I’m a lesbian in my mid-twenties. I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for two years now. We’re what you would call a stereotypical U-Haul Lesbian couple. We fell in love fast and moved in fast. Recently, my partner has been struggling with her identity and dropped the bomb last week. She considers herself a trans man and wants to transition to male. I’m a lesbian, and I fell in love with a woman, not a man. I love my partner, but I’m not interested in being straight!
So, your lesbian life-mate’s announcement of his trans-identity has rocked your relationship and your own identity. The realization that a partner is trans can greatly alter the dynamics of a relationship. Not only in between invested parties, but also how that relationship is made legible to society at large. Coming out as a lesbian, while often difficult for many people, also grants those new inductees access to a culture, community, and identity previously unavailable. An identity few are ready to give up idly. But this is one of those instances when queers can be astoundingly unqueer.
Gay people have a tendency to be infatuated with the idea that once you go gay, there ain’t no other way. We are so ready to claim sexuality as fluid to entice our hetero counterparts to the way of the fey, but the moment that we lose one of our queer sistahs (I use the word in the most gender-neutral drag queen way possible) to the straight and narrow, we’re right back to claiming a fixed queer identity. As queer people we have to acknowledge, that in the same way that it’s possible for a person to steer queer, it’s equally possible for someone to make straight. Now your situation is a little more complicated, LL, because your partner’s sexual orientation isn’t changing, it’s his gender. However, in some ways, you are being asked to expand your own sexual horizons.
I understand that you may feel betrayed by your partner for not disclosing this information when you first entered into a relationship. But it’s important to remember that your partner didn’t do this maliciously to harm you in any way. In fact, this realization has very little to do with you. It certainly effects you, but your partner would have discovered that he is trans one way or the other; with or without you.
So the question boils down to love. It’s not about identities that one previously subscribed to. Do you love your partner? Is your love for you partner greater than the mean looks you may get from your lesbian friends when you bring your new husband to the Estrogen Folk Music Festival. Because if it isn’t, then you may have U-hauled too fast, even for lesbians. You mention in your question that you're "a lesbian. I fell in love with a woman, not a man." Well, this just in, LL. You did fall in love with a man, you just didn't realize it.
A side note: If you’re concerned about your sexual relationship and how that may be affected by your partner’s transition, you may want to try and branch out and experiment with strap-ons and other similar sex toys. That way your sex life can transition as your partner does. Also note that not all trans men get bottom surgery. So it all depends on what your partner feels is necessary, it’s very possible that you may end up in a “heterosexual”-double-vagina relationship.
And don’t worry, even if you and your husband are read as “straight,” a trans man partnered with his lesbian wife is still pretty queer in my book.
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You can read more of Fannie's column at www.belowthebelt.org.