I’m still writing this paper about transgender relationships (it’s my final paper for my Writing class, so it’s a quarter-long project). I’ll be sure to post my reference list for all of you. To find any research at all about the partners of transgender people is validating. I feel connected to others in this small community globally. So all of you know, academic findings in studies with as few as 7 couples and as many as 100 reveal common themes of loss/grief, anxiety over sexual identity, anxiety about minority stress, and overall concerns about public perception of both the cisgender and transgender partner. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’re not alone in your questions and fears.
Most of the research is conducted overseas. I asked someone along the lines why that was, and they softly pointed out that if the government doesn’t fund research in your country, conducting it is complicated. Duh, Natalie. I’m sure the reasons are numerous and complicated, but this one does strike a chord for me. How can a population be studied if the government believes the population shouldn’t exist? Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound? I digress.
Katie submitted her inquiry to Dr. Suporn and received a near-immediate response from them. She told me over dinner at Senior Moose on Thursday. The weight of what it means to schedule this surgery settled over both of us as we both mulled over what this all means. In a way, it feels like GRS (gender re-assignment surgery) is everything we worked towards. I can only equate it to times in my life where I’ve saved a lot of money to purchase something significant. I always get to the register to make the purchase and have that moment of doubt as I realize all the money in savings won’t be there anymore. This analogy doesn’t even give purpose or respect to the meaning GRS has in Katie’s life, or in mine. I can’t think of a better example of the pause scheduling surgery provides me. Rarely in life do we have moments where we sit on the ledge, straddling the meaning of our decisions. My experience indicates we often move rapidly through such moments, rarely having time to reflect on their meanings or determine our role within them.
Part of me wishes that this surgery didn’t feel heavy, didn’t feel like a weight at all. I want to skip past the part of my own selfish feelings and just be really happy for Katie. I hate myself for centering on my own feelings first. It feels like a fraudulent representation for how happy I truly am for Katie. This is an exciting time for her! I can tell she feels the weight of this too. She’s on the precipice of looking at the rest of her life as she wants to, learning how to feel and be in control of her body and mind. It’s so beautiful to see her come forward into her own.
Still, we’re both afraid of the what-ifs right now, afraid of the impacts this will have on our relationship. Can we make it through? It’s rare, couples can see the fight they are fighting and are provided the ability to prepare for scheduled battle. GRS feels like that sometimes, the end to a long-fought battle. I feel like everything we have done since Katie came out has been in preparation for her final steps of transition. While I know she, like all of us, will transition her whole life in the emotional/identity-forming sense, there will eventually be a physical transformation check-list marked “complete”. That said, as much as GRS is an ending, it’s the beginning of an anxiety filled question-mark we cannot answer right now. The what-if is too large.
Part of our therapy session together last week was focused on airing all our what-ifs, all the ways we are worried about how we will survive GRS as a couple. At the end of it, we were both reminded by our therapist that we can’t control any of it. We have to live in the moment. In a way, we honored this reminder yesterday by getting our first tattoos. I had the idea a while back to tattoo my preferred pronouns on my forearm. I’ve never liked any other tattoo idea more. It implicitly makes a statement about how much I care about transgender issues, about how much I believe transgender people deserve human rights, visibility, recognition, and love as much as any other person. Your gender is not inherent, it is not assumed. This tattoo pays homage to the path Katie and I are walking together.
While admiring the new marks on our arms, I asked Katie what I should caption the photo. I joked about captioning it “it’s crooked”, after spending the afternoon somewhat jokingly and repeatedly asking Katie if it was crooked. (My arm is round and the tattoo will always look crooked at certain angles. I know this.). She mentioned something about “Being the brick”, a reference to the Stonewall Riots. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall is this year, marking a monumental year for the LGBT community and LGBT rights movement. Sometimes you have to be the metaphorical brick to make change. I think Visibility is my brick.