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The Sign of the Cross

I don’t know if Sunshine knew that I saw him cross himself. I wonder if he was trying to hide it from me.

We don’t talk about faith. Not ever. We might talk about our Catholic upbringing, or about religious texts in a purely theoretical way, but we never admit to believing in anything.

For me, that’s because I’m queer. Depending on who you ask, it could be the way God made me or the way the devil made me. It could be my cross to bear, a temptation I am supposed to resist, or it could be a great blessing.

Queerness and religion are fraught with conflict. Frequently, I am assumed to be an atheist. However, I strongly believe that the universe was created by something that presides over it. It’s just what I believe. And I don’t know why I believe it, I just do. I studied Physics at university and there’s just something about the way it all fits together that makes the universe seem like a work of art.

Even now I’m resisting defending myself. People are scornful, think I must be an idiot to feel this way. I’ve had my fill of probing questions asking what I think of heaven or hell or angels or determinism and I really don’t think that has anything to do with anything. Belief is what you believe. End of.

I don’t like talking about it. Like Scripps in the History Boys, it’s private.

Sometimes I go to church. I like the ridiculous Catholicism of it all, the hymns, the gold, the wine. Its theatre. It’s quiet and it makes you feel calm. But I never go on a day when somebody might notice I’m missing.

Sunshine and I were out playing Pokemon GO! and there was a Pokestop by the war memorial in St Peter’s Square. We walked to it, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sunshine cross himself.

I think I knew he wasn’t an atheist. Or maybe I wanted him to not be an atheist. Still, atheists usually tell you. For example, I’ve only met his sister three times and yet I know she’s an atheist. She said so. It’s like veganism- because their beliefs are opposite to a lot of people’s, it has to get mentioned.

But atheists don’t cross themselves at war memorials, do they? So he definitely isn’t. He was compelled- strongly- to cross himself in front of the memorial, something that I, for all my upbringing, was never taught to do. I never genuflect or cross myself with holy water.

Part of me wanted to ask him about it. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to ask, when you get into a long term relationship with someone.

But I couldn’t. I’m so wounded from having to keep my own shapeless faith to myself that I don’t know how to talk about this shit any more. So it’ll stay as just that. The sign of the cross by a war memorial.

The Ace In the Pack

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When I was 18, I met a guy. He suited me. He was the first person I ever enjoyed having sex with (and he certainly wasn’t the first person I tried to have sex with). We moved in together, we planned to get married. We stayed together for three and a half years, and ended the relationship on a mutual basis.

I think the person I was back then did love him. But when I came out as trans, he couldn’t understand. And I became a more confident person, a person who had grown too much to fit the box he wanted me to.

I don’t for one second miss him, or wish that we had got married. But he is undeniably a part of my story.

Recently, he admitted (though I had for some time suspected) that he is asexual. This has left me feeling rather odd. For three and a half years of my life I pursued a sexual relationship with somebody who was completely indifferent to it, and would often have rather not had sex.

I think I had always sort-of known. Early on, I placed a moratorium on masturbation- because I knew we would never have sex if he did. Although he agreed to it, I still feel a little strange now about having done it.

I feel like the consensuality of every time we had sex has been called into question. I see those three and a half years now as being not normal, that I imposed rules that were unfair. That, if only we had been able to talk about it, we might have come to a solution that suited us better than whatever that was.

Ace erasure is definitely part of the problem, but also I know the kind of person he is. I can’t see him admitting to someone that sex holds no appeal to him, because he knows the value of it in terms of cementing romantic relationships. He’s willing to play the game (as best he can) if it gets him what he wants- a nuclear family.

Right now, I feel all kinds of guilty. Although I know that some people manage to make asexual/allosexual relationships work, I couldn’t knowingly consent to be in one. Is that discrimination or a legitimate preference? I’m monoamorous- I need the love of one person to be happy. I want to get sexual fulfilment from that person, because personally, the romantic bond I experience through sex is dependent on it being a shared experience.

I’m still friends with him. Could I watch him get into a relationship with someone else, lying by omission every time he gets into bed with them? Or would I say, “You know he doesn’t care for it?”

Honestly, I can’t say how I actually feel about this, because I just don’t know. I know it’s hard being ace, because you’re excluded from this whole mating ritual thing society has going on, where it assumes that everyone experiences sexual attraction. I feel like I did a bad thing, to be honest. But I also knew that I hadn’t put his asexuality into words in my head. I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t think he did either- I think he thought everybody probably felt like that. Had sex because it was what people do.

It’s probably going to trouble me for some time. All I can do is move on in my life making sure the relationships I’m in are fulfilling for all concerned. He is a part of my past-and that he will stay.

