Just days after Veronica began her social transition, I was asked for the first time if we would break up. During the first six months, variations on that question came up with tiresome regularity. And I know that Veronica has been asked the same sort of thing about our relationship.
“Tiresome” might seem unfair. Many of our dear friends did not even hint at such a question and we know that some who did ask were concerned that we might want/need to talk about a desire to divorce. They were trying to give us and opening. We appreciate the concern and the reality that many people need to be prompted to share such feelings. I can’t emphasize enough how supportive our closest friends have been.
However, some people definitely came from a place of sex-focused gossip because that’s what they focused on. “It can’t work because genitals.” Some people probably asked in a treading water sort of way, not knowing how to continue the conversation because they were too shocked by the news. They’re the ones who have the most trouble with pronouns. And some people asked because that’s where they assumed the conversation was going, and who doesn’t like to get a step ahead of the conversation? It shows they’re invested.
There was even the conversation with Ms. A*, whose husband Mr. A* told her that I was definitely considering divorce. When I spoke to Mr. A*, I told him we were definitely committed to making the relationship work. I guess he mistook me for Bizarro or mistook the day for opposite day (pick the reference that makes more sense to you).
Why do people assume the end is nigh? It comes down to this: most people see me as a gay cisgender man and many of those people assume there is no flexibility in that identity. Therefore, I can only be interested in a long-term relationship with another gay cisgender man. Veronica is a transgender woman. Thus, our separation is inevitable.
Despite the expectations of many and concerns of some — and in line with the support of others — Veronica and I plan to stay married. We still love each other. We still see each other as the people who briefly met in 2011, got to know each other in 2013, and married in 2015. We are working through the highs and lows of social and medical transition together. Our identities are complex and flexible enough to cope.
I hope that does not come across as judgemental of anyone who has chosen not to continue in a transitioning relationship. A myriad of factors can keep people together or push them apart.
That said, I reject the idea that transition always means the end of a pre-existing relationship. That’s the false idea behind many of those questions we’ve been asked.
And that’s part of what I’d like to explore here and elsewhere, starting with identity.
*Names omitted because I don’t want to get into it with them again, but they know who they are.