Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crime After Crime

Last weekend I went to a screening of Crime After Crime, followed by a Q&A with one of the lawyers featured in the film. The movie was incredible-- riveting, heartbreaking and enraging. It's an absolute must-see to understand the failings of our judicial system for incarcerated victims of domestic violence.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gender Change is Easy; Non-Monogamy is Hard

For the record, I don't actually think that gender change is easy. Gender change is one of the hardest things a person can do emotionally, physically, socially, financially... However, as the partner I've found it far easier to adjust to my spouse's transness than to a non-monogamous lifestyle.

My grieving period after Jake came out as trans felt like it lasted about three weeks. If we were still monogamous, I can almost guarantee that I would be still grieving now (8 months later). Polyamory strips away the layers of internal conflict that come from relying on a trans wife to meet all my romantic and sexual needs. With those aside, I am free to love Jake unconditionally. I don't care what gender she is, so long as she's the same hilarious, irreverent, philosophical, intelligent, loving, cuddly person at her core. All the rest of the stuff---body, mannerisms, voice---seem superficial and inconsequential so far.

Instead of grieving the loss of my husband with each transition milestone, I celebrate the wife that she is becoming. I can be her biggest cheerleader without all the reservations about what this means for our marriage, what this means for my sexual identity, and oh-my-god will I never have sex with a man again. Polyamory makes the gender transition easy.

Non-monogamy on the other hand is difficult:

It's not difficult in an angst-ridden daily struggle kind of way. Most days I am overflowing with love and gratitude. I frequently find myself bursting into spontaneous happy dances, giggling in bed, and commuting to work with a giant grin on my face.

It's not difficult in a test-our-relationship kind of way either. I've seen other poly couples experience a lot of pain and strife when they first open their relationship. There is something about polyamory being the singular solution to us staying happily married that makes it easier to adapt.

Non-monogamy is simply difficult because it's different. Any big life change, no matter how awesome, requires a period of adjustment.

These are a few rules I've developed to cope with the change:

1. Give myself permission to feel. Occasionally I get jealous, insecure, sad, lonely or scared. So much so that I have a little cry about it. Then I start crying harder out of self-loathing for having these feelings, which I think are irrational and not aligned with what I want to feel. Then I feel guilty for crying so hard, because I think it sends the wrong message to my partners about how I support their poly happiness. So pretty soon I'm bawling because I hate myself for hating myself for crying.

I have to stop beating myself up for having feelings. I am human. Specifically a human who has been conditioned for 30+ years to believe that you should only be in love with or physically intimate with one person at a time. That is a lot of monogamous mindfuck to overcome. It's not going to happen overnight, no matter how much I embrace my new lifestyle, or how perfectly it's been working out so far.

2. Own my emotions. Giving myself permission to feel is not a license to lash out or use my emotions to manipulate others' behavior. Since crying can often be interpreted that way, I am explicit with my partners:

"I am only crying because this is still a big adjustment and I just need to have a good cry about it. I do NOT want to you to [skip your date, not spend the night, stop seeing the cis* girl, etc.]. That would only make me more upset for infringing on your happiness. All I want is for you to have a good time and for me to adjust to it. I am really happy for you even though it doesn't look like it right now because I can't stop fucking crying."

3. Ask for what I need. Sometimes it's reassurance that my partner will still want me even if he finds someone else amazing (I know this already, but it's sure nice to hear). Sometimes it's a small adjustment in behavior such as checking with me before confirming date plans so we can carve out enough us-time during the week. Sometimes it's nothing other than permission to cry guilt-free. Sometimes it's nothing at all.


Why live this way if it's so challenging?

Well, it's not a fraction as challenging as trying to live monogamously with a spouse whose gender conflicts with my strong sexual orientation. And it's certainly not as challenging as getting a divorce when we feel like we're each other's safe foundation in life.

Plus, the benefits are tremendous-- an abundance of love, sexual adventure, personal growth, an ever-expanding extended family...

And endless possibilities.

