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Q: When me and my boyfriend met, he hadn’t come out as trans yet, and I was a baby queer (in her mid twenties) coming to terms with the fact that all these feelings towards other girls I experienced while growing up were actually romantic and sexual feelings rather than abnormal/irrelevant phases. A year later, he told me there was something we needed to talk about, so we sat down, and he told me that he wasn’t sure about his gender identity and that he felt like he might be more on the male side of the spectrum. He was worried what that would mean for me and us and I just told him that I appreciate his trust in me and that that wouldn’t be a problem at all, that I love him and that the first thing he should have on his mind is what this all means for him. It’s a few months later and I should be really happy for him. And I am! But I’m starting to feel kind of lost and scared and I don’t know if it has to do with the fact, that he is, of course, changing. And quite frankly I think I am scared of finding out that I am not interested in men after all. I tried to explain this to someone but it was met with transphobic remarks like, “But he still has a vagina, right, so where’s the problem?!” and it didn’t get much better from there on out.
I am also starting to feel unwelcome when I enter queer spaces. I am constantly met with “so you’re straight again, eh?!” and other phrases like that and I am sometimes feeling irrationally frustrated towards my partner, that everyone seems to navigate my sexual identity alongside his gender. I do know that I should direct my anger at the community, but I am mostly feeling shut out and scared when thinking about that.
I am so lost. I feel like crying a lot lately and it gets harder to not let it show. Maybe you have an idea where to go from here — because I truly don’t. [Edited for length]
You know that Ke$ha song, “We R Who We R”? Well, what I’m about to write has nothing to do with that song, really, but here’s the thing: We are who we are.
I don’t have a simple answer for you because there is no simple answer. I can tell from the way you write about your boyfriend that you were very much in love, that you still love him and care about him, and that you have a deep friendship. The question that is lurking, unstated, is this: Do you want to be in this relationship anymore?
It sounds like you were an amazing partner and friend to your boyfriend when he came out as trans. You made it clear that you still love him and would support him. I have no doubt you were being honest in that moment. Of course you were. You want to see your partner grow and be their best self in a healthy relationship. You are obviously still happy for him. But, now that time has passed and things have started to change in your relationship, you need to be honest again. He is being his most true self. Who is your most true self? Are you happy?
In the best case scenario, in a long term relationship, you and your love grow individually in ways that strengthen you as a couple. It’s not easy, but loving someone through changes in their self or the relationship is part of what defines a long-term partnership and makes it strong. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Even in the healthiest relationships, sometimes people grow in ways that pull them apart from each other.
As a bi/pan/queer person who has dated cis and trans men and women and is weddinged to a trans boi, I just want to take a moment to validate that the pushback you feel from the LGBTQ community is absolutely real. Some people will unfortunately make assumptions about your sexual orientation based on the gender of your partner which are: a) none of their damn business and b) hurtful and marginalizing. It absolutely disconnects you from your community when people either invalidate or refuse to recognize your queerness.
You have every right to be upset. As you are aware, it isn’t fair to put the blame for this on your partner. It sounds like he, too, no longer feels comfortable in queer spaces. He shouldn’t put that on you, either. It is terrifying to realize that you might be shut out of a community that’s supposed to be inclusive and welcoming because of who you love. A community that nurtured you and helped you become who you are today. It’s not OK. It’s deeply hurtful. It can be traumatizing.
No one else gets to dictate how you identify or whether you’re “queer enough.” Just as your boyfriend is identifying and being exactly who he is, you deserve to be exactly who you are. You can still identify however you prefer. You can be a lesbian who is in love with a man. You can identify as bisexual, pansexual or queer. You can decide you’re straight, after all. You can decide that you are attracted specifically to your partner, regardless of their gender. You can choose to have no label. Only you get to define yourself. If other people don’t like that or don’t get it, forget them.
“Forgetting them” is easier said than done, of course. The stress of your friends and community doing and saying hurtful things could be taking a toll on you and on your relationship. When you’re alone or in safe spaces where people are not judgmental, do you still feel “lost and scared” about your relationship? Does this anxiety come from the relationship itself or from how you’re being perceived and treated because of your relationship?
OK, so here’s where you need to be honest again. It’s possible you might realize that you’re not attracted to men, that you’re not into your partner any more because he’s a man. You can love your boyfriend but not be in love with him. You can be attracted to your boyfriend, but not be in love with him. You can be in love with him but not attracted to him. You can strongly identify as a lesbian and just not be open to dating men at all. It’s entirely possible that you are just not right for each other anymore.
It is also possible that the stress of your friends and community saying and doing hurtful things is taking its toll on you, and in turn, a toll on your relationship. Either way, it’s important that you really prioritize noticing how you’re feeling and where that’s coming from, so that you can be honest with yourself and your boyfriend.
Your boyfriend knows who he is and is making decisions in his life that fulfill him. It seems like you’re confused about what that means for you, who or what will fulfill you. Only you know the answer. Whether you decide to stay or to go, and whatever kind of relationship you decide you want with your local LGBT community, things are different now. It won’t be easy. Your heart will likely break at least a little either way, because staying with anyone in the long term means getting through changes together, and that’s always hard.
I wish I could wave a wand and make your friends and queer spaces safe, but I have no magic spells to fix that. Systematically, yeah, we’re working on it. You’re always welcome here at Autostraddle. If that really is the issue, you need to have a real heart to heart with your boyfriend about how much the feeling of losing your community is affecting you. You need to be 100% honest with each other about how you are feeling if you want to grow together through this. Holding your feelings back will only lead to resentment later. Support each other in finding or creating new spaces that are affirming and inclusive. Create relationships with people who have experiences and relationships similar to yours, so you can support each other rather than feeling isolated. It hurts to break up with your community, but it might be necessary if that community has become toxic.
I also wish I could magically make your relationship perfect and not confusing. I wish I could do that for a lot of people. Dude, I’d be so rich if I could do that. I’d have an infomercial and a toll-free number and I would SAVE LIVES. Anyway, I can’t. And that’s not how relationships are, anyway. People are not perfect. People change. It’s possible that these changes are ones that you two will lean into together and eventually bring you closer together; it’s also possible you and your boyfriend are growing apart and need to break up. There’s a multitude of reasons why this might be. If that’s the case, it will hurt. But staying in a relationship that is not working any more is not fair to either of you. You both deserve to be happy and loved exactly as you are; only the two of you can figure out whether that’s more feasible in your relationship or out of it.
I have a feeling you already know the answer, though I don’t know what it is. Be honest and compassionate with yourself. Be honest and compassionate with your boyfriend. Good luck, friend.
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