This week's Modern Love is a story of transition — changes in gender, relationship status, and potentially a woman's sexuality.
Gili Warsett writes wistfully of her relationship (now over) with a partner who identified as a transgender man when they met and, two years later, had surgery to remove his breasts. Warsett, who had previously dated women, writes that "I had fallen for a different body. No matter how hard I tried to keep up, I couldn't transition at the same pace" — but transition she eventually did. They moved to a Midwestern city together, where they often passed as a straight couple. Warsett had come out at sixteen, but after the move, she says, "I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in queer groups; I hid behind the privilege that being straight afforded me." And after their breakup — precipitated not by the surgery but by Warsett's sense that "our relationship seemed to have settled into something known and stable and had lost its spark" — she began to wonder who she was really attracted to. She concludes,
Now, several years later, my current relationship may seem to be a straight one; my partner is a non-trans man. I've found that there's privilege but also invisibility that comes with passing — an aspect of my life about which I continue to struggle. I will always consider myself queer, recognizing that my sexuality and gender identity resist definition. The conflicting feelings of guilt and relief remain.
Warsett's piece raises a lot of questions about passing, about definitions of queerness and straightness, and about how one finds one's sexual identity, but it's also a reminder of a pretty simple truth: relationships change you. Any significant relationship creates a kind of relationship-self, the person you are with and to your partner, and that self often doesn't die when the relationship ends. Rather, it gets rolled up with all the other selves you've been in your life, and now you have to deal with it, long after you stopped dealing with your partner's gender transition or career or self-doubt or weird ways of pronouncing certain words. And dealing with this new self can be tortuous and guilt-inducing, as Warsett says — but it can also be revelatory.
The Anatomy Of A Breakup [NYT]
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