What I want you to know about being the partner of a transgender man
What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is from an anonymous reader.
We're normal. No, really. We hold respectable steady jobs; he's in the tech industry and I work with children. We have friends and pets and go to Trader Joe's every Saturday. If you saw us at the store discussing whether to have strawberries or raspberries with dessert that evening you'd never know he was born a she. None of my friends or family know, not because it's a deep, dark secret, simply because it's private and mostly irrelevant.
I am heterosexual, as is my boyfriend and dating him doesn't change my sexual preference. Keep in mind there is a distinct difference between sexual preference, sex, and gender. Sexual preference is who you are attracted to. Sex refers to the biological makeup of someone's reproductive anatomy. Gender refers to culturally learned lifestyle such as dress and behavior. Being transgender is a medical issue. Somehow, during gestation, the brain forms as one gender and the body another. We determine the gender of babies based upon the sex of the anatomy rather than the brain, hence how it gets wonky in as low as one out of 500 births. Because transsexualism is so taboo, even among LGBT groups, transgender people often keep it a secret; Prevalence is very difficult to determine. Chances are, you've encountered one or more transgender individuals but haven't necessarily known it because they successfully "pass" as the gender they transitioned to. They're everyday people who, for the most part, blend in.
Every week, when he gives himself a shot of testosterone my heart aches a little bit. On one hand, I am happy he has the life he does; his friends and family are accepting, he has a job he loves and a girlfriend who adores him. On the other hand, that shot represents every past hurt he's had, every obstacle he's had to overcome and what he should have been born with. Compared to many, he's got it good. The suicide and depression rates among transgender people are sky high; about 41% have attempted suicide at least once. This is not normal. It is also not their fault. We, as a society, are responsible for this. We tell little boys it's not okay to wear a dress. We tell girls they have to be pretty, not strong. We put people in boxes and when they are naturally inclined to live outside that box, we mock and belittle.
Transgender people aren't sexual deviants or perverts. The media likes to portray them as such but when was the last time the media portrayed something entirely accurately? They have various sexual preferences, both in who they are attracted to and what they like to do under the covers, just like cisgender people; Cisgender is what most of the population is, people who are comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth. What we choose to do in bed is no one's business but our own. It's also not polite to ask about genitals and surgery. Which surgeries he has had, if any, are his business and my business. I wouldn't ask you if you were circumcised or whether you're happy with your cup size so please don't ask him about his body. If you're curious about how these things work the answers are only a google search away.
The longer I think and question, the less importance I give gender. Gender is fluid. Not everyone is the manliest of men or the most feminine of women. Most people fall somewhere in the gray area. Some people don't identify with either gender. Some people identify with both or either, depending on the day. And really, none of it matters. We all love and laugh and hurt. We're all humans with various strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes. We should be more focused on celebrating our individuality and less focused on categorizing and segregating. That's not to discount the natural inclination men and women have towards certain things. I, for one, am very glad to call on my male friends when I need help moving or when my car is acting up. But women are capable of these things as well, just as it is perfectly okay for a man to care about his appearance or decorate his house. I have no right to judge another for their choice or lifestyle. And in the case of transsexualism, it's often not much of a choice. It's either transition, a life of misery, or possibly suicide.
I never imagined myself in this place, with this man. I have led a fairly typical privileged, white, upper middle class American life. I have known my fair share of hurt but I have not known prejudice. I have not known gender dysphoria, feeling like my body was wrong or meant to be different. I have not been treated as sub-human for something entirely out of my control. I have not known the desire to conceive my own children knowing this will never be possible. But through him, I am beginning to understand. He's a regular guy with a minor medical condition. He never asked for this or would wish it upon anyone. These were the cards he was dealt and he's making the best out of his life. I'm making the best out of my life, too; hopefully with him by my side for the rest of it.