I started dating my husband when I was a late teenager. I also was incredibly feminine in appearance. This meant, for the world, we were a heterosexual couple. We were read that way by everyone for decades.
Even when I started my transition, when I was 40, I looked like an edgy woman with lot’s of tattoos. I didn’t look remotely masculine until the testosterone starting to take effect. It took extra long for me to be read as male.
During that period I was often assumed to be a masculine presenting lesbian. This assumption was pretty universal. I have never been hit on by so many ladies who love other ladies before that point. Being with my husband confused everyone that saw us.
Then I hit about 10 months on testosterone, and started reliably being seen as male by the public at large. That shift in public perception changed a lot of how my husband and I were perceived. Suddenly we were a gay couple to anyone that looked at us.
That’s when I started being concerned about how my husband and I expressed our affection publicly. We are in an unprecedented time where queer folks are being accepted on an unheard of scale. There is a backlash to that, with bigots lashing out violently, and unpredictably. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a news story about a queer person being viciously attacked.
The difference between my husband and I, is when I was a teenager in the 1980’s, I had girlfriends, and was perceived to be in a same sex pairing. I was a punk rock kid back then, and combining a punk esthetic with a perceived same sex partner was dangerous. I have had people stop their cars to attack me. I have had whole restaurants engage in dangerous anti-gay mob mentality behavior. I have had to leave places for fear of literally being beaten to death.
My husband has never had to deal with any of that. He’s also 6’4” tall, so even when engaging in aggressive encounters, folks tend to give him lots of space. This means he is completely unconcerned about showing public affection. He feels safe anywhere, and is confident he can defend himself if something does come up.
For myself, I am always aware of my surroundings when I’m with my husband, just in case. I am aware if there are large groupings of young straight men. I am aware if we are getting singled out.
At first, this really hurt my husband. I couldn’t explain to him enough, how much danger there is, or could be. He saw my unwillingness to hold his hand as a possible denial of him personally. Especially early in my transition, he felt I might be rejecting him as a partner. No matter the logic of it, for him it was very visceral to have his spouse refuse to hold his hand.
I wasn’t in any way rejecting him, though. I just wanted to make sure he was safe. I never want him to have those terrible experiences. It was my way of protecting him.
At two years on testosterone, I have loosened up a tiny bit. He’s also become more understanding. We are approaching a compromising happy medium. I hold his hand more, or just let him hang on me. I don’t get so worried we are going to be attacked. He is more careful about when he reaches for my hand, and doesn’t do so when we are in a less than gay friendly area.
I think this is something we’ll have to continue to navigate going forward. Like most of what we do, we will revisit this as needed. We discuss our differences on this issue on and off.
I think it’s also a thing most folks in same sex relationships have to consider as part of their daily lives. My husband, as willing as he is to be gay with me, has just never had to really sort that out for himself.
Overall, it’s just a bit sad that we live in a world where the simple act of holding hands with your partner of 20+ years, can cause others to react poorly. However, more and more, there are straight folks that will stand up with people like us, and that is beautiful. I know what the world felt like without that, so it gives me a lot of hope to see so many people champion LGBT+ folks now. Maybe in the future, holding my husbands hand won’t be a big deal.
It’s been a long time since I commented but I just wanted to say that I’m super happy for you guys, My husband and I split and divorced after a decade together because he couldn’t really handle it, but I’m getting so many mixed signals from him now. We’re the only people who still have sex together (possibly that’s TMI lol) but neither of us are interested in sex without that emotional connection, and neither of us have found anyone we’re willing to date, even though with my social anxiety about being trans and coming out to a potential partner, there’s been no one I felt I could even remotely become connected with, and my ex either, so that’s been super hard.
The envy of trans people, FTM or MTF whose partners stay with them is strong, and that’s super hard to deal with. I’ve ended up developing some rather addictive habits that run in the male side of my family for a couple generations which has me worried, and it doesn’t help that we’re both on depression meds.
Anyway, rambling now, but thanks for keeping up with this blog. It helps to see other people happy in transitioning, but yeah, the longer I go with out top surgery, the more anxiety I have about it. Pretty ridiculous to me.
That sounds like a hard situation to be in. Your situation sounds especially stuck in the middle. I wish I had something to say that would help.
My spouse is all about that kind of emotional connection. He can’t be with someone without it. I’m not in that category at all, but having lived with him, and been poly-ish, I think it makes dating, and finding people a bit harder.
I’m a bit in the same boat about top surgery. The only time I’ve had anxiety about my chest, is now that I am read as male, and have these DD’s still making an appearance. Mostly because I don’t want to be outed while traveling, or at work.
I hope you find some peace about this.
I am sorry about your situation, the being stuck in the middle would be the hardest part for me. If there is anything we could do, please let us know.
Thank you for commenting, it really helps to have people talk to us about it.
I am ftm and my husband is cis male and we are staying together as I transition- we are both very, very glad we found your blog. This post, in particular, is one that speaks to us. We have been mutually out as bi to one another for almost 10 years, so we have often kidded about being “gay married” because we both have same sex attraction and it’s always been a sort of secret we could hide because of our hetero married status. However, as I have made some gradual changes in the last year towards transition and my closet is primarily men’s clothes… we suddenly find that we do appear to the public as a gay male couple. We are constantly seeing people stare at us when we go out as a family- we have 3 kids- and our philosophy is: If they’re gonna stare, give them something to look at! We don’t hold back the affection and just go about our business as we always have, like normal. Because this is our normal. And, honestly, it’s awesome to see that there is at least one other couple out there in the world in the same boat. Thanks for sharing your story!
Oh wow! We almost never meet anyone in our situation! It’s very cool to meet you. I think that’s great that you are both together.
Sometimes, if I feel the situation is safer, I can do what you guys do, but I sure wish I could do it all the time.
Oh the safety of the space certainly plays into just how much we show affection in public… the fear is always in the back of our minds because we live in the Bible Belt (D/FW, Texas) and all it takes is for the wrong conservative redneck to notice what’s going on with us and we could find ourselves in a seriously dangerous situation. The possibility always exists. But, we figure visibility is a good thing and try to continue to just love each other like we always have. The more people SEE trans/gay people just living life… the more normal it will become in society… but it’s not easy, that’s for sure.
We have never heard of anyone in our situation- you guys are the only ones we can seem to find. All of the stories online seem to be negative about marriages that ended… your blog is a God send, honestly. It gives us hope going forward in my transition. Before we found it, I had just started my own blog because, like you- if there’s someone out there in a similar situation, I want them to know they aren’t alone. Also, writing is a therapeutic outlet and chronicling my transition and what we experience is important and part of that “visibility”. I certainly didn’t come out just to continue to hide, you know?
We live in a very liberal area, and there is still issues like that. (Especially if we go East of the mountains where it is sooooo NOT liberal!)
I have never heard of too many spouses staying. It’s pretty rare. Most of my friends have lost their significant others when they came out. That’s why my husband started this blog. We spent months trying to find resources for spouses that stayed. They were either closed down, or didn’t exist. He even came with me to a transgender support meeting, where it didn’t go too well. Folks acted like he was going to bail out, and treated him accordingly.
“I certainly didn’t come out just to continue to hide, you know?”
I like that. It’s exactly how I feel. I am middle aged. I don’t want to delete my past history. I have 20+ years of marriage that I don’t want to erase. I don’t think hiding is helpful to me, and I am in a great position to be able to safely be out.