As I’ve been working my way out of the trans closet in my social life (I’m now using preferred name/pronouns at our religious community, and in a private online queer parenting community I’ve been part of for about 4 years that overlaps some with our “real” life, I’ve talked to a few more friends here and there, everyone is being awesome), one change has been that people are talking to me more, offering thoughts, support, resources.
Mostly this is good. One friend put me in touch with an old friend of hers who transitioned while parenting his school-age kid. Another friend has a partner in a somewhat similar place and I had been completely unaware because they haven’t talked about it. A third friend came for a visit over the weekend, and then launched into a largely supportive pep talk and info session while I worked on installing a bike seat for her. She mostly talked about what resources are out there, her opinion of the big name surgeons, and what to watch out for if I go on T. Now, she’s not trans, but as far as I can tell, she’s friends with the whole of the FTM/genderqueer population in her state and at least half of San Francisco. It was great to get the info, and now I know where to go when I start researching surgery for real (as opposed to my currently preferred passive research strategy, in which I remember everything anyone says, writes or implies about the topic, but don’t actively seek out concrete info), but that conversation also overwhelmed me. By the end of the 10 minutes (she really packed in the info fast), I probably looked a little green around the gills (and not just because we couldn’t get the bike seat to work on her bike).
One of the things she said that caused me to blanche was that she’s never seen a relationship survive transition without major bumps along the way. She said “major bumps” with a certain weight, implying she meant MAJOR bumps. (To her credit, in the same breath she was warmly supportive of how both Gail and I are doing).
Whenever I hear warnings like this, and I’ve heard this in a few forms now, both from friends (nearly identical warnings from two friends, both much more connected to the trans community than I am), and what I’ve read, I wonder what I’m missing. All I can see is what’s right in front of me, and as far as I can tell from here, my relationship is only getting better. We’re closer than we have been in years, and our relationship was pretty good to start with. I look forward to possible futures, and I wonder what is coming down the pike for us. Is it true what my friend told me? That something bad is almost guaranteed to happen for us? That maybe we won’t make it? That there’s no way to come out unscathed?
I want to trust what we have. To trust we’ll be able to keep doing the work we are used to doing, of talking, listening, paying attention, to ourselves, to each other, to our kids, the work of calling each other out if needed, challenging each other to be our best selves, digging in on the hard stuff (which we’ve always loved), ferreting out the truth and finding the best way forward. Together.
One of the things I worry about is growing away from her. Am I changing too fast for her to keep up, so fast that our relationship can’t shift to keep pace? Am I so deep into figuring out my own head and body that I don’t pay enough attention to her, don’t see how my changes are changing her? I keep listening and I keep watching. I love it when she does show me what’s hard or surprising for her and we figure out why, when she tells me what she actually thinks, not what she figures she’s supposed to say. She does this almost all of the time.
I want to trust the evidence right in front of me, to relax, to believe that we really are OK, that we really will be OK. I want to believe it’s possible we really are the lucky couple that won the trans lottery, where my belated realization actually brings us closer and doesn’t tear our family apart. I want to believe that when the hard stuff comes, we’ll tackle it together like we’ve tackled all the other hard stuff for the last 11 years.
I want to find a way to use these warnings to spur something more productive than more hypervigilance (a specialty of mine) and more reasons to doubt myself (another specialty). I’d love more than a tiny handful of stories of relationships that survived transition, a few more stories of relationships that deeply thrived for the long haul. I wish I didn’t feel like I must be nuts for believing this is possible. And not just possible. Actually good.
*** After writing this, I thought more carefully through the trans guys I know in some real life fashion, either because I’m good friends with them (J), or friends of friends type acquaintances and have some fairly reliable info about their lives. I’ve got a count of four who were in LTRs (all with women) pre-transition. All of their relationships survived and appear reasonably healthy. I think all those warnings were getting under my skin, and I wasn’t looking at the hard data I actually have, which actually looks pretty good.