E. Winter Tashlin

Owen [Picture Tells A Story]

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | December 07, 2013 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: dysphoria, gender identity, partners transition, photography, portrait, PTAS, transition

This is the most recent photo there is of my husband Owen, not counting CCTV or traffic cameras of course.
It's one of the first real "guy" pictures there are of him, which is why despite not being the most dynamic photo I've ever taken, for our friends and family it's an exciting one nonetheless. Owen's medical transition has advanced quite a bit since last I wrote about it, with Owen having been on testosterone for about a year now. Just last week we got confirmation from his workplace that their health plan will fully cover the cost of him having surgical chest reconstruction, which is tentatively planned for next fall.

Owen and I have been together for fifteen years. That is nearly half our lives, although to be fair, for the eight years in the middle we were with another man in a three-person marriage. Owen began identifying fully-time as a guy about three years ago, although his questions and experimentation with gender go back several years before that.

The two of us met on our freshman orientation trip in college; he was a busty goth chick with a chip on his shoulder, and I was a flamboyant gay guy who sometimes barked like a dog. We bonded over the fact that we both turned out to be unbelievably bad at white water kayaking, which is what we were doing on said orientation trip. Our friendship stayed strong once the semester started, and over the next several months our relationship turned sexual and romantic. No one could have been more surprised by the turn of events than us, except maybe for our families, who knew me only as a gay guy and him as a mostly-lesbian.

He was the only woman I was ever romantically involved with, and he turned out to be a guy in the end after all. We both like to tell people that I simply "knew" a decade and change before he did. It's not really true, but it's a cute way to explain the odd trajectory of our relationship.

So one can imagine that Owen's transition hasn't led to much of the consternation and conflict that a spouse's transition often brings about. Which isn't to say it's been easy on either of us, or at times on our relationship. But that's really a topic for a future post.

If you were to ask, Owen would say that he's a "bad" trans* person, as in bad at being trans*. The statement is in part a reflection of his own gender narrative, which doesn't include identifying as male from a young age. But it also is connected to conflicts he has had with other trans* folk around his own experience and expression of his journey.

Some people take exception to the fact that he talks about his younger life "as a girl," and steadfastly holds to the idea that he hasn't always known he was a guy. His story is complicated by the fact that he was raised by hippies who never had gender expectations or roles they pushed on him. Neither did the Quaker school he attended as a child or the far-left college where we met. There are clear things one can point to today that in retrospect were signs of dysphoria and discomfort with being perceived as female, but it all flew under his (and my) radar for decades.

His confidence in his identity and presentation has also been shaken by people who had issues with the fact that he doesn't regular bind his excessive chest tissue, which is incredibly painful for him to do; as well as his choice to shave his face, which he plans to do until he can grow an adult beard. Would that I had a time machine and could go back and shove a sock in the mouth of the older trans* guy who told him at the very first gathering where he was ID-ing as male that he wasn't trans*, just confused. The rationale was that if he was really trans*, Owen would not be willing to be seen in public without a binder, no matter how much pain it caused.

Although today Owen identifies as a guy, in some ways he sees himself more as a man-in-waiting. Because of the aforementioned chest, which would be considered large on a cis woman, he doesn't "pass" in the world at large, although since his job takes place almost entirely over the phone, his work clients don't know him as anything but a man. However, Owen is a highly visual person, and has come to the conclusion that he won't be able to build a complete sense of male identity until he is regularly read as one physically, by others as well as by himself.

Which is why the photo above is a powerful image for him.

Owen, particularly through the hyper-critical eye of dysphoria, often struggles to see the man he's becoming (in a physical, second puberty sense) when he looks in the mirror. But in these pictures, he can see details emerge that for the first time start to give a sense of how his inner and outer forms are starting to align.

There's still a world of work ahead for Owen, and for our family, as he continues down the road of medical transition. For us though, these pictures give a glimpse into the future that work is leading towards.

You can see a small gallery of other photos from this shoot with Owen here.

Photo © E. Wintersong Tashlin - All Rights Reserved

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