We left off with me moving in with Devon only a few months after starting to date and us exploring ethical non-monogamy…
Devon was the first person I had ever dated who I felt completely seen by and that I felt accepted me for who I was. By the time I had met him, I had already been doing a lot of self discovery work and had been figuring out some core traits of myself so felt I could come into a relationship more authentically. But like I said in my previous post, being with Devon in such a grounding yet exciting relationship made me feel able to explore myself even more fully.
This was also the case for Devon as I am a huge advocate of people diving into getting to fully know themselves and become the most authentic version of themselves. Within the stability of our relationship, Devon started to feel more comfortable exploring his gender identity and expression. Like I said in my previous post, he had been the most masculine presenting woman I had ever dated.
I remember telling my best friend after my first date with Devon that I thought maybe he did chest binding and wondered if he even shaved his legs. The gender identity/expression spectrum was all so new to me and I had no clue about anything.
Our second date happened the night after our first because I invited him to meet up with me and my best friend at the same bar as our first date. When he accepted, I came up with a plan with my bff to try to figure out if he shaved his legs or not. It’s hilarious to think about now, but such was the extent of my naïveté surrounding anything outside the gender binary. We found out that he did not, in fact, shave his legs. 🙂
During the first year of our relationship, Youtube started exploding with more and more trans vloggers and Devon started watching videos of people who were born female and had started transitioning to male. A lot of them were documenting their journey of getting top surgery and going on testosterone.
I cannot fully speak to the experience of Devon in his gender identity journey or anyone else, for that matter. But I do want to discuss my journey and experience of his realization and transition as it does relate to my sexuality and identity.
I want to be completely transparent and honest about what it took for me to get to where I am now in regards to his transition and our marriage. I would love to tell you that it was easy as pie and I had zero hangups about it and gave him 110% of my support and understanding the entire way through, but that was unfortunately not the case. Although it is difficult to publicly display my raw moments of confusion and resistance, I feel strongly that it’s so important to show the realistic ups and downs in a relationship as you or your partner grow and change.
When he came to me to talk about how he was starting to question whether he may be trans and wanted to look into top surgery and hormones, I completely freaked out. He was already bordering on presenting a little too masculine for my personal preference* (my preference when dating women was more on the femme to androgynous spectrum) and now he wanted to go even further? I didn’t understand any of it and the permanence of it all is what terrified me the most. Plus, you know how some people are ass or legs people, well, let’s just say that Devon getting top surgery would be removing one of my favorite areas on a woman.
I knew it was a part of his body he didn’t identify with and went to great pains to conceal when in public, so I could empathize with him on that but there was still resistance within me and a grief I was not quite aware of at the time.
There was also the fact that we had gotten engaged and had become Domestic Partners already. I know, we moved really really fast….
I felt like, here I am, committing to someone that I love, thoroughly identifying as a proud lesbian. But if my primary partner transitions and identifies and passes as male, what does that make me? I had a full on identity crisis right along with him. I did not want to be perceived as straight again. Been there, done that and it’s not me! I had worked too hard, been through too much to go back into the closet as I saw it.
But, I loved him and I wanted him to be happy, to be able to feel whole and complete. I wanted him to be able to show up in this world as his most authentic self. So, the internal struggle was insane and I was completely torn without any idea what to do. I also had a lot of shame around my own resistance of his transition since we were still non-monogamous and it wasn’t as if I couldn’t just date more feminine women outside of our relationship. The conflict I was feeling was that we were heading into marriage and I wanted to be sure I would be going into this marriage feeling 100% confident in us.
Devon was incredible throughout at understanding that any hesitation or resistance I was showing or experiencing towards his need to transition was just a natural reaction to such a large change. What he was experiencing was foreign to me as it was so different from how I experience my own gender…I was born female and feel at home in my body and gender identity. He was born female and never felt at home; what he saw in the mirror didn’t fit with how he felt inside.