“Sexually Confused”

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When my sunshine told me how telling his parents about me had gone, he replied “well enough”. I later learned that this meant it had been a 6 on a scale where 10 was “alright” and 1 was “screaming and crying”.

What he really meant is that they don’t like it, but don’t see that there’s anything they can do to stop it.

This bodes super well for my relationship with my future in-laws! Hooray!

His father did the standard “Oh, bloody hell” etc., but there was a football match on and, y’know: priorities. His mother wanted a detailed medical history, after which she went, “good”, and my sunshine was understandably a little upset.

She also said that people, like me, who are “sexually confused” (at which point my sunshine made a small disbelieving noise and she backtracked ever so slightly) form fissile relationships. I didn’t know what fissile meant. Apparently it means likely to fall apart.

I laughed. She’s never met me. She doesn’t know what I’m like. Words that could never be used to describe me include “flighty”, “dreamy”, “changeable” and “inconstant”. Words that pretty accurately sum me up include “direct”, “decisive” and “fucking stubborn”. The thought that someone could get me so wrong on account of my gender identity was hilarious.

And then I went to bed. And I realised.

This isn’t just some random person. This is, on a theoretical level, a candidate for the vacant “grandma of my babies” position. The fact she has such preconceived notions about “people like me” is vile.

I know it’s not her fault. She’s in a cult. But. She could at least… meet me before deciding I will never know love, or friendship, and that she feels sorry for me?

We could, in theory, get along. We probably have some interests in common. Providing she can see me as (and treat me as) a person, everything should be grand.

He says, smiling weakly.

I’m going to meet my sunshine’s parents in all of (counts on fingers) five days and I’m fucking petrified. Look at my writing style. It’s all over the place today. But it absolutely echoes how I’m feeling so it’s staying.

I want to love them so much. And I want them to love me. And I want them to understand that I love their son (and I liked him for a long time before that). I want love, and family, to see us through this whole clusterfuck, and bring us out the other side having learnt a little more about each other.

Please, God. Please.

Why Disclosure Matters

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I was having tea with my ex recently, and happened to express my biggest fear about my current relationship- that my partner will baulk at telling his parents that I’m trans.

“Does it matter?” my ex asked. “How often are you going to see them, really?”

I asked for clarification.

“Well, if you’re only going to see them once or twice a year, what does it matter how they see you?”

I was staggered. Was he really suggesting non-disclosure, that I undo everything I have fought for these past eight years for the sake of not rocking the boat?

Then I remembered why I have this terror in the first place, but that’s another story.

I could go on about this all day. In fact, I’m going to struggle to keep this post brief.

The most important reason why disclosure is important however, is because it’s the mature and honest thing to do. I am monogamous, and I’m looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with- and I’m not just talking about time.

I’m talking about growing my family. I’m not talking about ditching the previous generation and moving on with the next. My partner’s parents are going to be people we both confide in. They’re going to be free childcare, recipe-bequeathers, the unshakeable foundation of a loving (if not particularly conventional) family.

I am going to love these people- because I know that my partner loves them. And I want them to understand why my partner loves me- I need to be honest with them about who I am.

Being transgender is not shameful, and I don’t want my children growing up thinking I, or my partner, are ashamed of who I am. I want them to be proud of all that they are, just like I am.

I don’t come out to people as a political statement, to challenge their religious and moral beliefs. I come out because I feel comfortable. If a person comes out to you, it’s a sign that they respect and trust you, and you should feel very proud.

In the ideal future that I dream about, I love my family. Not my “in-laws”, my family. Every last one of them. We may differ politically or religiously, but we stick together on the things that really count. And the freedom to be and love whoever you choose is one of the things that counts.

Disclosure matters because without it, I deny my authentic self. It isn’t about my comfort versus the comfort of those around me. It’s about moving forward together towards the future we want the next generation to live in.

Learning to love following emotional abuse

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Today, my boyfriend said the words I, love and you, in that order, without any words in between. Specifically, he said, “that’s why I love you.”

And that’s a big deal.

But the fact is, I have certain scars, and I’m not ready to say I love him just yet.

My dad used to use the words “I love you” to get away with hurting me, or to manipulate me into doing what he wanted. He kept a mistress for five years, something that made my mother cry nearly every night.

I could hear her through the walls.

She would keep it together until I went to bed, but it’s exhausting to pretend to be happy.

She nearly left him, one happy day. I forced myself to cry because I thought it was the proper response. All I really felt was relief.

That day, both my brother and I ended up in hospital- I with a sprained shoulder, he with a dislocated thumb. So it never came to pass.

And so the crying continued.

I was sixteen and full of rage, and didn’t know why she stayed. I thought she was weak. I had just realised I was trans. I really really needed a mum. Instead I had a woman who berated me for using men’s shower gel, took away my deodorant, bought me pink things… it was like she set out to spite me.

