Lesbians, Relationships, and Beard Burn
I don’t know where to start. I find that most of my conversations begin this way these days. The feeling of my life lately is akin to picking up a novel you’ve never read and start reading mid-way through; you don’t know the characters, the plot, or why the image of the tree is so damn important. But, there you are at three a.m. sitting in the bathroom reading because you just can’t put the book down.
And here I am, at three a.m. sometimes, staring into the bathroom mirror and wondering.
There are three things: gender, sex, and sexuality. None of which dictate the other two. And sometimes, that gets confusing as hell. In the last six years I’ve come Out as bisexual, lesbian, submissive, transgender, transsexual, and now I just prefer to use the term “Queer” to embrace everything that I am. What sits in my trousers (sex) doesn’t agree with the fact I’m masculine (gender), most people would say, and being attracted to both sexes and those in-between (sexuality) is enough to write a dissertation on. But I won’t. Why? Because it’s just simply my life.
While my transition thus far encompasses so much more than my love life, it is exactly that which causes me the most pain and, therefore, receives the most attention. My relationship with the woman I love has ended. Five years of love and seeing each other through horrible rough patches is gone. I am heart-broken.
This isn’t about sex, oddly enough, though at first glance it is. I’m going to tell you; we can be frank here, right? The sex I’ve always had with her is the sex I still want. Maybe I want it more often (thanks to the testosterone pumping through my body) but the ways in which we’ve always had sex, the mechanics of it, suit me just fine. Outside of the mechanics (insert Tab A into Slot B, repeat), there is the energy aspect. “Energy” is a good word, I find, to describe the way you interact with another individual. There are many kinds of energy but for the sake of simplicity let’s go with “masculine” and “feminine”.
These are not roles. This is not, “Who’s the man and who’s the woman” because homosexual relationships can have both partners being male or female (or any combination thereof). And, in fact, there are heterosexual couples that enjoy a fair balance of both (masculine and feminine) in a partner or both partners.
No, this is about self-identity. How you self-identify definitely changes how others interact with you and you with them. For instance, if one male meets a stronger, more dominant male, the first male may take on a more or less aggressive role while interacting with this more dominant male. In the S/M world, we see these roles more often displayed in obvious ways.
So, my self-identity is shifting, almost constantly. I have gained more “masculine energy”, as it were. My lesbian (ex)partner is a woman. She has a good deal of both masculine and feminine energy. In the past, pre-transition, we had forged a merging of those energies that seemed to work. Now, however, with my much more masculine energy invading her territory, things began to fall apart.
“I’m a lesbian,” she says to me. “I am not attracted to men, though I am attracted to you.”
How can that be? While I understand identifying one way, and being primarily attracted to one sex (sexuality again), you can still occasionally find the odd person of another sex attractive for what ever reason. Love, as well, cannot be over-looked here. Many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have found our partner less than appealing after some years with him/her and yet, thanks to love, we still are attracted where otherwise we may not be.
Enter my brand new issue of “Does she see me as a man, or a very butch lesbian?” Lovely.
Despite her promising she sees me as a man and my belief she loves me, things began going downhill rapidly. As my voice started to change she had to face the hard fact that I was not “EmmaLee” anymore. Our energies began clashing in the bedroom as well as everyday life. She had her issues, I had mine, and none of it was pretty.
A lesbian, much as a bisexual, loses their visible identity when they are with a person of the opposite sex. While I’m not trying to force anyone into a “hetero-normative” relationship, I am what I am: a man. She, a lesbian, is beginning to be seen as just another straight girl in a relationship with a straight boy. This is hard for many lesbians to deal with. The loss of identity is staggering. She was not only angry at me for “killing” off the woman she had loved for 5 years, but also angry that her identity was seemingly being forced to change. No, I wasn’t asking or forcing her to ID as straight, but society was assuming for her.
So here we are, broken-up and still in love with one another. Why? Does any of the above even make sense outside of my own head? It must. Talk to any transperson and they’ll have a similar story to share. I believe it takes a very strong person, with a strong self-identity, to go through a transition with someone like this.
I’m learning to be a feminist from the other side. It’s difficult to adjust, I must be honest. As my voice deepens I am subtly shifted into the “male respect” zone. Men are more apt to listen to me on the phone when I call them at work to tell them something is needed from them. The conversations are more relaxed. This is, notably, due in part to my being more relaxed about who I am, not just about the “boys club” (if that’s a term you’d prefer). My lesbian friend hisses at me when I tell her of my new discovery at work. She has just been chewed out by several men, and women, in a row for the same reason I was calling and getting a better reception.
While I know it’s because I worked my ass off this year, I cannot help but laugh to myself when my male boss gives me a raise double the amount I have earned the past two years. When he turns around a couple of weeks later and gives me double the bonus I normally get, I start to feel a little sick, but giddy, at the same time.
The straight women I work with treat me differently now, too. One, who always acted friendly towards me anyway, now confides in me where she wouldn’t before. The women I compliment all take my words with more weight than they did previously. My girl friends now ask me to stare freely at their chests and butts to tell them if they look alright. My mind boggles.
As I watch the differing reactions and see the differences in how women act (en masse) vs. men, I have to feel a little more sure about my transition. These female mysteries were never mine to experience. You could have given me a roadmap and I would never have found them. I am a little astounded, too, when I see what they’re saying when they’re not speaking. I have been socialized as a woman my whole life. I know that look, sister, I know what you’re thinking. I am a double spy, they fear, a traitor.
Every once and a while, one of them will have to take me down a peg or two. I know they’re doing it on purpose. They don’t want me thinking I really belong to the boys club. They want to remind me where I come from. They needn’t bother, of course. Every night, when I go home and I take my binder off, I am reminded of where I come from. Every two weeks, when it’s time for a shot, I remember this is store bought. I see the social implications; this grand drama we all live out on stage day after day. I am not fooled.