I finally got my birth certificate amended. I’d been putting off dealing with it and finally sent in the papers a couple weeks ago. It arrived in the mail, shiny and official. I was born in Massachusetts, and I’d read online that I could expect a birth certificate with my birth name and assigned sex crossed out, and the correct name and sex written in. But when it came it was complete and perfect, just my name and the word male, no nonsense. Opening that envelope had a real thud of finality to it–the very last piece of paper to get changed.
I’m jumping directly into another legal transition of sorts and changing my name again. Alma and I have put a lot of thought into what to do with our last names now that we are married. I’ve decided to take hers. I’m pretty excited about it. I really wanted us to share a name; she is very attached to hers, and I’m not that attached to mine; and we’re not that into hyphenation for a few reasons. Any why shouldn’t a guy take his wife’s name?
So soon I will have changed every single name from what I was born with–first, middle, and last. I’ve managed to keep the same initials, SLB. Taking her name also allows me to make a gesture of cultural solidarity, as she has a very ethnically marked name. She’s converting to Judaism; taking her name is kinda as close as I can get to “converting” to be Chicano.
I’m finally getting ready to seriously pursue a hysterectomy. It’s been a long emotional process–I hope to give it a proper treatment in a post soon. At this point, I feel at ease with my body and my circumstances, and I want the surgery. I’m hoping to get it this summer.
Between these things I’m feeling like my transition is really ending, maybe over. My paperwork is all changed; I’m getting ready for my last surgery; the big changes in my life now aren’t about my transition; shame’s appearances get rarer and rarer. It’s a good feeling, a spacious absence, very quiet.
Ah, romantic love, the source of so much joy and so much misery. For many trans people, seeking a partner isn’t just hard–it’s completely baffling. I see this confusion crop up over and over in our community. As a trans dude who lucked into a great relationship, I thought I’d offer a few pointers for trans people trying to figure out where to even start.
1. Safety first. Sadly, this needs to be said, as I’m sure you’re aware. Dating can be dangerous for trans people. Be choosy about the who, how and when of disclosing your trans status. You may want to gauge their views on trans people, like by mentioning a trans celebrity or TV character (something we can actually do now!). Tell loved ones where you are going and when you’ll be back. Trust your gut. It’s a good idea to disclose as early as possible in a new relationship. Choose a place where you know you’ll be safe, like in a restaurant or at your place when your roommates or family are in the next room.
2. Consider other trans people. The late, great Matt Kailey used to say this often in his advice column. Many trans people find love with another trans person. Obviously, other trans people are a lot more likely than the average to be informed about your identity and experiences, open-minded about your body, and willing to see you as more than your trans status. Given our glorious diversity, whatever you’re into, there are probably some trans people who’ve got it. And you’re guaranteed to have something in common.
3. Bi and queer folks may be your best bet. I’ve noticed that a lot of trans people find partners who identify as bi or queer, including yours truly. It’s no coincidence. Bi and queer people, both trans and cis, are generally open to a range of body types and gender expressions. They’re therefore less likely to see trans people as a threat to their own identities. I also think there’s something about the shared experience of being oft-ignored members of the LGBTQ+ community. Of course, there are plenty of gay, lesbian, straight and other people who are not transphobic and would be happy to date you. Nonetheless, bi and queer people can be a good place to start.
4. Love yourself. Ok, not to get super corny here, but it’s true–loving yourself is so important. As trans people, self-acceptance and love are often challenging. Whether you’re partnered or single, loving yourself is the foundation of bliss, in relationships and every other part of life. Some ways to get started with self-love include surrounding yourself with supportive people and doing one thing each day just to be kind to yourself. When you’re getting ready in the morning, you can look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and say “I love you.” You will feel really silly, but seriously, it helps. When you’re rooted in self-love, you can enjoy the single life, and you’ll be equipped to know a good thing when it comes. Plus, the confidence and positivity that come with self-love are extremely attractive.
