This post is the first in a curated blog series called Living and Loving Trans*. It comes from Lauren Irwin (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: Lauren_Irwin22).
There’s a listicle for just about everything these days, including relationships: “15 questions to ask on a first date,” “7 questions that will tell you if your significant other is the one,” “16 questions to make sure you have the best sex ever,” “99 questions for the perfect wine and Netfllix pairing.” These lists are fun, and occasionally they hold useful nuggets. Generally, these lists are also ridiculously heteronormative and center cisgender couples. Sadly, I have yet to see a list that was curated for trans*- nontrans* relationships.
I’ve recently started dating a non-binary, feminine-of-center person. Ze and I live two time zones apart and have spent much of our early relationship connecting over the phone/FaceTime. Our desire to invest in one another and our relationship has allowed us to have many deep conversations about an array of topics, including gender. Since this is my first romantic relationship with somebody who is not a straight, nontrans man, I engaged in some Internet research about trans*-nontrans relationships. Most of the articles and resources I unearthed focused on helping nontrans people name or overcome transphobia. While transphobia is very real, especially as it relates to dating and romantic relationships, I was discouraged by the lack of resources and writing focused on highlighting and affirming trans*-nontrans relationships, or about what couples could do to explore gender together as individuals and as a partnership.
Given the relative Internet silence on trans*-nontrans relationships, I’ve compiled a list of suggested questions for folx in trans*-nontrans relationships: “12 questions to ask in your trans*-nontrans relationship.” Some questions have multiple options, depending on the identities of the question’s intended recipient; other questions are appropriate for all partners to discuss.
Some of these questions center gender; others do not. The reality is that relationships require more than just knowing your partners’ identities and pronouns; being in relationship with one another requires trust, admiration, vulnerability, and a commitment to understanding and loving one another’s complexities. As one of my dear friends often says, “We are vast, we contain multitudes” (a reference to Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself”). The reality is that people of all genders are vast and contain multitudes, especially in the context of relationships. Yet, gender is always present. It is essential to both center gender and, at times, to forget gender.~ Living and loving across gender is complicated, as are relationships. Regardless, I hope this list opens up the door for deep, challenging, important conversations across gender in your life. What questions, tips, and considerations would you add?
***I have created a downloadable listicle from the above questions, which people can print, use, and share as they like.***
* Following the lead of Kim Katrin Milan, I use “nontrans” rather than “cisgender” in an attempt to center trans* experiences and identities.
^ My partner and I agree this is a question that should be explored on a regularly, as our ways of understanding our genders shift across time and context.
+ Love does not exist outside of politics, power, and identities. Moreover, racialized identities often go unexplored for white people due to our privilege. For my partner and I, it’s just as important to name and discuss our racial identities and how race influences our relationship, which means it’s important to discuss how our being white mediates our partnership. If love is a political act, then it’s just as important to talk about our shared privileged identities, like race, as it is to talk about our divergent identities, like gender. We encourage trans-nontrans partnerships to think not just about race, but various marginalized and dominant identities they may hold, too.
~ Here I use the phrase “forget gender” as a way to signal not always overtly focusing on gender, not that gender shouldn’t or doesn’t matter.
This blog is a space where I engage with ideas, concepts, and research that seeks to increase life chances for trans* people.