Op-ed: Being Married to a Lesbian Doesn’t Make Me Less of a Man
BY Jacob Anderson-Minshall
July 01 2013 4:00 AM ET
It’s as though Taylor suggests that by remaining in my long-term relationship with a woman who doesn’t identify as straight, I am less of a man than if I had broken up with her and then insisted on only dating women who are straight or men who are gay.
For many trans men, it is a particular turn-on to be found attractive by straight women or gay men; it somehow validates their masculinity, somehow validates their self-image as a man. But it also suggests that only straight women and gay men have the visual acuity to see and correctly identify maleness in the world. Conversely, this would seem to indicate that only straight men and lesbians can correctly identify women and femaleness in the world. I just don’t believe that there is anything to confirm or validate this kind of assumption.
The question of realness and whether I’m seen or not seen by my partner is also at the heart of my response to another query that I frequently receive when someone first discovers that I didn’t transition until I was almost 40 years old.
People want to know why it took me so long to come out as transgender. Personally, I think one of the major reasons that I didn’t feel it necessary to declare my trans gender earlier was because of Diane. I feel like my wife has always seen the “real me.”
Maybe she and I didn’t start out with the understanding that those aspects of the “real me” demonstrated that I was more appropriately identified as a trans man then as a lesbian, but she always saw my true essence. Whether you want to call it a soul or something else, Diane saw the real me and she recognized and validated my masculinity in a way that allowed me to exist in the world in a female body without going crazy.
While I never felt entirely comfortable in my skin, with Diane I had long periods of time where I could forget that my external self didn’t reflect my internal truth — until I passed a mirror or had some other reminder of my female-bodiedness.
I felt seen and validated and loved by Diane even when my body was misrepresenting me and rendering me invisible to the rest of the world. So why should I now think that Diane has become blind to my truth, post-transition? Why would I think that now that my maleness is visible to the rest of world she would suddenly see femaleness instead?
This doesn’t mean that our transition as a couple was never a struggle. Of course it was. But the truth is that part of that struggle comes not from the inherent issues that arise in such a life-changing event. Part of it comes from the fact that other people project their concerns, prejudices, and issues upon transitioning couples.
When we first announced my new trans identity and told others I’d be transitioning from female to male, a surprising number of our closest friends and family members expressed their utter certainty that we would not survive as a couple because “Diane is a lesbian.”
One of the milestones about achieving true marriage equality will be in gaining validation of same-sex relationships on par with their straight counterparts. Because the truth is that even our own community hasn’t always done a great job of supporting, validating, and helping to maintain long-term LGBT relationships. This is changing dramatically of course, at least for same-sex couples.
But for many trans people, coming out still carries at the very least the fear that their relationship will end. There is an expectation that the relationship will end. That expectation emanates from societal forces. It seems present whether you’re coming from a queer or straight relationship. Some part of it is internalized but other people make it very clear that they expect you will break up because one of you is transitioning.
No one tells you at that point that “Love Is Love.”
So as we celebrate the Supreme Court victories and herald in an age of marriage equality, let us not forget that some relationships in our community are still fighting for validation. In addition to trans people, I’d say that many bisexuals are also still fighting for the greater society, and the LGBT community specifically, to recognize their relationships as having the same validity and value as anyone else’s.
Although I believe wholeheartedly that Diane has seen the real me throughout our relationship. I also acknowledge that I have become a different person because of hormone therapy, testosterone has made me into a different person and this naturally puts unusual stresses on our relationship.
For example, testosterone literally thickens your skin, and it seems to have a similar effect on emotions. My emotions are now muted, as though there is now a barrier between me and them or between me and the rest the world. My emotions are cushioned, less battered by external forces. Diane has had to adjust to these differences, to the way testosterone has altered my personality and my communication styles, but I still believe that she sees the “real me.”
In fact, I know she now truly sees me as a man, in a way she did not before my transition.
I know this not because she tells me, but because she demonstrates it, dozens of times throughout the day. Sometimes it is in very subtle, nearly imperceptible cues. And other times in ways that are blatant (and often unintendedly hilarious) in demonstrating just how far the belief in my manhood has penetrated into her subconscious.
One night we were watching television and a commercial came on, revealing dire statistics about the number of men who die each year, basically because they are too embarrassed to get a prostate exam.
Diane turned to me with utter seriousness and concern and asked, “Have you had a prostate exam?”
I shook my head.
“Oh, my God,” she said. “You’re over 40 and need to have one, right away.”
I started laughing.
“What?” she asked. “It isn’t funny!”
But it was. Because, as someone who was born female-bodied, I don’t even have a prostate.
Diane knows this.
But she has so accepted my maleness that she forgot I was different from other men. She has accepted this not just in principle but in the deepest parts of her subconscious mind. She has accepted my maleness not as something artificial or created but as utterly natural and all-encompassing.
So I know that Diane sees me as a man. If she can continue to see herself as a lesbian, even though she is married to a man, who am I to dissuade her? After all, I continue to see myself as part of the LGBT community even though I’m a man in a relationship with a woman. Diane continues to identify as queer, as a lesbian, sometimes clarifying it by saying perhaps she’s a bisexual-identified lesbian or as a lesbian-identified bisexual. Either way, together, we continue to identify as a queer couple. And none of this makes me any less of a man.
JACOB ANDERSON-MINSHALL is an author and journalist. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Advocate editor at large Diane Anderson-Minshall.