So we argued.

And my dad, gentle giant that he was, would come in speaking softly.

“You know that mum isn’t very happy with me right now. And I’m doing my best to make it up to her. When you upset her, it makes things worse for me too. I need you to try with mum, do you understand. I love you both.”

What he did was not my fault. I was sixteen, facing the prospect of two years at an all-girls boarding college. I didn’t want to go, but they were both shouting at me, both saying it was what I wanted, telling me they would let me go to my first choice of college over their dead bodies. I knew I wasn’t a girl.

But he kept using those words. I love you.

And when I said I was unhappy, when I told him that I never wanted to go, he said that he did it because he wanted the best for me, and did I realise how much it had cost? That it wasn’t about the money for them, but that they just wanted me to have a better chance?

And when I didn’t want to schmooze and lie and pretend to “make connections” at my leaving ball, I was “causing a scene” and “embarrassing him”.

And when he quit his well-paid job and bought a franchise in an industry that he knew nothing about, he needed me to sign my name as an executive of the business. Because it was for me. He had done it for me. Because he loved me.

My dad was a habitual liar, and that was the cruellest lie of all.

If my dad had loved my mum, he wouldn’t have spent five years sneaking off to Austria to fuck a married woman. If he had loved me, he wouldn’t have manipulated me to do as he pleased. He wouldn’t still be refusing to apologise for everything he’s done.

I hate him for what he’s done. All of it. And if I ever tried to bring it up, he treated me like the petulant child I haven’t been for nearly eight years- since he forced me to move away, and never came to visit me if he could help it.

That’s what “love” looked like.

The first time Sun* told me he loved me, he traced it on my thigh- “I ❤ U”. He must have thought I didn’t notice because he did it again on my belly the next day.

But I did notice. And so I explained to him about my dad, and how I can’t even tell my mum I love her. Sometimes I say it immediately after hanging up the phone, but I never say it to her. I don’t want to hurt her.

“Love”, as a word, has been weaponised. And there is nobody on this earth I hate enough to say I love them.

As for what love means- how am I supposed to know? I romanticise it as much as the next fool, singing Nat King Cole as I trip up the steps to the tram stop, switching to Madness once I get off the tram and make the short walk to Sun’s house.

But by the time he opens the door, I always stop singing.

The truth is, I’m not ready to use that word. It turns me upside-down when he uses it- what does he even mean? But I think I’ll get there. One day.

*Name has been replaced with what I think he is most like- he brings me warmth and energy every day.

Young, Trans and in Love

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CN: relationships

My being trans has, in some way or another, contributed to the demise of pretty much every relationship I have ever had. Put simply, when people make plans for the future, they don’t seem to include people like me.

I get it. Really. I never wanted to be this way. I wanted to be able to get married in a church, have kids that were legally my own, and never worry about having a job opportunity taken away from me because of who I am. But shit, bitch, turns out I can’t. I don’t get to choose “normal”.

And so, when it comes down to it, a lot of people would rather take “normal” over me.

In some ways, I realise it dramatically worsens the chances of me finding someone right for me. I am inherently unappealing to the majority of people. But these days, I’m trying to look on it as an opportunity.

When you love someone, it’s not just about saying three little words. It’s about putting another person first, always. Most people have to wait for a catastrophe to find out if someone really loves them. I get to find out pretty quickly.

The person I will end up loving will tell their friends and family about me being trans so I don’t have to. They will defend me from misgendering and snide comments because it is easier for them than it is for me. And, whether or not I decide to take hormones or have surgery, they love me and not my body, so they will respect my decision.

So far I haven’t found anyone like that. But I’m confident that I will. Because I know many trans people in beautiful relationships of all stripes. Gay, bi, poly, with kids, without, remarried, whatever. I think we’ll end up happier overall, having a test like that so early in our relationships.

I’m with someone at the moment. He’s not new to trans people. And he’s known I was trans ever since he met me. He makes me very happy. But I’m not falling for him until I know how he deals with telling his parents about me.

And when he does, I’ll fall in love with him. Because then I’ll know for sure the kind of man he is.

Forgiving Someone Who Isn’t Sorry

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to me.

For example, in the UK, there is a song called something like “The Farmer Wants A Wife” that is sung by young children. During the song, one child starts as the farmer, and picks another as their wife. The “wife” then picks another as their “child”, as so on and so forth until all the characters in the song have been played out.

I played this song at nursery school. Unfortunately, as a (let’s say) particular child, there were some characters I was not comfortable playing.

In particular, I was not comfortable with pretending to be a cat. So, when I was chosen to play the cat, I replied, as three year olds are wont to do, “I don’t want to.”

