Trans Love in Pandemic Times

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people were left with odd circumstances surrounding their love lives. While some had relationships jumpstart through a quarantine with a new partner, others felt the weight of the crisis exacerbate the issues they already had with an existing partner.

Many publications have reported on the landscape of romantic pursuits in the time of the coronavirus. None have captured the beauty of trans love in particular. Trans people had already been experiencing issues finding partners who affirmed our whole selves. Many trans people find ourselves placating cisgender partners, attempting to perform according to the limited script laid out by popular media. Many of us experience violence at the hands of intimate partners.

And some of us find love in other trans people. Our hearts find a new kind of warmth. Love without a blueprint leaves room for unknown possibilities. I spoke to seven trans people about how the pandemic has changed their relationships and how trans love has changed their lives.

Malaya and Lotus 

Lotus and Malaya standing among sunflowers.

From left: Lotus and Malaya.

Malaya: Our relationship began as a long-distance online friendship as we were still learning about each other and getting to know each other. When NYC first began responding to the pandemic, and millions of New Yorkers were preparing for lockdown/shelter-in-place, one of my darkest fears was if I were to get sick with COVID, and not having anyone to help me or be with me in the hospital. As a person living with HIV I felt extremely vulnerable and I was afraid of dying alone. There were days and weeks that I felt sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness at levels I have never felt before. My depression and anxiety continued to get worse. Over time, having someone to text with & check in with more and more over time was very comforting. Lotus was so emotionally supportive and virtually present for me when many of my friends and family weren’t able to provide support to me. I’ve never felt so loved and cared for by anyone else before. Lotus is the man I have always dreamed of finding and more. I have been reflecting on the heartbreak, sadness, and disappointment from when I was looking for love in all the wrong places; mostly with cis men who were not capable of loving me in the ways that I wanted and needed. I’ve never been in love with another trans person before. My favorite moments so far have been: waking up to his kisses and cuddles in the morning, laying in his bed together watching the trees outside his window dance in the wind, and listening to the birds singing.

Lotus: These pandemics have invited more tenderness into our relationship. Before I asked Malaya to be my girlfriend, I prayed and asked myself and my ancestors if I was ready and able to treat her like the Queen that she is. With so many things that are uncertain in our lives, I am letting go of giving and receiving Maybe’s. I am at peace arriving into our relationship with the certainty that Yes, I can treat Malaya like the Queen she is. I shower her with roses with every opportunity that I can. I cherish her and, especially now, every moment we share together. To love and be loved by Malaya feels like the first time I floated on my back in a body of water. As I took a deep breath and surrendered to the immense power and calm of the ocean, I was lifted and held. When I close my eyes and connect with our love, I feel the ocean wash over me and harmonize with the fire inside of me. I see the sunsets that we have shared together. I see into the future, Malaya in my motherland, Việt Nam. During these times of crises, to love and be loved by Malaya feels like nothing is impossible. The future is infinite, and everything will be alright.

Mickaela, Desi, and Cris

The first photo depicts Desi and Mickaela. The second depicts Cris and Mickaela.

Desi: Mickaela and I were facing changes in our relationship with us moving in together for the first time a month prior to COVID-19. The effects of the global pandemic changed the ease of access to variety in our lives that wasn’t always related to our relationship. Coexisting during quarantine offered me an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of Mickaela as an individual, which gave me better insight on nurturing their spiritual growth, our relationship’s development, and the intimate space we share respectively. We carve out time for us by practicing yoga/meditations before bed, taking an occasional trip to Lake Alatoona to swim and picnic, hiking the local trails in our area, playing Naruto Shippuden/Soul Calibur V, watching anime, and creating recipes for infusions. The Black trans love Mickaela and I share and practice continually proves to me a world can exist beyond our current. I’ve always felt our connection weaved a pattern creating a cosmic link between us and our local trans and queer community and how we’re consciously keeping each other in our hearts and supporting one another as we venture this world. Loving Mickaela everyday is a conscious commitment that’s parallel to my beliefs and who I strive to be as a Black trans person devoted to protecting and upholding the livelihood of all Black people.