At that point in my life, I had no idea that people experienced body dysphoria associated with their gender identities or a need to transition. Even spending so much time in West Hollywood, I didn’t know anyone who was trans* and hadn’t been exposed to people talking about their interest or need to transition. (*Transgender, often shortened as trans, is also an umbrella term; in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex(trans men and trans women), it may also include people who are non-binary or genderqueer. Source Link)
He was so patient with me and answered all of my questions as they came up for me. He gave me time to process through it all, but the turning point for me was when he showed me a Youtube video of the wife of one of the trans guys he followed named Dade. In this video, Dade’s wife Tiffany speaks on her experience as a woman who had been previously married to a man, realized she was a lesbian and got out of that marriage. She and Dade married as two women and then she talks about her process of getting to a place of acceptance of Dade needing to transition to male in order to be able to have a healthy mental and emotional state. (Here is that video ElectricDade FTM: wife week 1)
I can’t even tell you what an impact it made on me after hearing Tiffany’s honest and vulnerable recount of how she felt coming from such a similar background as mine. But I saw that getting to a place of acceptance and honest support was possible as she was living proof that it could happen. I will forever be grateful to both Dade and Tiffany for their continued vulnerability and honesty in the years since, as I am sure we are not the only couple they have helped along the way.
The biggest difference though between Dade and Devon was that Dade fully identified as male and wanted to do a full transition whereas Devon kept saying he didn’t feel male but he didn’t feel female either. He felt somewhere in the middle but more masculine than feminine. He felt getting top surgery and going on testosterone could help him figure things out and where he fit. This was before non-binary or gender fluidity were really talked about and so he didn’t yet have the language or terminology yet to describe his gender identity.
Despite the differences between our partner’s gender identities, Tiffany’s video gave me the words and framework to help me start the process of grieving who I thought Devon was, and what I thought our relationship would look like. Her words and experience helped me to move towards acceptance as Devon started to look into gender affirming doctors in the LA area as well as researching the best top surgery doctors in the US.
Devon got in with a local doctor that agreed to start him on testosterone and he got scheduled for surgery several months later with the best top surgery doctor who happened to be in Florida. I think I was so focused on the surgery and the permanence of that, that I didn’t do my usual level of research when it came to the hormones. I was under the impression that it was all reversible so if neither of us liked the results, he could stop and he would go back to the way he was prior to taking any. Although there may be some reversal of changes, they are minor and the majority of physical changes that occur while taking testosterone remain even after stopping.
Surgery went really well and the change Devon felt about his appearance and gender expression was immediately apparent and significant. He was so amazing with me during my grieving process prior to his surgery and I am so grateful to him for it.
The testosterone, on the other hand, did not go so smoothly. His hormones and his care were not well managed, unfortunately. No bloodwork was done to see how he was being affected by dosage or administering method. As such, there were some personality traits that emerged that were alarming to me and others as well as some physical changes that, combined with the personality changes, made me less attracted to him and no longer enjoyed being in his company.
I had a lot of anger and confusion during this time as he was no longer the person I had fallen in love with or had agreed to marry. I felt I was facing an extremely difficult decision for myself. I had already been in one marriage where I wasn’t happy, I refused to be in another.
Having to sit him down to tell him he was starting to become someone I no longer wanted to be with was terrifying. I wanted to support him and be there for him, I loved him. But I also had to be honest and true to myself. I told him that I understood why he was on testosterone but that if this was the path he needed to continue down for his mental health then I didn’t think I was his person, but I would love and support him as a friend.
During this conversation, he said he didn’t feel the need to continue the testosterone, especially if it was bringing out personality traits that were concerning. He reminded me that he didn’t identify fully as male and had never wanted to fully transition. I was adamant that I didn’t want any decision to be made from a place of fear of losing me as I didn’t want him to regret his decision or resent me later. I wanted him to feel comfortable in his body and happy with his gender expression. But, he made the decision to stop the hormones and continue to explore his gender identity without them.
With his decision to stop the hormones, his personality returned to the person I had fallen in love with and even though a lot of the physical changes stayed in place, I found myself attracted to him again.
Being in a relationship with someone who is figuring out their gender identity and expression made me wonder how to identify myself in my sexuality once more. As Devon was not a cis-male, nor identified as male and he was not a cis-female nor identified as female, I wondered how to identify him when introducing him or speaking about him to others.
For a very long time, he was comfortable with she/her, they/them or he/him pronouns. He left it up to what the other person was comfortable using and so most would use she/her pronouns as it is what we were used to. He had been my girlfriend, then fiancé and would become my wife, right? But was that right?
I will continue the story in the next post but just to give a teaser…
About 7 years into our relationship, the need to go on hormones again started to resurface for him. This came about shortly after my dad passed away, after I had started feeling the need to have relationship with a cis-male here in Portland and right as we were deciding to purchase our first home. To say it was the perfect storm is to put it mildly.
We’re getting close! I can’t believe how many posts this series is turning into, and this is even the highly edited version of everything.
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