So many rhetorics around LGBT+ and particularly transgender identities focus on the difficulties and tribulations so I thought that I would share a story of hope today. Five weeks ago I married the love of my life, a cisgender woman, a lesbian. When we met almost three years ago I presented as female and, though I was beginning to question my identity I really had no language to explain it. Ours was what most people would call a whirlwind romance, I fell in love with her that first night that we met and she felt the same.
When I came out to my now wife she said that she loved me, the person, beyond my gender. I initially came out as genderfluid, this was the only word that I had heard that came close to describing my gender, which I knew was not female but not fully male either. Over the course of the following two years my gender expression changed, I found my comfort zone in the masculine and began to realise that, though I am non-binary I can also be masculine and prefer male terms of address. I internalised this, as is usual for me, and became scared to mention it to my partner as she identifies as a lesbian. I was terrified that she would want a woman and not me, especially when I began to explore top surgery and hormone replacement therapy.
However I have landed on my feet with my wife. She has been by my side every step of the way. She fought for me when I was trying to change my name at doctors surgeries and banks. She corrected pronouns for me when I wasn't around. She came with me to my first gender clinic appointment - the one where we were told we probably wouldn't last due to her being a lesbian and me being a non binary person who wanted their breasts removed and male hormones. She was there when I went down for the double mastectomy and, to my surprise and glee, she was there when I woke up. I say to my surprise but don't get me wrong, she didn't give any indication that she wouldn't be there. It was just that in my mind I knew that I wouldn't have the body she loved and the words of various clinicians rang around my head, telling me that without breasts there would be no sexual attraction and without that, there would be no relationship. However when I opened my eyes she was there. She took time off to care for me, she cooked Christmas dinner for us and helped me through recovery.
My wife and I have overcome those naysayers though. She has been able to see through the exterior and love the person. Of course there have been difficulties, there have been worries over what hormones will do and whether she could deal with a breast-less partner. But love endures all things, and in our case that includes gender questioning and transitioning. I think so much more pressure is put on couples with one or both of them transitioning... when you think about it, in any long term relationship the couple will change both physically and emotionally. You might get together when you have brown hair then dye it blonde. A partner may have a double mastectomy due to cancer. The other may decide to grow a beard. Bodies change, and relationships adapt and change too, this isn't any different in a relationship with people who are transitioning. Making out that a cis partner will suddenly not love their trans* partner reduces a trans* person to their body and their genitals. Relationships are complex and I'm not denying that some won't survive transition, but I certainly don't think we can say that they will definitely fail because one partner is transgender.
marriage equality is a myth, there is no equality if identities are excluded...
So back to our wedding day. We knew that I would have to be married as a wife. I had spoken to the registrar and the registry office and the only way to remove gendered language from a wedding is to opt for a civil ceremony - a marriage requires the vows to include "take you as my lawful wedded husband/wife". A civil ceremony is predominantly the same to a same-sex marriage though some divorce rights are altered and my wife and I wanted a marriage. So, although many societies celebrate having achieved marriage equality - that is that a perceived same sex couple can marry, these same societies cannot allow for transgender people to marry with the same equality. A transgender person must hold a gender recognition certificate (GRC) in order to be married as their "chosen" gender and not their birth sex. Now, GRCs are not easy to come by. You must live in your "chosen" gender for at least two years, have evidence to prove this and have this confirmed by a panel. Oh and you have to pay for the privilege. You can also only change your gender in a binary form, so non binary people cannot have their gender recognised. Marriage equality is a myth then, there is no equality if identities are excluded or people are outed by the language used in the vows.
We cannot sit back on our laurels and think that equality is here because one milestone has been reached. Equality is not just about gay people, it is about all of the gender and sexual minorities having the same access and the right to be recognised in a way they want. Not having to be married as a woman because that is all that is available, or having to wait until a panel has agreed on your gender so you can be married with the correct pronouns. The fight for equality continues, and it will continue until all identities are recognised and accepted as equal.
I wish every trans* person could have a partner so understanding and supportive as I have been lucky enough to find. I wish that every trans* person could have someone who fights for them in all things, who is 100% all out for them, no matter what. Most of all I wish that we didn't have to fight, that all trans* people are considered equal without a fight.
But I said this was a story of hope, so here is the message I have for you, a message my wife has helped me to learn...
Trans* is beautiful. No matter where you are in transition, whether you want to physically transition or not, no matter what your body looks like... you are gorgeous.
Trans* is worthy of love. You deserve unconditional love, to be loved as you are and where you are, whether that is transitioning or not.
Trans* is equal. However much the world you live in tells you otherwise. However much the media makes you feel less or alien, you are equal in all you deserve and should have.
Be fierce, keep fighting and let's see this become reality soon.