This past weekend, we had friends stay with us which turned into a drinking-too-much and spending-too-much-money kind of weekend. I regret nothing other than the lack of groceries in our fridge. Actually, to clarify, we have a ton of produce, but nothing that really makes a complete meal. I recently signed up for Imperfect Produce, a delivery service I highly recommend (no, I’m not paid to say that, although, maybe I should be?). The quality of produce, the quantity, and the price are all selling points and the only sacrifice you make is not having the giant, steroid-injected produce you might get at the store. That said, this week we somehow ended up with a lot of zucchini, sweet potato, onion, and jalapeño. There are a million things to make in combination with these ingredients, but when you don’t have anything to add to them (pasta, tofu, meat, anything really), they are pretty hard to combine together.
The point of this long spiel is that Katie and I opted to go to dinner on Wednesday night. Every other Wednesday, Katie and I have couples’ therapy at 5pm. Our appointment is now online because our therapist moved to another state. At first, I thought this arrangement would be strange and I was in the head space of “Well, we’ll try it”. I like face-to-face, in-the-same-room interaction. That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well it’s going. I think our ease is from having spent 6 months in-person with our therapist before she moved, but who knows? Maybe she is just that good.
Our couples therapy falls on the same day we also have Ingersoll support group (1stand 3rdWednesdays). This makes for a crowded evening. I essentially leave work early (not ideal and I’m not blowing smoke when I say I’m grateful for the people I work with understanding that this is part of my life right now), rush home in traffic to talk about “marital problems”, to then close my laptop and have no more than 15 minutes to shove food in my face before starting a trek in the same rush hour traffic towards Capitol Hill. If we don’t grocery shop, this means we don’t have left overs to eat from the meal we cooked Tuesday and the whole plan for dinner on Wednesday really falls apart. In the face of this dilemma, I asked if Katie would be willing to skip group support and go to dinner with me. A kind of date-night, something we just discussed in therapy we are NOT good at making time for.
Before the unforeseen change in plans, Katie had prepped herself for Support Group: she had on a cute dress, shaved her legs and fixed her hair. Katie uses Group as the safe space to go total female presentation mode. If we hadn’t changed plans, she would have used the 15 minutes after I shut my laptop to put makeup on. She agreed to go to dinner but asked if she could change first. I looked at her skeptically, knowing immediately that “Can I change first?” meant “I want to put on men’s shorts and shirt. I asked her why she felt the need to change because I honestly thought she looked great. She’s been out in public before in a dress and I knew that part of her hang-up on not wanting to go out was not having make-up on.
There is a strong correlation between presenting feminine and wearing makeup for Katie. She doesn’t believe that her body is feminine enough to be classified correctly with feminine pronouns by strangers. It’s not that I don’t understand or empathize with this fear, but I also think we, as a society, should challenge it. If we are currently trained to assess a body-type and distinguish features in the binary (male or female), but we now know that binary is not applicable to a group of people (transgender humans), then we need to change the way we introduce and assume gender all together. I can no longer assume that because a body presents as feminine, that they are. I should have never assumed that in the first place, but I didn’t live in a world that taught me this lesson at an early age. I’m not sure how we become more inclusive on this issue as a society, but I strongly believe it is something we need to discuss. Gender can no longer be assumed based on the sex you are born. To do so is to sit in a bath of privilege, to stand in the binary blindfolded. I don’t accept this anymore and neither should anyone else who knows better. It’s our responsibility as those who know, to teach everyone else.
As Katie “hmm’d” and “hawwdd” with the many reasons why she wanted to change, I continued to compliment how great she looked. I know this comes off aggressive or selfish, but I need you to understand that I know Katie very well. Sometimes she needs the encouragement to break out of her shell, to shake up the routine. She needs the reassurance that she won’t be alone in the experience, that someone will be there with her, share her anxiety. I knew she could do this, go out to dinner withme in a dress. I knew she was nervous at the anticipation of her own “What-ifs”. She decided she wanted to change her dress, to wear a dress I had given her that I was never comfortable in and therefore never wore. As she slipped on the black polka-dot dress with a triangle cut out in the back, her whole posture changed. She turned in the mirror, examining the way her body looked in it, judging for herself if she approved. Her chest isn’t large like mine and her shoulders are broad, but in a toned way. Her sandy-blonde hair is long enough to look intentionally chin-length. Guys, she looked so great, so confident!
Before we left the house, I asked her if she was sure. I told her I knew I had pressured her a bit, and that I wanted to make sure she was ready to leave the house and eat dinner with me while wearing a dress. She looked in the mirror once more, looking for any changes since her last examination, and said assuredly “Yep!”. We walked down the street to dinner. I’m so proud of her! She’s left the house many times wearing a dress, but always in a trans-positive environment: Pride, Support Group, a friend’s house. Never had she gone out of the house to do average-human things like eat dinner with her wife. I didn’t even have an emotional melt-down after. For the first time, I saw our future dinner-dates, her in a dress, and me supporting her. We can do this! At least today we can. I couldn’t have imagined that we would be here a year ago. We’re creeping up on one year since I knew Katie was Katie. How weird is that?