As some of you may already know, I was recently published in an anthology by Transgress Press. Love Always is a collection of short works by the partners of trans folks about the challenges, triumphs, and romance of these relationships. This blog post is meant to shed light on why I originally wrote the piece, deciding to get published after heartbreak, and how things have changed since then. Oh and a little not so objective gushing review. You can purchase the book HERE. That would be me totally cheesing over receiving my contributor copy, and seeing my name published in a book for the first time ever!!!! Still absolutely surreal.
Why I Wrote “Daisy in Cement”
Love stories rarely tell queer romances. Romances in mainstream movies, song, television, and even in marketing advertisements are primarily targeted towards a heterosexual audience. Although at the time I found myself in a “heterosexual” relationship, I couldn’t see myself portrayed in these images, as the leading lady was never a lesbian, and the leading man never transgender. Even on the rare occasion that a story of transgender person makes it into the media, the narrative often solely focus on the transition process; what is almost always forgotten is that nobody transitions alone. This process is one that often intimately involves other people whether that’s family, a counselor, physicians, friends, a support group, or a lover. I needed a love story that spoke to my triumphs and struggles as a partner of a trans person. I needed to know that my relationship was possible; that there was hope. The only passage I had read when my partner came out to me as trans was the following, “partners of FTM participants who identified as lesbian often had an especially hard time coping with the loss of their own identities. For some partners, it had been an arduous process to accept and take pride in themselves as lesbians, and now this hard-won accomplishment was being taken away,” (Beemyn & Rankin, 2011, p. 70). This was followed by, “some of the FTM-lesbian couples were able to get past their struggles,”…. just some. But I didn’t feel an immediate loss of identification when my partner came out, because 98% of the time I as assumed entirely heterosexual anyways (the struggle of being a femme). My sexual identity has been largely invisible my entire life. So this tiny note about FTM relationships with lesbians felt about as foreign as the heterosexual romances blasted over mainstream media. As Janet Mock says in her new book, Redefining Realness, “I know intimately what it feels like to crave representation and validation, to see your life reflected in someone who speaks deeply to whom you know yourself to be, echoes your reality, and instills you with possibility, (2014, p. xvi).
I needed love stories that represented who I was, who my partner was, to remind me that not only was our love possible, but it was magical. These stories didn’t exist. When love stories like yours don’t exist, you simply have write your own as act of validation, and a symbol of resistance. The love story I wrote was a point of defiance in the mainstream portrayal of romance between a man and woman. It is was anything but heteronormative, and it was beautiful. My love story was a refusal to the one paragraph acknowledgement of FTM-lesbian relationships in “The Lives of Transgender People” . And in part, I penned our romance so I could have something tangible to prove our love existed; so that if we became a statistic of another failed FTM-lesbian relationship I would always knows that at some point there was an undeniable love between us; there was context behind that statistic more valuable than the end result. Our story was a point disidentification (Munoz, 1999) with the only thing being told about FTM-lesbian relationships is that they are hard; maybe even close to impossible. I am not denying that navigating our relationship was fought with difficulties. What I am denying is the notion that these hardships were the only notable thing about us. What about love? What about silliness? What about exploration? What about triumph? These too are parts of FTM-lesbian relationships. Those are stories I needed when my partner came out to me, and that’s precisely the story I’ve told. Although, I wrote this in a large part for myself, it was also my hope that in sharing my story, people would feel empowered to share their own queer romances. Society does far too much of painting a picture of what love should look like with no regard to the complexity of diverse sexual and gender identifications. This was my push back. This was and is my very queer love story.
Why I Decided to Publish After Heart Break
When I wrote Daisy In Cement , throughout the rest of my relationship with Jay, and even for a while after our split, I was self-identifying as a lesbian. As I made clear in my piece included in the Love Always anthology, I felt my right to self-determination was fundamental. I had fought hard both internally and with my conservative family to express and embrace my lesbian identity. I did not feel that falling in love with Jay changed this. I felt that he was my exception. He was the perfect and only man my heart was designed to love, and therefore I did not think this really altered my sexual orientation. Orientation means a “main interest”and at the time, I didn’t feel as if my main interest in women was somehow blasted into oblivion by Jay’s gender. Jay was Jay, and I was in love with him for a thousand reasons that burned like wildfire. Revealing his gender did not put out a single flame, in fact his sincerity and vulnerability in sharing his true self with me only hurled me deeper into fire that was Jay; I was engulfed.
