When I first started questioning my gender identity, I found a community of transmen on this online diary website called Live Journal. I was floundering so much for a sense of community and I was so excited to find them, but it actually turned out to be a disaster for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into. However, I have found a great community here in my city of Philly, so I’m happy now and that’s all that counts. But I’ve decided to share with you some of my journal entries from the early days of my gender questioning.
Fourth Journal Issue:
January 13th, 2010
My girlfriend has done a lot of writing about what it’s been like so far to go through the transition with me, but I’ve yet to do any writing about what it’s been like so far for me to go through the transition with her… so here goes:
What I’ve discovered so far that going through a transition with a partner is incredibly difficult. (I know some of you are screaming DUH!!! YOU IDIOT!!) When my girlfriend and I met 3 years ago, the idea of transgendered or transexual had never even crossed my mind. It was with my girlfriend just before Jen (Jen being my current gf) that I had actually enjoyed sex for the first time, and with Jen, in the early part of our relationship, I was still blossoming into my sexuality… but I was lesbian, and Jen is lesbian.
It’s really hard to know that I’m pulling like a “switcheroo” on Jen. She obviously signed up for a lesbian relationship and little did we both know that in the fine print there was a clause that stated “After three years of lesbian bliss, you will be subject to your partner’s gender change. There are no exceptions, however you may opt out of the program at any time if you find the relationship has become to difficult.”
It sounds completely outrageous, selfish and idiotic, but sometimes I get really angry that she’s upset. I’m angry at her and I want to shake her and yell, “but don’t you know how much happier I’m going to be?! How much I’m going to be able to love you better because I will truly love myself?! Don’t you want to be with me when I’m the person I really want to be?!” “I’m only changing for the better!!!”
I also get really angry at myself, and I want to shake myself and yell, “you freaking JERK!!! Why can’t you just be happy being who you are?!” “Look at this beautiful person who you’ve upset so much!” “Why are you angry at HER?!?!?!?!”
I sort of have this mantra that I try to repeat to myself when we are going through hard times during the transition. When we first started reading stuff together and figuring things out, we got this PDF printout (one of the very few resources out there) for partners going through transition. I can’t recall the name of it, but it’s a pretty well-known document that was written about ten years ago. Lesbian partners of FTMs are discussing their feelings, and one woman who made it through the whole thing with her partner says something like, “my partner was able to be there for me and help me go through this even though at times my feelings were on the other side of the universe than his.”
So, every time we’re having a hard time with the transition, I literally chant in my head, “other side of the universe, other side of the universe, other side of the universe.” Sometimes it just doesn’t work though, and I still find myself feeling angry, hollow, unloved and unwanted – although I know the last two emotions aren’t the case at all.
Sometimes my girlfriend gets really excited and happy for me about the transition, and when that happens, I feel like I couldn’t have it any better. The excited and happy feelings seem to be pretty fleeting though, and she says that it makes her feel strange that she’s excited, like why should she be. Recently we’ve talked about it and I’ve tried to reassure her that it makes perfect sense she’s excited because I’m going to be so much happier, so I hope the next time she gets excited over it that it sticks a little longer.
She’s been doing a lot of reading and studying up on what will happen to me during the transition, but I think she’s becoming overly anxious because a lot of things that may happen that could be really scary or hard for our relationship may not happen at all. It seems that everyone’s trans experience is SO different, and there’s no telling how I will end up. That’s also something that bothers her, the uncertainty of it. We’re also at sort of an impasse there too, because the uncertainty of it is something that thrills me. I think it’s SO wonderful that I will finally get the chance to bloom into the person that’s been hidden for 24 years, and I’m looking forward to the changes and self discovery. Unlike a some trans people who rarely go out until their transition is complete, I want to relish in the physical and emotional changes that will be taking place. They say it’s like a second puberty – well, the first puberty sucked a whole lot (I think everyone’s does because it catches you off guard). How many adults in their lifetime get the chance to experience this sort of rebirth, regeneration, reself-discovery? Hardly any – I feel that it’s one of the most beautiful things about being trans.
I feel like for a great deal of people there is a lot of fear and shame attached to being trans. I felt that at the beginning – a lot. When my girlfriend and I were going through this whole thing, sometimes I’d just shut my eyes and wish so hard that I was “normal” (as normal as a gender variant butch lesbian can be). Sometimes I still wish, but not because I’m afraid of transition. I’m reading a book about a lesbian marriage, and the way the partner describes her butch “husband” is so beautiful (the book is called My Lesbian Husband if you’re interested). It saddens me to the very core to know that my girlfriend has thought about me the same way this woman has thought about her butch, and that those feelings will have to change when I’m not a lesbian anymore. Reading the book has actually made me lose hope that our relationship will survive, and some days since I started reading the book I’ve wished hard that our relationship could stay the same. That I could love myself as a butch lesbian. That I could give my partner everything she needs and make her so happy. That I didn’t have to watch her cry as the happiness she’s finally found is slipping helplessly through her fingers.
I did mention that going through this with a partner was hard, right?
And that’s where the guilt comes in. Jen hasn’t been out as a lesbian for very long, and I was the first relationship she’d ever found that met her every need. I was masculine and strong, but still a woman. Still soft, still tender, still emotional and with different wants and needs than any man. She could be feminine and emotional and sexy with complete abandon, knowing that she’d never have to meet any expectations and she was never inconveniencing me in any way by being herself.
While I don’t ever want or foresee these qualities within myself going away as I physically change, I can see exactly where they would disappear for her. My strong, tough woman body was never physically the same as hers, but it was woman. It was everything she could want from a man, in wrapped in a tender, nurturing, albeit a little masculine, womanly body with a woman’s mentality running the show. Now that softer, curvier, softer body will be replaced by harder, boxier, harrier, more slimline one – a man’s body. And the mentality, while not ever without womanly influence, will also be influenced by man.
It’s devastatingly hard to know I’m taking away her happiness. I feel like I’ve stolen her warm, bright, lively sunshine and replaced it with partly cloudy with a chance of rain. But… you can’t control the weather.
All I can do is hope that somehow she can still love me. Sometimes it really feels like the odds are against me, and it makes me feel even worse for leaving behind my lesbianism… something that I’ve felt merciless, irreconcilable guilt about since the beginning. I feel myself withdrawing some from the relationship because I’m trying to think of why she would want to love me as a man and I can’t come up with anything. Sometimes I see butch women and it stings at my heart, I think “Jen could be so happy with that woman, and here she is, stuck and miserable with me.”
I told her recently that I’m not sure what I have to offer her anymore. It’s true, I don’t, and it’s heartbreaking. She says that she sees it working out in the end, but I have a hard time believing her. I feel a sense of bravado and false courage when she says it. All the feelings I mentioned before – angry, hollow, unloved and unwanted – they all stem from knowing that I’ve taken away something from her, and knowing that while I will still identify as queer and I will be out and open as a transmale, I’m becoming a version of the very thing that she ran from and has been trying to move away from for years: men.
I love her so much, I love her for trying and for not giving up and for being open minded enough to envision me as who I will become and for being even more open minded enough to envision herself with me. I hope with my whole heart that somehow she will want me in the end. Somehow she will look at me with genderless eyes – she won’t pin me as still being a woman, but she won’t see me as the men she can’t stand either… she will just see ME. I know she loves me and I know that if I turned into a giant cockroach ala Franz Kafka that she would try and love me. But, as we’ve all come to realize, gender is an earth-shattering force, and once you throw it into the mix, all bets are off.