This seemed acceptable. The teacher moved on to the next child in the circle. Who replied “I don’t want to.” As did the next. It was at this point, and only this point, that I was told to go and sit at the back of the room and think about what I’d done.

I’ve been thinking about it for nearly twenty years and I’m still not sorry.

“What do you say?” the teacher asked at the end of the lesson.

“What?”

“Say sorry.”

“But it’s not my fault.”

“Whose fault is it then?”

“It’s nobody’s fault. It was an accident.”

“It has to be somebody’s fault.”

Actually, it doesn’t. She prevented me from rejoining my peers until I said sorry. I wasn’t sorry, and I don’t lie, so we were very much at an impasse. To this day, I believe she was very much in the wrong. Yes, I had unwittingly ruined her lesson. Yes, she was annoyed. But I was three years old, and she should have known better.

I can’t forgive her actions after twenty years. So, this new year, I have resolved to do something spectacularly difficult. I have resolved to forgive J’s mother for hating me.

The first time I met J’s mother, she had no idea he was seeing someone. I was eating breakfast in the kitchen, in yesterday’s clothes, and I hadn’t been introduced, so stayed out of things.

Rather than ask at the time, she called him up afterwards to ask about me. He told her I wasn’t his “girlfriend” because I’m not female, I’m non-binary. She responded that she isn’t going to change who she is, and also that I didn’t seem very friendly. He explained that I have Asperger’s, so I’m not very talkative when I first meet people. She found other things to complain about until he hung up. Their next telephone conversation ended in much the same way- she asked how he was going to have children, and he responded that it really wasn’t a pressing concern for him.

When I met her for a second time, I made an effort to exchange small talk. I shared a bottle of wine with her, and thanked her for letting me stay.

Apparently, I was ungrateful, and didn’t make eye contact. J asked her if she’d heard of Asperger’s syndrome. She said that wasn’t the point. Maybe it’s not. (Maybe the point is that I’m queer, and she’s bigoted, and she hates me on principle.)

J was going into hospital to have a day operation. His mum works shifts, so had to try and wangle a day off in order to look after him. So, he asked me as well if I would be willing to stay with him on the day, and of course I said yes.

It got to the day before the operation, and she still hadn’t said whether she’ll be there or not, so he called her up. She harangued him for not calling sooner. He explained that he was waiting for her, as only she could have known whether or not she’s asked for the day off. He mentioned that I was going to be there. She refused to come and look after him.

She. Refused. To. Look. After. Her. Son.

After going around in circles a few times, he hung up. The topic of choice, rather than being “J is having an operation under general anaesthetic and will need people to cook for him and take him to and from hospital” was “I’m not comfortable with Parker being there”. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t overlook whatever problem she had with me, to, y’know, be a parent.

I could hear every word of the conversation. He told me that he wanted me to hear what she was really like, because she’d put on a pretty good show of “being nice” with me when all I’d ever done was be genuine with her. I’d treated her as a fussy middle-aged woman of low-to-average intelligence who was maybe a little stuck in her ways and needed time. Really, she had a bit of an unpleasant edge to her.

J called up again. Again, I could hear every word. Despite him not trying to talk about me, within minutes she was shrieking down the line.

“J, I am fifty-two years old! I’m not going to change! You’re asking me to conform to something that I’m not!”

He’s asking her to conform to something that she’s not?

For a start, he hadn’t even mentioned the frequent misgendering she was doing. Not one bit. He was asking her to take him to and from hospital. That was it.

When I say she was shrieking, I’m not exaggerating. And I realised. She hates me for what I am, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. And the more I heard her bitch and complain about being asked to “act like someone else” and “believe in that sort of thing”, the less and less human I felt.

She hadn’t been asked to do anything unreasonable. She doesn’t even have to like me. She just has to be there for her son when he needs her, and accept the fact I exist.

But she won’t.

I couldn’t listen to the whole conversation. She wasn’t listening to a word he was saying, instead deciding to play the victim. I went downstairs and played with my DS on loud so I wouldn’t be able to hear any more.

And then I spent the day at the hospital with her, and she was just as Janus-faced as before, and I made sure to thank her for *everything* and make an appropriate amount of eye contact. She, in turn, continues to hate me.

But I forgive her.

She isn’t trying to be two-faced. She’s trying to spare my feelings. Despite everything she’s said to J, she’s never misgendered me to my face. It isn’t her intention to cause pain. She’s just very, very stuck in her ways. She can’t help not “believing” that I exist. What she can help is being openly unkind. And even though I’d rather people were entirely candid with me, she believes that doing the opposite is the most polite thing to do.

She’s not right. But she doesn’t realise that I know she hates me. She doesn’t realise the pain she’s caused me. If she did, I’m sure she’d be sorry. So, even though she’s not, I forgive her. And I feel happier for it.