Archives for category: In the Beginning

couple_300-300x200This past weekend my husband and I found ourselves with three childless days while our son backpacked in the North Carolina mountains. We planned meals out, caught up on Netflix movies, slept in on Saturday and Sunday, and spent lots (and lots) of alone time. It was truly glorious.

On Friday night, after dropping our child off with his scout troop (no hugs from mom lest he be embarrassed in front of the other guys), we met friends for dinner at a favorite local Asian fusion place. Liam wore a sweater vest over a button-down shirt and jeans. I wore a white blouse, loose over skinny black corduroys, with a huge paisley scarf draped around my shoulders to guard against the early Spring chill. We arrived early and, after determining that our friends were not yet there, stood outside as other patrons arrived in droves.

It seems that Friday night turns this usually quiet restaurant into a real hotspot for the middle-aged heterosexual set. Couple after couple in their 50s and 60s arrived by SUV, Volvo, and Mercedes. As I stood there, I realized that we fit right in. Liam and I, in our late 40s (very late 40s), with our graying (okay, mine’s pewter) hair and our laugh lines and crow’s feet, looked just like everyone else.

The scene reminded me of a similar one that played out a month or so earlier. On our way to a transgender law workshop in South Carolina, we stopped to grab a quick bite to eat at Wendy’s. As we were leaving I said to Liam, “Honey, do you notice that no one ever stares at us anymore? We look just like any average, middle-aged couple.” His response was “Middle-aged??? Wait…AVERAGE???”

And here we were again, sharing a meal with a lovely couple from our church that we hadn’t, until that evening, had a chance to socialize with outside of committee meetings and potlucks in the fellowship hall. A straight couple with three older children, we relied on them for parenting advice, good conversation, and insight into our congregation and into Li’s grad school experience, where the wife held a job working for the dean of students.

Whenever the waitress came by she called Liam and our friend “sir.” His wife and I were always “Ma’am.” Liam referred to me as his wife and they joked about good marriages being based on agreeing with whatever their spouses said. I looked around the room and was, again, struck by the fact that no one gave us a second glance. Liam, after eight months on testosterone, no longer looked out of place, different, “other.” We didn’t register as a lesbian couple anymore and I began to feel guilty. I felt that somehow I had betrayed all of my years in the lesbian community, my activism for LGBTQ rights, and my own coming out at age 19 with Liam (then Lisa and my first female-bodied partner).

Liam and I agreed before his physical transition that we would never live stealth, meaning we would never try to blend into the heterosexual “normative” and we would always be open and honest about his trans status. However, I didn’t see myself jumping up and breaking into a mournful rendition of Chris Williamson’s “Sweet Woman,” or wandering from table to table to be certain that everyone knew of Li’s “transsexual medical history.” I kept my mouth shut and we continued to (ahem) bask in the passing.

It is true that we celebrate every time Li gets “sir’d” instead of “ma’am’d.” Out in public, he is viewed as male 99.9% of the time now and that suits him just fine. I still struggle with being seen as the average, middle-aged wife of this average, middle-aged guy. I liked standing out and bucking the system and making people question their assumptions about what lesbians look like. But…I’m married to a trans guy. I’m not in a lesbian relationship. I’m the average middle-aged wife of a not-so-average middle-aged guy. I understand that this will happen more and more often. This is what Liam wanted: to be seen as a man. I get that and I am thrilled for him. I suppose I will be more comfortable with these roles as time goes on and I imagine that sooner or later it will just be commonplace. In the meantime we will content ourselves with continuing trans and LGBTQ activism and being out and visible in our community and our daily interactions. Do strangers at our local Asian fusion place have to know that my husband started life as a girl? Absolutely not. But for the sake of authenticity, others do.

Middle-aged? Yes. Average? Not on your life.

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WonderWomanV5This is not my first time at the transition rodeo. My ex, who shall remain nameless as he lives stealth (meaning he is not out regarding his transition but rather lives as a biological male in a heterosexual relationship), began transition from female to male just a few months into our barely two year relationship. When Liam decided to transition, after a year or so of our reunion (we first dated in college nearly 30 years ago), I began to joke that my superpower was turning my girlfriends into men.

One needs a sense of humor about these things.

I didn’t intentionally date FTMs. In fact, when my ex and I got together it was the result of a personal ad on Yahoo: women looking for women. And Liam was still Lisa when we reunited; as far to the left of butch as possible but still female-identifying at the time.

It would be horribly egotistical of me to think that I was somehow responsible for the transition of two of my partners. However, I wasn’t surprised at either and I welcomed, embraced, and encouraged their journeys to live their authentic selves. I remember when I first met my ex, I noticed a distinct male energy about him even before he first hinted at not feeling at home in his body. We did all the research together and I came into this relationship prepared with a wealth of knowledge about transition. Liam and I talked fairly quickly about his ideas of being third gender and walking between worlds and that eventually led to a long process of discernment that has culminated in the decision to become what he terms “a new man.”

So of course I am often asked why I don’t just date men. Men who are born men. My friend Roxy recently said, “Though the gender identity of males born as males and males born as females is the same, their expression and the life that informs that identity are not.” And therein lies the difference. Males born as females have lived a life similar to my own—their experience forms an outlook on life that mirrors that in which I live. While I am not uncomfortable with biological males, I am much more comfortable with males born as females. I appreciate that, at least in the two instances I have first-hand knowledge of, they lived as lesbians and have had a somewhat (more so in Liam’s experience than in my ex’s) second- or third-wave feminist point of view (without all the gucky stuff that goes along with first-wave feminism but Liam has already addressed that here so I’ll move on).

After my ex and I broke up he told me that he felt we were meant to be together in order to lead each other home. He is at home in his body and my acceptance and support helped make that possible. He has a new life and a new love and I couldn’t be happier for both of them. I was lead back to Liam and I can’t imagine being with anyone else. Ever.

While I still struggle with my own identity (because I somehow feel I need a label), I am comfortable being the wife of a new man. No matter his gender expression, I am comfortable primarily because he is who he always has been and really, I have loved him all along. Superpower notwithstanding.