The only mainstream representation of my marriage has been (for the most part) cancelled.
The Netflix series Sense8, featuring a trans-inclusive sapphic relationship between Amanita and Nomi, will no longer be gracing the screens of its viewers. For two seasons people watched these two women, very much in love, face the hardships before them. I know of no other mainstream fictional relationship to replace it.
It felt nice to have something I could point to and say, “Look! That’s us”. Had it been allowed to continue beyond the two-hour finale that will air in 2018, maybe I could have more of those moments.
Let’s turn back the clock, to when I explained my bisexuality to my straight friend of many years, she perked up and said “Oh! You’re like Captain Jack from Doctor Who!” (which, coincidentally, was a character that made me come to terms with my bisexuality). It helped having something with which to compare my complex feelings, and it helped my friend grasp the concept of my identity.
But when your wife is trans and you are cis, there’s not a lot of comparisons you can use.
Being in a same-sex trans inclusive relationship is like having two ‘outs’. Many non-hetero individuals know that coming out isn’t just a one time thing – it’s an ongoing process. When I am having small talk with the old lady in front of me at the Disneyland bathroom, I choose my words carefully. Do I mention that I have a wife? Will she freak out at me, stop talking to me, or be accepting? Is it even worth the emotional effort for me to do this? Most often I will avoid mentioning a spouse altogether.
But this comes with another door to open. I am out to many many people as bisexual, or at the very least people know I have a wife. But the fact that my wife is trans is something told only to the most trustworthy. This makes for even more difficult conversations to avoid: How did we get married before same-sex marriage was legal? Were you artificially inseminated? Isn’t it funny how your daughter looks like both of you? Not to mention that transphobia does exist in parts of the lesbian and gay community – I could be accepted as sapphic while also facing discrimination towards my wife.
Not being open about my wife’s trans-ness is in no way a mark of shame towards my wife. It is instead a means of protection for her and my family, and a respect to her privacy. The violence against transgender people in this country is disturbing. A 2015 study shows that transgender people have a one in twelve chance of being murdered in America. I walk a strange line of wanting to be loud and proud about my wife and our relationship, and scared to death that anything would ever happen to her.
This ‘double closet’ is hard for me to explain to people, even to friends who are LGBT. The first closet is less difficult: gays, lesbians, and bisexual people are thankfully more accepted by society in general (though this is of course nowhere near perfect and the outing is still very exhausting). But the second closet is harder to open. Part of that, I feel, is from a lack of representation in books, film, and television.
I know it’s a lot to ask for: transgender characters in general are seldom portrayed in the media in the first place, and when they are they are either hypersexualized, seen as unlovable, or used as a joke. And when they are shown in a relationship, it is a straight one practically all of the time. This is somewhat understandable, as straight trans people are statistically more common, just as straight cis people are statistically more common. But when there is such a huge lack of representation, it hurts. (Not to mention – non-straight trans-inclusive relationships are more common than people realize)
When my wife and I were outed to my family without our permission, it was like being pushed naked into a crowd. We had no way to defend ourselves, or explain what was happening in our lives to those that needed to hear it the most. Assumptions were made by people not fully educated on the subject, and a very delicately planned coming out was destroyed in seconds. My family, which at the time did not contain any out LGBT individuals, did not understand. It took many long, painful talks for our relationship to even remotely make sense to them.
I feared, and still fear to this day, that some of my relatives think I am just staying in this relationship to keep my family together. But this could not be further from the truth. Loving my wife helped me explore the woman-loving side of me that had been closeted for so many years. I woo my wife with the kind of giggly excitement usually only seen in teenagers. And from her, I see a radiant joy of life I seldom witnessed prior to her transition.
And this is just my story. There are countless more stories of same-sex trans-inclusive relationships. These are relationships with personality, unique hardships to face, and beautiful revelations made between each partner. These are the kinds of relationships the world needs to see: love that transcends gender.
Representing trans sapphic relationships in the media doesn’t just support their visibility, it also gives light to the complexity that is every transgender human being. And perhaps this is the root of the problem: transgender people are not just trans – they have interests, talents, loves, and lives as complex as any other human beings, but the media often shows their transness as the most important thing about them. If trans people were first and foremost portrayed as people, just like any other, maybe their relationships could also be painted with a full spectrum.
About the Author:
Sari Taurez is an author from the American Southwest. Her new-adult thriller Bubblegum will be released October 9th 2017. It includes a love story between a cis woman and a trans woman. Find out more about Bubblegum at www.saritaurez.com