Do we look unhappy?








Those of you who know Peter Kay (the best thing to come out of Bolton since Reebok shoes and spun cotton) may remember his sketch, that goes something like this:

Concerned person: How ARE you?

Other person: I’m fine.

Concerned person: (Looking meaningful) Yes, but how are you IN YOURSELF?

This sketch continues when talking about someone else:

Mr Curious: So how’s your son? IN HIMSELF?

With the latter part of that query accompanied by a screwed-up face showing concern, tenderness, and not a little meddling nosiness.

“In yourself” (or “him/her/themself”) implies ‘inside’, ’emotionally’, and generally on a level not adequately covered by the answer “fine”. It is a way of implying that there are Deeper Things to be uncovered and discussed, whether or not the person being asked really wants to spill their guts. I find it’s also often a way for people to be dead nosey, hidden under a veneer of concern. But then, I’ve always been a bit cynical, and transitioning hasn’t made me any less so.

My partner and I get this kind of thing quite a lot. People no doubt have the best of intentions, asking me, perhaps, how my transition is going, or how my partner is dealing with my changes, but if they’re told “fine”, or a longer equivalent, things sometimes get a little too personal.

With me, it sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough for things to be going ok. Which they pretty much are. 46 blog posts later, I don’t think I can be accused of holding back on how I feel, but, you know, sometimes things really are just fine. Sometimes they’re not, but can anybody honestly say that they don’t have their downs as well as their ups? You may just catch me on a day when I don’t feel like explaining something that’s troubling me in detail, particularly when 9 times out of 10 people assume that anything that’s wrong must be because of My Big Decision.

(Quick note to any other trans people reading this – how often do you hear “Wow, that must have been a Really Big Decision”. No sh*t!!)

As for Willemina, people assume that she must be going through emotional hell and is just hiding it because she is brave, and doesn’t want to upset me. Now, she has assured me that’s not the case, and we have sufficient love and mutual respect going on that there’s enough honesty between us for me to believe her. But other people sometimes seem to find it hard to do the same. We’re not Super Couple, but we’re plodding along through life just the same as we always did, and whilst it’d be stupid to assume there’s been no impact by my transition on our relationship, it’s a shame to assume that either Willemina or our life together are about to fall apart. You know what? We’re fine.

Which brings me to another, more personal area. When was the last time you enquired about the sex-life of a couple you know? If a couple you are friends with have had a lot of things going on in their life, did you ask them if they are still sleeping together? If that couple went through life changes of whatever sort, did you ask one of them if their sex-life was still satisfying?

There can be an assumption that because my transition is based around gender, that somehow it is also connected to sexuality (via genitalia, I’m guessing?). This leads to the further assumption that because I have chosen to transition very openly, sharing areas of my life that you don’t often learn about, that I don’t have boundaries. Of course I am open about my gender identity, but that really does not make it “fine” to ask us about sex, or our relationship, or to assume that these might be under attack by my transition. Or that if we say things are “fine” we must be hiding something. Just as I have maintained in the past, and still maintain, what is in my pants is my business. In the same way, what my partner and I do in each others’ pants is not up for discussion.

To quote Hillary Clinton, hopelessly out of context:
“I believe in a zone of privacy”.