- “Tin Porn Star” – Jaime M. Grant : Jaime’s account of intimacy after her partner’s double-mascetomy is loving, sensual, and absolutely addictive. It’s one of those works that makes your whole body tingle, and hair on your arm stand up as you bite your lower lip trying not to squeal from the intensity. I’ve never read 50 Shades of Gray, but I would confidently bet quite a bit of money that this is about 33 times more sexy than anything written in that novel.
- “A Femme’s Chrysalis”- Isabella Abrahams : First off, the alliteration and imagery in this piece is flawless. The words are so perfectly crafted they dance through your mind in flawless choreography. She also speaks to the truth of, “finding ways to protect him, without emasculating him,” a familiar challenge to me . As a fellow femme, she put this experience into far better words than I have ever been able to.
- “How My Partner’s Transition Gave Me Schlubby Ape-Man Complex”-Justin Ropella: This piece is absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t stop ferociously snickering on the plane as I found myself playfully relating to new found insecurity as your partner begins to criticize parts of their own body that you so happen to share. Suddenly you begin questioning whether they are even attracted to you at all. Does he hate my hips as much as he hates is own, etc, etc etc. You quickly become hyper-aware of body parts you may have never noticed before, putting your own body under the same microscope your partner is. Justin paints this arduous process with such humor that makes it easier to laugh at yourself; to give your body damn break. Thank you Justin.
- “Lost in Transition” -Mignonne Pollard: My heart ached alongside Mignonne as I know what it is like to find yourself in love with possibly the right person at the absolute wrong time. Everyone wants to be the end, but sometimes you are just the transition girl.
- “Hello Ladies”- Shawnee Parens : Oh man. There is nothing worse than the constant Hello Ladies when you are out and about with your man. Its like you are set to have a wonderful day, and then that shit. And its always the worse in these “progressive” areas as people gleam with pride as if to say look at me recognizing you as lesbians. I need a gold star. Actually you need to quit your assumptions because you just made an ass of yourself, and quite possibly ruined my partner’s day. This piece is daily life.
- “Cocoon” -S.J. Sindu : This piece absolutely cut through my soul and quite honestly left me breathless. “I can tell you I love your scars. Do you see mine? Remnants of internal bleeding cut by your manhood. This is your story but I am the pages you mark with the ink of transition. branded. the discarded cocoon”.
- “Letter to My Trans Boyfriend” – Anne Totero: When you are completely in love with someone its hard to understand when they don’t see their self as perfect as you do. Anne’s poem captures this tango between professing your love while validating their very real feelings of dysphoria. It’s a dangerous dance that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to get right.
- “No Big Deal” – Blair Braverman : There is something wonderfully effortless about about Blair’s piece, and it was absolutely the best line to end the book with.
“Recently we watched a video of Laverne Cox’s powerful speech at the 2014 Creating Change conference. We were especially struck by one line: “loving trans people is a revolutionary act”. On a societal level that’s true, but between you and me? We looked at each other and shrugged. My love for you isn’t revolutionary. It’s inevitable”
I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes falling in love is extraordinary and absolutely ordinary at the same time. Maybe the revolutionary part isn’t falling in love, but rather sharing out love story with others. Thank you for sharing yours.
*Jay is the pseudonym used in Love Always and has been maintained in this piece as to not contradict or infringe on the anonymity agreed on with the publishing house.
Beemyn, G. & Rankin, S. (2011). The Lives of Transgender People. New York: Columbia Press.
Johnson, J. & Garrison, B. (Eds.). (2015). Love Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge, and Resilience. Oakland: Transgress Press.
Munoz, J. (1999). Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.