A year ago today I entered into a Civil Partnership with Willemina, who agreed to sign the dotted line with me despite my being what I optimistically term “an interesting person”. Or as an ex put it, “you’ve got so much baggage you need a Pickford’s van”. For those of you not living in sunny Britshire, a Civil Partnership is a legally recognised union between two people of the same sex. It affords same-sex couples the same legal rights as a heterosexual marriage. Weirdly, nobody’s thought up a good verb to describe this act. There’s no equivalent to “I married Willemina a year ago”. After all “I partnered Willemina a year ago” sounds a bit silly, and just a touch smutty.
Amyway, semantics aside, that’s what we did. A terrific day was had by all, with skulls and roses, vegan deliciousness, balloon twisting, a bit of crying (me) and 5 inch stillettoes (Willemina and my daughter). After entering the ceremony room to the tune of “I Am The One And Only”, we solemnly promised to love each other whatever life might throw at us.
And boy, has life done some throwing. I knew in my heart that I was transgender long before this ceremony, and Willemina and I both knew, when we promised to love each other, that I would soon start to formally transition. It actually didn’t occur to us once to call things off, because we saw what we were doing as our way to tell the world how we felt about one another. And if I’m honest, we just wanted to be that little bit closer to one another, by sealing it in ink, swapping rings, combining our names, and having a damn good party.
When we felt the time had come to tell family and friends about the changes I was planning to make, we sent out lots of letters, emails and messages. We wanted people to hear from us, not through the grapevine. We were very, very shocked when an old friend wrote back to us and said the following:
“I think you are making a mockery of the fight for equal marriage rights by having a Civil Partnership, then deciding to go ahead and have a sex change [sic] anyway”.
My initial reaction to this was write a two page missive making it perfectly clear what I thought of this person and her ideas. Fortunately, my second reaction was to save that missive, and leave it for a few days. We actually never replied to her. There were just so many things to be said that ultimately silence was the safest response.
For a start, this misguided notion that I might “decide to go ahead with a sex change” is kind of laughable, until it hits home that a lot of people really do think that’s how it works. Maybe life over the last few years would have been easier, if it were simply a case of waking up one morning and deciding “Today, I am going to be a man”. Ha! I am a big fan of Family Guy, but was shocked speechless by the programme’s portrayal of a man walking into the operating theatre, and coming out a statuesque blonde. Who then goes on to revolt all in her acquaintance. All in the one day. As you do. The issue of how long, both emotionally and physically it takes to transition, and the naivete of the idea that identifying as trans is simply a one way street with ‘woman’ at one end, and ‘man’ at the other, deserve more space on this blog than I feel I can give today, but please, if you ever hear anyone referring to someone “deciding to have a sex change”, do me a favour, and do a little educating.
Or punch them.
But on to whether we made a mockery of the fight for equal marriage. Willemina and I are both legally female. At some point in the dim and distant future, I may (or may not) choose to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This, amongst other things, would make me legally male, and therefore able to marry Willemina in a heterosexual marriage. This all assumes a lot of things. It assumes I will ever decide I wish to apply for a GRC. It assumes that Willemina and I actually want to be seen as a heterosexual couple. It’s a really complicated issue, and not one that is likely to be resolved in the near future.
We entered into a Civil Partnership because that’s the only option available to make our partnership legally recognised. We also did so because we wished to validate same-sex unions, and make our friends and family aware of the commitment equal to marriage such a partnership brings. Being trans doesn’t suddenly make me immune to feeling passionate about the rights of same-sex couples, and whilst I acknowledge that I did not actually identify as female when we became Civil Partners, we made the most of what we had, and tried to fly the flag for what is still a fairly new institution. Is that us making a mockery? I hope not.
A year on, our passion for each other burns strong. Our tolerance for each other’s farts, bad jokes and general stubbornness is just as strong as it ever was. Our Civil Partnership has made a definite, but hard to quantify, difference. Our year since the ceremony has been peppered with change, some hardship and having to deal with the prejudices of others. We’re not perfect, but I can say with hand on heart that without Willemina, this year would have been impossible.
One year on, we are being truer to ourselves than ever, and if a loving, ever-blossoming relationship between a staunch lesbian and a queer transman is really making a mockery of anything, it’s making a mockery of other people’s perceptions of how relationships should be. And in many cases those perceptions deserve all the mockery they get.