Thursday, February 13, 2014

Getting dumped on Valentine's Day

UPDATE: It's been quite an emotional roller coaster. I want to make a clarification: This is a private group of women holding a fundraiser. It is NOT a PFLAG group. PFLAG, itself is trans-inclusive and trans-friendly. In addition, trans-women are welcomed at the dance. (Not sure about people who don't identify as either binary but that's a different issue.)

I was really trying to express how I felt as a partner who has lost this part of her community. It just hurts.

I understand that we no longer belong as a couple in a women's-only space. In the meantime, if this helped spur a little more discussion, I'm glad.

I love my partner fiercely. He's very brave and loving human being and I'm lucky to have him by my side.

Happy Valentine's Day.

---

A, who is now passing with a beard these days, told me yesterday, hey that Valentine's day dance we're planning on going to Saturday? Well, those words we've been dreading are right there on the flyer: “Women only.” I kind of knew we’d eventually hit the lesbian-only/women-only etc. wall. Because now we’re not two women together. We’re one cisgender female (meaning woman-born woman) lesbian and one transgender male. Actually, we’d hit the women-only thing before, but it was a bit different. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

So A emailed them, you know, just to be cool. 

Hey, I understand wanting single-gendered spaces. I have nothing against them. Women’s space is awesome. Sometimes you just want to be in a place where you don’t have to deal with men. In fact, I was often the first person who gave the evil eye to the straight couple flaunting their heterosexuality at a gay bar. (Now I see things differently but hindsight’s like that).

And men-only spaces? Right on. Men should have places where they don’t have to deal with females. As long as they’re not excluding us in board rooms or business, I’m good. Want to get your man-on, dance around naked and bang on drums? More power to you, brothers.

Of course, there is no neat category for folks who were born with Type-XX parts and a Type-XY brain (or vice-versa).

So A wrote a super polite email (see below) saying hey, he’s just transitioned and now appears to be the man he’s always been inside. But he'd like to go with his girlfriend, who, by the way, is still a lesbian (if it’s confusing for you think about how confusing it is for me). So would it be cool if he showed up with his lover for the Valentine’s Day dance?

The response in a word?


No.

You’re not welcome. Don’t come.

But no worries because there are lots of places where you can go.  

It felt a lot like we were being dumped and told, hey, babe, you’ll be fine. There are plenty of other fish out there.  

Really? Because while we can pass for a straight couple, we really aren’t that. I’m not so sure how many places a transgender dude and a lesbian could feel safe, at the least and like they’re at home with their community, at best. But that's not even the point. 

In retrospect, yeah, we probably shouldn’t have asked. Maybe we should have just shown up. Did I mention that this women-only dance is a benefit for PFLAG, which used to stand for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but now, according to their mission statement, also includes bisexuals and people who are transgender. (Perhaps they've forgotten about the T).  But I digress. I don’t like to go to parties where I’m not welcomed. I was going so I could to be with my friends .
  
I didn’t anticipate how that rejection would make me feel. It hurt. It hurt me. It hurt the man I love. Happy Valentine's Day. Thanks PFLAG. 

True, I could have gone solo. A even sweetly suggested I do so. But seriously. Would you? Would you attend an event from which your spouse was banned?

I told you there was another time we were excluded. A company had advertised an all-women’s whale-watching tour. I asked if it would be cool if A came. She told me no, it would not be cool to bring your man. I was a bit bummed. But I was OK with it. You know the difference? It wasn’t a couples-kind of event. No one was saying, hey come to a romantic event, but please leave home that other person who no longer fits in our world.

You know what it feels like?

 It feels like when I was 32 and my dad invited me but not my then live-in girlfriend to his big birthday party. It hurt. I told him I loved him and I respected where he came from but I couldn’t come if my partner wasn’t invited too. He thought about it and called me the next day. 

He told me, honey, I want you to come and your girlfriend is welcome. I love you.