Cris: Mickaela and I were already long distance, so that COVID hasn’t changed that aspect of our relationship. What has changed is how often we’re able to see each other. We’ve experienced more virtually together, from yoga sessions, to mindfulness circles for BIPOC folks, to virtual poetry readings, we’ve done a lot. While it hasn’t been great to have to go longer without seeing them, COVID has been a push for us to go deeper into our conversations so that we can continue growing even when we’re apart for longer than we had ever planned. COVID has also made the time we are able to spend together in person, like when we traveled to North Carolina to visit beaches in June, that much more special, important, and cherished. I can say my love and appreciation for Mickaela has grown more than I could’ve imagined during this time. I visualize us truly living out Black joy and liberation when I think of our love. To be Black, queer, and trans and loving another Black queer trans person is wealth. When I think of my love for Mickaela, I feel at home and at peace. When I’m with them and even when I’m talking to them, my body relaxes so much that I sometimes forget that we’re living through a pandemic. Trans love allows me to envision a world where every trans person is able to live a life of pleasure and access to whatever they desire. If we can find love with each other, in a world aimed at making our lives more difficult because we don’t prescribe to social gender norms, we can do anything.

Mickaela: Desi and I moved into a house together in February, and barely a month later decided to quarantine together. We had been dating for a year and had no idea we’d be getting to know each other in a crash course Professor Rona intimacy training. Desi suggested protecting our quality time by scheduling a “golden hour” each week, just for us to check-in with each other about our relationship. Structure and certainty with partners forces us to slow down, smell the roses, and water them as needed. And since Cris and I are long-distance, we spent all Spring scheduling virtual hangouts, watching “Insecure” at the same time, and talking every day.  However, video conferences are not a virtual substitute for human touch. I cherish the memory of us lying on a different beach each day, melanin soaking in sun, eyes and ears on the ocean waves. We were often the only Black people on the beach, often the only people wearing masks. Still, we found some summer fun even though the shadow of uprisings loomed over our cities back home. Black rest is necessary for Black unrest.

I feel safest knowing that I am loved and protected by two Black trans partners. My partners and I are unearthing the exciting possibilities of love that doesn’t rely on monogamy for security, support, and satisfaction. My partners and I share visions of the world we want, where Black joy and trans liberation replace police & prisons. I feel supported dating two Black trans partners because they are willing to be transformed in the service of the work by organizing in Black-led political homes like SnapCo & BYP100. I envision a future sitting around a large dinner table with our families and boo thangs laughing about living through 2020 and glad we fought for the right to grow old together. I feel warmth in my chest remembering that window of time right before COVID-19. Cris, Desi, and I were watching the original “Candyman” in my room, and I realized how blessed I am to be loved by my boifriend and my boyfriend.

Nico and Asa

Nico: Our relationship started out long distance so we’re quite literally the closest we’ve ever been and maybe we’ll ever be! Yet I get the sense that we’re not just learning about what closeness is or can be (the daily social reproduction things of maintaining a home together) but the totality of separation. Two people, in love: our own subjectivities; discourse of love;  dependencies; unconscious hopes, dreams, wishes, fantasies; separating into work; into analysis or therapy; and of course separating into sleep. I love love. I love being in love. I love to be the subject of love! Hell I even love being the object of love! I love bodies in love! I love surgery, I love organs, I love stitching together and making meaning in and out of love.

Asa: It’s hard to write and speak about love even when you write and speak about it all the time. Nico and I have moved through multiple waves of writing and speaking. We are both speakers and listeners, which is foundational to our love and our relationship, we used to talk on the phone for three or four hours, each in separate places. We are learning how to be separate and together. We have been navigating infrastructural rupture and collapse, contamination and loss, uprising, work and work stoppage, surgery and recovery, mania and depression, the end of a therapy and the beginning of an analysis, material difference; deep fears, projections, insecurities, disappointments, wishes. I am learning and growing so much, it can feel enormous. I am re-learning trust. How support is sometimes uncomfortable and challenging. Learning again how to listen and speak. I have felt held and throttled, and am grateful that we’ve been able to hold and throttle each other. I am excited to visit the place where Nico is from and to meet her grandmother, I have fantasies about what that will feel like in my body, to be there together.

Xoài Phạm is a Vietnamese trans person who descends from a long legacy of warriors, healers, and shamans. Her life's work is in dreaming new futures where we are all limitless, and she makes those dreams a reality as a poet, essayist, editor, and collaborative educator. Learn more about her work here: xoai.co. Catch her on Instagram @xoai.jpg and on Twitter @internetxoai.

xoai has written 8 articles for us.

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