Fannie Fierce


Filed By Fannie Fierce | October 26, 2007 10:02 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: identity, lesbians, trans men, transsexual, unqueer queers

Dear Fannie,

I’m a lesbian in my mid-twenties. I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for two years now. We’re what you would call a stereotypical U-Haul Lesbian couple. We fell in love fast and moved in fast. Recently, my partner has been struggling with her identity and dropped the bomb last week. She considers herself a trans man and wants to transition to male. I’m a lesbian, and I fell in love with a woman, not a man. I love my partner, but I’m not interested in being straight!

--Losing Lesbianism


So, your lesbian life-mate’s announcement of his trans-identity has rocked your relationship and your own identity. The realization that a partner is trans can greatly alter the dynamics of a relationship. Not only in between invested parties, but also how that relationship is made legible to society at large. Coming out as a lesbian, while often difficult for many people, also grants those new inductees access to a culture, community, and identity previously unavailable. An identity few are ready to give up idly. But this is one of those instances when queers can be astoundingly unqueer.

Gay people have a tendency to be infatuated with the idea that once you go gay, there ain’t no other way. We are so ready to claim sexuality as fluid to entice our hetero counterparts to the way of the fey, but the moment that we lose one of our queer sistahs (I use the word in the most gender-neutral drag queen way possible) to the straight and narrow, we’re right back to claiming a fixed queer identity. As queer people we have to acknowledge, that in the same way that it’s possible for a person to steer queer, it’s equally possible for someone to make straight. Now your situation is a little more complicated, LL, because your partner’s sexual orientation isn’t changing, it’s his gender. However, in some ways, you are being asked to expand your own sexual horizons.

I understand that you may feel betrayed by your partner for not disclosing this information when you first entered into a relationship. But it’s important to remember that your partner didn’t do this maliciously to harm you in any way. In fact, this realization has very little to do with you. It certainly effects you, but your partner would have discovered that he is trans one way or the other; with or without you.

So the question boils down to love. It’s not about identities that one previously subscribed to. Do you love your partner? Is your love for you partner greater than the mean looks you may get from your lesbian friends when you bring your new husband to the Estrogen Folk Music Festival. Because if it isn’t, then you may have U-hauled too fast, even for lesbians. You mention in your question that you're "a lesbian. I fell in love with a woman, not a man." Well, this just in, LL. You did fall in love with a man, you just didn't realize it.

A side note: If you’re concerned about your sexual relationship and how that may be affected by your partner’s transition, you may want to try and branch out and experiment with strap-ons and other similar sex toys. That way your sex life can transition as your partner does. Also note that not all trans men get bottom surgery. So it all depends on what your partner feels is necessary, it’s very possible that you may end up in a “heterosexual”-double-vagina relationship.

And don’t worry, even if you and your husband are read as “straight,” a trans man partnered with his lesbian wife is still pretty queer in my book.


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 26, 2007 2:59 PM

Great response, Fannie! I especially agree with this:

And don’t worry, even if you and your husband are read as “straight,” a trans man partnered with his lesbian wife is still pretty queer in my book.

Although not all FtMs would, I couldn't agree with you more!

I can strongly appreciate LL's confusion, anxiety, resentment and uncertainty, but I urge her to remember that her lover is the same person she fell in love with. The outside may change, but the inner person is still there!

I don't really agree with this advice, or with the first comment.

The letter writer identifies as lesbian, and at one time, so did her partner. Now her partner has decided to transition to a male identity. And that's cool. You have to be who you are. That said, if her partner has decided that he is not a she, he's not the same person this woman fell in love with. Or perhaps more accurately, not who he seemed to be.

There may be 'two vaginas' in the relationship, physically, but the young man may not even be interested in considering his anatomy in such a way, meaning that he may want to disassociate himself from thinking it as such. The relationship may well not survive as a romantic one, and they may just end up as good friends. And if that should happen, she shouldn't be vilified for choosing to retain her lesbian identity, no more than he should be for asserting his identity.

Breanna Anderson | October 27, 2007 3:20 AM

Good reply Fannie.

LL, I hear you sister. Like you, I'm a dyke (came out 17 years ago), I've been in a long-term 12 year plus relationship, we have gone through a tremendous amount and are going strong and tremendously in love. My wife is pretty butch though "soft" and not "stone"y. While we've joked about her gender queer tendencies all along, recently she has been getting a lot more serious in exploring gender queer and masculine identity. Like you, this truly challenges me, my identity, my sense of community and I know what I like and always have: the ladies. The ironic twist is that I am transgender and very involved in the LGB and particularly T community. While I've had sympathy and support for partners of folks coming out as Trans, now I have empathy. I found myself going through all of the same stages of anger and feelings of betrayal though I know the counter-arguments and answers. It doesn't make it easier to emotionally deal with. Do not feel like you are being anything less than a good partner and loving because of your feelings. There is nothing easy or trite about this. You have to work it out inch by inch for yourself and your loved one. I don't and nobody does have the definitive answer for you but seek out a community that can embrace you both and keep talking. Very Best Wishes.


...if her partner has decided that he is not a she, he's not the same person this woman fell in love with. Or perhaps more accurately, not who he seemed to be.

So you're saying that this is a case of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? They fell in love. No matter what happens, this is the same person you she fell in love with - it's just that some of the circumstances have changed. For example, I fall in love with the high school football star. He has a horrible car accident and is paralyzed now. Is he still the same person? Of course! It's just that circumstances outside of my control changed. Now I get to decide whether or not I want to continue the relationship. That's the same choice this person has - does she want to continue the relationship or not?

But to say it's not the same person is giving more power to our genitalia than they deserve.

This is a seriously complicated question, and whether LL stays together with her partner or not, I'd still respect her for her own decision.

I would just hope that if she decided she couldn't be with someone who's physically a man, that it wouldn't be because she's worried about what others would say or protecting her identity status as a lesbian. Yes, it's important to her, I understand that. But I think that a lot of interpersonal problems are caused by people being very attached to an idea of who they are that might not be complicated enough to describe them completely. I'm worried that she's says that she "doesn't want to be straight." Labels make communication easier, and that's good, and they can give subaltern groups access to support, culture, and community, as Fannie pointed out. But to let them control what goes on on the inside of our minds... well, there's a whole lot of Butler/Lacan to get into there, but it just seems like she'd be letting that word have way too much power!

Also, I have a very lesbianic friend who dated a man for a while a couple of years ago. She was talking to me about how a lot of lesbians she knew were giving her flack for that and that her gay male friends didn't care as much. I wonder why that is, since when she told me about her lesbian friends complaining about her relationship I just said, "As if we can control who we're attracted to!" Maybe I've reduced sexuality down too far, or maybe there's something more at play here. But I do wonder why that is.

I think that it's great that LL is willing to examine these feelings in all their complexity instead of trying to bury them for fear of going there or just acting on them too quickly, again out of fear of self-examination. People fall in and out of love, and the out is a lot of times for circumstances they can't control.

Great column, Fannie.