5. Hold out for the real thing. Don’t spend years of your life with someone just because they show you a minimum of decency and are willing to use the right pronouns (and don’t even get me started on people who don’t meet that low bar). You deserve a great relationship with someone who shares your values and really gets you–a mutual partnership where you can love and be loved, challenge and be challenged. It’s the real deal when you feel deeply respected and the relationship helps both people to grow. Don’t settle for less. You’re worth it.
Readers–what advice do you have for trans people who are seeking that special someone? Please also feel free to ask questions and share stories about dating while trans.
I couldn’t have gotten through transition without my dog. When the world looked at me with bafflement and disgust, she looked at me with pure attention and love. No judgment can pass through her gaze. She doesn’t give a shit about gender. A dog is an indispensable friend on this river.
I remember one day, back when I was desperately questioning my gender. It had been a horrible week of misperceptions by strangers and misunderstandings by family and friends. I was exhausted, almost heartbroken. I found my dog taking an afternoon nap in a patch of sun on my bed. I laid down and wrapped my arms around her and cried. She nuzzled my tears. I thanked her over and over for loving me with no thoughts at all of my haircut or my hormones.
She showed me that, whether people call me “he” or “she”,” I am myself. She showed me an acceptance that can be hard to find in human beings. Her love convinced me of my basic worth, my realness, the universe lovingly allowing me to be. Her soul shines through her eyes, and that soul is all souls.
A beautiful rescue with a scar on her face, she is intensely loyal. She seems to know that I took her in and keep her safe. She looks at me with gratitude and a little bit of awe. She has no idea that she saved me, too.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on partners’ problems with transition. It’s hard to read about cisgender people who are possessive of their trans partners’ bodies, who politicize the choice to transition, who pressure their partners to stay in the closet.
Before I go any further, let me say that I mean no disrespect to these cis folks, their trans partners or to these relationships. Some of these couples have been together longer than I’ve been alive. I don’t know the first thing about that kind of love. I hope to someday. If you’re struggling with transition in your relationship, please share your thoughts–including if you think I’m full of shit!
Being trans is really goddamn hard. It bothers me when those closest to a person–parents, spouses, lifelong friends–make transition any harder than it already is. Our loved ones should support us.
It’s a blight on the face of justice that some people try to talk us out of transition in the name of feminism. Gender essentialism is not feminism. The idea that no one should transition, that trans people don’t actually exist, is plain old gender essentialism. What happened to “My body, my choice”?
Trans people are not traitors. Transition is not a political choice, except insofar as the choice to live is political. It is downright radical for trans people to assert our right to exist, to live fully and authentically, in a hostile world.
We should all do a better job of recognizing where we end and our partners begin. I think we can all agree that it would be sexist and unacceptable for me to, say, feel entitled to sex from my female partner, or to try to control how she dresses, who she talks to, or how she spends her time. So too is it cissexist and unacceptable for partners to feel entitled to our body parts, medical choices, wardrobes, and the words we use for ourselves. It’s an overreach, it’s controlling, and it’s disrespectful.
I’m not saying it’s wrong for people to feel overwhelmed, afraid, confused, sad and/or pissed off when a partner shares their wish to transition. What I am saying is that partners should own their feelings and respect others’ bodies and choices. It’s not okay to try to control your partner because you feel scared or lost. I feel like if you really love and respect your partner, you will want the best for them–even if that takes them away from you.
My views are colored by my own experience with an unsupportive girlfriend. She was my high school sweetheart. We were together about three years, living together for two of them. She liked my masculinity as long as it was labeled “butch,” but she was extremely dismissive of my desire to transition. She staged what I can only call temper tantrums about how my face would look different, how I’d never pass as a man, how she didn’t want me to have surgery, how I was robbing her of her “queer” identity card. She used my new name and pronouns grudgingly and behind my back told people to “humor” me by going along with it. I was undertaking the most difficult, important task in my life thus far–and she made it 100% about her.
We broke up when I found out she was cheating on me. I cried for one day and then was overcome by a wonderful feeling of euphoria and freedom. I made the appointment to start hormones that very week. I never knew getting cheated on could be so awesome!
I’m now with a woman who gets me and respects me. I think everybody deserves that.
Partners of trans people–please don’t make your partner’s journey about you.