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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » cis girl in a relationship with ftm guy - issues

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Author Topic: cis girl in a relationship with ftm guy - issues
jabber
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Iīm a cis girl and have recently started a relationship with a trans guy. We met in a context in which he was being addressed with female pronouns, so I thought of him as a girl for a while and told some people about having a crush on "her". I understood that he was trans a bit later, and this has never affected my feelings towards him. The problem is that I have always identified as a lesbian towards other people, and Iīm out to most of the people at my school. Personally I have always found this label to be problematic and started considering myself as queer a long time ago, but everyone at my school is cis and hetero (I have been looking for a while, but I havenīt found fellow queers yet) and they donīt get what queer identity is about - the gender binary is stuck in their minds. I also really appreciated the fact that being known as a lesbian helped to avoid unwanted male attention (with some exceptions of creepy dudes perceiving this as a turn on of course...). Some months ago, there has been some gossip about me supposedly making out with a guy friend of mine, and I had several people come up to me to ask me if I had "switched sides" and was now hetero. Not even bi, no, they thought making out with a man once would instantly sweep out my attraction towards women. I felt like they didnīt take my identity seriously, and this hurt since I invested lots of feelings and stress into coming out. My parents are still hoping I will go back to "normal" one day, thus my identity feels like something I had to fight for. The idea that people might now consider myself hetero is really upsetting, and I am purposefully avoiding the usage of pronouns when talking about my boyfriend. Whenever Iīm not hanging around with close friends I only call him "the person I am with". People often assume Iīm talking about a woman and I donīt correct them if they use female pronouns, trying to just overhear those. I feel really bad about my behaviour, itīs like Iīm denying his masculinity, a thing that matters so much to him, and I donīt want to hurt him. But if I told everyone that Iīm in love with a guy I would have to justify this "change of mind" to others, and since I obviously canīt out him to everyone I have no idea what I should tell them. It annoys me that I canīt just ignore their opinions about me, but this issue is starting to make me really uncomfortable. Maybe itīs just a matter of time and Iīll get used to being read as hetero? Or should I just come out as bi to minimize the confusion? The thing is that I am anything but attracted towards cis males or anyone with male parts...

My second issue is that Iīm really worried about what I can say and what not. Heīs often giving me compliments about my looks, but Iīm afraid of giving some back. Of course heīs attractive to me, but he is at the very beginning of his transition and not comfortable with his own body. For example I love his voice, but he wants it to be deeper, so I feel itīs inappropriate to comment on this. At the same time I fear it will sound fake if I try to emphasize more masculine aspects like his muscles. I donīt want to hurt him or cause dysphoric feelings, but I also donīt want him to get the impression that I donīt think he is handsome... Any suggestions/similar experiences?

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Heather
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I personally think the best response to people presuming false things about your identity is to just gently correct them. Like with a "Yes, X identifies as a man, but my partner's gender is separate from my own identity and orientation. I know things off the binary can be confusing for some people, but that is kind of the problem with the binary. I understand if you feel confused, but this is how X identifies their gender, and this (whatever term you are currently using to identify your orientation) is how I identify my orientation, and all I ask is you respect and accept both."

What do you think about something like that? Especially since it sounds like trying to adhere to a binary has been an issue for you anyway, and if folks seem locked into that, it obviously does not help them to get more flexible in their thinking if no one challenges it, you know?

In terms of how to talk to or about your partner in ways that absolutely or might be reflective of his gender, the best thing to do is just to ask him. It really is okay to ask. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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jabber
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Thanks for the quick response
I havenīt really thought about presenting my own sexual orientations as something independent from my partnerīs gender identity (not completely independent of course since both things are connected in some way, otherwise we wouldnīt be a couple). Itīs an interesting possibility. I still suppose that many wonīt understand, but I guess I shouldnīt care about what they think anyways... Maybe Iīll try this with friends I am not that close with.
And yes, I should probably just ask. Iīm just afraid that even asking might make him uncomfortable, but on the other side communication is the only way to really hear his opinion on that, and this is what matters at the end. So thanks again for the advice [Smile]

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Heather
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Per what you are saying about your orientation and his gender identity necessarily having something to do with each other, maybe. It is also possible it doesn't, just like, for instance, someone can feel very much a certain religion, but still have beliefs counter to a part of it, or that are not a part of it.

We are large, we contain multitudes. We are also so large, we can contradict ourselves. (Whitman knew what he was talking about. He was also queer, btw. [Smile] )

Chances are, if your partner is like a lot of people who grew up trans, being asked what he prefers and feels best about is something he is going to be very glad to even have the opportunity to do, rather than the common trans experience of others deciding for you around gender. I would also bear that in mind and consider that having others decide for you or, even with good intent, trying to just ignore or avoid your gender, is very uncomfortable.

He is probably already often very uncomfortable, period, since all of this stuff you are bringing up in a big part of his constant lived experience. (Just like it sounds like it has been for you when it comes to the people around you and your orientation, so you can probably relate.).

