Tag Archive: queer


Conversation with doctor:
“So, is your partner bisexual?”
“No, she’s a lesbian”
“Oh, not even a little bit attracted to men?”
“No, definitely not”
*long pause*
“That’s going to present big problems for your relationship as you transition.”

Well, that doctor wasn’t the first to suggest that me transitioning would signal the end of my loving relationship of (at that point) six years, and certainly won’t be the last. I’m not so naive that I don’t realise that historically not that many relationships make it after one half of the couple goes through transition. I do realise that as we change emotionally and physically, our relationships change too, sometimes just moving too much away from the core that held the couple together in the first place for the relationship to stay viable.

I know this. But as it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, I want to make a plea…don’t write us off. Don’t assume the worst. Don’t sit by the phone waiting for the bad news. Because it doesn’t happen to everybody.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs (fnar) of my sexuality, and that of my partner. I think we covered that in my earlier post So, does that make you both straight now? Suffice it to say that I identify as queer, and my partner identifies as a queer lesbian. For a definition of what the word ‘queer’ means to us (and won’t necessarily for everybody), please see the Glossary I posted a while back. Sexually, yes, we’ve had a steep hill to climb in terms of my physical changes, and also the changes in the way I relate to my own body. But that hill hasn’t necessarily been a bad one to climb, and we’ve quite enjoyed some of the views to be had along the way, if I can stretch that metaphor a little further!

Emotionally, I have changed, and that has led to a lot of renegotiating (and me being b*tchslapped by Willemina pretty regularly). But all in all, I am still the same person I have always been, only happier, more relaxed, more comfortable, more confident than ever. I am finally feeling like the person I always wanted to be, and that’s actually done our relationship a whole lot of good. Let’s face it, would you rather your partner was uptight, depressed, stressed and uncomfortable, or the opposite? Some of the changes we have faced really have been a good thing for both of us.

We’re an odd couple, I know, a transman and a lesbian. But for us, it works. We don’t do anything special, we’re just very, very lucky. Relationships either work or they don’t. Some do break down because of transition, some because of other stuff. If you have friends in a relationship, and one is just starting out on their transition journey, please don’t assume the relationship will crash and burn. Of course, it might, but my point is that it’s horrible to assume, and unfair to say to anyone that’s embarking on their transition that what they are doing will lose them their partner. Just support them if that does happen, and please, avoid “I told you so’s”, because these things are NOT inevitable.

It’s been about 7 years since Willemina and I first met, nearly 18 months since we had our Civil Partnership ceremony (more of that, and the legal issues around it, at a later date. Not now – I’m feeling romantic). We are still together, and strongly so. I can’t guarantee we’ll be together, forever, until the end of our days. Who can? But we have pledged to be together until the point where we stop being happy with one another.

So Willemina Velvetina Pelicina, I love you with all my heart. You are my strength and the arms that hold me when I worry. You are warmth and giggles and craziness. Your smile makes my brain explode, and your farts are the stuff of legend. I’m yours.
***stop press***
New video up on YouTube – interview, romance, and me failing the latest manliness test in spectacular fashion! Just click on MrHerbertTurtle up on the right hand side of this post.

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This is a question that my partner and I have been asked quite a few times now. Most people have asked with a degree of respect, others haven’t. One notably ex-friend asked my partner this in a message after she was told I was trans. It was the first thing she asked. Not ‘how are you both?’ or ‘is there anything I can do to support you?’, just ‘so, does that make you both straight now?’

Telling people I am transgender does seem to make them think that suddenly my sexuality is up for discussion. A lot of assumptions are made, based often on very old-fashioned ways of recognising and categorising gender and sexuality. Let’s face it, cisgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or none of the above. So can transgender people. In the same way that this world really needs to come to terms with the fact that gender is not a binary, there has to be recognition that sexuality itself is not a neat package that can be easily labelled, and never changes.

Let’s rewind a little to look at my life. I grew up assuming I was heterosexual. I had no reason to think otherwise, and if I’m honest, I did not see myself in any sort of sexual context, so I went with the flow. I briefly came out as a lesbian in my late teens, after a couple of crushes on girls, then popped myself back in the closet because I was so afraid of being different that that seemed the best option. I slept with men, and married a man, but identified as bisexual, as that was the easiest way for me to acknowledge my continued feelings for women as well as being married. At 30, newly single, I came out as a lesbian (again!). I eschewed all ideas of men being attractive, and enjoyed living as a lover of women. I met my beautiful partner, fell hopelessly in love, and there I remain.

So that all rather begs the question, am I a straight man? Absolutely not. Yes, I am emotionally and sexually attracted to women, and am in a long-term relationship with a woman, but I refuse to identify as straight. I am transitioning because I feel far more masculine than feminine. I love and embrace the changes that testosterone, and identifying as a male have brought. I am the happiest I have ever been, but I cannot and will not be shoehorned into a category that does not fit. Straight-identified men, by my definition, are predominantly only attracted to women.

