It isn’t easy being queer. Well, in some ways it is easier than it used to be-we can get married now for Christ’s sake and people can actually get in trouble for kicking our heads in. But in some ways, it’s getting more challenging.
There are those among us who fear that with acceptance will come the eventual disappearance of the queer community. Eeeeeeeeek. Don’t say that. Do queers have to be treated really badly in order to hang onto our right to have the funnest and most vibrant communities? We hope not. I mean, we like being bad, but not so bad that we can’t work where we want, live where we want, and fuck who we want.
The danger of social acceptance, however, is not the only fear facing the queer community. The other challenge we face concerns girls who become boys and boys who become girls and lovely people whose gender is undetermined. Now there’s a long history of transgender and transsexual involvement in the queer community-it was trannies who threw the first bricks during the Stonewall riots for crying out loud. And drag queens and drag kings have been a delicious part of our culture for a long time.
But some folks are changing their sex and giving their lovers fits about what it means for their queer identities. It is easy enough to say that if your lover is a tranny, then you are pretty fucking queer (and God love you for it). But how does that queerness manifest itself when, on the surface, straight people might look at the two of you and think that, well, you’re straight.
If you are a lesbian and your girlfriend becomes your boyfriend, are you still a dyke? If you are a gay man and your boyfriend becomes your girlfriend, are you still a fag? And if your newly female girlfriend and your newly male boyfriend run off on the both of you, what the hell do you call that?
We polled some of our community members to find out how these challenges to queer identity are being worked out.
One woman told us that she had identified as a lesbian for years when her partner announced her decision to transition to a male identity. “It really took me aback-I thought I’d left men far behind. And now my girlfriend wanted to be one. I didn’t know what that meant for me.”
Both she and her partner were committed enough to the relationship to try and make it work. “I accepted Mitch as my partner and although it took me awhile to get my head around it, it actually opened things up for me. When Mitch and I broke up (for reasons unrelated to his sex change) my identity had shifted to the point where I was prepared to consider dating women and men. My current partner is a man and I don’t think I would have been open to that before.”
Not everyone is excited about seeing their sexual orientation change, however. And even if they can adapt to their partner’s sex change without feeling the need to redefine their own sexuality, it makes it complicated to be out and queer in the world. One man told us his story.
“I was with Roger for two years when he announced that he intended to seek gender reassignment. I guess I wasn’t that surprised and I am pretty comfortable with it on a personal level. But I am a very out and proud gay man and I have had a hard time figuring out how to maintain my public identity. I mean, one of my main strategies for letting people know I’m gay has been to refer to ‘my boyfriend’ or share that ‘my partner really enjoys doing the yard work at our house and he’s so good at it, aren’t I lucky?’
“In order to respect my partner’s new identity, I can’t do that anymore. So it leaves me with a lot of explaining to do-about how it is I am gay and with a woman. It’s worth it, though. My partner is really happy with her transition and I really want to be there for her and in this relationship.”
We have a suggestion for couples who want to find a balance between supporting the needs of the partner who has transitioned to a different sex identity and the needs of the partner who wants to continue to define themselves as gay or lesbian: those stupid T-shirts that we’ve seen all these years will finally come in handy. From now on, when you see a man walking down the street holding hands with a woman wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m not gay but my boyfriend is,” you’ll know exactly what the deal is. What the fuck!
* In our next column we explore the wonders of gay porn.