* "Cis" or cisgender is the label for someone who was born as their current gender, i.e. I am a cis female. It was a bigger adjustment for me to see Jake with another cis woman than it was for me to see him with a man or even a trans woman.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reason #32 Why I Love Polyamory

When my boyfriend is home sick and I'm traveling for work, my husband brings him chicken soup, tea and other get-well supplies.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Petition for Trans Bullying Victim

16-year old transgender student, Jewelyes Gutierrez, is facing a misdemeanor battery charge after being involved in a fight with three girls last November. Regardless of who started the fight, these are the facts as I understand them:

1. Jewelyes was persistently bullied at school leading up to this incident.
2. The fight, which happened at the high school, was 3 against 1.
3. She is the only one of the four girls charged with a crime.

Other than discrimination, I can't fathom why the DA would prosecute, rather than leave the disciplinary action to the school system (which will hopefully improve its anti-bullying programs). Even the school officials are dumbfounded.

You can sign a petition for the charges to be dropped:

In other news, CeCe McDonald was released from prison today, after serving time for killing a man in self-defense during a violent transphobic attack. HRC posted an update here.

I am horrified by the continuing trend of violence against trans women and the prosecution of those who defend themselves. I used to feel secure walking in public with my husband-- what a luxury to have a big, strong man to protect me. Now I fear for her safety.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Escalators Here

Jake, Bradley and I were chatting last night about how much easier it is to live in the present while dating polyamorously. We can let each relationship unfold as it will, without worrying about where it's going. We can dream about a future together without stressing over whether it will come true. We can just be together, a day at a time, enjoying our life. We can just be.

In monogamy, it's almost impossible to avoid future-tripping (trying to foresee the outcome of relationships), because dating is a hunt to find "the one." You only get to pick one person to spend the rest of your life with, and that person must fulfill your every need and desire. You don't want to waste precious time with people you suspect aren't going to make the cut, no matter how much you love them. Even if you enjoy their company today, you worry about questions like:
  • Will they make you happy in ten years?
  • Do they satisfy all your needs for a life partner?
  • Could you have sex with them forever without getting bored?
  • Do your dreams match up enough?
  • Could you see them being the parent of your child?
These are important questions to ask if you're trying to whittle down your romantic and sexual prospects to one single life-long person, but can add a layer of pressure and constant future-analysis to a relationship, often creating agony.

This blog post, Riding the relationship escalator (or not), has been the single best analogy to help me understand the difference between dating monogamously and polyamorously. I reference "the escalator" frequently in conversation with Jake and Bradley, and with poly friends. I highly recommend reading the article (to everyone, not just poly people!). It offers great insights into the socially acceptable default relationship model that I took for granted until last year.

I frequently have people either try to put me on the escalator (if they're monogamous) or accuse me of being on the escalator (if they're polyamorous):

Q: "So are you and Bradley getting 'serious'? You spend a lot of time together and you're meeting his family soon!"
A: "Well, I'm not sure what 'serious' would be in the context of this relationship. I mean I'm married already so... I would say our relationship is seriously awesome and I'm seriously in love."

Q: "It seems like you've been off the market since you started dating Bradley. How is that polyamorous?"
A: "Our poly lifestyle gives us the freedom to see other people, but that doesn't mean we have to exercise it all the time."

Q: "So you're saying 'I love you' and calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend. It sure sounds like you're getting on that escalator."
A: "We talked about what those words meant before we started using them to clarify expectations. For us, 'I love you' is just an expression of feeling in the moment, not some kind of commitment about our future together. 'Boyfriend/girlfriend' is just the most accurate way to describe our relationship and the amount of time we spend together; it doesn't mean we've taken a symbolic next step in our relationship."

Q: "What if you and Bradley fall in love and want to spend your life together and start a family?"
A: "We could totally do that. With Jake."

Q: "But don't you think you might eventually want to go back to a normal life-- get re-married, have kids? You and Jake could still be friends."
A: "Not in a million years. Why would I do that when my marriage is so amazing and I can have them both? Just to be more socially acceptable? I love my new life. This is the happiest I've ever been."

No more escalators for me.