I remember crying because it took so much courage for him to do that. It took strength for him to stand up for me and let the love shine through.

We were family. We worked it out. 

I don’t want to yell at these women. I'm not even mad at them. I know they’ve probably been through all the heartache I have and a lot more, feeling rejected, threatened, and  frightened, for being who they were. I grew up in a homophobic world, too. 

They said that us being there together would make women feel uncomfortable. So by being who we were, we were hurting them. It feels too familiar. How many times have we heard straight men saying they didn't want gay men in the locker room because it made them feel icky? Since when is someone's discomfort with someone different a reason for excluding them? I doubt they would feel physically threatened by A. 

But listen: I want all those women to have a safe place. I really do. They’re my sisters. And to think that our mere presence would harm them? Ouch. When your family pushes you out the door and says, sorry: we don't want you, and your mere presence sickens us, that feels pretty terrible. 

Yes, I’ll be fine. Yes, we'll be fine. We have plenty of amazing, wonderful friends of every stripe. But it still hurts.

I guess I was hoping that maybe, just maybe this family would open the doors just a little wider to let us in and celebrate together.

Not this time.
--------

Below are the emails we exchanged with names and headers stripped out (I left the rest as is)

From: A
To: 
---
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 3:33:40 PM
Subject: Annual Community and PWG Fundraiser for PFLAG

Hi --- and ---,
We have enjoyed your dances and want to come this saturday with my girlfriend (lesbian) who has very gracefully accepted my recent transition (F to M). Since the caption on your mailer starts out with "For Women Only" I am wondering if I would still be welcome?

Please advise as soon as possible because we planned to up with some of our friends there but won't if my transgendered condition isn't acceptable.

Thanks,
A


From: <--->
Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 7:57 PM
Subject: Re: Annual Community and PWG Fundraiser for PFLAG
To: A>


Hi --- -
Congratulations on your transition! 
Your question is a difficult one:
It's a dance for women and the people attending expect to see women dancing with women.  Whether the women are lesbian or straight or bi - they're still women.  If you identify with being a man - then you're a man.
I'm sorry if it's not the answer you were looking for - but there are so many opportunities for women and men to dance and play together. This dance is special and especially for women.
All our best,
--- and ---


From: ME
Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 10:51 PM
Subject: Re: Annual Community and PWG Fundraiser for PFLAG
To: ---
Cc: A and ---

Hi – I came home to find out that we were no longer welcome in the lesbian world – at least at your dance. On the one hand I completely understand wanting a women-only space. (I'm assuming that there will be absolutely no men there at all. I'm also assuming that trans-women will be welcomed, as they are women.)

On the other hand, I'm broken-hearted. I've been in the lesbian world for 30 years and my partner has been in lesbian world for 40. We are part of this community. Or were. True, there are many chances for women and men to play together. (There are also many chances for women and women to play together.) But we-- a lesbian and a trans man really don't have many places to go and celebrate with our friends. I feel I've lost our community. 

With a broken heart,

ME



14 comments:

  1. The author raises fascinating questions about what it means to be transgender. Unfortunately, though, she doesn't make a very convincing intellectual argument in favor of her position. I'm sympathetic to her feelings getting hurt, but that alone doesn't seem sufficient for the dance organizers to make an exception.

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  2. I have to agree with Jim Hopkins. I'm sorry you feel excluded, but trans people have an uphill battle in mainstream society to be taken seriously as their identified gender. It doesn't help to have a trans man - who, presumably, wants to be treated as a full, equal male - arguing to have special privileges to be included in a female-only space.

    The author says "I understand wanting single-gendered spaces. I have nothing against them...", but going on to complain about men (and if they included one trans man, they'd have to include all trans men) not being included in this space seems to imply otherwise.