Long before I started taking male hormones, I realised that my previous understanding of both gender and sexuality had been blown out of the water. In order to identify as ‘straight’, I would have to accept very narrow definitions of gender. As someone who has come to realise that gender is fluid, the idea of being ‘straight’ becomes rather ridiculous. Because I cannot base my emotional and sexual attachments on Society’s definition of ‘man’ or woman’. It’s a real cliche these days to say ‘oh, I’m attracted to the person, not the gender’, but surely that should be the case for all of us? I find many women sexy and beautiful, I find many men sexy and beautiful, I find many transmen and transwomen sexy and beautiful. I find many people who don’t identify in any particular gender category sexy and beautiful. And that’s not the making-me-terribly-horny testosterone speaking – this has been my feeling for a long time, but as usual, I felt I had to conform to the ‘best fit’ I could find in my situation.

So how DO I identify sexually? I identify as queer. This is a word previously used pejoratively towards LGBT people, but now many of us use it as an umbrella term for those accepting of fluidity in both gender and sexuality. Which suits me very well, thank you!

What about my lesbian partner? I’ve asked her to contribute to this post, as it wouldn’t be fair to try and speak on her behalf. From a personal point of view, I know that she identifies very strongly as lesbian, so for me to make a song and dance about being ‘The Man’ in our relationship, forcing us both into new stereotypical roles would kill our love in a very short time. Over to Willemina:

1              How and when did you first identify as lesbian?

I didn’t know the word lesbian or that I was a lesbian, but I can remember from about the age of 8 or 9 having feelings which were different. Looking back on experiences and feelings I can remember clearly, it was obvious but I didn’t know then. When I was 12, I had my first crush (that I can remember) but I didn’t tell anybody. I tried to be a ‘normal’ teenager and I never told anybody, not even my close friends, about my feelings and thoughts. I ‘came out’ in dribs and drabs. To some friends when I was 19, and then to my parents. It felt good to come out. Finally everything made sense. I know that Mark gets exasperated with me because I forever have the worry that I am not a proper lesbian, or that I am not lesbian enough. This is how I feel but I know in my heart of hearts it isn’t true.

2          What do you think of the popular question “How do you know you’re a lesbian if you’ve never been with a man?”

I find this type of question offensive and intrusive. Nobody has to take a test. Nobody has the right to ask me this question. I can’t remember ever asking anybody how do they know if they are straight. I just know I am a lesbian. Why do I need to have sex with a biological man? I don’t worry about who knows better than me because only I know me best. I don’t have to have sex to know what my sexuality is because it’s how I feel about people, not a list of people I’ve had sex with.

3              Is being lesbian more than just sexual preference to you?

Yes. I don’t know what it is, but my whole experience and feelings and emotions are lesbian. It’s not just about sexual preference, although that is at the core, but along with that come other aspects. I love being out and proud and feeling a part of a large community who share something. Lesbians approach life at a different angle. Yes, that’s a sweeping generalization but I feel it is 99% true, in my experience.

4          Are you concerned that people will see you as straight as Mark transitions?

Honestly – yes. I can’t understand why people would suddenly assume I am straight. Society is still in a place where that is seen as the ‘norm’. And most of the time, it isn’t. We are still a willingly blind society/culture. Open your eyes and see that everybody is different and live their lives different and nothing is ever what it may seem. I am not, and have never been and never will be, straight. That is not me. It will make me angry, upset and feel like shit if people see me as straight but this is due to a number of insecurities I have about myself. I know that I place a large importance on how people see me and how I come across at any time. I am a highly insecure person, and unfortunately this is an aspect which I am finding difficult to come to terms with. This is something I will definitely be working through with my therapist ;p

5              Have your feelings towards Mark changed due to his transition?

I honestly and truly don’t know. I feel our relationship has shifted in a good way as Mark emotionally and physically transitions. With more than 6 years together, we are constantly evolving and changing. Together. Neither he nor I are the same people from when we first met. And that applies to everybody in the world. People are not stagnant beings. I love him more every day, and I love the way he is changing. It’s like watching a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. At first, I was confused and scared and had absolutely no idea how I was going to be with him and cope with the transition. It has initiated many discussions and thoughts I haven’t had before and, at first, didn’t know how to deal with. We just keep talking and talking and I am now embracing my new feelings and ideas, and I am actually happy with that. When it is just me and Mark, I feel safe and happy. When we are with people who we know and who understand, I feel safe and happy. When we have to deal with the larger world, I feel insecure and sad and confused. However, I have never had those feelings when I think of Mark, or when I am with Mark. With him, I am truly, truly happy. But when his transitioning started, this happiness did not happen overnight. Like I said, I had to work and am still working through things.

