blowing-smokeThis past summer my husband and I attended a conference aimed at people in transition who were involved in the Faith community. Often, people will bring their spouses along for moral support and this was the second time we had attended this conference together. Because I, too, am involved in trans activism, we decided to divide and conquer the various workshop offerings; Liam (my husband) attended “Being and Becoming Men, ” for instance, while I went off to “Being and Becoming Women”. One of the offerings that I could not pass up was a “Partners in Progress” discussion. I have found that there is a dearth of information for those of us who are partners of people in active transition (or even partnered with those considering transition) and I was excited to hook up with like-minded individuals who might also be seeking discourse around our partners’ journeys. It was with excitement, anticipation, and a spring in my step that I entered the well-lit conference room on that late August afternoon.

There were two panelists, both women, seated at the front of the room. I took my place on the second row and noticed two men seated along the wall. It quickly became obvious that the women on the panel were partnered with these two trans men, and as I looked around the room I saw that most of the attendees were accompanied by their partners in varying stages of transition. Liam was off doing his own thing and I was doing mine and I didn’t give the dynamic another thought until someone asked the panelists if they had any difficulties with their partners’ transitions.

The response was astounding. They went on and on about what a “gift” they had been given to accompany their partners on this journey. They were thrilled. They were “blessed.” They were happy just to be support persons for their husbands.

They were full of shit.

And I called them on it.

I’m all about being honest and let me tell you something, this journey is not all wine and roses. Now, I wasn’t saying anything that I wouldn’t have said if Liam had been sitting right next to me, but I honestly felt that the response would have been somewhat different if their partners were not sitting in the same room.

It is not that easy. I love my husband. I do. And this is not a question of “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.” I find that I love my husband more every single day. But transition? Sometimes it just sucks. I celebrate every single milestone, I thrill to see the changes happening, I love to be part of giving him his shots of testosterone and accompanying him to the doctor’s office, and I couldn’t be happier knowing that he is finally beginning to be at peace with himself and comfortable in his skin. But really, it is hard sometimes and anyone who tells you otherwise is just blowing smoke up your ass.

I struggle with identity issues: am I still lesbian? Can I claim that? How do I wrap my head around “bisexual” when I’m not attracted to bio-males? Straight? I don’t want to live stealth, I’m too much of an LGBTQ activist. I struggle with all of the changes Liam is experiencing: I have the equivalent of two boys in puberty in my house…who can say that’s easy? I struggle with feminist issues I never knew I had: typical female roles that I’ve always taken on without issue in my lesbian relationships suddenly become fraught with political overtones when you are the female in a heteronormative (and I hate that word but when you are seen by the world at large as a male/female couple then heteronormative it is) relationship; my whole identity seems caught up in “wife” and “mother” and those words taste bad in my mouth like copper-tinted blood on my tongue. I struggle with staying the same while he grows and changes and has a whole new “him” to look forward to.

There are so many issues that come up. Some sneak up and bite me in the ass when I least expect them to. Some hit me full in the face with gale-force winds and I am knocked senseless by the enormity of my reactions. Some are lurking around dark corners and slide into my dreams at night so that when I wake in the morning I am dazed by a new uneasiness that lays upon me like a pall.

I could not get those women to admit, in front of their husbands, that they had any problems whatsoever. I felt angry with them for not affirming my insistence that we, as partners, have our own lives and should find our own voices. I am more than a sidekick to my superhero husband. I am finding my way in a world that has no real place for us; we are not even a counterculture, a subculture, a culture clash. I feel certain that they shared some of the same issues and concerns and I wish that, as visible partners, they had felt comfortable enough to express themselves honestly so that attendees (particularly the partners of people in very early transition) would feel vindicated rather than ashamed of their feelings. My hope is that next year I’ll be sitting on that panel and you can bet that I’ll balance their rainbows and glitter and unicorns with a little dose of well-meaning frankness. I want partners to be able to say, “yes, this is hard” and “oh my god, this sucks,” and “thank you for getting it” because sometimes that’s just what I need. Someone who gets it and lets me love my husband with all that I am but be frustrated at times, as well. In the end, I don’t want to be led by the blind, I want some signs that let me know what lies ahead. While the road may be bumpy at times, I’m still along for the ride.