    It makes me wonder. The author, in not realizing why a womens-only space wouldn't accept a trans man (because they view him as an equal male?) and also as still ID-ing as a lesbian, seems to not take the male-ness of her spouse as seriously as the sponsors of the dance do.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not exactly sure how me wanting to go to a lesbian dance with my partner means that I don't respect his male-ness. I completely accept it. He was a man before and he is now. And oh, I see. If my female-presenting partner transitions, then it means that I have to change my sexual orientation to take him seriously. Thanks. That's useful.

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  3. With all due respect, the group is "women only" and the author's partner transgendered. It would seem they are asking for special exception but, in my opinion, you can't have it both ways. I would hope that there are transgendered couples groups they can join and I wish them lifelong happiness.

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  4. Sorry you are going through this.
    However the dance is for women only. You yourself said your partner is a man. He is addressed as him, sir, not her or Ms.
    You were/are a part of the lesbian community, but in this instance, the dance is "women-only" I'm sure your partner does NOT want to be considered a woman.
    If not, then he can't attend, even after his years there.
    He can't pick when he is a man or woman, just to suit him for an event.
    I'm sorry, but...the organization was right.

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  5. It was a fundraiser for PFLAG. They should have opened their hearts and minds and looked more carefully at what their real intentions were. What they really want, I think, is a world where all people feel respected, safe and loved. If they had had the courage and the integrity to be a little different, and allow as how a transgender guy is a little bit more of both sexes than your average dude, and that a trans woman, is still a woman, even though she has a different history, they could have led the way to more harmony and love in the world. Instead they chose fear. The people who say you can't have it both ways, are limiting their vision and trying to see the world in black and white.

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    Replies
    1. Then they should also allow other straight men in if he is allowed in. Yes he used to be a member of the community and clearly that really wasn't a fit for him and now he is living true to himself. That means women's only events are just that. If you allow men from the greater trans communities into women's only events, then to me other straight men should be allowed. It kind of just makes sense. He likes women, so do other straight men not of the GTC.

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  6. "a transgender guy is a little bit more of both sexes than your average dude"

    There are many trans men who would disagree and resent a statement like this. You can't demand to be respected for you are and then get your feelings hurt when people actually respect you. If anything this is showing a lack of respect for the needs of women identified women to have safe spaces of their own in this heteronormic and male dominated society.

    The writer of this blog says her partner is very much a dude with hair and muscle and all. Yet she doesn't understand how many women loving women who deal with dudes all the live long day might want to enjoy an evening without one around? This seems very selfish to me.

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    Replies
    1. "There are many trans men who would disagree and resent a statement like this." Yes, I know. But they wouldn't be seeking to go to the dance, would they? I had no intention to slur someone's manhood, only to honor the trans man who does honor his past. And more than that, to give support to his spouse. Just because she chooses love for her mate over and against the fears and judgments of her lesbian community does not mean the community has to uphold the fear. They can grow if they choose to.

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  7. I agree with the previous posters. I understand that this has been your community, but it isn't now. A person that identifies as a man cannot expect to be welcome in woman only spaces.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, he didn't actually expect to be welcome; that's why he asked if it was okay. It's heartless to kick someone out of a community who has been part of that community for so long. This infighting in the queer community is so sad.

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  8. This rejection brings tears to my eyes. Places where transgendered people can feel safe and comfortable enough to have a good time, to express themselves freely, and to communicate normally are challenging to find. When people who have experienced these same difficulties turn their backs on those looking for a safe haven, it might be time for a reevaluation of values and principles. Just because "the people attending expect to see women dancing with women" doesn't mean this same group couldn't adjust to having A there.Or B or C or D, either. Being a hard-liner against tender feelings makes everyone hard. Group think hasn't helped any cause for equality. I'm sorry you and A have had to experience this ridiculous display of narrow-mindedness.

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  9. hi there. You and your guy would be more than welcome at our PFLAG dance/prom, should we ever hold one. Sorry you had to go through this around Valentine's Day. :/ ~ Sam

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