Sunday, March 23, 2014

There Is Nothing Funny About Transition

I thought this blog was going to be funny.

My last personal blog was a humorous reflection on mundane and absurd everyday life experiences. Since I approach my spouse's transition with a sense of joy, I expected this blog would have a similar lighthearted and comical tone, but with more interesting subject matter. I could joke about how my biggest concern when Jake came out as trans was whether we would get to vacation in Thailand for her SRS surgery. I could ponder the ways in which I should have known she was trans (her love of shoes! introducing me to Ani DiFranco!), and the ways in which hormones have changed her (deteriorating parallel parking skills). I would tell our story with love and humor.

But there is nothing funny about transition.

Anything mildly funny I have to share just plays off sexist gender stereotypes. Lord knows there is enough of that BS out there already;  I'm not going to make it my contribution to the dialogue. Anything real I have to share is riddled with pain because transition is fucking hard. It is heart-wrenching to watch the person I love dearest suffer everyday because the world is an unfriendly place to be a trans girl.

This is a typical week for my sweet wife Jake (all these things actually happened over the course of a week; I've just consolidated the timeline):

Monday- Jake's boss, who has known about the transition for months, exclaims out of nowhere, "It's going to take some time to wrap my head around your transition. I just can't picture you as a woman because you have such a guy's body. Except you have breasts!". She then proceeds to grab Jake's boobs. A stunned Jake replies, "Um, you know those are real."

Tuesday- Before Jake can address yesterday's sexual harassment, her boss lets her go via email due to "budgetary constraints." Jake spends hours on the phone trying to navigate my health insurance. The local endocrinologist's office tells her they don't have any doctors who "deal with those issues," and refers her to a hospital 50 miles away. She finds out that my insurance only covers a quarter of her current hormone therapy.

Wednesday- Jake goes to a comedy club with a friend. Jake dresses in guy-mode, because she doesn't know if there will be gender neutral bathrooms, if the comedians will mock her, or if drunk people will beat the shit out of her if she expresses her true gender. Jake is repeatedly called "sir" throughout the evening, and a fellow patron sharing her table says "oh excuse me, I have to shake hands with all the ladies first." Nothing offensive, just the persistent daily reinforcement that she's still perceived as a man.

Thursday- Jake goes on a friendly lunch date with a man who bolts as soon as they're done eating, seemingly out of disappointment that Jake isn't feminine enough. Jake gets ignored by several online dating prospects. A guy I recently started dating proactively sends Jake a rejection email to apologize for flirting because he doesn't want to lead Jake on. Well-intentioned but clumsy, he writes that he's "sadly straight" so it wouldn't go anywhere. Each tiny stinging rejection reminds Jake how far she has to go before she can date as a woman.

Friday- During dinner, my dad asks right in front of Jake, "Why don't you just divorce Jake and marry Bradley if you think you want to start a family together one day?"

Jake tells a lot of jokes. She says it's easier to keep herself laughing; the alternative would be crying. I on the other hand have been brewing with anger and these questions rattling around my brain:

Why does being polite mean publicly gendering everyone in verbal and written communication (sir, ma'am, mr., ms.) and where does that leave people who don't fit neatly into the gender binary?

Why do we care so much about gender anyways? What is the benefit of separating our species into two distinct genders, when it serves little practical application for the majority and causes immense suffering for a minority?

Why is gender the most important thing to know about a human before it's born? Why dictate how their room will look, what they will wear, and who they will be, before they even develop a conscious relationship with the world?

Why are there stringent moral judgments around relationship structures? Why can't people just respect any loving consensual relationship between decent human beings who bring happiness and support to each other's lives?

Why do I need to accept other people's intolerance because I'm living on the fringe? Why shouldn't I expect more from people? Why can't the world just be better? How can I make it better?

How can I help Jake endure when the depression runs so deep, the path to womanhood is so long, the world is so unwelcoming, and the best intentioned people are so hurtful?

Where is the funny in this?


  1. I can't *believe* Jake's boss grabbed her breasts. Totally unacceptable! Letting her go the next day? Smells fishier than a mackerel factory to me. In general, I am unhappy about our legalistic, lawsuit-happy culture -- but this kind of incident underscores the need for legal protection of trans individuals, since apparently there are people in this world who do not understand how to treat human beings like human beings.

    1. I couldn't agree more. After being dragged through a frivolous lawsuit a couple years ago, we both want to stay far away from the legal system if we can help it. Jake quickly found a better job at an LGBT-friendly company, so she just wants to move on.

      Until there are better legal protections for trans people, and/or more public awareness about trans issues, it's up to trans individuals to educate others about how to treat human beings as human beings. And that can get exhausting. You reminded me of a quote I read recently: "'It's your job to educate me' really just translates to 'prove to me that I owe you your humanity.'"

      Thanks so much for your note, Viny! I am humbled and excited to see a comment from my favorite advice columnist on here! :)

    2. Delighted to hear Jake got a better job. Best of luck, y'all!