What you are trying to do, instead, in asking is to create more comfort. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jabber
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Well this may be possible, but I think he wouldn't be happy with being the "exception" from my usual orientation since he was quite irritated when I once referred to myself as a lesbian in his presence. So I guess I better keep the contradictions to myself [Wink]
That's true, he has also been generally open to me about his own struggles with gender, so I should probably stop being afraid to bring up the topic myself. I could always ask him if he's comfortable with talking about that at the moment.

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Heather
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Well, there needs to be room and mutual consideration made for who both of you are, not just one of you. So, if lesbian is the term that you feel best about and prefer for your orientation, your boyfriend needs to respect and accept that the same way you need to respect that he wants and prefers male pronouns, okay? It is just as important you get to be the person you are, and express that, as it is that he does.

Any relationship needs to have room for who everyone in it is, not just one person, including who those people are all by themselves, not just who they are in the relationship.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jabber
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True. I guess this is another topic I should bring up with him. For myself its not important to say I'm a lesbian, thats more about other how people perceive me, but we should have a conversation about how relevant it is for me to not be framed as heteronormative. The thing is that I really want to be supportive and feel somewhat guilty in comparison because I have cis privilege and easily pass as hetero (which makes my life a lot easier and less dangerous), but I should pay attention not to eccessively prioritize his needs because of that. I already encountered this tendency of mine on a sexual level - he's into strap ons, and I really tried to arrange with that because I know that this makes him feel more masculine and wanted to enjoy it too, but all I ever felt during such activities was pain and discomfort and at the end I had to tell him that this doesen't work for me. I still feel bad and - I know it sounds stupid and I shouldn't think this - almost a bit selfish about it, but he was completely understanding and acted like this wasn't a big deal (even though I believe he was a bit disappointed).
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Heather
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You know, right from the start here, selfish is not something it sounds to me like you need to worry about. You clearly are invested in doing what you can to make all of this work for both of you.

The fact is that it is exceptionally rare for any two people to be the same, with the same preferences and likes, when it comes to things like sex, gender, orientation and language. Being together intimately is about connecting in the places we can. No one needs to feel bad about not being the same person as their partner.

I hear you feeling a lot of guilt here about things. What do you think that is all about, and where do you think that is coming from?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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jabber
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Well, I can't exactly say where this comes from. He has been going through a lot, including family disowning him and sexual assault. I have had my troubles too, but next to his problems I look like a pile of privileges. I'm really worried about making him feel safe, accepted and validated in our relationship, because he does that to me - it's not my first relationship, but the first one in which I feel loved for who I really am, and it's amazing, I really didn't believe I would ever get to this point of happyness, as cheesy as it sounds. So my basic concern is to give all of this back, and I feel like he always finds the right words whereas I am constantly a step behind. He is also older and has more life experience, but still I wish I was able to be a better partner. Its an unrealistic expectation, and I am aware that I can't just erase the ugly spots in his past as much as I'd like to, but I've always been inclined to self criticism.
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Molias
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Hi jabber, I hope it's ok to step in with some thoughts. =)

I do think it's really important, in any relationship, to keep in mind that pushing down your own comfort, wants, etc. in favor of what your partner wants (or even what you suspect they might want) is not going to make things better in the long run. It sounds like you're aware that you have a tendency to do this but I'd definitely suggest you take some time to really think about if there are areas where you're prone to tamp your own needs down a bit, and maybe talk to your partner about them.

It's great to do what you can to be supportive of your partner in general, and in specific ways that help affirm his identity too, but it doesn't work to do those at the expense of your comfort. So maybe you can take some of these things, whether it's the type of sex you're having or the kind of compliments he might enjoy, and talk with him about what sounds like it would be positive for both of you.

What Heather said above strikes me as really important here: "Being together intimately is about connecting in the places we can. No one needs to feel bad about not being the same person as their partner."

I also think it can be really easy for awareness of one's privilege to slide into guilt. And while that's understandable, it can make things pretty dicey in relationships, where it's important for everyone to be on equal footing.
It's good to be aware of your partner's history, but I don't think it's generally helpful to say "ok, he had MORE trauma in the past, therefore his needs are more important than mine." Anytime you're prioritizing one person's needs or comfort level over the other - whether consciously or not - there's a risk of creating an imbalanced power dynamic in a relationship.

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jabber
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hey thanks of course it is [Smile] in fact "he had MORE trauma in the past, therefore his needs are more important than mine" is literally what I've been thinking for a while. I only got the realization that this attitude does more damage than it helps some days ago, so its kind of a new consciousness and I'm still trying to work out how I can bring this topic up with him without making my thoughts about privilege sound like I pity him for his life - which I don't, because although he had more difficulties thab others, he has done plenty of amazing stuff. I think we definitely need to have some kind of a big talk about this soon, so that we can both articulate our needs and concentrate on the overlapping parts.
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