Identity is at the core of transition. Therefore, when Veronica began her social transition, we both prepared for conversations about her identity. What I didn’t prepare for was conversations about my identity. Despite the societal obsession with labels, it didn’t cross my mind… to be fair, I was preoccupied with how Veronica was doing!
If you ask me to define my identity, the words queer or gay will definitely come up, among a bunch of other terms. I struggled a lot to understand and embrace that aspect of my identity as a child and a teenager but I reached certainty. Queerness is part of who I am. I say gay for convenience, because I find queer gets some confused reactions; but queer by preference because I’ve occasionally felt a bit restricted by gay — and as a person with disabilities, often felt marginalized in exclusively gay spaces*.
Straight or heterosexual aren’t on my list** and never have been. But straight is what strangers (and even some acquaintances) assume when they see me out with Veronica or when they hear me talk about her. My queer or gay identity is still a part of me, but it is not as visible. It can be challenging when I realize that our queer relationship has somehow been erased from the world and replaced with the default straightness, because, as mentioned, I did struggle to get to the point of comfort with that identity and visibility.
It strikes me most clearly when I’m running a workshop. There is sometimes good reason to mention my spouse. Veronica, she/her and wife all indicate straightness to the attendees. It’s unremarkable information to them.
Saying he/him and husband was remarkable to some people — and those moments of representation are important. On many occasions, an attendee would later thank me for that openness and come out themselves or mention an LGBTQIA+ family member. I still find ways to bring those aspects of my identity naturally into the flow of each workshop without disrespecting Veronica’s identity.
Here’s my stance on active questions about my identity — and I believe this should apply to active questions about the identity of any partner of someone in transition: whether well-meant, ill-meant or in jest, external questions about me being “straight now” don’t help me navigate our social transition. They only distract from more important conversations.***
Let this be the definitive statement: I’m not straight. I’m a queer (or gay, if you must) cisgender man in love with and married to a queer transgender woman. Her womanhood does not redefine me as straight. My gayness does not diminish her womanhood. Everything about how those aspects of our identities interact within our relationship is for the two of us to negotiate. What counts is how we see each other and ourselves.
Regarding passive perception of my identity: I’ve never had any control over how people perceive my identity. Most strangers on the street assume I’m straight because that’s the default assumption. I’ve never had much control over people’s assumptions about my identity, so why worry about it now? Other people will always think something I can’t control. Other people have always erased my queerness.
I’m proud of myself and my identity, and I’m proud of my relationship with Veronica. When I need to make any aspect of my identity known, I can. And while the erasure of the overt queerness of our relationship still strikes me, I’m coming to terms with this loss and finding new ways of showing me.
*More on that another day — probably the next time I hit an access barrier!
**If you want to see me get angry, call me straight-acting. You’ve been warned.