6          How are you coping as Mark’s body becomes more masculine?

He looks better. He knows this and I freely tell him this. He just looks, and moves, right. And he definitely still does it for me. His body is becoming more masculine, but differently. I can’t put my finger on it. I guess I do have a thing for sporty, muscular types, and I’m getting that from Mark. It’s odd seeing his body developing muscle and becoming streamlined without making daily trips to the gym! Although I’m not into biological men, I am actually enjoying the changes to Mark’s body. He is now exuding confidence in his body and I find that sexy.

7          Do you ever see yourself becoming the wife to his husband?

No, because I don’t wish to conform to stereotypes or what society expects of me. I became Mark’s civil partner because I wanted to declare my undying love for him in front of the most important people in my life. I wanted them to share a tiny fraction of the joy I feel inside by being with Mark. I wanted to make a very public statement, because I have felt sidelined for a lot of my life. I think because of how I present myself due to my insecurities, I rarely get taken seriously. I tend to make light of things. I therefore felt that having the civil partnership would solidify our relationship in other people’s eyes.

8          Does Mark’s transition make you straight?

Here are the facts: Yes, I am in love with him. Yes, I am in a relationship with him. But no, that doesn’t make me a straight woman. I am a lesbian and that doesn’t change.

I found this website which might be helpful… http://www.forge-forward.org/handouts/Transpositioned.html

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We are who we are – she a lesbian, me a queer transman, and for us, that works. We have to work hard, and talk harder, and re-learn each other’s bodies and responses, but ultimately I believe that when you can be honest with someone, and your tummy still goes funny when you see them, all is good.

When you start transitioning, you are plunged into a world with a different language. I am used to bandying about terms like ‘Cisgender’ and ‘Queer’, but I recognise that it would be useful to include a bit of a glossary with my blog. I’ve chosen words that I either use regularly, or are likely to crop up in future posts. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I have cherry-picked information from a number of sources, and added bits myself. Language is political, and I know that some people won’t agree with the explanations I have given. I welcome comments and additions to this list.

Androgyne or Polygender (other words are also used to describe this)
These are terms used to describe people who find they do not feel comfortable thinking of themselves as simply either men or women. Instead they feel that their gender identity is more complicated to describe and non-binary. Some may identify their gender as being a form of combination between a man and a woman, or alternatively as being neither.

Cisgender

This is the opposite of transgender. That is, someone whose gender identity matches up with their recognised biological gender. This word is used a lot in trans circles, in my experience, but is not without its critics.

Cross-dressing
This is a term used to describe people who dress, either occasionally or more regularly, in clothes associated with the opposite gender, as defined by socially accepted norms. Cross-dressing people are generally happy with the gender they were labelled at birth and do not want to permanently alter the physical characteristics of their bodies or change their legal gender.

Gender dysphoria
This is a recognised medical issue for which gender reassignment treatment is available. Gender Dysphoria is distress, unhappiness and discomfort experienced by someone about their biological sex not fully matching their gender identity. Transsexual people usually experience intense gender dysphoria and other transgender people may also experience various degrees of gender dysphoria, especially when unable to fully express their gender identity.

Gender expression
This is an individual’s external gender-related appearance (including clothing) and behaviour (including interests and mannerisms). A person may have masculine, feminine or androgynous aspects of their appearance or behaviour.

Gender identity
This is an individual’s internal self-perception of their own gender.

Intersex
This is a term used to describe people born with external genitals, internal reproductive systems or chromosomes that are in-between what is considered clearly male or female. There are many different intersex conditions. In many cases, an intersex person will simply self-identify as a man or as a woman. However, in some cases, an intersex person may self-identify as being neither a man nor a woman.

LGBT
This is the acronym most commonly used to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Transgender people can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight. Having the T in with the LGB is subject to a lot of debate, as sexual orientation and gender identity are such different things, but as groups of people facing similar prejudices and struggles there is strength to be found in working together.

LGBTIQ

This acronym includes Intersex and Queer people.

Queer

A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid. As a word, ‘queer’ has a loaded history but many people identify with it as a positive statement, with inclusive implications. I like the word queer, and use it to describe myself.

Transgender
This is an umbrella term used to describe a whole range of people whose gender identity or gender expression differ in some way from the gender assumptions made about them when they were born. Often shortened to Trans. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such. I use the word ‘transgender’ to describe my overall gender position and philosophy, though I also consider myself transsexual. You will often see the word ‘transgendered’ used, particularly in my blog. It is, however, considered grammatically incorrect (my bad) so I’ll be trying to drop the ‘ed’ in future!
Transsexual
This is a term used to describe people who consistently self-identify as the opposite gender from the gender they were labelled at birth based on their physical body. A transsexual sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change their physical sex to match their gender identity through hormone treatments and/or surgically. Not all transsexuals desire surgery. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transsexual, they may not identify as such.

With thanks to:

Gender Equality Resource Centre

NHS Scotland website