If I had a nickle for every time I was asked this question, or every time someone wanted to ask this question, I would have a lot of nickles. The easy answer is no; Carli being transgender does not mean I magically shifted my sexual orientation. While I can understand people being curious about how this works, I cannot imagine actually asking the question. Would you ask any other random person “do you sleep with men or women” in the course of every day conversation? Probably not, but yet partners of transgender people are routinely asked this question, as if modifying our sexuality must be required to maintain our relationship. As hard as it may be for some to believe, it is not required and we are doing just fine, thank you very much. I cannot be lesbian anymore than Carli can be male. None of us choose our gender or sexual orientation. We feel it, we know it. It’s just who we are, deep within and no amount of guilt, fear, intimidation, legislation, or violence can change it. Many people feel forced to suppress who they are, hide away, refuse to acknowledge their true selves in order to maintain so-called peace in the family, to get or keep employment or housing, or literally as a means of survival. But this does terrible damage to a human being and decent people do not request others to be someone they are not. I can’t just stop being a white cis-gender heterosexual woman and no one is likely to ask me to. Why would anyone ask Carli or any other LGBTQ person to be someone they are NOT?
I’m not a lesbian. As a matter of fact, I am NOT a lot of things.
I can’t dance
A good singer
A fast reader
A cancer patient
A political refugee
I cannot speak on behalf of any of these people, but I appreciate their lives, their talents, their uniqueness. I cannot share their experiences to such an extent that I fully comprehend how they feel, but I care deeply about their experiences. I cannot contribute to society in the same ways these people can, but I am grateful for their contributions. I cannot understand what it’s like to be in their shoes, but I can pay attention when they speak, hear their truths. I hear them and believe them. I cannot BE them, but I can stand WITH them.
Most of you are not the cis-gender hetero spouse of a transgender woman. You cannot fully understand what it’s like in my shoes, but you can pay attention when I speak, hear my truth. You can choose to believe me when I say that it is indeed possible to be in a happy, healthy relationship such as mine and Carli’s.
When Carli was beginning her transition I couldn’t relate to anyone, I knew no one who was standing in shoes similar to mine. It was lonely, I carried a weight with me and a shadow followed me relentlessly. But I did have friends who listened when I spoke, they heard my truth and believed me. They didn’t have to totally get it, they just stood beside us and continued to love and support us through something that was completely foreign to them.
So, while you may not be trans, black, poor, homeless, in peril, addicted, and the list goes on, you might be exactly who a person needs. Your compassion does not need to be accompanied by shared experience. Sure, it was a tremendous relief for me to meet other wives of trans people, knowing they have walked a mile in my shoes. I no longer felt alone on this fantastic journey, they gladly took me by the hand and walked beside me, reassuring that I was on the right path. These individuals will always hold a very special place in my heart. But the reality is that the vast majority of my daily life is spent with people who do not have this shared experience. This makes their upfront compassion and continued support even more appreciated and precious to me. They were there when I needed them, filling an important need to be seen, to be allowed to show vulnerability in the face of uncertainty.
You may not be a lot of things, but you can be compassionate. You can be supportive. You can forego judgment. You can walk beside……….