people and the world in relation to their identity, and it is refreshing to see so many different approaches. Realistically, we must all find the way to interact which is best for us.
Most of the narratives struck me: for their honesty, their willingness to place everything in the open, and some even for the wonderful writing. My favorite, though, was that of Silas Howard, “Believing is Seeing,” combining my love of jazz with a somewhat sad, but beautiful love story about Billy Tipton and the woman who loved him and never once faltered in his male identity.
This book gave me hope, allowed me to think of possibilities where I often have seen none. I hope it does the same for you.