In the past 2 weeks, I’ve begun the laborious task of telling my coworkers about Katie. It’s a complicated process, as these are people I work with and this is a conversation that doesn’t have a space in the workplace. So how do I do it? After a conference call ends, stand in front of the room and say, “My husband’s my wife!” Yeah, I don’t think that would work. This is not an “in the office” conversation. I’m also not in habit of randomly taking my coworkers on exclusive one-on-one lunches or happy hours. How does one prepare for such conversation with coworkers? I’ve talked about this previously, but it never gets easier to out my life to others. The fear of their reaction, the preparation for the look of shock on their faces, and the inevitable repeat questions all feed into a monstrous anxiety. Ultimately, I needed to tell my coworkers for ease of my own transition. I had caught myself several times telling a story about my weekend and awkwardly pausing before assigning Katie’s gender pronoun of “he”. I also keep fucking up saying Katie’s name at home. Katie is endlessly patient with me and I am able to catch it when it happens and quickly apologize, but I don’t like the little paper-cut wounds I imagine it causes her ego. I also hate keeping secrets. I have a new-found appreciation for those who keep them for decades. I can’t imagine the life people lead while staying in the closet. I’ve only just inherited mine 5.5 months ago and I’ve hated every second of it. In addition to gender pronouns and name, I want to be able to tell my coworkers the true story of what I did this last weekend. Example: “I signed Katie up for Stitch Fix and we tried on her own women’s clothes for the first time.” This statement is way different from “I signed my husband up for Stitch Fix.” I’m experiencing so many firsts in my life and the people I spend 45-50 hours a week with had no idea.
Every person I have told has been endlessly supportive, including my coworkers. I don’t know how to explain my intuition on this, but I knew none of them would judge me to my face. I believe this in part a sign of the times we live in now, which are much more accepting and less judgmental. I’m grateful for that. That said, every person I tell about Katie, including my coworkers, has asked the inevitable question: Am I a lesbian now? Shoot, just last night, I was asked this question in a writing class I’m taking by a complete stranger. I’m not offended by any means, as I have asked myself this question. Another sign of the times. I’m sure at some point I’ll read this post in the future and cringe. Maybe I will accept that I am a lesbian. For now, my answer has been unwavering and consistent: I have no idea.
I don’t think I am a lesbian. Now, I know I am based on the limited criteria put forth by our English language. I know that if I am female (check!) and in a relationship with a woman (check), by default, I check the lesbian or bi-sexual box. That said, imagine for a moment that Katie and I cannot make this work, that our marriage ends. When I start dating again and fill out an online profile, I’m not interested in women. Currently, I am not suddenly looking at the human market and thinking “this world got twice as big!” So what am I? It’s awkward when people ask me. I know they are asking because as humans we have to categorize people. Right now our American society categorizes people by sex, gender, ethnicity, and religion. I am the wife of a transgender human. I identify as a CIS white woman whose spouse is a transgender woman. I am a person who is more than the box you check on a dating profile. There has to be another word for me and those like me. We are the spouses. We are the ones who are experiencing PTSD after unknowingly RSVP-ing to an unwelcome gender and sexual identify crisis being caused by the discovery of our spouses own deep-rooted struggle with their gender and sexual identity crisis. We are the brave ones asking the hard questions that our society isn’t ready to answer. We are bad-ass. We have earned the right to question the categorization of our identity by those around us. Am I a lesbian? I have no idea. There has to be another word for what I am. I hope one day I find it.